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.
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 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 royal-blue mat beckons fighters to test their skills, drawing on bujinkan budo taijutsu and ancient Japanese fighting techniques. But Bujinkan Bukeyashiki Dojo doesn't expect them to achieve the skills to succeed on their own. The dojo leads ninja classes for young kids, shinobi classes for teens, and self-defense classes for adults to get them prepared to strike, grapple, and manipulate joints, plus use weapons and survive against multiple attackers.
Realistic conditions. Realistic goals. These two statements bookend Mayer's Karate & Fitness's principles. The instructors teach skills such as self-defense, jujitsu, and judo as they would be used and needed in the real world, with nary a crouching tiger nor a hidden dragon in sight. Both adults and kids can take karate classes, which build self-esteem as well as muscle; there are also sessions for kids with special needs that emphasize coordination and social skills as much as physical activity. Fitness options include Latin dance–inspired Zumba classes and personal training, in which American Council on Exercise–certified coaches help clients make and meet goals.
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.