What is a good martial arts school in Chicago?
March 17, 2009 7:07 AM   Subscribe

What is a good (criteria inside) martial arts school in Chicago?

Background: I was involved in a park district karate class for five years as a kid, and my skills have fallen into disuse. Lately, I've been wanting to get back into martial arts. I'm extremely wary of bad schools, however, as when I was involved in my karate training, the 80s and its slew of martial arts movies had just made everyone and their grandmother's cousin's neighbor's dog open a studio.

Having taken a glance at the different types of martial arts available, my number one goal is to learn how to fight effectively (my park district class was heavy on forms and light on sparring). I know that no amount of instruction can prepare someone for a fight, nor am I looking to get into one (I'm far from a tough guy), but I'd like sparring to be at least a significant component of the class. I'm not allergic to forms, kata or non-sparring aspects of the style, just not at the expense of sparring practice.

From what I can tell, a Mixed Martial Arts class would be ideal (specifically, the variant emphasizing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai kickboxing) but I'd be curious about other options.

Bonus points if it is on the south side (easier to get to after work) or has weekend classes.
posted by burnfirewalls to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My feeling is don't buy into the MMA hype -- the average person is better off with judo in my opinion. You can train full-on without getting hurt, and realistically, having a solid understanding of joint-locks is a very effective real-world skill.
posted by glider at 8:02 AM on March 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have heard very good things about Tokhon Judo. North side, but I believe they have classes on the weekends.

MMA is pretty trendy, so if you've got your heart set on either BJJ or Muay Thai, I'd recommend finding a place that specializes in one or the other and has been around for quite a while, so you're not just taking classes at a flavor-of-the-month martial art class next door to cardio semaphore or whatever. Unfortunately I can't give you any specific recommendations on those.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:18 AM on March 17, 2009

Response by poster: Judo may be a good jumping-off place - honestly, I've been a little put off by the MMA attitudes that some (not all) of the training places put off. I'm used to the dojo-style atmosphere. I'd definitely be open to more recommendations towards Judo (and Tokhon Judo is apparently a not-for-profit, so bonus).
posted by burnfirewalls at 8:46 AM on March 17, 2009

I study Modern Arnis (Filipino stickfighting) in Houston, but there is an affiliated school in Chicago (Islander's Karate). I like the art because, in addition to the regular Karate curriculum, you get the stick techniques which also translate to the knife. The stick and knife disarms use a lot of joint locks which work open-handed as well.

I've met the owner if Islander's Karate and can say he is a very good marital artist and a good teacher. I don't know about their business practices, never having visited his school. I trained at one kung-fu school that was primarily designed to separate me from my money, so I'm leery of those types of places. Not saying that I.K. is like that - just that I don't know (and would be disappointed).

Since you asked about the different arts, I'll briefly relate my experiences:
Kung fu - good all-around art - good self-defense techniques.
Karate - primarily a sport - great fun but not as good at teaching street fighting.
Judo - great fun if you're not too old to be thrown around. They say all street fights end up on the ground and that's where Judo is king.
Arnis - This is my favorite because it combines elements from all of the above, plus the stick.
posted by TurnedIntoANewt at 9:22 AM on March 17, 2009

I work out at Tohkon. (And unfortunately, I'm moving away at the end of the month.)

It has quite a few international champions and members that compete at the national level, so they definitely know what they're doing (not that it's easy to fake judo anyway). At the same time, they take a great effort to ease in beginners. There's a separate fundamentals class, so you're not tossed in with the sharks right away. People that are not naturally athletic, like me, still end up getting a feeling of progress, even if it is rather slow at times. Plus, they're very nice people with a very open attitude.

And yes, the non-profit aspect of it keeps you away from the many unsavory aspects of the martial arts business. There's no year-long contracts or promotion fees or what have you.

As for BJJ, I've gone to the open mat (a class where people just show up to spar) at New Breed Jiu-Jitsu in Skokie. Those guys definitely know their stuff on the ground. I haven't seen the actual instruction, but I've heard good things about it.
posted by ignignokt at 10:12 AM on March 17, 2009

Oh, sorry, didn't see the part of you being on the south side. Newbreed would be quite a trek.
posted by ignignokt at 10:18 AM on March 17, 2009

Check your MeFi mail.
posted by smich at 12:08 PM on March 17, 2009

I believe Thousand Waves has a studio on the North Side (weekend classes). This is Seido karate, which I practiced at a dojo in Pittsburgh. I've heard great things about the Chicago dojo. For me, Seido was a great balance of martial arts practice, general fitness, and meditation.
posted by amusebuche at 10:12 PM on March 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

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