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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Saint Louis, MO
    tae kwon-do

    Three Rivers Aikido

    Three Rivers Aikido

    Location: 7403 Manchester Rd. Maplewood, MO 63143

    Phone: 314-645-2345

    Head Instructor: Sensei Elliot Freeman (owner)

    Head Instructor Rank: most likely 5th degree black belt. He also has 3rd or 4th Dan in Tae Kwon-Do.

    School Affiliations: Steven Segal, 7th degree black belt.

    Web site:

    - Good quality training for average tuition in the area (about $100/mo)
    - Affiliation with Steven Segal could be a fun thing for some people
    - Well disciplined environment
    - Good workout area
    - Morning and evening classes, as well as Saturday classes
    - No kids in adult’s class

    - 1 yr contracts
    - Constant bragging by Sensei Elliot about the world class training students receive in his school. He definitely thinks a lot about himself and it is arguable if he should or not.
    - Sensei Elliot tends to push his students too hard, neat picking, yelling and pressuring for bringing more students into the school

    My comments:

    I’ve only being in the school for a few times. A friend of mine went there for a whole year though, so I know enough to make this evaluation more or less valuable for you. Sensei Elliot seems to be a good combination of a martial arts instructor and a businessman. Earlier in his life he used to train in Tae Kwon-Do and even got up to 3rd or 4th degree black belt. Even though he claims he was pretty good at that, he does not recognize any martial arts style other than Aikido now. He has about 25 years of experience in Aikido and apparently more than half of that time he spent under Steven Segal. Occasionally he takes his best students on a field trip to SS’s ranch to participate in some sort of an Aikido paradise camp - Steven Segal’s style, that is.

    The school is very easy to find and is nice inside. The training area is pretty big (above average for the area), the floors are padded and there is a small changing room in the facility as well. He also has a small oriental store there. The classes are usually fun and you learn your stuff with at least some resistance coming from your training partner, which is a plus. There are many techniques taught that would actually be useful in real world situations. The classes are usually taught by Sensei Elliot or one of his higher ranked students. The dark side of the force in this case can be found in Sensei Elliot’s continuous dissatisfaction with his students, so he pressures and yells at his higher ranked students and those propagate the same to lower ranks. Sensei Elliot definitely hasn’t found peace within himself yet, which is kind of sad considering the style he is teaching.

    Would I recommend the school to a friend? Well, I think I would, but definitely only for those who would be able to live with Sensei Elliot’s temper and personality shortcomings. If those do not bother you and you prefer more traditional and disciplined Aikido training – this is a school for you.
    Last edited by Thenuad; 8/07/2007 11:53am at . Reason: location & phone # needed to be switched around

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    so many red flags in the description of this school, contracts, temper, hubris. Sounds like a nightmare to me.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    wing chun
    Hmm, according to his rating,

    his Aikido school does hard sparring,
    has new equipment,
    5,000-10,000 sq ft. gym size,
    has small classes,
    but despite the small classes, there is still some emotional drama and is fairly impersonal.

    it has "Comprehensive striking (all ranges) or superior single range striking with success in local/regional competition or practical application,"
    and also "Comprehensive grappling with success in local/regional competition or practical application (LEO, military)."

    In addition to competing successfully in grappling and striking, they also compete in weapons.

    And they do Aikido.
    This school is hard to imagine.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    why do you bother writing a review that is this inaccurate and sucks so hard????

    at least the website is a joke and provides humor

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Karate and Aikido
    The Art
    Three Rivers Aikido teaches Steven Seagal’s method of aikido which is readily seen in his early films. Seagal’s aikido has a reputation of being a “hard” school of aikido that emphasizes practical and effective self-defense. Though this school of aikido emphasizes practicality it remains at the essence of what aikido teaches as an art of peace – it is a defensive art to protect oneself while at the same time controlling an opponent without causing permanent damage. As such, Aikido does not have a competitive sporting element to it the way striking arts, grappling arts, and mixed-martial arts do. Three Rivers Aikido emphasizes joint locks, standing and controlling pins, learning to fall without injury, throws and takedowns, and defenses against multiple attacker scenarios. Strikes and kicks are not studied in depth, though they are studied somewhat largely as setup to the application of a joint lock or throw. One of the main differences in Steven Seagal’s aikido and mainstream aikido is the multiple attacker scenarios. Within mainstream aikido, the multiple attackers advance towards the defender in a one by one fashion that is much slower than a real mass attack in which attackers advance at full speed all at once. Seagal is well-known in the aikido world of being able to handle such situations and has passed on his knowledge to his students. In addition to these aspects of self-defense, students also learn to use the short staff (jo), the wooden sword (bokken), and the wooden knife (tanto).

    The Chief Instructor and Owner
    The chief instructor and owner, Elliot Freeman, is a life long student of the martial arts having practiced them for over 35 years. He holds a 4th degree black belt in a traditional form of Tae Kwon Do (Moo Duk Kwan), a 6th degree black belt from Steven Seagal in Aikido, and a 2nd degree black belt in Kendo. In addition, he regularly teaches defensive tactics to law enforcement, security personnel, and healthcare workers in higher risk assignments emphasizing not getting grabbed, struck, or taken down.
    As an instructor, Freeman is a humorous instructor that happens to be demanding like a Jewish mother (by his own admission since he is Jewish). In class, he is almost always humorous but is always serious about aikido technique, attitude, and posture. He is critical of seemingly small details of a technique that some new students may find unnerving and nit picky at first, but they soon come to recognize this as a part of his extensive knowledge in the martial arts. He likes to say it this way: “Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

    The School
    The school has been in its current location for over the past 15 years which shows stability. This is not a fly-by-night school where the owner skips town with everyone’s money never to be heard from again. The inside of the school is quite nice with a traditional Japanese aesthetic with a very large training area seen from the viewing area. The viewing area has plenty of space and seats for visitors and parents of the Aiki-Kids program. There are separate male and female changing areas as well as showers in the back. Building restrooms are located further in the back. The only downside to the facilities is that the restrooms are sometimes in need of repair and cleaning, but that is due to building management and not Three Rivers Aikido.
    All the other aikido instructors at Three Rivers Aikido are unpaid volunteers who teach out of a love for the school. They do this out of a sense of being part of a family in a traditional Japanese martial art. Thus, there is a relationship between junior student (kohai) and senior student (sempai). Each junior student is encouraged to find themselves a senior student to mentor and prepare them for rank testing that takes place approximately 2 to 3 times a year. Students are also known to come together before testing time to clean the school.
    There are also instructors for Yoga and Tai Chi. For current class times, one should check the Three Rivers website or call the main number.
    Monthly dues provide an unlimited number of classes a student may attend and are comparable to other martial art schools in the area. One should call for the latest prices. The potential student should read the paperwork closely so that there are no misunderstandings to their financial obligations or the necessary legal steps necessary to cancel a contract such as sending a certified letter to stop the billing. All this is explained upfront.

    Aiki-Kids Program
    The children’s program accepts students as young as 5 or 6 (depending on the child’s maturity level) to age 12. Teens are able to attend the Aiki-Teens class as well as the adult classes. Aiki-Kids has a color belt ranking scheme that culminates in the Jr. Black Belt rank. Aiki-Kids classes occur three days a week and are overseen by a dedicated team of brown and black belt instructors. The kids learn the same curriculum as the adults but in a more kid-friendly rate of instruction.

    Three Rivers Aikido is a traditional aikido dojo where students learn a practical form of aikido good for self-defense. Instructors and students are both friendly and quick to share their knowledge with beginners.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Vancouver, BC
    BJJ, judo, rapier
    If you read the sticky on ratings, you would know that they are not mere subjective opinions on the part of the reviewers. There’s also a sticky on aliveness, where an aliveness score of 8 is defined as
    Hard contact with reasonable safety gear and/or limited to one range of fighting (standup/grappling).
    You have rated this school an 8, in spite of your admission that
    The classes are usually fun and you learn your stuff with at least some resistance coming from your training partner
    “Some resistance” is not the same as “hard contact”. It sounds more like a 3 or 4. You’ve given striking and grappling scores of 7, which should mean
    Comprehensive striking (all ranges) or superior single range striking with success in local/regional competition or practical application.
    Comprehensive grappling with success in local/regional competition or practical application (LEO, military).
    You’ve given no indication that this is true, and from an aikido dojo, I doubt it.

    Please take some time to read the objective criteria in the threads linked to above and adjust the scores appropriately.
    [ | blog | essays ]
    [ self defence: general thoughts | bjj: “don’t go to the ground”? ]
    “The plural of anecdote is anecdotes, not data.”

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    But but but.....steven seagal man, it's gotta be legit..right? I mean, just look at the movies man!
    Someone has had smoked too much of the aikido herb and is all juiced up on his own chi.

  8. #8
    :coffee2::coffee2::sign12::gwbdance: I have been a member of Three Rivers Aikido for nearly 6 years under 6th Degree Black Belt Sensei Elliott Freeman, and it has been one of the best experiences of my life. My training in Aikido has changed my life for the better. Not only have I become a better person through the teachings at Three Rivers Aikido, but I have been bless to pass my knowledge on to others. My years of training at Three Rivers Aikido has provided me with the opportunity to train with some of the best martial artist in the world, both famous and not.
    Aikido is a non-violent martial art against physical aggression, and Sensei Freeman is the best at teaching this. He teaches a very direct and practical Aikido, which is particularly applicable on the street. Sensei Freeman has been all over the world teaching his unique perspective of Aikido and often invites his students to these trainings at other martial art schools, law-enforcement POST camps, Universities, public schools as well as local hospitals. Sensei Freeman is a personal student of Master Steven Seagal, and Three Rivers Aikido is the only school in the Midwest under Sensei Seagal’s direction. When I tested for my first degree black belt at Shihan Seagal’s house last year along side 30 of my classmates, I finally understood that I have really just started learning.
    I would also like to mention that most martial art schools cost over $150 a month for just a few days a week. At Three Rivers Aikido, membership fees are very affordable, ranging from $75-$100 per month, you’re also welcome to train 7 days a week, multiple times a day, and the fees would still be the same.
    At our school, you will find a friendly atmosphere with some of the most caring and giving people you’d ever want to meet. We have a great adult and kids program, along with Tai Chi, Yoga and a traditional weapons program.
    Three Rivers Aikido is a place for the whole family.
    Andre’ McFadden- 314 645 2345
    Shodan – First Degree Black Belt

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Sep 2009

    one-time visit to Three Rivers

    I was in St. Louis for a week, and didn't want to miss out on some training time. I popped in to view a class and perhaps dress out to play a bit.

    The group on the mat was working hard, and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Their practice was different than Aikido as i'm used to, but their instructor seemed pretty solid.

    When Freeman sensei walked in though, my decision was made.

    He quickly introduced himself to myself and my good friend, who lives in St Louis and was interested in joining a school. After a brief discussion of my background in martial arts, and of my friend's lack of one, Freeman had my friend in a wrist-lock, on his knee, and asked him "Who is hurting you?" with a corny tone straight from a Steven Segal movie. Luckily, having seen enough of those films, my friend answered "I am" and was released (and praised for his "philosophical depth"!)

    Freeman then asked me to stand up and attack him. I came in with a standard, slow but dedicated Shomen-ate. He performed a nice, solid kote-gaeshi. I could tell that he was well practiced. I was a bit surprised, though, that he took me down on the hard floor, off the mats and within a couple of feet of the ceremonial rocks in the zen-garden-like display that rings his mat. Having just met me, and not having seen my falls, he sure trusted me to fall well! He did commend me for a dedicated attack, and asked me to continue. After several more similar attacks and falls off his mat, i thanked him for his time. I also thanked, in my head, my judo and aikido instructors for helping me develop my ukemi!

    I recommended to my friend that while i expected the students learn a lot, i also expect they have a fairly high injury rate. But perhaps i'm spoiled by a class that likes working out enough to make sure we do it relatively safely.

  10. #10
    I'm glad you had an opportunity to experience our style of Aikido. It makes a real difference when the attack is honest.

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