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.
A peek into one of Elite Black Belt Academy's kickboxing classes reveals a scene full of movement: arms swing, legs kick, and fists shoot through the air. But the most dramatic activity goes on inside students' bodies, where as many as 800 calories are burned during each session. Certified black belt instructors help people of all ages achieve optimal health—they hold classes for adults, teens, and children as young as 4.
UFC Gym is not a standard fitness center playing dress-up as a boxing studio—its pugilists hit away at 150-pound punching bags while wearing 16-ounce gloves and bobbing and weaving on high-impact floors, and don't have to share space with dance-aerobics classes—but neither is it the dank boxing gym of yesteryear. Alongside the high-quality boxing equipment in the brightly lit gym are free weights and cardio and strength machines to mold a well-rounded fighter. In addition to boxing, trainers, most of whom have amateur or professional fighting experience, teach muay thai kickboxing, mixed martial arts, kids' self-defense classes, and personal training.
For more than 40 years, Herten Family Martial Arts has taught traditional Shorin-ryu karate to its Totowa- and Woodland Park-area students. Believing that discipline, respect, and mental control are just as important as physical fitness, the studio teaches kids as young as 5 as well as adults to protect themselves and master their own minds, bodies, and unsettling daydreams. In addition to karate, experienced instructors offer classes in bully self-defense, street self-defense, and cardio kickboxing, along with Japanese sword arts.
Jujitsu champion Jay Hayes is personally invested in the education of his students, meeting with each new client to answer questions, asses expectations, and help set goals. At NJ United Mixed Martial Arts, Jay and his staff of seasoned fighters impart the finer points of Brazilian jujitsu, muay thai, and submission wresting to students of all skill levels. All of the classes are intense and can help students build confidence, discipline, and responsibility
With MMA expertise gained from training under the USA Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling coach and years of professional fighting experience, Hani Darwish ushers in new generations of fighters in his all-ages gym. In the gym’s MMA ring and on the studio floor, Hani and his team of trainers oversee men’s, women’s and children’s classes, offering a range of intensity from fight prep to general fitness.