Posted On:12/02/2008 8:11pm
Style: Itinerant Wanderer
So, I've been here with the AJKI for over two years now. Being as there is not a whole lot of jujitsu instruction to be found here in the frozen north, I figured I'd throw up a dojo review.
First things first- Though the AJKI actually has 4 dojos, there is a lot of crossover between students and instructors. That tends to make a review of a single dojo hard, as people bounce from place to place for various reasons. I can say that I primarily work out and help instruct at the Arctic Gymnastics dojo. We also have classes held at the YMCA on Lake Otis Blvd., and at the JFK community center on Ft. Richardson. There is also a fledgeling dojo in Wasilla, headed up by Professor Myron Severson. I have been to all of the locales except the one in Wasilla, and so cannot include that one in my review to a great extent.
The prices I gave vary greatly. The Ft. Richardson dojo is the lest expensive to attend, but is limited to military and dependents. The YMCA is also relatively inexpensive, even including the YMCA membership fee. The Arctic Gym is the most expensive, but it has better facilites than the other dojos. I do not know the fees for the Wasilla dojo.
I also clicked on the button for "kid's classes available". We do allow kids into the program as young as 6 or 7, I believe. The classes are not segregated by age, see the "Aliveness" review to get an idea of how things are broken down.
To summarize my ratings:
Aliveness 6: The schools all focus on danzanryu jujitsu and kempo karate. Classes are not segregated by age. Much of the beginning of classes are devoted to stretching, conditioning, group practice, and agility drills. Later in the class, people are typically broken down into groups with similar ability levels and sizes, where possible. People typically work on individual techniques with compliant partners and kata in many cases. Generally, practical application (randori, ne waza, and kumite) come last in the class session. Kumite is point-sparring based, with pads. Randori and ne waza are done anywhere from half to full speed.
Equipment 4: The Arctic Gym has the best floors- it's equipped well for a gymnastics gym. It lacks a heavy or light bag, and much room to change. The instructors often bring punching targets, sticks, massage tables, or other things needed to supplement the class. The YMCA and Ft. Richardson dojos have much lower quality floors (they hurt for us big guys to fall on). They do have wave bags, and crash mats, though. The Wasilla dojo (as far as I know) still lacks any good mats, and trains on a hard floor. As such, they focus more on the kempo for now.
Gym size 7: The Arctic Gym is one of the bigger gyms I've been able to work in. The main floor section we use will hold 20 people comfortably, if snugly. With coordination, we can use the spring floor area, and enlarge that space if need be. Ft. Richardson also has a fairly large area to work in. The YMCA, unfortunately, is where most of the students attend, due to cost. It has, by far, the smallest area to train in. The 15 to 20 who show up there on a regular basis are pretty packed for space- luckily, they are mostly the kids, and fit in a small space.
Instructor to Student Ratio 7: This is normally very high, because we're a small group. The YMCA dojo has the largest instructor to student ratio- generally two to three instructors for 15 to 20 students on a big night. The Ft. Richardson dojo is the highest, with 3 to 5 students for one instructor. The Arctic Gym will typically have two (sometimes as many as four) instructors for 4 to 12 students. Students are expected to help teach junior students with supervision from the head instructors. Teaching is an important part of learning.
Atmosphere/Attitude 8: This was why I came to this school. When I was searching for schools in Anchorage, I went to a number of them for a class before I setteled on one. Sensei Terry is very welcoming to visitors and some of our more casual students. We're too busy working to have anyone with real sour attitudes, I guess. I also realize that this is the most subjective category, but I'll stand by the 8. I constantly have fun here.
Striking Instruction 6: Though danzan ryu has strikes in a number of places, kempo is really what makes the striking part of the curriculum whole. The self-defense techniques of kempo are practiced with compliant partners to a great extent. However, we also train for local karate tournaments. They are not full-contact tournaments (point sparring), but our school typically does very well in them. Unfortunately, the most notable local tournament is very restrictive in its grading of force. When we go to Fairbanks, the contact is much harder.
Grappling Instruction 7: It's easier to throw and lock up an opponent full speed without hurting them (sans much safety gear), hence, our grappling is probably more "alive". We start most students in the ne waza, and gradually work them up to full randori. We regularly send a few students who are interested to local judo tournaments. In fact, the local judo organization is very accepting of us heathen jujitsukas, and have visted us on a number of occasions to work with us.
Weapons Instruction 3: Weapons are included in the kempo, but mostly as forms. There's no real sparring involved in that. However, occassionally when we have a few students on a light Friday, Sensei Terry will bust out the escrima sticks. Then there's more stick to stick drills, and, with the foam & plastic trainers, some more up to speed striking and disarming drills. If a student is interested, I'll bring in my foam LARPing weapons to give them a sense of actually hitting someone with a stick full force.
So there you have it. A review for the Alaska Jujitsu and Karate Institute. Comments? Questions? Visitors? (Not likely, but we can hope)
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