Korean Martial Arts Institute
As I do not currently attend this school, information I present is as accurate as is available online. My opinions reflect 11 years of experience there, 1995-2006.
This review is only for the Newark Delaware location of the Korean Martial Arts Institute. While the school is technically under the authority of Master John Godwin http://www.kmaiweb.com/instructors.html#godwin a 6th Dan it is managed and run on a day-to-day basis by George Maybroda http://www.kmaiweb.com/instructors.html#maybroda who is a 3rd Dan.
This school teaches Tang Soo Do at all levels, from ages 4-7 in its youngest classes, up through its adult classes which routinely see students in their sixties. The belt system goes white, yellow, orange, orange/green, green, green/brown, brown, brown/red, red, red/blue, blue, blue/black, black. When last I checked, three stripes given between belt promotions.
There is no getting around the fact that sparring at this school is light-touch contact and that self-defense and "one-step-sparring" drills are done with compliancy. In adult classes, the level of sparring contact is somewhat higher as sparring partners will often agree to higher levels of contact, but overall, drills are performed with a predetermined outcome in mind. Sparring is highly restricted in most cases, with knees, elbows, all grappling, clinching, and open-hand strikes prohibited. Sparring is also tightly restricted in terms of time: with sessions never lasting more than approx. 10 minutes. Drilling strikes often takes up a large portion of class time, and is done against pads.
While by no means a fully outfitted gym, the school has good equipment. The entire floor is covered in thick mats and there are many more fold out mats for tumbling etc. Pads and hand-held targets are abundant, though as far as heavier equipment, the school uses 3 large wavemasters and a "BOB" instead of heavybags. Unfortunately, these are rarely used in class (I've never seen the BOB used at all) and there is no designated time or space set aside for using them.
The best part of the school. The Newark location has a lot of mat space, which is usually filled to the brim with students. I'm not sure as to the actually square footage, but the picture with the class practicing staff work should give a good idea. The catch is that there is no open mat time and it is very difficult to use any space without disrupting a class.
Instructor to Student Ratio
At the very best 1:20 for actual instructors to students. Due to the large number of students, higher ranking older students are ad-hoced as instructors.
Atmosphere and Attitude
Very positive. I can honestly say that Mr. Maybroda is an excellent teacher and leader. Good effort is encouraged from all students and the instructors do a great job of keeping everyone on task and focused. Possibly the best part of the atmosphere is that cross-training is heavily encouraged.
This topic is a mixed bag at KMAI. One day you may come in and legit boxing is being taught
while the next day they could be stressing how important it is for kicks to "look good for forms competition." The kicking instruction is very TKDesque, and an unwarranted amount of time is devoted to increasingly complex and showy kicks. Hand techniques are a mix between run of the mill karate strikes and boxing. Striking is intructed from static stances and no instruction on proper head movement is given. Generally, the strikes in forms are crisp and aesthetic, but sparring, especially with younger students, is a formless slap-fest.
Hearty doses of "grab my wrist and then fall over." A basic over-the-shoulder throw is taught occasionally, but never executed. Don't ask me why not. For a month a while back (possibly in 2004) there was a "groundfighting program" which ended up being a lot of buttscooting and rather stupid scissors-kicking from the back. The concept of
takedown-->mount-->GNP simply does not cross the minds of the majority of students.
Heavy focus on forms with bokken. Higher Dans learn kama and dan gum(knife) forms. Passing attention given to stickfighting. Gun disarms are taught but I have little basis to judge their effectiveness beyond "eh...probably not." However, Maybroda does stress the extreme danger inherent in a gun disarm.
Overall, a great place for kids and anyone who wants cardio, but not the place to fight. My overall low ratings are due to the fact that while cardio and kid's karate are ok, they should be exceptions within a school, rather than the rule.