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.
Master Byung Uk Kim owns World Champion’s K Tae Kwon Do, but helming the studio is hardly the most impressive stat on his martial-arts résumé. A seventh-dan black belt, Master Kim’s tae kwon do experience spans the globe—he was the head coach of the USA’s Junior Olympic Team, and a 10-time national champion in Korea, the sport’s country of origin.
At his two New Jersey studios, Master Kim currently teaches his specialty to students of all experience levels and belt hues, aided by a team of trainers. Beyond courses in their namesake discipline, the studios also host free cardio-kickboxing nights for parents every Tuesday, as well as tae kwon do–themed birthday parties.