Guam - Taekwondo Martial Arts Studio
After training at the, somewhat annoying named, Taekwondo Martial Arts Studio for two and a half months in WTF style Tae Kwon Do, and my move halfway across the planet soon impending, that now is the opportune moment to review the dojang. As such, I shall provide my ratings for each of the given categories and explain my reasoning for such.
Introduction, the warm up process;
The warm up is fairly short and simple, starting off with either jumping jacks or running for cardio, then moving on to a full range of stretches to allow for maximum flexibility and whitebelt discomfort. Unfortunately, conditioning beyond cardio is basically nonexistent, considering that in the entire time I've been there we've done pushups all of once. This is offset by other factors, however, and doesn't pose too much of an issue, though a lot more exercise would be preferable.
I rate this a six, as, not once, have I done a compliant drill. Instead, blocks and strikes are practiced occaisonally through unarmored non-contact sparring, and more often in armored medium contact sparring. If not for the infuriating chest armor, I'd rate the aliveness at least a point higher, as, barring absolute beginners, children, and non-serious girls, everyone is encouraged to go at medium contact as fast as they safely can, and black belts often go hard. There are even the occasional foot-face related knockouts. Still, the chest armor craps up what could be good sparring, instead making it borderline decent/good, which is more then I was led to expect from TKD.
I rate this a six, as there are two heavy bags, a Wavemaster with kicking targets at head height, two smaller blue Wavemasterish bags, huge piles of clapping targets, and enough kicking pads to armor a tank. There's even a speedbag, though I honestly don't know what the hell it's supposed to be for in a TKD dojang, and I don't think anyone else does either. Sometimes blackbelts kick it once or twice. The equipment ranges from brand new and fresh to beat to hell, and all of it sees heavy usage.
Thirdly, Gym Size;
I rate this a seven, as the dojang takes up the space of three stripmall shops, and, in a rough guesstimate, takes up around two to three thousand square feet. It's spacious enough for thirty teenagers and a few adults to comfortably stretch, is clean, and overall beats the hell out of a basement.
Fourthly, Instructor/Student Ratio;
I rate this a seven, as while the classes tend to be big, the instructor oversees the class and personally instructs the whitebelts while the blackbelts lead the more advanced students in small groups.
I rate this an eight, as all the students are friendly, the blackbelts don't come off as high and mighty, the instructor is perfectly happy to demonstrate techniques and answer questions, and I've yet to see any kind of drama. Students are still pushed to do everything better, faster, and harder, but in an encouraging fashion.
Sixthly, Striking Instruction;
I rate this a seven, as while the striking itself can be called into question, the instruction is heavily geared towards making fast, agile, precise, and somewhat hard striking sport TKD competitors. The dojang embraces the sports mentality of Olympic TKD, and the instructor takes it very seriously. As such, forms are almost ignored, taught primarily so students advance in accordance to Kukkiwon guidelines, but an intensely heavy focus is put on actually striking against the air, beating the everloving Choi out of pads, and roundhousing opponents, with the net result that, at the 3rd Oceania Taekwondo Tournament in Auckland, New Zealand, the dojang netted four medals, most of which for sparring, the highest being a silver medal for Junior division sparring. Moreover, tippy-tappy strikes are not encouraged, and the instructor often refuses to recognize any not-sufficiently loud and hard kick as a point during point-sparring matches.
Seventhly, Grappling Instruction;
This is a zero and a half, as, on my second day the whitebelts did some limited, non-compliant(as odd as that sounds) grip-breaks while everyone who knew what they were doing was sparring, but that's about it.
Eigthly, Weapons Instruction;
This is a zero and three quarters, as there's basically nothing, except possibly nunchucks for showing off. I'd be hard pressed to call nunchucks weapons, however.
In conclusion, the Taekwondo Martial Arts Studio offers solid Olympic Tae Kwon Do with a solid emphasis on doing well in competition over doing forms, manifested in constant pad abuse, weekly half an hour to hour and a half sparring, and constant encouragement from the instructor for students to participate in tournaments, with the trade-offs of minor McDojang tendancies(you have to buy overpriced sparring armor and intensely ugly and highly customized doboks from the dojang) and the fact that, while a somewhat-dedicated blackbelt will be rather good at Olympic sparring, they won't be all that great at actual fighting unless they get some experience in without the armor. Still, one could do a hell of a lot worse in a TKD dojang, so I give it my recommendation.
Unless one really wants to learn to fight, then I recommend Guam Kyokushinkai.
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