Mmmkay, now that I'm sitting down with a nice bowl of Frosted Flakes, here's the deal. The place where I trained Kali is gone. I've been out of commission since November and though I'm now up and moving the trinity of Guros (Guri?) left and took the puke-bucket with them, so I have to look elsewhere. First stop: New England Academy of Martial Arts, or NEAMA for short, or sometimes NEAMMA (why?) in the MMA circuits.
Review of NEAMA (www.neamausa.com):
Date: 5 June 2006
Level of Participation: Observation (did not bring gear because of miscommunication)
Quantity of Participation: Two one-hour classes
Owner/Primary Instructor: Chris Konelas
Known Fighters: Tom Moreau (1-0-0)
Why I chose to look at this school: First and foremost, besides where I used to go, it is the only place I know of in a drivable distance (ie. ~1 hr.) that teaches Kali. Second, it has one MMA fighter I am aware of, suggesting aggressive training methods.
Facilities: NEAMA is an office complex turned into a training studio and that is how it feels. The layout is awkward. There appeared to be enough space for eight to ten pairs to train comfortably. The premises were clean and in order, but felt vacantóthe primary training equipment were mirrors and four stand-up heavy bags. One office was converted into a childrenís playroom and another, oddly enough, into a classroom.
Atmosphere: Everybody was both friendly and energeticóit was clear they wanted to be there. Chris is playful both on and off the mats, though I didnít spend a lot of time talking with him. Tom is amazingly down to earth and approachable for someone with a fight recordÖ or maybe Iíve just had the luck to talking to fighters (*cough*Team Pedro*cough*) whom really wish to inform me that I ďtrain at a health club.Ē
Time for a brief tangent. I think when my dear friend Doug gets to two days before his debut fight, Iíll bust his kneecaps. That ought to set us about even for that comment. Maybe Iíll follow it up by not kicking his ass at Halo while heís recovering so there are no hard feelings. Yeah. I like that plan. Okay, back to the review.
Pricing/Benefits: Beyond a beginnerís discount of nine weeks for ninety-nine dollars, I wasnít informed of the costs of attending and didnít think to ask. Thereís testing with a twenty-dollar fee, but I wasnít informed where testing applies. There are no benefits to training at NEAMA besides martial arts instruction that I was made aware of.
Notes from Attendance:
First Class: one-hour class instructed by Chris Konelas. Listed as Krav Maga/Jiu-Jitsu. Twelve to fifteen students.
The class opened with Chris addressing the class about testing sessions.
First was two minutes of shadow boxing and led into ten minutes of practicing jabs and crosses (both to air) with a focus on keeping hands up. Chris insisted people punch slowly. I saw a lot of low hands, resting on heels, and terrible body action. Lunge punching and front leg rotation were notable. Chris prowled the class, but didnít correct these problems. Heavy bags were not used. He used coins to force people to keep hands up (hand to temple) during the drilling of the jab and cross.
Next the class paired off with pads and practiced a walking front stomp kick as well as back-kicks. The drills were five minutes each and depending upon the participants varied wildly in intensity. Many students lost balance and stumbled after executing the stomp kick and didnít appear to know the appropriate footwork to recover. Again Chris prowled but didnít make many corrections, though he did give encouragement. He stated the back-kicks were meant to break the sternum.
Stick-work comprised the remainder of the class. The drill was a back-step to forward spring with disarm (variant from TD 1) against a downward cut to backhand combo. In itself it was a good, if moderate percentile, disarm setup. During drilling most of the students appeared to have little experience with stick fighting: quite a few winged the stick back and forth and almost everybody attacked from the incorrect angles. After correcting several pairs, Chris showed the setup to the whole class again. Despite this, more than one person still dashed in and turned his partnerís arm until the stick was released. Variants of this drill that practiced takedowns (wristlocks and breaking the elbow on the chest?) were often not followed through, but terminated at the disarm.
The class ended with a game: the stick was placed between each pair of partners and whoever reached twenty pushups first took the stick and attacked. Chris stated this was to exhaust people before they left. This became a randori-style session of stick-wielding students surrounding unarmed ones and running the prior drill from angles. More often than not attacks were so unbalanced that the attacker was dragged to his or her knees. Two kids that came in to pick up their father were humored enough by this display that they wanted to join in. There was no discernable Jiu-jitsu. There was no sparring.
Second Class: one-hour class instructed by Chris Konelas. Listed as Kali (Atienza style) Three students.
The students began with a very light warm up of footwork with bladework. The two more experienced students had a good sense of timing strikes. The cuts struck me as off, but Iím not sure if that was due to a difference between my training and the style offered. When Chris warmed up (more of flourished) he flowed very well.
The first part was from a sword kata. They drilled the first five steps at least thirty times, which consisted of primary cuts and blocks. Drilling was aggressive, but had a choreographed appearanceócuts were pulled for the sake of the next step. Space between partners was not controlled well during the drill, suggesting footwork issues.
After twenty minutes, the class turned to a knife versus knife tapping routine. Chris stated that a stab to the middle thyroid was instantly fatal. Sloppy recoveries from cuts, clumsy footwork, and, most of all, bad checking were rampant. Chris did not attempt to correct any mistakes. When I spoke to one of the students in the attempt to correct one issue (open checking with the same-side hand) he interrupted and promptly told me ďshe is fine.Ē After the class I apologized for the interruption.
As a rule, there was as much idle chatter as there was drilling. The knife drills devolved into random fiddling and play. There seemed to be a lack of awareness that they were training to work with blades. They did seem to be enjoying themselves, though. Class ended with a conversation. There was no sparring.
Is this school aggressive or alive in itís training: Nope. No sparring and mostly compliant partners. Itís dead, Jim.
Is this school fantastic or unrealistic in its material: Iíd say no. A few details withstanding, the material appeared to be out and out credible. The level of mistakes, however, rendered every effective element impotent.
Did the instructor appear competent and knowledgeable: It was clear to me that Chris was fluent in what he was teaching. He seemed to have difficulty teaching basic information to his students and difficulty keeping his students focused.
Is this school aggressively for profit: Yes. It had some elements that made me wonder, such as a nebulous belt system, frequent testing with fees, and a beginnerís discount, but what seals the deal is how NEAMA aggressively markets kid karate programs.
Would I recommend this school: Nope.
This School is Suitable For: People looking for a hobby or a light workout.
What I learned from this experience: A variant of a TD 1 disarm. A nifty use for the umbrella block. Why Tom Moreauís fight from CZ sixteen is a giant splotch of blankness in my head despite witnessing it in person.
What this experience makes me wonder: Can a McDojo produce a winning MMA fighter? Did I miss something? Is that possible? Shouldnít just the thought of that implode my brain? Is this why fighters pass by obvious submissions and opportunities in the middle of a match?
Someone wish me luck with Team Woo at Tokyo Joeís Studio of Self-DefenseÖ.who comes up with the names for these martial arts places? I thought NEAMA was tacky, but this one makes me want to light my hair on fire. Then again, Bujinkan did tooóI mean, why, for the love of God, why do I end up looking at places with names like these? Why are all the schools with the cool names in Boston? I mean, why canít New Hampshire seem to have a Baddy McBad-Ass Studio of Bad-Assery or, better yet, to recall a plaque, a Lizzie Borden School of Etiquette.
Anyways, Iím to bed. Kennings out.