Platoon's two-hour self-defense training course was developed by Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Noah Spear as a means of training teenaged girls and women in easy and effective techniques to escape a physical attack. She leads the small classes, giving personalized instruction that allows participants to perfect street-smart self-defense moves in an intimate setting. Practice on a real-live man before heading out into the wild armed with the knowledge and the ability to dodge danger. Call ahead for availability.
Urban Defense Center founder Master Lawrence Whitaker developed his studio’s signature self-defense program to arm students with practical-minded moves that prepare them for dangerous street situations. Students learn to spar, take down an opponent, defend against weapons, and escape from the shadow of a suspicious-looking skyscraper. Students also train their gray matter, pre-empting potential legal repercussions for defending themselves by studying concepts such as reasonable grounds and probable cause. Alternatively, Tai-Fit sessions shuttle through a series of punches, knees, blocks, and kicks with the goal not of emulating a fight but of torching calories instead. Fighters can pursue either track with a personal trainer who pays closer attention to form and technique than a beauty contestant does during the Simon Says portion of the pageant.
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For the instructors at East West Team Martial Arts Philly, karate has always been a family affair. Master John McGonnigle Sr. earned his first black belt at age 16. His son and fellow instructor, John Jr., began to learn martial arts moves when he was two, imitating his dad while rolling around in his playpen. And Madison McGonnigle has gone from a student in the school's Little Ninjas program—geared toward 3–6-year-olds—all the way to becoming its teacher.
The McGonnigles put all of this expertise to use during their classes, in which they teach students of all ages the strikes and blocks of Shotokan karate, as well as the self-defense maneuvers of Krav Maga. All-in-all, they believe learning martial arts not only improves physical strength and the chances of defending yourself against dangerous wooden planks, but also character. Though they focus on rehearsing swift kicks and punches, each lesson also emphasizes values such as respect and teamwork.
At Premier Martial Arts, students of all backgrounds train in self-defense, combat sports, and martial-arts-based fitness. Kids ages 3–12 earn colorful belts to mark not only their mastery of martial arts techniques, but also their demonstrations of character. Teachers also provide belt-free training for adults in arts like Krav Maga—developed for the Israeli Defense Force—and kickboxing, which incorporates both Western boxing techniques and the knee and elbow strikes of Muay Thai, the official fighting form of Thailand’s postmen. They round out the combat curriculum with the weapon techniques of Kali, a lightning-fast form of stick and blade fighting that hails from the Phillipines.
This blended training methodology arms students for self-defense as well as kickstarts careers in professional fighting. Elite affiliates include such UFC names as Kurt Pellegrion and Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro.