Illinois Shotokan Karate Clubs
Overall, this seems like a great school for someone just getting into MA who wants to try it out without making a big time or money investment. The instructors are friendly, and seem genuinely interested in teaching you Shotokan, not just taking your money and teaching you crap tecniques that you could learn by watching a video. If you're looking to train to be a full contact kickboxer or MMA fighter, this isn't the school for you. If you want to get in shape, learn Shotokan, and maybe compete against other karateka in continuous or point sparring tournaments, then this is for you.
The adult class that I am in has a mix of younger guys 16-25 in it, as well as some older folks 40+. The teachers tend to segregate the class by belt rank, with green/purple and higher doing separate drills/sparring from blue and lower.
The curriculum does vary by instructor. Some focus almost entirely on sparring/competition, while others focus heavily on kata. If you call the office, they can usually recommend a teacher who focuses on what you would prefer to learn.
There are fees for testing, but they are the same for white through brown belt. I believe the last time I tested it was $45. Tests are every six months or so, and the maximum you can move up is two belt ranks from one test. If my math is correct, with 10 kyu ranks, it will take a minimum of 2.5 years to attain a black belt. Of course, that would be if you double-belted on each test, which would be almost impossible. Passing the test is not guaranteed - there are people in my class that have flunked lower and mid-belt tests. If you pass, you will have to purchase a belt, which is $6 from the club. I don't know if the black belt test fee is the same, because I'm not there yet. Testing criteria varies by belt. For lower belts, it consists of some basic drills and kata, with the exact drills and number of kata varying by belt level. For the higher belts, 3-step, 1-step, or free sparring is added to the test criteria.
The club uses the local park district gyms, which are full size basketball courts with wood floors, so they are pretty spacious.
This seems to vary depending on the time of year, how many people show up for class that day, and if there are any guest instructors or not. Generally, I would say it is one instructor per 6-8 students, but I've seen it as low as 1:3 and as high as 1:10.
The teachers are very positive. I've never heard one yell at a student. Some of the people in the class are just there for the exercise, but every class has students who like to spar.
It's Shotokan karate, so the curriculum is focused heavily on striking and blocking. The sparring isn't full contact, so that's the only reason I don't rate it higher. The instruction on the mechanics of the moves is excellent.
It's Shotokan karate, so there's virtually no grappling. And no, they don't teach "anti-grappling" here.
Again, it's Shotokan, so no weapons instruction.
Gi, pads, cup, mouthpiece, etc. can all be purchased from the club, but you can use outside equipment if you want to. Many of the students seem to purchase from the club for the convenience of picking the equipment up before/after class. The club really doesn't provide any equipment free of charge, but at the $ amount they charge for the class, no one should expect them to. The equipment order form is on their website along with pricing, so there should be no surprises here. The only exception to that is the heavyweight gi order form, which must be picked up from the office.
Club Tournament Team
The club does send people overseas to tournaments, but having never gone myself, I'm not sure if it's full contact or not (being Shotokan, I doubt it). I answered "no" to the full contact question above mainly because I'm not confident enough to say "yes", and there's no "I'm not sure" option.
This can depend more on who your partner is than the instructor or curriculum. I've had some excellent sparring/drilling partners, but also some really crappy ones who were just there for the exercise and had no real interest in learning the techniques. The instructors encourage the students to be as realistic as possible when drilling/sparring, but your results may vary. I tend to stick to two or three good partners that I know are good. If you join, I suggest you do the same.
Last edited by DLKasim; 7/24/2008 5:17pm at .
Reason: Updated 7-24-08 with more info