Evaluate a school for me?

E

earl

Guest
Folks,

This is my first post, so please be gentle ;)

So, I decided I want to try a martial art. The most convenient one is a local Villari's Shaolin Kempo Karate. Yes, I know they don't have a great rep on the internet, but everyone points out that they do have some good instructors. Actually, there really aren't many other choices, so I hope this one works out for me. I know that the only way to choose a school is to try it, so following the advice of the rec.m-a faq, I went.

I called the school, and was told to come in for a free class whenever the class was meeting; I went this night.

Impressions:
A woman was running the class; she is a blackbelt. I later found out that she is the owner of a pair of sister schools (including this one), 20 minutes away from each other.

Good things:
The class started on the dot; I like punctuality. The teacher was comfortable with the class, patient, and approachable, without leaving any doubt about who was in charge. There were 8 students in the class; three whites, two yellows, bright green, dark green, and me. We spent 15 minutes warming up, 20-30 minutes doing a series of various punches and kicks, and 30 minutes in pairs doing techniques which varied by belt. I ended up with another white belt doing a technique for blocking an overhead attack (thing swinging a broken bottle over your head at someone), grasping the arm with one hand and using the other hand and your bodyweight used as leverage on the shoulder joint to force the person to the floor. Forgive me if the explanation is muddy. The direct applications of this technique to various self defense situations was discussed.

This class was free; afterwards, the instructor sat down with me and went over the basics; the various choices in classes, the different fees, etc. It's a sixth month contract between $75 (3 classes/week) to $120 (3 classes week + 2 private classes/ month + some cardio crap I don't care about.) There was no pressure, and she was very relaxed about the whole thing. Testing fees are $40 up to blackbelt; shoes are $60 (or buy your own or go barefoot) and the first uniform is free w/ a 6 month contract.

Positives:
[*]There are two locations, and I can go to either; classes are any day of the week at 7 AM, 4:15 PM, and 7 PM.
[*]the location is very close to home for me
[*]The owner of the school taught this class; she was well known to the students -- although two or three other black belts regularly teach as well


So, the things I am a little worried about:
[*]There was no sparring and no mention of when, if ever, sparring is introduced. I will call and ask about this tomorrow.
[*]Of the eight students, three of them were in fairly bad physical shape -- at least 50 pounds overweight, etc. This isn't really a big issue for me, but I am in much better physical shape than the other students in the class.
[*]The first 15 minutes of the class were stretching and pushups/crunches -- I don't like this because I lift weights 3-6 times a week and stretch on my own; I don't need help doing it
[*]you can only purchase contracts with up to 3 group classes a week; I would prefer 4 or 5. I will ask if I can negotiate something with her tomorrow.
[*]Villari's seems to be looked upon as a McDojo, although there are exceptions.

Oh, for the curious, the link: http://www.madison-martial-arts-centers.com

Anyway, I would appreciate your thoughts -- is this school a keeper?

Thanks,

-earl-
 
Me personally, I like what you're saying. First off, there's no LONG
term contract (e.g. 2 years), so they have to keep you feeling like
you're learning effective things, or you're done at the end of that
6 months. Before addressing some of the stuff you've stated
here, let me say that this is just MY opinion, based on the info
you've given. AND I'm not a lifer, I just started kenpo a year ago,
so take that with you while you're reading this.

Originally posted by earl


I called the school, and was told to come in for a free class whenever the class was meeting; I went this night.

It's cool you got a free night, but why just ONE? That seems a
little tight to me.

Originally posted by earl

The class started on the dot; I like punctuality. The teacher was comfortable with the class, patient, and approachable, without leaving any doubt about who was in charge. There were 8 students in the class; three whites, two yellows, bright green, dark green, and me.

Sounds like a good instructor to me too. The fact that she earned
your respect that quick says something positive to me. 8
students, depending on the situation could be a bit of a put off.
You said this is pretty much the only school around, and there's
just 8? Do they hold classes everyday, and let you pick which
days to go? Is there an advanced class?

Originally posted by earl

We spent 15 minutes warming up, 20-30 minutes doing a series of various punches and kicks, and 30 minutes in pairs doing techniques which varied by belt. I ended up with another white belt doing a technique for blocking an overhead attack (thing swinging a broken bottle over your head at someone), grasping the arm with one hand and using the other hand and your bodyweight used as leverage on the shoulder joint to force the person to the floor. Forgive me if the explanation is muddy. The direct applications of this technique to various self defense situations was discussed.

Sounds similar to how it's done at my school too. But the fact that
you were told how you use your "bodyweight as leverage on the
shoulder joint to force the person to the floor" says a lot to me.
I've studied at other schools, and the one I'm in now is the first
one to talk about the mechanics of WHY things work. It doesn't
take a genius to tell you to use your body weight, but if they're
telling you this the first night, then that would be a positive sign
that you'll be learning the fighting concepts behind the
techniques, and not just showing the movements of each tech.

Originally posted by earl


This class was free; afterwards, the instructor sat down with me and went over the basics; the various choices in classes, the different fees, etc. It's a sixth month contract between $75 (3 classes/week) to $120 (3 classes week + 2 private classes/ month + some cardio crap I don't care about.) There was no pressure, and she was very relaxed about the whole thing. Testing fees are $40 up to blackbelt; shoes are $60 (or buy your own or go barefoot) and the first uniform is free w/ a 6 month contract.

That's about average. The $120 one would only be worth it IMO
if you used all that was made available to you.

Originally posted by earl

[*]There was no sparring and no mention of when, if ever, sparring is introduced. I will call and ask about this tomorrow.

Doesn't always mean bad school though. Some are petrified of
lawsuits

Originally posted by earl

[*]Of the eight students, three of them were in fairly bad physical shape -- at least 50 pounds overweight, etc. This isn't really a big issue for me, but I am in much better physical shape than the other students in the class.

Maybe they walked in 75lbs overweight? How long ago did they
start? They could be much healthier now than when they started.

Originally posted by earl

[*]The first 15 minutes of the class were stretching and pushups/crunches -- I don't like this because I lift weights 3-6 times a week and stretch on my own; I don't need help doing it

Remember, different people sign up for different reasons. Some
NEED organized exercise to motivate them to do anything at all.
They have to apeal to as many as they can, if they want to make
a living off the school.

Originally posted by earl



[*]you can only purchase contracts with up to 3 group classes a week; I would prefer 4 or 5. I will ask if I can negotiate something with her tomorrow.

That's typical too. Most where I live only allow for 2 classes to
start off with. Don't be too put off by this one.

Originally posted by earl

[*]Villari's seems to be looked upon as a McDojo, although there are exceptions.

This one would put me off too. But I've come to realize that the
term McDojo to some isn't the same to me. Is it a belt factory?
Did they guarantee you a b.b. in a specific time frame? Maybe
it's being called a Mc Dojo because it's a chain of dojos?

Originally posted by earl



Oh, for the curious, the link: http://www.madison-martial-arts-centers.com


The only thing I didn't like here was:


"Our master instructor--Mary Murphy Edwards--has been successfully established in the martial arts field for over twenty years."


Why didn't they list styles here? Not a reason to ring the McDojo
alarm, but maybe a warning? What's her lineage?


That's all I can personally address given my own limited
experience. If I were in your shoes, and this was the only school
around, hell I'd give it 6 months, and then re-evaluate at the end
of that 6 months.
 
$75 for the whole 6 months? Or $75 a month, making it $450 in total?

Half a year of Judo in London amounts to 瞿337 or $561, and that's the going rate. I don't have to sign a contract though, just pay my yearly 瞿50 ($75) membership and 瞿4 ($6) every time I walk on to the mat.

Make sure the price includes everything. I've read tales of people paying thousands of dollars for instruction they never got. If they keep coming back asking for more money then bail out before you lose even more.

Until you've seen a bit of the martial arts world you won't be able to see the big picture and choose. So until then you may have to take some (small) risks with your time and money.

If you've got enough sense to check out the internet before you sign up, then you probably won't get fleeced.
 
Thanks for the advice.

Kirk:
This is the only school around that is reasonable to go to. There is a respected Aikido school, but it is 25 minutes each way; that is a little much. There is a Hwa Rang Do school, but I did some reading on the internet and they (art in general) apparently have some underhanded stuff going on WRT dropping a contract in your lap right before you take your first black belt test without informing you when you start that you will be required to sign a no compete contract.

As for the size of the class, this is an extension school; the main one is downtown. There are three classes/day at the main school and 1/day at the extension, so I would expect class sizes out here to be fairly small.

There was no mention of guaranteeing a belt in a given time period; I just did a bunch of reading through rec.m-a; go to groups.google.com and type in Villari. Most opinions are not complimentary.

Bod:
That is a monthly fee.

And I can't afford a second expensive hobby anyway -- scuba diving is expensive enough on its own. I just bought a new drysuit and am poor for a while ;)

-earl-

Edit:
Oh, and Kirk, I only mentioned others' lack of fitness because I work out on my own -- and have for a little over two years now. It isn't necessarily a problem; its just that I do it on my own and would prefer to spend the time I have in the MA class learning a MA, not learning basic fitness...
 
Hi Earl,

Some things to think about...

Shaolin Kempo Karate does not exist in a traditional sense. It is a quasi-ecclectic result of Americanized principles. Shaolin denotes China. Kempo, Ryukyu Islands or Japan...and Karate, Okinawa and Japan. I'm sure this is one of the more solid reasons for the McDojo responses.

However...that said...

It sounds like a pretty good situation. I can't give an opinion on the training material itself, but the environment seems positive enough.

So, the things I am a little worried about :
[*]There was no sparring and no mention of when, if ever, sparring is introduced. I will call and ask about this tomorrow.
[*]Of the eight students, three of them were in fairly bad physical shape -- at least 50 pounds overweight, etc. This isn't really a big issue for me, but I am in much better physical shape than the other students in the class.
[*]The first 15 minutes of the class were stretching and pushups/crunches -- I don't like this because I lift weights 3-6 times a week and stretch on my own; I don't need help doing it
[*]you can only purchase contracts with up to 3 group classes a week; I would prefer 4 or 5. I will ask if I can negotiate something with her tomorrow.
[*]Villari's seems to be looked upon as a McDojo, although there are exceptions.

Sparring isn't really something, in my opinion, you need to worry about. Far too often people in 'martial arts' look to what's next. They want the great techniques, sparring and whatnot...yet can't move correctly to begin with. Their technique tends to be shadey, yet they always ask, "I know that already...what's next?"

Hrm..overweight people. I wouldn't worry about it honestly. I've seem some SERIOUSLY overweight people in Aikido and Bujinkan...yet are very knowledgable and powerful in their technique. It isn't the Dojo's responsibility to keep them in shape. It's theirs...if they choose not to, that doesn't mean that they aren't good or worth while. You choose to work out a lot. They don't...to each their own.

You can never do too much stretching. Who knows...they may teach you some things about stretching that you never thought of. Empty cup, remember?

Just some random thoughts...hope they're of use.

Take care,

Jay
 
Firstly, about the warm up, no matter what you do its always good to warm up before you do anything sport like. And mines 45 minutes every lesson (Press ups sit ups basic drills then 100 of every kick). second, sounds like a good class. About the overwieght thing......never underestimate them! I have an OBECESE dude in my class and he moves faster then everyone minues the instructors!
 
Originally posted by earl


Oh, and Kirk, I only mentioned others' lack of fitness because I work out on my own -- and have for a little over two years now. It isn't necessarily a problem; its just that I do it on my own and would prefer to spend the time I have in the MA class learning a MA, not learning basic fitness...

I can totally understand your point of view. I only spoke up
because I'm overweight, and I signed up (initially) for the fitness
aspect of it. I've only been doing it for a year, and not only do I
push myself BIGTIME in class, it's the only thing that's ever
motivated me to do majorly strenuous exercises at every free
minute! It kicks butt over going to a health spa!!!!!!!
:asian:
 
Grandmaster Villari is one of the pioneers of martial arts in the Western World. He revolutionized and enhanced the martial arts, directing it more toward practical fighting. His contribution to Asian fighting arts helped open the way of the Asian martial arts, on a massive scale, to the ordinary layman. Before Master Villari, teaching the martial arts to the masses was taboo. He demystified the prejudice that only a few select people should have the opportunity to learn these skills. He showed Westerners of all ages and cultures "the way of Asian martial arts." No other master or system can lay claim or take credit for the unique fighting system of the Villari Shaolin Kempo Karate System. His input and involvement produced a major turning point in the teaching of martial arts. Master Villari is still actively teaching and demonstrating the martial arts in his schools today.

This is from Fred Villari's website. EXTREMELY bold statements.

:idunno:
 
Ask if there's sparring. Some schools have sparring only on certain days.
 
sounds like a good school to me... as far as the sparring goes you probably wont get to do any until you have gone up a few belt levels in most chinese arts sparring is reserved for higher ranks because of the level of control you have to have to not injure your partner... plus at the beginner level they want to concentrate on getting your technique and stances and movement down first then work on sparring... so just be patient when it comes to sparring... as far as warm ups go thats part of it some places make it a part of class and some places dont they would rather you warm up before class... the pricing sounds good too... and the 6 month contracts sound great beware of long term contracts... if i was you i would give the school a shot take the basic 3 classes and try it for six months.
 
Villari's Shaolin Kempo Karate, used to be called, United Studios of Self Defence, in the 70's, then jumped on the "Shaolin" Name in the 80's, I dont know about the location that you mentioned, but the one down the road from me, here in my city, is "Fast Food".

Skard1
 
Hi Earl,

You've gotten alot of good advice here, but I'd caution you on one thing. You have apparently set a radius of service around your house or work or whatever, that you will not go beyond to find instruction. To paraphrase Sturgeon's Law "90% of martial arts, 90% of everything is crud." Honestly, I would (and do) travel far beyond that 25 min mark to find good instruction. As a beginner, and someone who hasn't built up the dedication (or addiction depending upon perspective) to the arts, convienence may be more important to you.

Good luck on your search.

Lamont
 
I agree with that statement. Unless that Aikikdo class is bogus I would seriously look into that for training. I don't see 25 minutes as much of a trip for quality. I travel twenty minutes by car for my jujutsu class one way twice a week.

There's a dojo 10 minutes from me, but I found out through very reliable sources, the instructor has an arrogance problem, so I opted not to go there.

I took kempo to yellow belt before I decided to take jujutsu. I was duped into leaving to train with my wife's brother-in-law. While he is a great fighter, he can't teach. His ego was the reason he got my wife to help him get me to leave that dojo, it was one of those "how dare you go to someone else for training instead of me" things.

I was studying a system that was primarily based on Nick Cerio's system and the head instructor of this system was at one time a Villari student. He left it to train with Professor Cerio (who Villari doesn't seem to acknowledge on his website as one of his own instructors when he was a student of kempo).

Be wary, don't hold fast to that self imposed travel time restriction.

:rolleyes:
 
Blindside: since this will be my first experience, I don't want to sign myself up for something I won't go to. The Aikido class (www.aikidoofmadison.com) looks good, but given the class time it means rush hour traffic; that makes it a 35-40 minute drive in and a 25 minute drive back; that's a little more than I am comfortable with -- it adds an hour to a class that is only 1:30 long. Honestly, unless I *really* love it, I just can't see myself going.

Given that the first 6 months of anything would seem to me basic punches, kicks, and feet movements, is it reasonable to go to the Shaolin Kempo Karate place, dubious as it may be, for the term of a single contract and then reevaluate my options?

I also found the name of a Jeet Kun Do instructor listed on www.inosanto.com ... is Dan Inosanto reputable (he certified this man?) If you are curious, click the above link -> Martial Arts -> Certified Instructors. There is only one person in Wisconsin, who happens to be in Madison... unfortunately, not associated with any school that I can tell. I left a message on his voicemail so hopefully I will hear back from him. Is this a reasonable alternative if he is actively teaching?

Thanks for all the replies.

And if anyone wants to chime in, what is a good art for someone who is 6'2", 225 pounds, bench 205/squat 360/dead 430 for 3 sets of 10?

-earl-
 
Originally posted by earl


I also found the name of a Jeet Kun Do instructor listed on www.inosanto.com ... is Dan Inosanto reputable (he certified this man?) If you are curious, click the above link -> Martial Arts -> Certified Instructors. There is only one person in Wisconsin, who happens to be in Madison... unfortunately, not associated with any school that I can tell. I left a message on his voicemail so hopefully I will hear back from him. Is this a reasonable alternative if he is actively teaching?

Thanks for all the replies.

And if anyone wants to chime in, what is a good art for someone who is 6'2", 225 pounds, bench 205/squat 360/dead 430 for 3 sets of 10?

-earl-

Dan Inosanto is extremely reputable. I would place alot of confidence in someone he trained, but still check him out. If this guy is a choice, I would most definatly choose this guy. I looked at the website, but I'm not sure who you are speaking of.

One concern I have about the Shoalin Kempo School, is his use of the word Shoalin. Someone said it earlier, but Shoalin is a leneage of Chinese Kung Fu. Kempo is from Japan. The styles are very different in that cma are usually "soft" or interneal arts, while karate and kempo are usually "hard" or external arts. To mix the two would be quit difficult. Also, his claim on "asian martial arts" is quite a wide blanket statement. Asian martial arts incompas many, many styles and systems.

I am exactly your size, 6' 2" 225 pounds, your lifting is inconsequential to your martial arts training. I lift weights alot, but not building like I used to. I think if you had the chance for JKD I would look into it, it is very well rounded. Your not going to be too big for any art per sae but I have studied JKD and loved it. I currently study 7 Star Praying Mantis Kung Fu, and I will never most likely never stray too far from it. I'm just a little leary of Villari's claims. But the decision rests in you.
 
If you HAD to choose between one of Sifu Inosanto's students and one of Fred Villari's students, there is no fair comparison. Sifu Inosanto's certified student is the hands and feet down pick.

The head instructor of the kempo system I was in left Villari because he realized that he was missing something being there, and that's why he left to study with Professor Cerio. Shaolin doesn't even recognize Villari's system. Their non-chinese rep is a former student of Villari. Here's a portion from the Kempo faq that shows how many of Villari's students left him.

Kempo FAQ

Unless I'm missing something he doesn't acknowledge anyone who taught him anything on his website. Without one of his students creating the family trees in this FAQ, one would have no idea that he was Professor Cerio's student.

Nick Cerio Offshoots

The acknowledgement by Mark Urbin is probably due to his own research in which he found the listing on the Nick Cerio site or from other methods.

Dan Inosanto and JKD, speak for themselves (BTW, Dan is an Ed Parker black belt as well.

Something to consider. In my opinion, either you make the trip for the Aikido class, or you take the JKD class.
 
Originally posted by earl

Blindside: since this will be my first experience, I don't want to sign myself up for something I won't go to. The Aikido class (www.aikidoofmadison.com) looks good, but given the class time it means rush hour traffic; that makes it a 35-40 minute drive in and a 25 minute drive back; that's a little more than I am comfortable with -- it adds an hour to a class that is only 1:30 long. Honestly, unless I *really* love it, I just can't see myself going.

Sorry if i come off rude but "a 35-40min drive is a little more than I
am comfortable with", is so sad, I know guys that travel by bus,
from the burbs to the city to train, it takes them 1 hour each way, soon I plan on taking a trip, renting a car, and driving 3 hours each way, to do a private with a well known master, you gotta
try a little harder than that, if not maybe, Villari's Shaolin Kempo Karate, is just what your looking for, Fast Food.

Skard1
 
Originally posted by earl

Blindside: since this will be my first experience, I don't want to sign myself up for something I won't go to. The Aikido class (www.aikidoofmadison.com) looks good, but given the class time it means rush hour traffic; that makes it a 35-40 minute drive in and a 25 minute drive back; that's a little more than I am comfortable with -- it adds an hour to a class that is only 1:30 long. Honestly, unless I *really* love it, I just can't see myself going.

Given that the first 6 months of anything would seem to me basic punches, kicks, and feet movements, is it reasonable to go to the Shaolin Kempo Karate place, dubious as it may be, for the term of a single contract and then reevaluate my options?

I also found the name of a Jeet Kun Do instructor listed on www.inosanto.com ... is Dan Inosanto reputable (he certified this man?) If you are curious, click the above link -> Martial Arts -> Certified Instructors. There is only one person in Wisconsin, who happens to be in Madison... unfortunately, not associated with any school that I can tell. I left a message on his voicemail so hopefully I will hear back from him. Is this a reasonable alternative if he is actively teaching?

Thanks for all the replies.

And if anyone wants to chime in, what is a good art for someone who is 6'2", 225 pounds, bench 205/squat 360/dead 430 for 3 sets of 10?

-earl-

I just checked out the Aikido website. I stand by my previous recommendation. The trip would be WELL WORTH IT! Going to the Villari school would be cheating yourself of time and money if you decide after six months you don't like it. Then you have to spend some of your training time in something else, un-learning what you have learned (to borrow an appropriate phrase from Yoda). I know, from experience.
 
I agree, it is well worth the drive for quality. You haven't been exposed to MA that much so you do not understand the need and desire of a great teacher, but trust me, it is well worth your effort!!


7sm
 
Alright, so I did some more searching, and found this:
Zhong Yi Kung Fu Association; it is apparently part of the United States Chinese Kuoshu Federation (USCKF). Is the USCKF a reputable organization?

I might try giving these folks a visit Monday, but unless I'm blown away, they are just too far to go to classes. I'll probably end up going with the Karate for sixth months and then reevaluate my options. Basically, I don't want to commit to a one hour round trip time unless I *really* like it.

-earl-
 

Latest Discussions

Back
Top