Zen Dan Kwan - Wollongong, Australia
A martial arts school on the South Coast of NSW, Australia. I went there expecting Karate but it ended up being a hybrid style of TKD and Hapkido and small amounts of vanilla kickboxing thrown in.
I told them I currently train in Judo and was told the owner had significant experience in Judo although they don't do grappling there as far as I know. The ages in the class I took ranged from about 15 to 22. I went there for a test session and saw some of the advanced guys too with their high level belts.
Lots of pads but no sparring. I do appreciate pads and the hand mitts because its good to not have to pull your punches. I also understand that the beginners class normally wouldn't have a lot of intense sparring but its a shame when we don't get to test our reactions and reflexes and technique against anothe moving human being.
Very well equipped, very clean. multiple large rooms with a great floor and lots of heavy bags. Lots of pads and mitts, all in very good condition. Very open, airy and mirrors along the wall to watch your technique as you train. Floor was comfortable and not hard on my ankles at all (I really notice a bad floor as I'm used to the sprung floor from Judo but it felt good to me) and the change rooms were clean. Very impressed by the obvious money, time and effort that went into making sure the facilities were good. I'd happly give it a 9/10 but I know how the scaling works on here.
Gym Size: 8/10
Quite large. Multiple 'rooms'. It has a separate counter section and multiple toilets and changing rooms. Must be lots of rent for such a big place.
Instructor/Student Ratio: 7/10
As I said, I only attended the beginner class but there was maybe 8 or 10 of us in the class. Lots of room to move but the instructor could easily control us and kept us working the whole time.
Everyone was friendly and nice but its very geared towards kids. Lots of kids running around with all sorts of belts and tips and whatnot. My instructor was great and friendly and wasn't at all interested in 'showing the new guy how it was done' and I REALLY appreciate that. He was welcoming and gave me a little one on one before class to show me the correct stance and have a talk about safety and stuff. Nice guy.
Striking Instruction: 5/10
I've done a bit of boxing and kickboxing before and I was a bit let down. I know its a beginners class so we're not exactly going to be going nuts, but there wasn't a huge amount of instruction, although he did point out a fault in my kicking technique, but it sorta felt like as long as you were throwing the strike with decent power there wasn't a big emphasis on correcting anything. I think there was a green belt there and his striking wasn't great but better than the average joe, but he did have a solid karate stance and knew some 'forms' well so thats something I guess. I'm sure the advanced classes get into it more, but I would have liked to see a bit more emphasis on the basics. I think we did a few combos and then practiced back leg roundhouses from both stances.
Grappling Instruction: 2/10
We did some hapkido, which I utterly hate. The usual wrist grab stuff and no actual ground fighting. The place doesn't market itself as a grappling school anyway so it wasn't unexpected.
Didn't see any weapons. No idea if they do any.
Lots of potential with this place but I saw lots of belts and its very geared towards kids. I genuinely thought I was in for Karate and was a bit surprised it was some hybrid thing. The facilities are run well and the instructors are trustworthy (I'd gladly leave my kids here and feel they were safe) and I love a clean dojo. No one was pushed too hard but the warmup was great and actually pretty interesting. I have a feeling its the sort of place to live by the belt system and place too much emphasis on that sort of thing, but there was lots of bowing and the students were taught to be respectful. One thing I noted was before class they had to say some creed which ended in (paraphrased): 'my ultimate goal is to obtain my black belt'. That's a red flag as far as I'm concerned. With more emphasis on striking tech it would be one of the best places around here.