Aikido is the "loving protection of all beings," in the words of Morihei Ueshiba, who created the martial-arts style. Although it sometimes incorporates wooden weapons, at its heart, aikido seeks to act as a replacement for violence. Greg O'Connor, founder and chief instructor at Aikido Centers of New Jersey, brings Ueshiba's tenets to his students, who have included children and seniors, as well as members of the New Jersey State Police, the Department of Homeland Security, and the US Secret Service. O'Connor and more than 40 other instructors teach students self-defense tactics that redirect attacks, as well as more advanced methods that include wooden sword and staff training and aikido's dramatic falls and rolls.
Grandmaster Dennis Tosten founded the first Amerikick in 1967 and has since taught several champion fighters, police officers, and everyday students karate and self-defense. Today, the lauded chain teaches fitness classes inspired by martial arts, including cardio kickboxing in six states. Each location upholds a curriculum that blends Chinese and Japanese martial-arts styles—including kenpo and tae kwon do—with modern self-defense strategies, further updating traditional practices by eschewing uniforms and belts for casual workout gear. Having attained certification in teaching kickboxing from the National Association of Professional Martial Artists, Amerikick's seasoned instructors also each possess black belts in karate, a rank as difficult to attain as the snake charmer's belt of live cobras.
With over 40 years of experience in boxing, fitness, and martial arts, Victor Lashley has mastered methods of training to help students reach their goals. With his fellow instructors, they lead boot camp classes, kickboxing, cross training, martial arts, and personal training sessions. As a former corrections officer, his’s career often immersed him in life-threatening situations, putting his self-defense skills to the test outside the safe confines of a gym. To empower others with the ability to fight back while getting fit, he now teaches myriad forms of martial arts at ICAT Triple Threat Training Center. He trains patrons in MMA grappling, Kali, and his own method Defensive Concepts, which blends kicking and close-range striking techniques from muay thai, Kali, and boxing into a fast-paced striking art that earned Lashley a state certification as a Defensive Tactics Instructor. With the aid of his fellow instructors, he helms boot-camp classes and one-on-one personal-training sessions that devour calories. Nala—a boxer-breed pooch—serves as the gym's mascot, security guard, and head instructor of drool-based self-defense techniques.
As a member of Black Belt Schools International, Karate 4 Kidz of Newtown offers kids, adults, and teens the latest in self-defense techniques and exercise science. Chief instructor Jay Cruz has been training internationally in martial arts for more than 25 years and uses his knowledge and experience to help build students' confidence and physical abilities. Cruz specializes in muay thai and other types of kickboxing, and he also offers resistance-band classes, karate for kids as young as 3, and sessions designed for special-needs children.
Master Tom McGonigal has traveled the world, training and competing in multiple martial arts disciplines. But a martialist is nothing if he doesn't pass on his knowledge, so today, he teaches both kids and adults at Tom McGonigal's MMA. Students take classes such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and cardio kickboxing, and training focuses on respect, discipline, and self defense.
Since 2000, Daddis Fight Camps has equipped thousands of students with the tools to be more confident and more effective in self-defense scenarios. Helmed by founder Brad Daddis, the Philadelphia- and New Jersey-based operation works with individuals all ages, genders, and athletic abilities. An assorted selection of programs speaks to that diversity, and includes Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai Boxing, and even a Tactical Urban Defense course. In that, students learn practical self-defense techniques, specifically those in close quarters combat they can use against a mugger or particularly tight blood-pressure cuff.