T Nation

Finding a Real Combat Class


I'm an applicant for NYPD, hopefully getting in the academy in JULY barring any more budget crisis' with the state and city of New York.

I'm in shape but I have no prior experience with any kind of fighting style and I want to start taking some classes. My questions is, how do I know that the instructor, gym and class I'm taking is for real. I realized once I started lifting that there are gyms for inexperienced people which are usually made to look pretty and make you feel comfortable but arn't the best places to train. Well I'm sure its the same way with this sport. I don't want to start taking a class and find out a few months later I'm taking a 6-12y/os karate class.

So, whats a real gym feel/look like? What about instructors and classes? If I walk in and theres a bunch of fat moms, should I turn and run? Thanks.


I'll speak for krav maga, since there's a good chance you'll be training in that style for at least part of your academy training. At a krav school, you'd want to know if the school is affiliated with Krav Maga Worldwide, in Los Angeles. This is the U.S. parent organization for krav, run by Darren Levine, who brought the system to the U.S. after studying under Imi Lichtenfeld, the founder, in Israel.

The school you visit should offer classes for law enforcement and/or military personnel, and those classes should be separate from classes for civilians, though many of the techniques are the same. If a school does not offer this, as mine does, it doesn't mean the school is not good, but it may not completely serve your needs as a policeman.

Cop classes get into weapons training more quickly than civilian classes do, but your teachers need a special certification to teach it.

Ask to watch a regular level 1 class before signing up. Is it physically challenging? The warmup alone in krav can be exhausting. Are the students expected to give their all, or are they allowed to phone it in? I don't mean everyone should perform perfectly - I mean everyone should be expected to try hard at all times.

Most level 1 classes will end with "self-defense", which at this level usually means chokes. The drill at the end should look intense and a little bit scary to someone unused to fighting.

Krav classes are usually overwhelmingly male, but don't be put off if you see "a bunch of fat moms". They are there (or should be) to learn to fight, just like the boys are.

Also, google the name of the school you are considering. Sometimes you will find local reviews or testimonials that might help. Feel free to PM me with any questions and good luck at the academy!


I would personally suggest a good AKKI Kenpo school. There are many different types of Kenpo, but IMO, the AKKI is the most complete, and advanced system out there.

All the instructors are incredibly knowledgable, and the system relies on proven science to generate power and speed, not a bunch of traditional crap that is just repeated because "that's how it was done hundreds of years ago."

It has been tested in the real world, you'll find many Police, Correctional Officers, Bouncers, etc. who have trained in it and used it. The founder, Paul Mills, actually was a bouncer at one time as well.

I can speak for myself to say that it is very effective, I've used it in my job successfully, and would recommend it to anyone. Here are a couple videos that kind of show what it is:


Thanks. However, I've already decided I want to try some Krav Maga classes first. This thread isnt so much about what type of training you all think is best but more about how I can tell if a gym is for real or not.


Thanks. A quick search online shows that theres really only 1 or 2 Krav maga schools near me. I think my best bet is to set up an appointment to go in and watch and see what I think. If people aren't sweating and if no one looks like their going to get hurt (to me, a novice) I guess its not a good place to train.

How important is it for these places to be affiliated with the Larger Organizations? From my experience alot of these things are really just gimmicks that make lots of money by "certifying" people but in the end, itreally doesn't mean much.


I would say that in this case certification is important. I was trying to get into a teacher training this month, but the owner of my school refused to let me go because he said I wasn't ready. The failure rate for this training is 75% and higher. Before I am allowed to go I must be able to perform every technique to perfection against a larger & stonger opponent, and I must be able to explain every technique verbally, using no gestures at all. My teacher closes his eyes, and if my explanation is unclear to him in any way, I am corrected and have to start over. I have had to change my voice (too soft & girly), my appearance (too feminine), and raise my level of aggression on all techniques. All this and more before I am allowed to apply to train to be a teacher! Perhaps the failure rate is so high because not all school owners are this strict, but in L.A. they will hand you your ass if you come to training unprepared. Although, if your krav school is certified through the Israeli system, that's good, too.

Of course, even with this affiliation to Worlwide, school quality will vary. I'm lucky to be in a place where my teachers are hardasses who will ride me like a mule if they think I'm slacking off. A lady came in once from another school and asked halfway through class, "If I get tired, can I stop & stand in fighting stance while I catch my breath and rest?" We were all dumbfounded. Once my teacher found his tongue he told her, "Look, you're an adult, I'm not going to tell you you CAN'T stop. But if you are attacked, your attacker isn't going to stop because you get tired. You need to fight through it." The fact that her other school let her just stand there panting in fighting stance was a red flag to me. Go and watch and follow your gut.


brilliant posts missp


Thanks, Xen!


Where are you located?

If you reside in NJ and commute into NY for work, another option would be to check out Michael DePasquale Jr.'s school in Riverdale NJ.

It's not Krav, it's Yoshitsune Jiu-Jitsu, but DePasquale has trained numerous law enforcement personel. Jiu-jitsu is also often a very good art for law enforcement because it emphasizes controlling the assailant without having to strike them or cause them permanent damage.

I've trained with DePasquale (only a couple times though) and his stuff definitely works, and works well. It's also tough to find someone with the amount of experience or expertise in the MA as him.

If your heart is set on KM that's cool. But again, if you live in NJ and want another option, check out DePasquale's school.


The first thing you need to know about martial arts is this. Martial arts is not a sport. Martial means military, so martial arts means military arts. So you need to find someone who knows the difference between military arts and sport martial arts. Why? Because there are things that you can do in sport martial arts that will get you killed out on the street.

ie In MMA they stand squared off to each other so they can tackle and get a takedown. This leaves the groin wide open which isn't a problem for them because if they get kicked in the nuts they get five minutes to shake it off and the other guy loses a point. If you get kicked in the nuts three times the other guy loses the fight through disqualification. Out on the street if a perp kicks you in the nuts three times he isn't going to lose points or the fight.

Grappling arts like Jiu Jitsu have their uses for controlling people but grappling arts also have their risks for a cop because they rely upon getting really close, grappling and "rolling" with an opponent. For sports like MMA rolling is great, but you don't see guys in the Octagon rolling with .40 caliber Glocks on their hips and other than their opponent, the only other person in the Octagon is nuetral not someone who will walk up gab your gun out of your holster and light you up.

There are a lot of cops who practice the style I study which is Isshinryu karate. My teacher for many years was a cop who taught self defense and survival tactics. In New York city Grandmaster Don Nagle was a New York cop who had a lot of students. Now Nagle has passed away I would recommend one of his students Gary Alexander, who probably has students in the city you can train with if he is too far away.

edit. Another thing I forgot to add is the concept of having "special" classes for cops. My teachers trained everyone together. They didn't have special classes where they taught the cops stuff that worked while the rest of us got bullshit that didn't. I would avoid a school that teaches techniques one way for one group and another for others. ie Kyu ranks (below black belt) do a technique one way but when they get to black belt they learn to do it differently, with the black belt way being the right way. That is a waste of your time, you should learn correctly from the beginning.


Sifu, krav maga's "special" classes for cops & soldiers don't teach techniques differently.

They teach different techniques.

Civilians generally don't need to know how to disarm an attacker with an M16, how to clear a building, how to escape under fire with a rescued hostage, or how to disarm an attacker then restrain him without killing him until backup arrives.

While civilians are eventually taught most of these techniques, they will come much later in my training. They will come quickly in training for law enforcement officers. Well, okay, I admit I've done the M16 thing, but we were just jacking around that day.

I have no doubt that Gary Alexander could provide excellent training, nor am I saying that krav is "better than" Isshinryu or anything else. Far from it. But I would ask you to consider that it may be advantageous to tailor parts of the curriculum to the dangers the student is most likely to face.


Best fighting style is Crouching Crane Kung Fu.


I agree that BJJ (vale tudo or not) is not relevant for street defense and law enforcement but I think you guys are giving too much credit to krav maga versus MMA training. I mean yeah you can disarm someone at point blank with your krav but Wanderlei Silva will just kick your face the fuck out at point blank. And about getting kicked in the crotch, if you've been training muay thai it's not your first time blocking kicks or avoiding them, not to mention you have the ability to knock the guy out before he does anything.

What I mean is, no matter how versed you are in any martial art, if your opponent is armed, you better be armed too because no type of training teaches you to disarm someone from an average/long distance.

Also, consider the fact that MMA is growing in popularity. As a cop you will surely encounter a fighter at some point, and if it comes down to full contact fighting, he will come on top for sure assuming he's not a newbie.


Your going to find what you like and what works for you.
Everyone has an opinion on what
is "real"or what is the best.

But plenty of "martial artists" are catalog ninjas

Your also not going to become proficent in any style in a few months, but that is ok too.

Im in NYC and there is plenty of stuff around
If you want to try some jiu jitsu

there are plenty of cops who train at
Renzo Gracie's its not cheap but it is excellent.

One of his students who was NYPD has a school in Staten island.


and there are a few KravMaga places too
here and some are excellent as well.

As far as training military/LE
again ask around its usually LE only.
there are plenty of options in the city
for trapping/firearm disarming type crap

also ask around once you are on the force.
or friends who are on the job, now.
Or when you do find a place ask around
at the other people in the gym.

and yes crouching crane might be the best.



All good points, gentlemen. The OP's main concern, however, was how to tell a high quality school, in any martial art, from a lesser one.

Maybe y'all should point out what he should look for regarding your particular styles, so that should he choose to explore your style, he'll know the mark of excellence when he sees it.


Damn, so much good shit. Thanks for the responses. I'm out on Long Island now, driving a truck in Riverhead so I'm not close enough to the city or NJ. If I was I'm sure I'd have no problems finding a place to train.

However, out here in the sticks its alot different. I have a funny feeling I'm gonna find alot of these places that are, like somone else put it, "catalog ninjas". I'm going to check out alot of different styles probubly. I'd rather train hard in a different fighting style then go to a "token" Krav maga schools where I'm not really learning anything. So I think if I can find a hardcore, real place to train out here, no matter the style I should jump on it.

Thanks for the Posts MissP, very informative. I think I understand what a real class should feel like. Its hard to put into words but like you said "your attacker isn't going to stop because you get tired. You need to fight through it." If I can find an instructor with that kinda mentality I think I'll be good.

I'm a divemaster. I know alot of scuba instructors and I know its completely different but what I see from some of the instructors, especially the new ones is they have this mentality that they know everything, you don't know shit and they just like acting "macho" or how ever you want to say it. Now these are the instructors that are terrible. The good old ones, are sincere and can teach you what you need to know, won't let you slack but they're not, for lack of a better word, dicks about it. Is it kinda the same way with combat instructors?


Good point.

A couple points on how to select a "good" school (good is in quotes because it will depend on context)

1) Instructor's experience- what kind of experience and success does the instructor have in the aspect of combat that you seek to learn? Or, if they don't have any experience do they at least have experience/success training others in this aspect?

2) Rank- I know a lot of people will disagree with my bringing up rank, but someone who has achieved a very high rank (and/or been awarded it by a respected governing council/board) is usually going to have both a lot of experience and expertise. Not all systems give belts though, so it's just one thing to consider. Of course, if say it's something like wrestling, boxing, MT, MMA, etc... if the person was a champion that's sort of a type of rank IMO.

3) Instructor's teaching ability- just because you can do something well, doesn't mean that you can also teach it well. There is an art to teaching all in of itself, and it's tough to find people who can both do something at a very high level, and teach it at the same high level.

A good teacher should both know the art, and know people. They should be able to put things in ways that make it easy to understand. They should be able to give you verbal, visual and kinesthetic cues that will aid in your learning a new skill. They should understand different temperaments; how to work through or around mental emotional blocks to learning skills; how fast/slow, aggressive/passive, brutal/gentle to take things with each student.

Really, there is a lot to being a good teacher.

4) Instructor's contacts/networking- no one person holds all the answers. Yes, you'll find some that know a lot about a wide variety of areas, but in most cases they'll freely admit that there are still people who could teach them things about certain areas of combat. The good ones will also usually be in constant contact with such other good instructors.

Find out if and how often your school holds seminars with other highly skilled instructors (especially if those instructors specialize in the area which you wish to pursue, i.e. law enforcement).

5) School's primary focus- Some schools are primarily sport based, but teach self defense classes on the side. Others are primarily self defense based, but also teach MMA specific classes on the side. Some are all about forms and board breaking competitions (obviously not what you're looking for). Some are primarily law enforcement/military based, but teach civilian self defense on the side.

Generally what you want to look for is a school that focuses on the particular part of MA that you want, but at the same time doesn't completely ignore other useful parts.

For instance perhaps they focus on law enforcement/military training, but still train in the more shall we say "sporting" based arts (boxing, MT, wrestling, submission grappling) as all of those arts can be/are also very beneficial from a unarmed combat perspective. In other words, teach the directly functional skill sets, but not neglect or look down upon other perhaps less specific, but still beneficial skill sets.

6) Address not only physical, but also emotional and mental aspects of training- lots of schools pay a lot of attention to development of physical skills (and for good reason), but not all that many (at least from what I've seen) focus on the mental and emotional aspects of training, even though these aspects make up a great deal of the effectiveness of the art.

In other words, the teacher should put the students into situations that (as closely as possible, while still retaining enough saftey to make it through the training alive) resemble the situations that they are training to deal with. This should/could include:
- verbal conditioning drills where the students assume roles
- postural/verbal self defense drills
- situational self defense drills
- simulated combat scenarios (as Miss. Parker mentioned)

Systems that like to play it safe and where you don't actually get an adrenaline dump and/or actually experience fear in your training are simply not preparing you for real world self defense/law enforcement/military training scenarios. You cannot over rule the body's natural responses, so you've got to learn to function with them effectively.

7) Schools that actually test their material in as realistic ways as possible- This is something that MMA schools (or "sport" style schools in general) do very well at. Sure, their definitions of "realistic" might be different than a law enforcement/military definition as their context will be different. But, they still test their skills. You need to "spar" with your skills.

This doesn't mean that you have to put on the gloves, headgear, shin guards, or whatnot; get into the ring, touch gloves and kickbox each other. It just means that you need to practice your techniques with fully resisting opponents, people that aren't letting you do whatever you want to do to them, people that are actively thinking and trying to prevent you from doing what you want to do.

The more "realistic" (and in this case I mean real world) the situation that you're training for, the less restrictions should be placed on what either person can or cannot do.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head. Hope it helped some and good luck.


I'll throw out some generic advice that will hopefully help.

Don't (necessarily) pick a style first. Pick an instructor/school by observing/trying a few classes. Given your 'self defense' interests look for classes that use focus mits, pads, kicking shields, heavy bags and sparring/rolling as a significant part of the training. Katas/forms are fine if they are linked to application and action. You can find good instructors in 'weak' styles that will benefit you more than a lousy instructor in a 'great' style. Find a place that seems to meet your objective and you like.

Another consideration: convenience of times and location of the gym. The easier it is for you to get there consistently, the more likely you will go train every week. That repetition is why you will develop skills.

Unless you are going to hit a MMA gym, it will be difficult to find a top notch striking AND ground game in the same place/style. MMA places tend to have a competition mind set as opposed to defensive.

Have your BS detector switched ON. Too much mysticism or 'lethal' techniques should be a major warning sign.

Styles that tend to show up consistently to answer questions like yours have been:

Boxing, Muay Thai, JKD (can have a bit of everything)

Grappling: BJJ, Judo/Sambo, CSW (Erik Paulson's blend)

Combatives: Krav Maga, Systema, RMA

Filipino/Indonesian MA: Silat, Kali/Escrima/Arnis

Remember a 'sport' style (i.e. boxing or BJJ) will need to be adapted to a defensive mindset.

Personal thought being on the other side of an academy...if I was six months out again, I'd spend some quality time with Krav, boxing or MT.


I agree with Miss Parker here Sifu, there are some things that cops need to know that civilians don't and there are some things a civilian can do that a cop would get sued for if he tried(chokes for example). I respect all MA's and while Issin Ryu's weapons training is outstanding, if a person is attacked by an unarmed attacker on the street and that person picks up a stick and stops the attacker by hitting them accross the temple, that's self defense. If a cop is attacked by an unarmed attacker and he hits them across the temple with his PR 24 or ASP, he could be sued for excessive force.
For the OP, I think it's best to check the schools out and get a feel for them, see how realistic the training is and also not only check out the attitude of the instrutor but check out the attitude of the students.


Thanks. My BS detector will definetly be on, but thats why I made this thread. Its hard to figure out what is BS and what isnt when you know nothing about this kinda stuff. I dont really need too much help deciding what style I'm going to take just interested in some signs that might tell me, Hey this is a good place to train or hey get the fuck outta here these people don't know a damn thing.