GTA Karate (girard ohio)
Unlike my last review this one will not be such a positive one. I called GTA Karate a few months ago when i was looking for another karate school (as i've said in like 19054183 threads by now, i had an issue with my shotokan dojo where i could no longer train there, refer to my newbie town post to learn why if interested) to train at. Anyways i found their name and decided to give them a call. After a little phone tag for a day or 2 i got a call back from Al Sterchi who is the owner and primary teacher at this school.
I spoke to him about what i was looking for and about my past experience, he asked about my previous training and what rank i achieved, etc etc, we talked a bit and i finally asked "so what style of karate do you teach at GTA?". His response should have been my first red flag. "Well i don't really teach "karate" per say, i'm a 4th degree TKD black belt (i believe it was 4th degree) that's trained in...(insert various style names here) as well and have come up with my own blend of effective martial arts". I thought to myself...hmmm....but thought wtf i'd give it a shot, you should never judge something without trying it. So we set up a class time that worked for me and i went to try it out. After waiting for a the kids class to be done, i walked into the "dojo" and here's what i found. I think the ratings i give to each category should sum up the experience:
I might be pushing it here, i'll give it a 2 to be safe lol. On the phone Mr. Sterchi informed me that he USED to have a very intense class, where he'd drill people much like the style of karate i was used to, there'd be sparring a few times a week, etc etc. That was definitely not the case here. The closest thing i came to actually hitting something was some pad work where someone would hold it, and the other person would sloppily throw their foot into the bag as hard as possible. Their top black belt was trying his hardest to knock me down for some reason during this drill but he could not. When it was my turn i threw a roundhouse as hard as i could into the bag, he crippled over and complained i went too hard lol. They did "self defense sequences" which were the typical partner stands still, you grab and manipulate them based on how they grab you, and throw them to the ground. They couldn't even do this very well :( I'd rate this lower if i could lol. Absolutely no sparring of any kind, not even 1 or 3 step 0_o.
2-5 (i'll explain)
There was exactly 1 heavy bag, which was just one of the crappy wave master bags basically, just really tall. They had the kick shields and what not so they did have SOME equipment. The mats looked like something you'd find in a kinder garden play room honestly, i know they used it as flooring but come on -_-
It's honestly one of the smallest dojo's i've been in, it was big enough for maybe 15 people to be in without running into each other, but that's pushing it. If they didn't have so many ridiculous images of their grand master and plants and **** on the floor it might have been a little more spacious, as it stands it was not very big. I don't need a monster sized gym to train in, but i do expect some room to actually move around.
He spent most of the time doing other stuff to be honest, when i first got there this was my experience. He pulled me aside and asked me about my belt again (i have since gotten my brown belt through another school, but i told him at the time high purple when i left). He said "ok good you should be at least on the level of our purple belts here, which is i guess their 4th belt. I thought ok cool. He then proceeded to break down the difficult cirriculum for me that i'd have to learn to make sure i was worth of this 4th level belt. Without getting into it too much, their first 6 belts basically consisted of everything i learned as a shotokan white belt. That's all the detail i'll go into, but it was definitely sub par to say the least, he couldn't even do the moves very well. Once i showed him what i could do later in the day, he actually proceeded to tell me "wow! with skill like that you might be TEACHING here in a year!" That was my last red flag lol. Anyways he helped some of the students some times, that other godlike black belt that i buckled to the floor earlier also helped. There were so few students that it wasn't an issue though, but i can pretty much deduce it was NOT because people couldn't make it that night if you know what i'm saying -_-
Everyone was nice enough for the most part, but i noticed something that i've read about dozens of times and never thought was true. These people were so obsessed and i mean OBSESSED with telling me about their ultimate grand master, and all the amazing dragon ball z esque things he could do, that by the time i was done the first day i seriously wanted to beat my own brains out. They talked like they were in a cult, and there was always someone whining about something lol (i.e. drama). The teachers were nice enough like i said but they just always had to top every comment off with something about this magic grand master of theirs and his feats of unimaginable abilities. Most of the students kind of kept to themselves even when told to welcome me and what not, they weren't mean, just kind of...weird...
And that's pushing it. The closest i came to hitting anything or actually learning a move was when the sensei was showing me that amazingly difficult first 6 belts cirriculum or my experience with the black belt i mentioned earlier. I spend more time at home practicing what i know than i spent in the actual class setting i'll put it that way, and yet everyone just seemed soooo damn confident about their abilities. I'm not huge on sparring i'll be the first to admit it (not super hard intense sparring anyways), but i would have loved to put even their black belt to the test. Definitely not a place i'd go if i wanted to get competent at martial skill.
Very typical mindset where "no fight should ever have to go to the ground, if you can't finish it standing you can't finish it period" is preached, and the only actual physical contact of another human being was those ridiculous "self defense" drills where they had me tossing people over while they were more than completely complient.
I didn't actually stay for weapons but he had no problem explaining their awesome weapon programs to me even though i never asked lol, this was right after telling me that i could easily get a black belt here in 2 years if i "just work hard enough". I guess they did bo work, some sai's, maybe tonfa's i don't remember. I didn't see any there though so i have to assume that everyone brought their own from home on certain days.
Bottom Line Overall:
Definitely not a place i'd recommend for the various reasons above, but also for another. What the **** is up with all these places calling themselves "something something Karate" when they don't do ANYTHING even remotely resembling actual karate??? It's almost all TKD/Kick boxing almost every time (not the only place i've been with the word Karate in the name that has nothing to do with karate) and it doesn't make any sense to me. For a place with a 4th degree black belt in TKD, i was very surprised by the inability to kick above the waist level (not that this matters, but it does when HE keeps preaching on about the importance of high kicks lol). It felt honestly more like a place you'd take your kids for an after school anti bullying program, and even then you better hope your kids are only getting picked on by slow fat kids.
The only positive i'll give it is that the main guy was very good with how he communicated to the kids about safety, about how it was important to remember that just because you can hurt someone doesn't mean you should (not that they could but you get my point), and that it's important to remember to only use your skills in self defense or to protect your friends and family. Honestly that's about it. I went there the 1 day, and went back 1 more day since he gave me 2 free days (the 2nd day had that awesome mega black belt preaching on about this grand master even more than then main sensei did 0_o, i honestly wanted to meet the guy after hearing all the stories lol), and then never went back, it was more than enough for me to decide it was not for me. I feel like places like this prey on the fact that 99% of people have never done karate and don't actually know what karate is, or how a school's supposed to be run. Anyways end rant, would not recommend to a friend or family member.
Great review! Fair yet still calling out **** when **** needs calling!
Have they done any follow up with you to try and lure you to the dark side then? Remember YOU COULD BE TEACHING THERE!!!!
heh thanks, i'm trying to be as unbiased and fair in the reviews i've been posting as possible, i try to highlight ANY positives regarding the school that i can while still pointing out ANY issues with it, this particular one just had like a 10:1 bad to good ratio heh.
nope, because i was smart and never actually gave him any of my information, so he had no way to contact me. He does know who i am and where i'm located now, where i help teach at and what school i participate in now, though i don't foresee any issues from him lol.
Haha ya i could have been, but i actually like teaching things that make a little bit of sense :) It was a great example of "belts not meaning anything". I'm only a low brown in shotokan and a stripeless blue in BJJ (even the low brown i don't feel that good about getting, i'd honestly say i was a high purple that's been training for 8 years heh) and yet i could do a 100x better job of actually teaching people than i experienced at this place, infact i HAVE been, i have 3 private students that i work with for a little bit of money on the side, and in a few months they've already turned out better than any of the people i saw at this place, including the instructors :(
It's a shame i blew such an AMAZING opportunity to teach such high quality material, but you gotz to do what you gotz to do ;)