The more than a dozen brick-and-mortar locations that make up Ultimate Champions Taekwondo Association share not only a style of combat, but a teaching philosophy as well. Tracing the lineage of their combative art back to Grandmaster Sang K. Oh, the instructors adhere to his teachings, exemplified by the quote, "The person who can defeat others with flashy techniques but is without love toward his fellow man will in the end defeat himself." Students use the physical empowerment of mastering jumps, kicks, and weapons to arm themselves with discipline, confidence, concentration, self-respect, and courtesy for others.
Outside of the classroom, the organization reaches out to the tri-state community with ample demonstrations of some of their most exciting techniques. Practitioners soar skyward in flying kicks or fill the air with the whirring blows of nunchakus, bos, and kamas. Fists slam through boards, balloons, and bricks to demonstrate the striking power of tae kwon do and the structural flaws in the Three Little Pigs' panic room.
A US Marine, two-time Iraq veteran, and soon-to-be third-degree black belt, Johnny Guerrero is like a Swiss army knife of self-defense techniques. He earned black belts in Brazilian jujitsu and ninjutsu—the traditional fighting form of Japanese assassins—and has studied styles ranging from judo to Greco Roman wrestling. He draws on his encyclopedic knowledge of self-defense along with his first-hand experience of combat to aid students on their journey to becoming warriors—the very reason he started Guerrero Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
The school’s curriculum is designed to teach students to fight with speed, skill, and accuracy. Instructors tailor Brazilian jujitsu and mixed-martial-arts lessons based on level expertise, allowing beginners to learn from experts and experts to challenge themselves to intense competition. Children's classes cater to kids with special needs and focus on antibullying instruction to keep kids safe at school. Each teacher receives training in both child and adult psychology, which aids them in chopping through even the thickest of mental blocks.
Grandmaster Taek Sung Cho has accrued more than 40 years of martial-arts experience and a host of titles on his resumé, including coach for the International Junior Taekwondo Championships and the U.S. Junior Olympic Taekwondo Team. However, he derives the most reward from his role as teacher, a position he has coveted since establishing Master Cho's Talium in 1991. Working with expert instructors, he imparts the value of community and inner balance through the lens of tae kwon do technique.
Master Cho's lessons amplify confidence as well as coordination in young children, teens, and adults. Students can practice with others in their age group or alongside their families, depending on whether their school bus or their house transforms into a giant fighting robot. Kardio Kickboxing workouts toast calories with rapid jabs, and the staff emphasize the social aspect of self-defense training by hosting summer camps and birthday parties.
The dedicated instructors at Afro Brazilian Cultural Center of New Jersey see capoeira as more than a blend of dance and martial arts—they see it as a way of life. They train children and adults of all ages in capoeira's graceful movements through classes, therapy sessions, and afterschool programs, many of the instructors drawing from extensive training in Brazil and an understanding of Brazilian folklore and culture. But their instruction doesn’t end at capoeira—many of the Cultural Center's coaches specialize in disciplines including yoga, Zumba, salsa, and West African dance. Though many of the instructors were born and raised in New Jersey, others hail from places such as Guinea and Senegal and infuse their culture into their teaching style. The instructors hold classes at least once a week and more frequently for students preparing to dance-battle chaperones for control of the prom.
At Cranford Taekwondo Center, martial arts aren’t just about self-defense; they’re about self-esteem, self-discipline, and building character—though there’s a lot of kicking and punching too. The spacious facility employs experienced black-belt instructors to train children and adults in techniques ranging from footwork and forms to balance and hand-eye coordination. The school is also home to Cranford’s Combat Fitness boot camp, wherein certified instructors use heavy bags, kicking shields, and free weights to tone the body and build endurance.
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.