Meg Nakamura of World Seido Karate Organization. By Stefan Radtke.
Looking for places to learn or practice martial arts in Westchester County? Here’s what to know about the various disciplines.
Whether you are looking to brush up on a bit of self-defense, make new friends, build confidence, or get in shape, martial arts offer ample opportunities to improve both body and mind. With disciplines ranging from placid ways to find inner peace to full-contact sparring and MMA, we’ve rounded up some of the county’s top martial arts spots, along with pro tips as to which discipline might be right for you.
Looking to get involved with martial arts but don’t know exactly where to start? While you can find welcoming and receptive instruction at virtually any of the gyms and dojos in this feature, karate, tae kwon do, and judo are certainly time-tested portals to the martial arts.
Karate, meaning “the hand,” is a martial art based on striking. The World Seido Karate Organization (seido.com/westchester-dojo), a respected group based out of Elmsford, teaches traditional Japanese karate in both adult and kids’ programs. It practices a form of karate called seido, which means “sincere way,” a style created by the dojo’s grandmaster, Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura. The discipline emphasizes respect, hard work, and commitment. Additionally, the World Seido Karate Organization teaches meditation, moving Zen, yoga, and weapons training to black belts.
The Yonkers location of Tiger Schulmann’s Martial Arts (tsk.com/locations/ny/yonkers) is another top spot for newbies. The respected chain’s local outpost offers kids’ karate for preschoolers all the way up to 18-year-olds, as well as welcoming adult kickboxing classes, where Mom and Dad can get their kiai on.
Tae kwon do
Focusing largely on kicking, tae kwon do is an ideal discipline for greenhorns. Yorktown Heights’ W.S. Jeung Taekwondo (wsjtkd.com) is an excellent spot to begin your journey, with more than 22 years of educating local students in this Korean style. It offers both advanced and beginner classes for adults, kids’ classes, and “super tigers” classes (for children ages 5 and 6). The school also offers a flexible class schedule and works hard to develop students’ focus and discipline.
Meanwhile, Ahn’s Taekowndo (ahnstkdkisco.com), located in Mount Kisco, offers a smorgasbord of options, including kids’ and teens’ martial arts, as well as a popular summer day camp and even birthday parties for young ones. Ahn’s also has adult tae kwon do classes, a junior leaders’ program, and an after-school program.
Known as “the gentle way,” judo is a system of unarmed combat centered upon throws. White Plains’ Total Form Fitness Judo & Wrestling (tffjw.com) is a one-stop shop for all your tossing-based pedagogy. It offers a high-level developmental judo program to kids 4-7, in which they learn simple techniques; a class for 8- to 13-year-olds, in which the basics of judo are taught; and a High School+ class, where either judo techniques or advanced wrestling is taught, all on state-of-the-art Fuji mats.
Those who want to be able to protect themselves in a risk-filled world will find a lot to learn from these explosive techniques. While all of these programs welcome students of any skill level, each of the below disciplines specialize in practical, no-nonsense self-defense.
A hard-hitting self-defense and fighting system developed by the Israeli military, Krav Maga means business. If you want to learn how to wield this potentially lifesaving technique, you can do so at Steve Sohn’s Krav Maga (safeandfit.com) in Scarsdale, which has been teaching it for more than three decades. It offers a popular self-defense class, as well as kickboxing fitness, kids’ martial arts, teen Krav Maga, tai chi health and wellness, and private lessons.
Located in New Rochelle, Westchester Krav Maga (westchesterkravmaga.com) is another excellent spot to learn how to handle yourself in a dangerous situation, offering both karate and Krav Maga instruction to kids and adults. A certified member of the Krav Maga Federation, WKM even offers outdoor classes for those who want to learn some self-defense while staying as safe from COVID as possible.
MMA, or mixed martial arts, is a full-contact combat sport combining multiple fighting disciplines from across the globe and is an effective form of self-defense.
Animals MMA (mmayonkers.com) is one of Westchester’s best places to learn, with adult and kids’ mixed martial arts, as well as a women’s fitness program that incorporates elements of MMA. This Yonkers gym also offers a fight team for those who want to compete, along with a Pistol Safety & Knowledge class.
A familiar name among MMA enthusiasts, UFC Gym in White Plains (ufcgym.com/locations/white-plains) is a wonderland of self-defense and fitness know-how. It offers MMA-Inspired classes that help students build strength and conditioning as they learn proper technique, as well as Brazilian jujitsu, youth programs, and group fitness classes. Students of UFC can also take part in virtual workouts or get some one-on-one coaching via personal trainers.
This close-combat fighting system began in Japan and has grown to include defensive tactics, such as disarming attackers. With regional roots, as well as numerous area locations, the well-respected Renzo Gracie Academy Westchester (renzogracieacademy.com/academies/renzo-gracie-westchester) can initiate anyone into the world of martial arts. In addition to a convenient online academy, Renzo Gracie offers plenty of in-person action, like Brazilian jujitsu (a variation based on holds and ground fighting), Muay Thai, “KidJitsu,” and a class centered on submission grappling.
Next up, the Jiu Jitsu Mill (thejiujitsumill.com) in Port Chester is an ideal location to get serious about self-defense. They offer adult classes in Brazilian jujitsu, submission grappling, wrestling, and MMA, with experience levels from all abilities to advanced. And for little grandmasters-in-training, they also have a Jiu Jitsu Mill Kids’ Program. Legends Martial Arts (legendsfightclub.com) in Briarcliff Manor is another superb spot to learn Brazilian jujitsu, kickboxing, MMA, kids’ MMA, and grappling.
Sometimes referred to as Thai boxing, Muay Thai is a martial art and contact sport focusing on hard, standup striking and clinching opponents. Along with Renzo Gracie (mentioned in preceding jiujitsu section), an amazing choice to get into the regimen is White Plains’ East Coast Jiu-Jitsu & Muay Thai (ecubjj.com). This upscale spot features top Muay Thai instruction along with grappling, jujitsu, and kids’ Brazilian jujitsu classes. They also boast some sweet amenities, like nitro cold brew and laundry service.
If you are looking to get in a shape in a fun and functional way, these martial arts just might be right for you. Whether you’re hoping to find some inner peace, develop a calming regimen, get some serious sweat on, or just tone your muscles, try one of these salubrious styles.
Also known as shadowboxing, tai chi is a Chinese martial art that aids in meditation, self-defense, and well-being through slow, deliberate movement. With locations in both White Plains and Scarsdale, Body & Brain (bodynbrain.com/locations/new-york) is the perfect spot to calm down while getting fit. Here, students can find tai chi and qigong classes, as well as instruction in breath work, meditation, and yoga. White Plains’ Westchester Tai Chi Center (westchestertaichicenter.com) is also a superb spot to learn this ancient practice, offering both in-person and online classes, including traditional tai chi, expanded training, tai chi for balance, online tai chi, and private instruction.
A favorite for both exercise and self-defense, kickboxing is a standup combat sport with kicking and punching allowed, usually conducted in a ring of some sort. UMAC Briarcliff, located in Briarcliff Manor (umacnation.com/school/briarcliff-manor), prides itself on its Fitness Kickboxing classes, aimed at building endurance, strength, and confidence. With a location in Ardsley, as well, UMAC additionally offers adult and teen martial arts, kids’ martial arts, after-school programs, family programs, and a youth empowerment system. They also host a summer camp and birthday parties.
With programs that target the entire body, Bedford Hills’ Marti Martial Arts (martikarate.com) also offers top-notch fitness kickboxing classes, helping students achieve their goals and relieving stress. Marti also features teen and adult martial arts, as well as martial arts for kids, aimed at helping young ones protect themselves, get fit, and build camaraderie.
A calming discipline, aikido is a modern Japanese martial art aimed at defending oneself while protecting the attacker from injury. Referring to the practice as “the martial art of peace,” Still Mind Aikido Westchester (scarsdaleaikido.com) offers instruction in adult aikido, kids’ aikido, tai chi, and yoga. The aikido instruction is aimed at avoiding injuries, improving health, self-defense, and building relationships. Looking for more? The Scarsdale gym also features women’s self-defense classes, special-needs services, massage, and meditation.