Seeking DC Style/Dojo Recommendations

paul95

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Hey all! Thanks for taking the time to read this post, and thanks in advance for whatever advice you have.

I'm a 20yo student taking time off of college to figure out what I want to do with my life. I'm spending April-September in Washington D.C. and want to explore martial arts while I'm there. I'm hoping this forum can give some style and dojo recommendations.

I'm male, 5ft 8in, 145 lbs, and currently out of shape but willing to condition my *** off. I've done a couple months of BJJ, Judo, Krav, MMA, FMA, and Amok (not all at one time), all long enough ago to have forgotten everything. I don't have a grappling vs striking vs throwing preference.

My criteria, in order of priority, are (1) skilled instructors and community, (2) an emphasis on non-choreographed sparring, (3) physically demanding sessions, (4) styles interesting to study in their home countries (e.g. muay thai), and (5) styles based more on kinesthetic memory (e.g. BJJ) than repetitive technique training (e.g. Judo). I'm willing to spend some money and have a car/flexible work schedule, so I'm lucky in that money/time/distance aren't huge concerns.

I'm not sure about Tae Kwon Do or Judo. I'm pretty sure I'm not interested in anything with weapons (FMA, Amok, Ninjutsu), anything flashy-but-nonfunctional (Kenpo, Wushu), or anything focused on katas (Karate).

All together, this boatload of context makes me lean towards Muay Thai, BJJ, Boxing, or MMA.

So, some specific questions:
  • Can anyone recommend good Muay Thai, BJJ, Boxing, or MMA dojos in the DC metro area?
  • Should I look more into Tae Kwon Do or Judo, given what I'm looking for?
  • What other styles I should look into?
 

Bill Mattocks

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You should have no trouble finding good training in that area. I would suggest that a lot of your preconceived notions are wrong.
 

Whitespace

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I think what style you choose should be a reflection of you and the instructor you learn from should have a good reputation in the community. Also focus on schools that do not work on tournament type of training. You want practical easy to use working stuff. Also even though you do not like kata in any martial arts you do, you will be praticing moves over and over until it is muscle memory witch in return is what kata is essentially doing.
 
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paul95

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You should have no trouble finding good training in that area. I would suggest that a lot of your preconceived notions are wrong.
Thanks for the post! Excited to hear I have some wrong assumptions - generally means I'm about to learn something. Mind sharing expanding on what you mean :)?
 
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paul95

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I think what style you choose should be a reflection of you and the instructor you learn from should have a good reputation in the community. Also focus on schools that do not work on tournament type of training. You want practical easy to use working stuff. Also even though you do not like kata in any martial arts you do, you will be praticing moves over and over until it is muscle memory witch in return is what kata is essentially doing.
Good advice, and great point on the katas - thanks for helping me think about this. I'm definitely fine with repetition to learn moves. I'd just like to also use those moves in a non-choreographed way, i.e. active sparring.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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Thanks for the post! Excited to hear I have some wrong assumptions - generally means I'm about to learn something. Mind sharing expanding on what you mean :)?
Well, the two that I noticed are that kenpo is flashy but non-functional (it's purpose I'd ti be functional, and not car in the slightest how flashy it looks), and that bjj doesn't involve repitition. Knowing bill, I will make the assumption that he is making an assumption about why you dislike kata. Regardless of whether or not his assumption is true, or why you dislike kata, I can almost guarantee you that he'll disagree with it.
 
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paul95

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Well, the two that I noticed are that kenpo is flashy but non-functional (it's purpose I'd ti be functional, and not car in the slightest how flashy it looks), and that bjj doesn't involve repitition. Knowing bill, I will make the assumption that he is making an assumption about why you dislike kata. Regardless of whether or not his assumption is true, or why you dislike kata, I can almost guarantee you that he'll disagree with it.

Thanks for the info about kenpo - I don't know much about it and from what you said unfairly characterized it, and I apologize for that.

On kata: I can get a sense for techniques through repetition, but to internalize things I need to do non-choreographed sparring. Sparring helps me realize which techniques I want to focus on, which helps me get the most out of repetition training, which helps internalize things while sparring, and so on in a fun cycle.

So: I find the combination of training specific techniques and free-form sparring really useful. But my prior experience with karate way-back-when was "do forms for six months and then we'll get to sparring", and my prior experience with judo was "emphasis on techniques for three months with some sparring" - which felt like it was hard to learn for my personal learning style. In contract, my experience with BJJ was "fair amount of technique and a lot of rolling", and I could try to practice techniques I'd just learned while rolling, which made me feel like I was learning a hell of a lot.

Since I only have 6m in DC, and don't know what I'm doing after that, I want to focus on styles that have a good mix of repetition and sparring from the beginning so I can internalize some of the style. Sorry for the long post and hope this clarifies things!
 

oftheherd1

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There are lots of MA in the DC area. Do you intend to live in DC itself, or MD or VA? What I can't really tell you is what dojos are going to be good or McDojos. I am not studying at any of the MA schools in the area. But if you have studied before, there is a good chance you can look up some of the schools in the area and get a feel for how good they seem to be. Then check them out.

I know there is a Hapkido school at the Boys and Girls club in Dale City, FA, that has been there for a very long time. I am also acquainted with on of the instructors there. He is a good man and I would guess a good instructor due to his high standards. The owner is a 3rd BB, and was on the Korean military demonstration team. Any man who got on that must be good. She being a woman, probably had to prove herself at least twice as good. The school has been there over 20 years.

There is a Hapkido instructor (forum name = Instructor) in MD with the Coast Guard. I know he had an online school, but I don't know if he is still doing that.

There is also an Aikido school that I believe has two branches, on in MD and one in DC. I have heard good things about it from a former co-worker who attended the school.

I wouldn't discount any TKD school outright, nor Karate, nor any school that uses katas. You might want to do a search here on the forum for recent threads/posts on kata/forms. You might find reasons to change you mind about them.

Regardless, you can't expect to learn too much in 2 to 3 (EDIT: Oops misread the time you would be here) months in any type of MA. And you seem to want to try something different from what you have already learned. Maybe you should just spend time looking around different styles to see what interests you, then wherever you end up more permanently, you can jump right in to that art.

Good luck in your choices.
 

oftheherd1

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...

On kata: I can get a sense for techniques through repetition, but to internalize things I need to do non-choreographed sparring. Sparring helps me realize which techniques I want to focus on, which helps me get the most out of repetition training, which helps internalize things while sparring, and so on in a fun cycle.

So: I find the combination of training specific techniques and free-form sparring really useful. But my prior experience with karate way-back-when was "do forms for six months and then we'll get to sparring", and my prior experience with judo was "emphasis on techniques for three months with some sparring" - which felt like it was hard to learn for my personal learning style. In contract, my experience with BJJ was "fair amount of technique and a lot of rolling", and I could try to practice techniques I'd just learned while rolling, which made me feel like I was learning a hell of a lot.
...

I suggested you search for threads/posts on forms. You will find some differences of opinion, but one thing that might catch your attention is that through forms, you will learn many if not all techniques; striking, blocking, kicking, maybe grappling, foot movement, etc. The more of that you can learn the faster you can spar without hurting yourself or your practice opponent, and you will do it more efficiently.

My art is Hapkido, and in the Hapkido I learned, we did not do forms, so I have some sympathy for your feelings, but the way we were taught, forms were quite un-necessary. Those arts that teach them, do so for a reason.
 

Bill Mattocks

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Thanks for the post! Excited to hear I have some wrong assumptions - generally means I'm about to learn something. Mind sharing expanding on what you mean :)?

I'll do my best. Consider this non-judgmental suggestions.

I'm male, 5ft 8in, 145 lbs, and currently out of shape but willing to condition my *** off. I've done a couple months of BJJ, Judo, Krav, MMA, FMA, and Amok (not all at one time), all long enough ago to have forgotten everything. I don't have a grappling vs striking vs throwing preference.

Good information. Doesn't have much to do with making any meaningful suggestions for you. Body type is a very minor consideration. Your willingness to work hard is good.

My criteria, in order of priority, are (1) skilled instructors and community,

Good.

(2) an emphasis on non-choreographed sparring,

Given your stated background, you may not know what the value of 'choreographed' sparring might be.

(3) physically demanding sessions,

That's fine, but if it's exercise you want, go exercise. Some martial arts disciplines demand a higher level of cardio-vascular fitness than others, but that doesn't make one better or worse than another on that basis.

(4) styles interesting to study in their home countries (e.g. muay thai),

Mmm, ok, but I don't quite grasp what you want there.

and (5) styles based more on kinesthetic memory (e.g. BJJ) than repetitive technique training (e.g. Judo). I'm willing to spend some money and have a car/flexible work schedule, so I'm lucky in that money/time/distance aren't huge concerns.

You misunderstand how the above martial arts work. With no malice intended, what I think I'm hearing is "I have a very short attention span and can't be arsed to do boring repetition. If I don't 'get it' right away, I'm not interested."

I'm not sure about Tae Kwon Do or Judo. I'm pretty sure I'm not interested in anything with weapons (FMA, Amok, Ninjutsu),

anything flashy-but-nonfunctional (Kenpo, Wushu), or anything focused on katas (Karate).

With all due respect, you don't know what the heck you are talking about. Not only are the arts above not as you describe them, but you don't even know what the point is of some of them - such as kata.

Again, all in friendship, I am not trying to hammer you. But you asked what I objected to - this is it.
 
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paul95

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There are lots of MA in the DC area. ...Good luck in your choices.

I suggested you search for threads/posts on forms...

Thank you both for your posts and for the information about forms. I've found some threads that go into forms (Kata and why we all should practice some form of kata. and Why train forms) that have given me some more food for thought - I particularly like the idea of katas as meditation, and having some concrete I can practicing at home by myself is nice.

There was a recent Washington Post article on learning kinesthetic skills twice as fast by introducing small variations that seems relevant here, especially to back up the point that katas can help you learn techniques more quickly: Researchers have discovered a much faster way to learn new skills

Anyway, my takeaway from all of this is (as oftheheard1 said well) the styles that teach katas do so for a reason, and that I shouldn't dismiss styles just because they teach katas. Trying some new styles to figure out which I want to commit to long-term is also good advice. Thanks for the advice on styles, everyone.

On dojo advice: I'm looking for dojos in DC proper, preferably walking distance from Dupont Circle, on the Green/Red lines, or not too far via metro from Dupont. Thanks for the Hapkido/aikido suggestions, oftheherd1.
 

Bill Mattocks

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Thanks for the info about kenpo - I don't know much about it and from what you said unfairly characterized it, and I apologize for that.

On kata: I can get a sense for techniques through repetition, but to internalize things I need to do non-choreographed sparring. Sparring helps me realize which techniques I want to focus on, which helps me get the most out of repetition training, which helps internalize things while sparring, and so on in a fun cycle.

So: I find the combination of training specific techniques and free-form sparring really useful. But my prior experience with karate way-back-when was "do forms for six months and then we'll get to sparring", and my prior experience with judo was "emphasis on techniques for three months with some sparring" - which felt like it was hard to learn for my personal learning style. In contract, my experience with BJJ was "fair amount of technique and a lot of rolling", and I could try to practice techniques I'd just learned while rolling, which made me feel like I was learning a hell of a lot.

Since I only have 6m in DC, and don't know what I'm doing after that, I want to focus on styles that have a good mix of repetition and sparring from the beginning so I can internalize some of the style. Sorry for the long post and hope this clarifies things!

In a sense. If you only intend to study for 6 months, pick something and have fun. You won't learn a thing, but you might get some good exercise.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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In a sense. If you only intend to study for 6 months, pick something and have fun. You won't learn a thing, but you might get some good exercise.
To be fair, if he's only practicing for 6 months I wouldn't want to spend five of those months learning kata either. I find it less fun, likely wouldn't remember it 5 years down the line (no tangible effects) and at the same time I could be boxing and having fun sparring with people continuously.
 
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paul95

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Bill, thanks for your responses. You've brought up some good points.

In terms of unfairly characterizing martial arts: I'm definitely a newbie, especially when it comes to styles I haven't tried, and can completely accept that I characterized them unfairly. Martial arts forums like these are a great way for me to learn from people who've been doing them for a while, and I'd love to learn more. If it's not too much trouble, would you mind describing the styles I've mentioned as you know them so I can prevent myself from unfairly characterizing them in the future?

In terms of kata, I don't think I'm expressing myself well: kempodiscipline's explanation for why I'd like an emphasis on active sparring for these six months hits it well.

I'd like to continue martial arts after these six months, but don't think I'll be in the DC area, and so am not looking for a lifestyle-focused dojo (though a lifestyle-focused style could be an option). I may end up with the freedom to travel for a while, which could mean spending some time at a dojo in another country (e.g. studying muay thai in thailand for a couple months as part of a larger explore-the-world trip).




Todd, thanks for the recommendation!
 

Bill Mattocks

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Bill, thanks for your responses. You've brought up some good points.

In terms of unfairly characterizing martial arts: I'm definitely a newbie, especially when it comes to styles I haven't tried, and can completely accept that I characterized them unfairly. Martial arts forums like these are a great way for me to learn from people who've been doing them for a while, and I'd love to learn more. If it's not too much trouble, would you mind describing the styles I've mentioned as you know them so I can prevent myself from unfairly characterizing them in the future?

In terms of kata, I don't think I'm expressing myself well: kempodiscipline's explanation for why I'd like an emphasis on active sparring for these six months hits it well.

I'd like to continue martial arts after these six months, but don't think I'll be in the DC area, and so am not looking for a lifestyle-focused dojo (though a lifestyle-focused style could be an option). I may end up with the freedom to travel for a while, which could mean spending some time at a dojo in another country (e.g. studying muay thai in thailand for a couple months as part of a larger explore-the-world trip).

Todd, thanks for the recommendation!

I think I have a better understanding of what you are looking for now. That does change things.

Yes, I can see why you'd want to move right to the meat and potatoes instead of putting in the time as a beginner. You might have fun with some boxing, or with some MMA-type training, or some Krav Maga kind of thing. Very active, tough workouts, and you quickly move into the hitting part. I could see Muy Thai in there as well.

As to karate - not all of is kata-based. Depends a lot on the style of Karate. And other arts have 'kata', although they may call them different things, like forms.

However, even karate that has kata is not necessarily all they do. We do a lot of kata, and I love kata, and I'd argue with anyone who just doesn't understand what it is for, but we don't just do kata. And seriously, anyone who thinks we just practice punching air and don't do any real-world training has never been hit by me. I have always been willing to demonstrate some of my useless kata in actual practice to anyone who wishes to sign a waiver and step onto the floor with me.
 

jks9199

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You have a lot of options in the DC area, both commercial and other. Time limits, specifics of location, ability to travel... all that figures into where you might want to go. Also, figure out what you expect out of several months of training, and you'll have a better idea what you might be interested in. The DC area is large region, covering part of MD, the District itself, and Virginia.
 
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paul95

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Bill, thanks again for your reply and for helping me learn more about karate/katas. I appreciate it.

Everyone, thanks for the advice on how to get the most out of my six months!
 

Aiki Lee

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In a sense. If you only intend to study for 6 months, pick something and have fun. You won't learn a thing, but you might get some good exercise.

Agreed. Just go find some studios that offer free trials and pick the one you like the best. If you find a good instructor, then you may not care about the style.
 
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