It's been a while since I posted here, though I've been lurking regularly in the mean time. So people can put the review in context: my own martial arts background is a mixed bag - for several month in undergrad I tried out a mixed internal Chinese Art method taught in Oklahoma (taijiquan, bagua, etc.), and spent a couple of years as an associate member of ARMA learning ringen and sword techniques with friends from books and through the online video system. I really didn't get much out of either one. After this point I moved to Buffalo for graduate school. Here in Buffalo instead of going the standard martial art path I decided to fence, and have for four years - saber and epee as the main weapons, though I was instructed in foil. I considered doing other martial arts but never ended up putting in the time and effort to find a good place and get started.
So, this was my background prior to joining Kin-Tora dojo this past October, and my experience there has been great. Now Kin-Tora offers several arts, so I want to make it clear my review refers to the judo class primarily, which meets Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and secondarily to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class taught by Matt Godden (purple belt) which meets once per week (Friday).
With regards to the quality of the judo instuction: Kin-Tora is a family operation, many of the instructors there have been doing judo since they were in diapers, and many have competed successfully on the national and international circuits. Of the different senseis at the dojo, I can think of three off-hand who cross-train BJJ regularly, and two who also competed in standard wrestling, one of whom has also coached it. Several of the students also cross-train in other grappling arts, and the club seems to have a good relationship with Buffalo BJJ, with one sensei (a 5th degree black belt in judo) also a co-instructor at BBJJ. Several people from the BJJ academy also come up to Kin-Tora to compete in judo tournaments and/or to attend clinics.
On to specifics about my ratings. I tried to be as fair as possible and follow the guidelines outlined in the Sticky thread. I want this review to be useful to others and as unbiased as possible, while still reflecting the fact that I think Kin-Tora is a great place, and I highly recommend it for training.
Aliveness: 8 -- It's judo, which set the standard for aliveness. In thinking things through, I opted for an 8 because it is grappling only, and because this place probably has slightly less standing randori than people expect as part of the organized class structure and more ground work randori. Opinions may differ, though, and it should be noted that there's almost always someone up for some standing randori after the structured classes are over.
Equipment: 8 -- It's got a full set of judo mats throughout the dojo like you'd expect, crash pads, medicine balls, a few kettle bells, and a full weight training gym including a bench press and squat station and a cable machine with a lat-pull-down station and other equipment. Showers, locker rooms, etc. It's not a full-service MMA gym, no ring or cage, etc., but it's got a heavy bag and everything you need to train for judo.
Gym Size: I opted for 7. This was the hardest rating for me to decide on. They recently expanded, and there's plenty of room for everyone on the matt for classes, but limited enough room that beginniners have to be shown the basic break falls, etc. on a small portion of the mat in order to keep out of the way of the main class. It has all the room you need to get some serious training in, though, and it's certainly not one of these dojos with tiny space. As I haven't been in many judo dojos, though, this is, again, the hardest for me to assess.
Instructor-Student Ratio: 10. It's phenomenal. All black belts are expected to instruct, and the group of people Kin-Tora has is incredible. At times on Tuesdays and Thursdays there are more instructors than students. Saturdays have the lowest ratio, though Saturday is more of a beginner / children's class (plenty of room to learn advanced techniques on Saturday, too though). A normal evening probably has around 6-8 instructors, 10 adult students, and 6 children or so. There's also almost always an instructor or two willing to go over a specific technique with you one-on-one before or after class.
For the BJJ class at Kin-Tora - Matt is the only instructor, but he's a damned good one. I've only gone to a few classes to work on my ground game and figure out what still applies from judo with the BJJ rule differences, but his instruction has been very solid - he's good at teaching you moves in a tactical arrangement - going through a progression from a base-line technique and moving up to explore several options from that base technique, one move at a time.
Attitude: 9. Some of the kids can be a bit whiny, sure, they're kids, but every adult is there to give it a good go, several of the high school and early college age people and a few of the instructors are competing at the regional and national level and everyone is always pushing you to compete. The club goes out of its way to get good instructors in for clinics and to organize a tournament at the dojo once every quarter or so. Several students and instructors are happy to keep going after class or meet at times outside of class at the dojo for training.
The grappling is 9: It's judo, with a BJJ class, and instructors with various backgrounds in cross-training - wrestling, BJJ, sambo. People have competed nationally and internationally. It's a 9 because there aren't any olympians there at the moment.
Striking and weapons are of course N/A for the judo. I'm not interested in the Aikido, Karate, or Danzan Ryu JJJ taught at the club.
A few more notes: On progression, I joined in October, have attended 2-3 classes each week with a one week break in late November when I broke a toe, a 2 week break in December when I left to attend my grandfather's funeral and visit family over the break, and a 2 week break in late January when I had some back issues that required me to purchase a new mattress. Joining at the first class in October, I was promoted to yellow belt in late December / early January, and am coming up for promotion for orange belt probably in the next month or so. The techniques I've been required to learn for these promotions seem pretty standard with other judo club requirements and the division of throws on judoinfo.com.
In terms of children's classes - this place runs the adult and children's classes at the same time, but it's handled very well and one of the instructors - Nick Rastelli, also runs the day-care that's connected directly to the dojo, and he's amazing with kids.
When I joined monthly rates were 60 - currently they're 75. This was apparently the first rate shift in 15 or so years, and it was in response to their need to remodel (a remodeling project which is now finished). There are reduced rates for black belts and group rates for families.
Did I mention for the 75/mo that if you really wanted to, you could attend every single class offered at Kin-Tora - Judo, BJJ, Aikido, Karate, and have full access to the weight room and the option to meet up with others during open mat times? Plus reduced quarterly and/or annual rates etc. - I think the place is a phenomenal value.
I've really enjoyed my time there, and as I'm relocating to CA for at least the summer on an internship, and permanently if I'm offered a position. If so, Kin-Tora will be one of the things I miss most about Buffalo (it sure as hell wont' be the weather). My one regret is that I didn't start training there as soon as I got here. Oh well, lost opportunities and all that, right? Still, thanks to everyone at this forum who automatically responds "judo" whenever people are looking for a first art or school.
Let me know if someone thinks any of the ratings aren't fair, or if I can provide any further information about the place. The website, for people to lazy to check through the form, is here: http://www.kintorajudo.com/index.php...id=2&Itemid=53
That was a very helpful review, thanks. I've heard lots of good things about this dojo in the past, although you can never really tell in Buffalo as there's very little competition.
I was planning on sending my kid there in the next year or so (he just turned five), and was wondering if I might take classes at the same time (I've never done judo before). From what you've said, it seems like that would be a possibillity.
Incidentally, are you studying at UB? What in?
Yep, you can definitely take classes at the same time as your kid -- several parents currently do. In fact, there's a couple who take classes with their two children from time to time, and the club has family rates to accommodate this sort of thing. Saturday is the day when there are most kids there, although a few kids do come almost every available night.
My degree program is complicated to explain at UB, but I'm a grad student, my MS in Geographic Information Science will be conferred June 1 this year (thesis is done, I'm defending on the 28th), and I'll also be going ABD (all but dissertation) for the PhD program in Archaeology (through Anthropology). My internship is on the GIS side of things, though, and I'm planning to use the GIS to stay alive given the current status of jobs in academia.
Great - thanks for answering. Maybe I'll see you down there sometime soon.
And I also have a friend studying GIS. She's hoping to use it to stay alive in Political Science by tracking voter habits in the neighborhoods of convicted sex offenders. Good luck with the dissertation.
I trained on and off for a brief time at Kin-Tora oh, lordy, like 12 years ago at this point (when it was not far out of the way from my Delaware Ave to downtown Niagara Falls commute) - glad to hear they've gotten even better.
I have an old friend who's a Geoscience PhD grad from UB and is now Earth Science faculty at Buff State, best of luck.
Cool to hear. I'm actually out in Redlands, CA now... I definitely miss the place, though I'm doing judo and BJJ at two separate places here. I'll probably do reviews of them after I've been at each for a couple of months.
I should also probably note that I think Matt Godden has ceased teaching BJJ at Kin-Tora and now exclusively offers it at Buffalo Training Center, at least over the summer.
This is Matt Godden. I'm back to teaching BJJ at Kin-Tora and classes are now Mondays and Wedensdays from 630-800. Stop by for a class anytime!
Hey Matt, this is Andy (British Andy, now in NYC). Nice to see you on here. I haven't found a new club yet as we're still settling in. I really miss Kin-Tora!
Andy - Good to hear from you! I'd say check out Vitor Shaolin Ribiero's place: Vitor's Shaolin's Modern Martial Arts
780 8th Ave @ 47th St.
New York NY 10036
That's where I'll be stopping by if I ever get to NYC.
Since you've left we are now part of Nova Uniao and are numbers are growing with quite a few new guys and some returns since college is back in session.