Kicking Ass in BK: Some of Brooklyn’s Best Martial Arts Schools

Photos by Alex Srp
Photos by Alex Srp

You are most likely, at this moment, surrounded by more martial artists than you’ve ever realized. The woman you brush shoulders with in the deli might be a seasoned Judo black belt capable of throwing your much heavier ass to the ground. The quiet kid in your son’s chemistry lab might be a Muay Thai champion, brandishing the silent ability to wield not-so-subtle kicks to the face.

Yes, the martial arts are ancient and reflective of various cultures around the world, but they also exist right here in our backyards. They’re entrenched in society, albeit in a kind of hidden way, but don’t think for a second that they’re all about beating people up. In fact, the martial arts exist to inspire much more peaceful sentiments in practitioners. To glean a sense of the pugilistic and spiritual world that exists right under our very noses, we decided to examine some of the most ass kickin’ dojos in Kings County, which we’ve listed for you right here. 

Brooklyn Krav Maga: This is the martial art developed and taught by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and it emphasizes a style more closely akin to bar-room brawling than the nerdy philosophy depicted in Karate Kid. If you train Krav, you’ll learn a few useful techniques, but if you train Krav seriously, you will be an undeniable badass. We’re talking about disarming knife-weilding attackers, throwing chairs at an aggressor’s face and kneeing your opponent square in the nuts. Krav Maga is all about survival and at this school, you’ll be taught how to withstand something like a zombie apocalypse, let alone douche bags looking for trouble.

Brooklyn Krav Maga, 169 Calyer St. Brooklyn, New York 11222


New York Martial Arts: Bruce Lee left something of an untapped legacy behind when he died, and this school in Williamsburg is all about extolling the martial artist’s teachings. Lee greatly embellished the teachings of Jeet Kun Do, which is a hybrid-art that tries to encapsulate all possible aspects of a fight. In many ways, Lee sought a holistic approach to his training, so what you’ll encounter is on level with modern MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) in a sense, but not in the vein of steroid-addled bros with tribal tattoos and Affliction shirts. You’ll essentially learn the teachings of Bruce Lee at this school, but whether or not you’ll be able to kick Chuck Norris’ ass after training here is another question, the answer to which is probably no.

New York Martial Arts, 184 N. 8th St. Brooklyn, 11211

Renzo Gracie Fight Academy: Renzo Gracie is one of the original sons of the Gracie family–the lineage of Brazilians who revolutionized modern martial arts through their own twist on traditional jiujitsu. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)–the use of technique and leverage to overcome a larger opponent by way of chokes and joint locks–is the fastest growing martial art on the planet, and shows no signs of stopping its inevitable spread to all corners of the earth. But BJJ isn’t all you’re going to learn at this comprehensive MMA school. Renzo Gracie was also a decorated MMA fighter, so his dojo offers a crash course on Muay Thai, Wrestling and the application of various grappling techniques with kickboxing. Pro tip, in case you were wondering: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu works.

Renzo Gracie Fight Academy, 100 Bayard St, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Moyee Kung Fu: Some people prefer Kung Fu for its economy of movements, and the fact that smaller, weaker opponents are given an advantage when the techniques are employed correctly. At Moyee Kung Fu, you’ll be participating in an ancient tradition, and the academy’s own lineage dates back through 76 different masters. You can partake in a few different disciplines here, such as Ving Tsun (which will help you with real-life applications through live-sparring), Thai Chi (the martial art  practiced by Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse) and Kung Fu classes for kids.

Moy Yee Kung Fu, 70 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY


Williamsburg Mixed Martial Arts: Although the idea of training MMA in Williamsburg sounds as incongruous as a Picasso painting, you’re likely to get a solid foundation of how to meld different fighting styles together at this north Brooklyn fight factory. They’ve got it all, from striking (Muay Thai, Boxing) to grappling (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling) and even yoga and introductory MMA classes for kids. The head instructor is Roger Mamedov, a lifelong martial artist who enjoyed a professional MMA career before starting up his own school. If you want a crash-course in all things punchy, kicky and chokey, this is your spot.

Williamsburg Mixed Martial Arts, 42A Dobbin Street., Brooklyn, NY 11222

Capoeira Guanabara New York: Remember that scene in Zoolander when a prolific walk-off between Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller led to the most earth-shattering breakdance-fight in history? Capoeira is kind of like breakdance fighting, accept much cooler in reality, as it presents an opportunity for some great exercise in combination with a full-scale immersion in a cherished Brazilian pastime. At this school, you’ll learn how important principals of balance are to the most routine movements, as you groove your way through an array of kicks against a backdrop of thumping rhythms. For the laypeople, “Capoeira is an African-Brazilian art form that combines dance, martial arts, music and acrobatics,” according to Guanabara’s website.

Capoeira Guanabara New York, 20 Jay Street #616, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Champions Tae Kwon Do: This is the national martial art of Korea, and if you become well-versed in Tae Kwon Do, you’re likely to make some heads roll. Tae Kwon Do is all about the kicks, and you’re likely to develop some sturdy thighs as you extend your legs repeatedly, firing off laser-feet in rapid succession. Champions is a family-oriented school though, so if you have kids and live anywhere in near Bensonhurst, you might want to consider the positive effects a martial arts education can foster. It’s all about confidence and instilling a sense of self-worth at Champions, which is quite a hard thing to argue against.

Champions Tae Kwon Do, 4921 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220


New York Butjusukai: If you’re looking for a student-teacher relationship bordering on the Hollywood companionships enshrined in films like Bloodsport, you might want to check this school out. You’ll learn aikido, which is essentially a hybrid of martial arts, spirituality, philosophy and religious beliefs that emphasizes the twisting of wrists to throw opponents on the floor. Most importantly about this dojo: it’s run out of a garage in Bushwick, but don’t let that make you harbor any anxiety about training there and or sending your kid for instruction. The lessons are solid and versatile, as the school offers instruction in boxing, karate, judo, and ninjutsu (a ninja martial art!) as well.

New York Butjusukai, 1403 Greene Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11237

Killer Bees Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: This tiny dojo specializes in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or the “gentle art,” as per the translation of jiujitsu in Japanese. You’ll learn the intricate handiwork necessary in building up a solid game, from takedowns to chokeholds and everything in between. You’ll get into excellent shape, but you’ll also be forced to sharpen your mind, as BJJ necessitates a lot of thinking and mental fortitude. It’s been called “human chess,” by many a practitioner, because you’ll often find yourself in awkward positions that require body movements you never thought were possible. It’ll be good for you though, as you’ll develop a healthy sense of self-confidence and hopefully a bourgeoning new addiction. Be wary though, BJJ is not for the faint of heart: it takes time to develop skill, and beginners receive thorough wallopings on the regular. This academy is technically in Ridgewood, although it makes the cut for its proximity to Bushwick.

Killer Bees Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, 1082 Cypress Ave., Ridgewood NY 11385


Class One MMA: This sprawling facility in Gowanus is the real deal. Instructors include former mixed martial arts fighter Luis Azeredo, a veteran of different professional circuits like Pride and Bellator, current UFC fighter Olwwale Bamgbose, and pro-boxing champ Jill Emery. If you’re looking for something competitive that might drastically alter the way your back feels in the morning and requires you to cut back on the booze and ramp up the super foods, Class One might be a perfect fit for you.

Class One MMA, 85 4th Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11217

 Follow Sam Blum on Twitter @Blumnessmonster 


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