Studying Martial Arts in Northern Virginia
March 15, 2007 1:37 PM   Subscribe

I am a complete beginner looking to study martial arts in Northern Virginia. As I go down the list of schools in the phone book, who should I make a point of visiting/auditioning, and who should I absolutely avoid?

The last time someone asked a similar question, the answers focused almost exclusively which martial art would be "better" for that particular person, rather than recommendations of particular dojos/academies/schools.* (Actually, that seems to happen every time someone asks this kind of question.)

So let me be excruciatingly specific. I would like to hear from folks who have taken or are currently taking martial arts classes in the Northern Virginia area. Where did/do you study, and how did/do you like it? At this point, I am open to pretty much any style.

What I want to find:
- Northern Virginia location
- Knowledgeable, friendly instructor
- Supportive environment for adult beginner

What I want to avoid:
- "belt mills"
- excessive emphasis on tournaments/competitions
- high-pressure sales tactics, hidden fees, mandatory long-term contracts

I am currently calling my way through the yellow pages, visiting schools, etc., but I'd like to be able to shrink this haystack just a bit.

*For the record, I have read every AskMeFi post tagged with "martialarts" or "martial+arts." I'm not asking what kind of martial arts to study, so PRETTY PLEASE do not turn this into "she should study krav maga / no, she should study aikido!"
posted by somanyamys to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If Richmond is close, there are several Ving Tsun sifus teaching there that I am fairly sure would meet your criteria. Also in Virginia Beach. They are people I have trained with at seminars and locally at some points in time for several years.
posted by bastionofsanity at 2:37 PM on March 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sorry, I should have been more specific on the location. By "Northern Virginia," I mean "Virginia suburbs of DC." Preferably Fairfax County, Alexandria, or Arlington. Richmond is too far away, unfortunately.
posted by somanyamys at 2:41 PM on March 15, 2007

Best answer: Anecdotal evidence only, sorry, but if you live IN Fairfax County, the park services offer classes. I have not had martial arts classes there, but I have had other exercise classes and in my experience people are very friendly, well trained, etc. They also avoid all of the "don't" list (as long as you don't consider a semester/3-4 months a long-term contract). At the very least I would go and ask to talk to a instructor, sit in on a class, ask about who teaches different classes (they don't always say in the catalog), and ask if there are any time periods which are packed with teens/teen free.
posted by anaelith at 7:09 PM on March 15, 2007

Best answer: I had a lot of fun taking Karate classes run by the Fairfax County Park Authority.


-No contracts - you just pay for the class for as long as you feel like taking it.
-Class fees and test fees were very cheap (I think I paid $10 to test).
-I can only speak for the Shotokan Karate classes, but my instructor was awesome. My sensei was a massive Iranian guy, and as an out-of-shape, wimpy, 30-year-old woman who had never studied martial arts or engaged in any real physical activity before, I was a bit worried when I started that he just wouldn't take me seriously. But both he and the higher belts in his classes always treated me and all the other students (who varied widely in experience, age, fitness level) with respect and kindness. Beginners also got a lot of personalized attention, which was cool, and something I wasn't expecting from a Rec Center class.

Only one con, but it's a biggie:

FCPA facilities (at least the ones where my karate classes were held) are not convenient to Metro. Since my workplace is in DC, I had to leave work at 4:30 PM to have any chance of making the 7:00 PM class, given the vagaries of Washington-area traffic. As someone who hates driving in rush hour traffic, the stressful 1.5-2 hour commutes out to the FCPA rec centers ended up being too much for me in the end and I had to drop the class. I would recommend that you pick classes that are held later in the day if you're commuting out from DC - this can be hard to do if you're signing up for beginner classes, which tend to be held earlier in the evening.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:11 PM on March 15, 2007

I don't have any advice, but I'm in the same situation (ok I took like two Aikido classes).

If you find anything worthwhile, please send me an email. It's in my profile.
posted by zazerr at 8:41 AM on March 16, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, folks. I didn't even think of FCPA -- I'll definitely look into that. If anyone else has suggestions, please keep posting... for me and for zazerr!
posted by somanyamys at 4:23 PM on March 16, 2007

I trained Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for a month or so at Lloyd Irvin's academy in PG county. Lest I give the impression that the school couldn't keep me longer than that, one month was my whole stay in the city. He's a good instructor, and the DC area is full of academies affiliated with him. I've only trained at Lloyd's first school, but he produces lots of good students.

I think the tendency of martial arts threads to turn into a 'what MA should I study' isn't really a bad thing. There are many, many schools out there (most?) that are belt factories, and the sad fact is that most traditional martial arts schools will be. The arts that, in my experience are not belt factories are: Judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Boxing, Kickboxing, Kyokushin Karate, Sambo, Muay Thai Kickboxing. While you will certainly find good schools in arts other than the ones I've listed, when you venture outside of those arts, in my experience, the likelihood of ending up at a 'belt factory/McDojo' increases exponentially.

Good luck. Martial arts are a blast, and I hope you find something you like.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 11:43 AM on March 21, 2007

That should have read 'While you certainly can find good schools...'

I'm still on my first cup of coffee for the day. Sorry.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 11:45 AM on March 21, 2007

Response by poster: it occurs to me that I should post a followup before the thread auto-archives, since a couple of people (including someone whose email I accidentally deleted before I could reply -- sorry!) have expressed interest.

I continued my search long after this thread fizzled out, and didn't really find anything that met my criteria and worked with my schedule until a few months ago. Then, last fall I took a couple of intro classes at Krav Maga DC. Not NoVA, but it's a short metro ride from my workplace and has a robust class schedule, so I can hit class during lunch or after work, and let the traffic die down before I head back out to the 'burbs. Great instructors -- very welcoming of newcomers. $20 gets you an orientation and 2 one-hour Intro classes. (I worked so hard the first class, I thought I was going to puke. Sweet!) After that, they offer a month-to-month option if you don't want to sign a long term contract, and there's zero emphasis on belts and/or competitions.

Krav practioners are among the first to tell you that it's not so much a martial art as it is a "fighting style," but I decided that I was more interested in the end result (becoming stronger and learning to defend myself) than I was in learning kata or focusing my qi (not that there's anything wrong with that). If you're on the same page, and Chinatown is doable for you, I'd definitely recommend giving KMDC a try.
posted by somanyamys at 12:00 PM on February 4, 2008

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