The Neves family is a black-belt family, with more degrees than a thermometer. Manny Neves holds an eighth-degree black belt in the uechi-ryu karate style, and his wife, Sheila, is a sixth-degree black belt in the style. Even their daughter, Juliana—a first-degree black belt herself—has several Grand Champion awards in forms, fighting, and weapons. Though you wouldn't want to get caught in a street fight with any of them, the emphasis of their style is on etiquette and self-control rather than brute force. The Academy also offers yoga classes to tone the physique and promote deep relaxation.
American Kempo Karate Academy founder Mark DiNino is an eighth-degree black belt—and a father. In fact, three of his own children train at the academy, meaning the South Shore native shares many of the same hopes and concerns as other parents of AKKA students. But he also understands the benefits children can reap from the academy's program, which since 1995 has improved fitness and increased self-confidence, discipline, and concentration. Of course, kids aren't the only one's who can benefit from a boost in self-esteem, which is why AKKA also offers an adult program, where grownups can achieve similar gains and release stress brought on by their job or lack of homework.
Since ancient times, Thai students, fighters, and artists have performed the wai kru ritual to honor the teachers who make their study possible. Composed of everyone from Navy boxers to championship jujitsu fighters, the staff of martial-arts instructors at Wai Kru gym knows the value of experience. Kru John, for instance, has traveled to Japan, Brazil, and Thailand to hone his muay thai kickboxing expertise, attending more than 20 training camps throughout Asia and earning a certification from the Thai government.
Training guests as diverse as beginning boxers and professional MMA fighters, both of Wai Kru's locations bolster training regimens with cardio machines, weights, and open mat space. Each gym also sports a boxing ring and a 24-foot octagon, so shaped to avoid having to vacuum peanut shells from a 90-degree corner.
At USA Karate, which formed in 1990, a team of black-belt instructors leads more than 25 martial-arts classes every week, teaching students proper karate techniques as well as self-discipline. The schedule includes both adult karate classes and kids' classes for students as young as 4.
Atop sleek hardwood floors, students work through karate and aiki-jutsu moves at New England Martial Arts Dojo. Instructors teach traditional self-defense techniques during classes geared specifically toward beginners, advanced students, or families. To get students into fighting shape, the school also boasts a workout room with Olympic weightlifting bars, weight machines, and dumbbells.
At America's Best Defense, professional instructors instill a sense of pride and integrity into students of all ages, helping pupils take charge of their physical fitness, personal safety, and self-control. Krav maga lessons teach students effective strategies to ward off attackers, while Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu courses put participants through a rewarding regimen of cardio workouts, takedown drills, and strength training. Children and teenagers learn important life skills and impressive martial-arts techniques during karate and MMA sessions. The kid-centric curriculum helps young students not only master self-defense techniques against padded obstacles and belligerent training dummies, but also hones a deep sense of respect and discipline. Sterile Zebra mats line the floors and full-length mirrors ring the walls of the clean, spartan studio in order to keep fighters safe and fully aware of their surroundings.