Aww crap, I guess I need to come clean about this school.
I trained and taught there for roughly six months. Because of my experience, I was brought on as an Assistant Instructor after a series of interviews and test classes. I was never paid, as I simply enjoyed training and teaching.
Here is a brief history on the school.
Darryl Johnson, a legitimately ranked TKD BB instructor, used to teach a strict TKD curriculum. He also competed in PKA "American Kickboxing" matches back in the day. With the increased popularity of the UFC and MMA, though, he wanted to expand the depth what his school taught.
To further this end, he cross trained in Muay Thai, became certified in Krav Maga, cross trained in BJJ, and hired several certified instructors to broaden his program list. He was also in the process of getting certified in Bas Rutten's signature system.
Among the certified instructors he hired were:
-Richard Schott: Certified Krav Maga Instructor
-Adrian Mahoney: Certified Krav Maga Instructor
-Nick <Forgot Last Name>: Machado BJJ Brown Belt
Each of these instructors were given their own class and allowed to teach their own "certified" curriculum. i.e. Richard and Adrian taught "Krav Maga", and Nick taught "BJJ".
Meanwhile, Darryl started to put together concepts he was learning from MT, BJJ, and Krav Maga into his own system, which he called PAMAT (Progressive American Martial Arts Technologies).
To assist him in teaching and developing this system, he hired Joseph Schumert.
I've trained in various Martial Arts for over 15 years...and I can honestly say that Joseph is easily one of the most talented guys I've met and trained with. He is, quite simply, an athletic phenom. He's the kind of guy that can bust triple flip kicks cold, then hold his own free rolling with BJJ Blue Belts. He's also a solid instructor and a good human being.
After about a year or so of these changes, Sam Sheppard and I were brought on. Sam is a marketing guy who handles most of the advertising as well as a Tang Soo Do BB. I came in with a variety of traditional Karate, Kempo, Military, Boxing, and BJJ experience. We underwent a variety of Krav Maga style weekend "Certification" seminars designed to speed teach us the material. I would normally frown on this type of "Certification"...but ALL of us came in with at least 4+ years of previous experience. In addition, the material was designed to be basic and functional.
It was during my six months at the school that a number of issues surfaced.
First, Darryl was a good guy with solid training and instruction. However, he was a TERRIBLE businessman. The school was constantly inches away from bankruptcy, and we even needed to move to cut overhead expenses.
Second, Darryl had a fixation on an overpriced "Professional Martial Arts" program that sent videos designed to help MA schools become successful. It was horridly expensive, and a huge waste of time.
Third, Darryl was unreliable in paying the existing employees. I had no issue since I wasn't paid, but everyone who relied on the school for their primary income frequently went months without pay.
All three of those issues finally culminated in what amounted to a "Hostile Takeover" of the school, the system of PAMAT, and the current student body by Richard Schott. Richard is a solid Krav Maga instructor, and was ranked to Black Belt in PAMAT by Darryl. He was also a much more business savvy individual.
Darryl left for Utah, and Richard renovated the school. He cut prices, paid the staff, bought new gear, and established new programs.
Overall, this was a really good thing for the school.
Stylistically, though, I saw the school heading in a direction I didn't want to go.
Darryl wanted PAMAT to be a combined, progressive system without forms, jump kicks, or any other "TMA" trappings. His goal was to get us Instructors and Assistant Instructors to a level where we could start representing the school in local MMA, grappling, and Pankration events (Pankration is HUGE in SoCal). This is where I wanted the style to go, and what I wanted to be a part of.
However, Richard wanted to bring PAMAT back to a more TMA, structured system. It was still more progressive than your typical WTF TKD...but it wasn't sportive enough for me.
To make matters worse, Nick the BJJ instructor flaked out and stopped teaching. With Nick there as a guide, the grappling portion of PAMAT was assured protection against the dreaded "Crapple Factor". However, I started to see a sharp decline in the quality of the grappling immediately after he left.
Hence, this culminated in me politely leaving the school to pursue a strict grappling regime with Odie Neto here: www.netoacademy.com. (Excellent, Gi focused BJJ school with competitive pricing, by the way).
With the history out of the way, I'll go ahead and explain why I chose to rank things the way I did:
-The school trains in an alive manner. Sparring occurs nearly every session. It did when I was there, at least.
-The school is really well equipped. Lots of bags, mitts, pads, and other assorted gear. Full wall to wall grappling mats. Even weights and cardio machines. The only problem I had was the lack of real, hanging bags. Instead, there were a lot of those free-standing bags. Pushing those back and forth across the mats was fun, though.
Gym Size: 5
-Fairly average sized school.
Instructor/Student Ratio: 5
-Average instructor to student ratio.
-It's a great group of people with an upbeat, positive attitude. There are no egos, no macho bullshit, and no "newbie hazing". Definitely a good place for complete beginners.
Striking Instruction: 7
-The striking is solid, and based on Krav Maga. Basic techniques that you would find in Muay Thai or Boxing. The lack of a fight team or a Professional/Amateur Fighter to instruct keeps this from going any higher, though.
Grappling Instruction: 1
-Previously, I would have ranked this at 7 or 8. Nick constantly competed, and took the Pan Ams Brown Belt division in 2005 or so. However, there are currently NO ranked grappling instructors.
Weapons Instruction: 2
-When I left, they were beginning to include traditional weapons. Numchuks, Bo, Sai, etc...Personally, I can't stand traditional weaponry...which is why I ranked it so low. However, it IS there.
Summary: The staff at Core Self Defense are a great, experienced bunch of people. They are all legitimate in their experience and instruction. They also offer a number of "Kid Safe" programs, like Tiny Tigers and Little Ninjas. Their progressive attitude, in my opinion, puts them leaps and bounds above "Strip Mall McDojos". They are also reasonably priced. The system of PAMAT also steered clear from ranking organizations and other fraudulent crap. There were ranks...but there was simply a "Chief Black Belt", with "Black Belt Instructors" and "Black Belt Students". No Soke crap...no Grandmaster crap...no 10th degree crap. When you hit Black Belt (after 4-6 years), you could either stay a student or get additional training to help teach.
Unfortunately, I feel they occupy a "Middle Ground" compared to the rest of the martial art community. They clearly surpass "Strip Mall McDojos"...but they can't compare to solid fight gyms like "LA Boxing", "City Boxing", or "The Boxing Club". They also don't have the "Traditional" purity of the more TMA minded clubs in the area.
Bottom Line: I would recommend them to people who are interested in straight Krav Maga, or in a more progressive "TMA". For those looking for a competitive fight gym, I would steer them away.
Nice, very nice Satori. When I first started reading your post I was immediately thinking "great, this guy obviously has an agenda or ax to grind". However, I was wrong. Great review.
Please post one of your current BJJ school if you have not already.
I currently train under Mike Tomacelli.
I haven't written a review of Odie's school yet, but I may get around to it.
Satori's review should be held up as an example of "HOW DO DOJO REVIEW" in case anyone isn't sure WTF it should look like. Well written and well reviewed Satori.
I am attending this school right now in El Cajon. I must say that I like it so far. I came from another country several months ago and I don't feel any inconvenience practicing there, I like the instructors and other students. Prior to this Krav Maga school I practiced aikido for several years in different dojos, also I practiced some taekwondo, some street-fighting techniques and sambo, so I can compare. The only thing I don't like is the price, it seems a little bit too expensive ))), well, I have always dreamt of studying Krav Maga and they don't have it in the country I am from.
Other good things about this school:
- techniques are close to real-life situations
- good physical work-out
- really nice people of different age and background
- easy atmosphere (no traditional rules and stuff, you can train as much as you can, if you are tired you can just stop and rest)