Martial Arts Schools near San Mateo, CA

We looked into a lot of local martial arts schools before deciding where to go. Here are some of the schools in the area of San Mateo / Foster City, CA, and our assessment of them. These were notes taken for our own use, so they are naturally a bit rough. However, if you are looking for a school in the area, this might be helpful.

Most likely:

Bay Area Martial Arts Academy
(650) 341-4736
617 Mt. View, Suite #8, Belmont, CA
Hapkido / Jeet Kune Do
Good site, videos.
Karate technique looks somewhat sloppy, but seems that those classes are separate from Hapkido/JKD.
HKD/JKD have no forms.
Classes: MWSa 3.5 hrs, F (early) 1 hr (looks like MW at least run for 1.5, not 1.25, though)
Classes in Portola Valley: TR 1.5 hrs (too far for regular attendance)
$90/month (~$5.6 or 6.4/hr) (3 month verbal contract) ($80/month 6 month contract), no testing fees, possible family discount.
Mix of martial arts, includes standup and grappling
Status
tried out class mar 20 at 7
took a look at sparring mar 27th at 7:30
tried out another class & sparring apr 19 at 7
Good:
Instructor appears experienced in various styles, policework, etc.
Practical/straightforward/effective techniques (especially wrt grappling)
Good range (standup to clinch to ground)
Grappling
Fairly intense classes
Weapons: bo, sword, escrima. Club defense. No cane per se, but similar length weapons.
Students have varying backgrounds - some pretty obvious former TKD students, also looked like some kickboxers and possibly grapplers in the mix.
No testing fees
Bad:
No meditative aspects
No flowy (kung-fu-ish) stuff
Hard on Saffy's knee
Not enough classes/week, given price... - although, it may be possible to go to Portola valley classes occasionally (like, once a week).
Other:
Standup sparring decent, similar stylistically to what we were doing at SGD, but probably not as challenging as the Twin Dragon stuff (which is more different). Technique is somewhat different (kicks, etc, look off/wrong), but appears to be reasonably effective.
Not sure if others agree, but also, instructor is a bit style-oriented/defensive, keeps rattling off style names when teaching, not too flattering when talking about other styles, mentions secret style he developed with an ex-marine, etc. Possible sign of a lack of confidence and/or lack of depth internally / in any particular style. Not sure how much this would affect his teaching, however. [Saffy disagrees.]
No forms.
Verdict:
Definite possibility, especially for Landon and me. Saffy won't be able to do it (at least not for a while) due to knee. Usha likes the grappling, but may want kung-fu-ish stuff, too.

California Kungfu & Tai Chi
(650) 212-0688
558 Pilgrim Dr, Suite D, Foster City, CA
master@wushutaichi.com
Price is a bit confusing:
Promotion: $60/6 classes + shirt ($10/class).
No contract: 10-15/class
6 month: 9-13.70/class
1 year: 8-12.50/class + maybe free weapons
First family member standard, second 5% discount, third 10% discount.
Mkay, so that's confusing.
For us (no contract):
Usha+Saffy 2x/week, David 1x/week: $245/month ($12.25/class)
Above + 1 Tai Chi each: $282/month ($8.81/class)
Kung Fu: TFSa 3 hrs
Tai Chi: TFSa (mornings) 2.25 hrs
Status:
tried out class March 14th at 7:00 pm
Good:
Good instructor: powerful/capable, not too talkative, friendly, attentive.
Individualized programs, both in ability and focus.
Weapons (pretty much all the desired ones).
Good workout.
Different.
Bad:
Max of 3 classes a week (for now).
No sparring (yet).
Other:
New school (8 months or so).
School in transition, may be moving, number of classes/week may go up. (will the price, too?)
Few adult students (many children)
Probably not that effective for self defense.
Reasonable price.
Verdict:
Under consideration as paired school. For example, I (and presumably Landon) take Hapkido, Usha and Saffy go here 2x/week, I come with them 1x/week. A little on the expensive side, but not too bad.

Twin Dragon Kung-Fu
(650) 591-1127
796 El Camino Real, San Carlos, CA
twindragonacademy@yahoo.com
One of (original, 3.5 years back or so) tryout schools. Good weapons, unclear on higher rank skill.
$95/month (~$2.6/hr). Down to $80/each if 4 students.
Classes: M-Sa 9 hrs
Mon: ?
Tue: Aikido (more ~aikijitsu, good instruction, not too live, though)
Wed: Cardio (have seen this before - it's just what it claims to be)
Thu: Forms (okayish)
Fri: Sparring
Sat: ?
Status:
Tried out class Thursday the 30th at 6:30 6:45
Tried out aikido-focused class Tuesday the 4th at 6:45
Watched sparring-focus Friday the 7th at 6:45, but there were mostly kids
Tried out sparring-focus class Friday the 14th at 6:15
Good:
Weapons. Every weapon imaginable, all the ones Saffy wants (minus tai chi sword), escrima & knife (David & Landon respectively), etc.
Reasonably friendly, open, negotiable.
Space available for working out, practicing.
Good price, excellent cost/hour ratio.
Large range of instruction: fighting, close in fighting, grabs, weapons, weapon forms.
Aikido/jitsu - grabs/locks/pressure points.
Sparring is different but decent. Some contact, but looks like little no to grappling. Difference in style seems to be a good thing as learning goes.
Bad:
General student population not too impressive (so far) in terms of fitness.
Feel of the style / instructor movements is not too appealing.
Instructor seems somewhat full of himself / overbearing. (And trying to compensate for it.)
Belt testing fees. Not unusually so, and fewer belts than many schools, but still. And instructor hedged a bit on how much they were.
Other:
Lots of forms. This is good for Saffy (the weapon forms are) but Landon & I are not particularly interested in forms. I'm okay with doing some weapons ones, but don't want to spend more time on forms than on interactive techniques.
Style is very different - in the way kicks are executed for example - which could conflict with what we know, but could be a benefit if combined.
Instructor started own style - this meshes with the 'full of himself' bit above.
Not as live (at least thus far) as Hapkido above.
Verdict:
To be determined. Currently, this is in kind of an odd place: the only thing it's best at is quantity of weapons. CAKF has better quality of movement/instruction, Hapkido has better quality of interaction. This one is somewhere in the middle. Need to compare sparring with that at Hapkido.
To Find Out:

Aikido West
650 366-9106
3164 Bay Road
Redwood City, CA
info@aikido-west.org
$85/month (~$1.4/hr) (discount: $170/family-month: $.94/hr if 3 people)
Basics: M-R 4 hrs
General: M-Su 9.5 hrs
Weapons: Su 1 hr
A bit far, and evidently aikido only, but very reasonable terms, good schedule.
All information (pretty much) on site. Downside: $10 to try out lesson. (Not unreasonable, but annoying.)
Status:
Tried out a class april 10th at 5:45.
Good:
Looks like a very good, established Aikido school.
Lots of classes.
Varied instructors (different one each night, afaik).
Established school (35+ years) with many black belts (takes 7+ years to get bb, at least eight showed up to the regular class).
As aikido goes, it looks like their teaching/philosophy is dead on.
Bad:
Not effective self defense.
Other:
Kid's class looked somewhat uncontrolled - weird.
Verdict:
This looks like a great aikido school, but probably not what we're looking for.
To Find Out:

San Mateo Kendo Dojo
(650) 341-1410
King Center
825 Mt. Diablo Ave.
San Mateo, CA
Email: ogihara@kdd.net
Tu 7:00pm
Contact: Masaru Ogihara
To Find Out:
Cost, equipment, etc.

Chinese Martial Arts & Entertainment Institute
650-574-9988
20 41st Ave. San Mateo, CA
CMAEI@sbcglobal.net
Kane's temporary school.
$10 for tryout class (which they didn't ask for and we didn't pay - only found out later from looking at rate sheet).
$120/month for 1ce a week 2hrs ($15/hr)
$99/month for 2ce a week ($12.50/hr)
$150/month for 3+times a week ($10/hr)
Kung Fu: MWF 3 hrs (more for advanced)
Kickboxing: TR 2 hrs
Tai Chi: TR 2 hrs
Status:
Tried out a class Apr 3 at 7:00pm.
Good:
Acrobatics / pretty / flowy style.
Higher up students look pretty good.
Students in general seem pleasant (compared with, say, Twin Dragon).
Reasonably focused on individuals.
Friendly.
Weapons (though not the range of either Twin Dragon or CAKF).
Bad:
Instructor doesn't move too well (probably because he's old), compared with CAKF.
No sparring to speak of. (what about the kickboxing?)
High price.
Black Belt Program.
3 month contract minimum.
Other:
Cocky.
Play music during exercise/warmup - e.g. Mortal Kombat theme. (Saffy was entertained by it, if nothing else.)
Verdict:
Probably not, due to price.
To Find Out:
Is kickboxing a separate program? Should we check it out?

Tat Wong Kung Fu
http://www.tatwong.com/
Dan recommended this - maybe worth checking out.

Somewhat less likely:

Goju-Karate Center
(650) 245-7981
1851 Lexington Ave. San Mateo, CA
http://bayareagoju.com/
bayareagoju@gmail.com
Classes: TW 4 hrs (2 hrs each)
$75/month
FAQ: "Do you spar?" "Heck yeah!"
Kind of low on the number of classes/week, though classes are long.
Status: sent first email, got response (a few days later)
need to call Thom Faris
650-623-8807, day
650-965-1949
Tfaris@impac.com

Oshiro's Karate Dojo
(650) 522-9649
178 W. 25th Avenue, San Mateo, CA
http://www.oshirodojo.com/
oshirodojo@earthlink.net
MWRFSa: 6 hrs, advanced +5 hrs
Lot of classes, but may be mostly forms/boring. What is Kobudo, Tokubetsu?
Status: sent first email, got response (a few days later)
need to call Shihan Oshiro M-F after 3:00 pm

United Studios of Self Defense
(650) 286-0105
24 E. 17th Avenue, San Mateo
http://www.ussd.com/studios/studiopage.asp?num=191
SanMateo@ussd.com
I think we've established that this is largely a McDojo chain (albeit not nearly as bad as, let's say, ATA). However, drugstore guy goes here, so let's not discount it.


Charles Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy
(650) 438-9528
309 8th Ave., San Mateo, CA
http://charlesgracie.com/academy-sanmateo.htm
newtoslac@yahoo.com
BJJ school
MTWSa 4.25 hrs + late morning classes
Expensive, and with contracts!
12 month contract: $100/130/150 for 1/2/all classes/week ($20/14/9 /hr respectively)
6 month contract: $130/160/180 for 1/2/all classes/week ($26/18/11 /hr respectively)
Need to check these guys out, but unlikely, given price.
Status:
tried out class March 21st at 7:00 pm
Good:
True grappling - competitive, standup and on the ground, applied in the most direct way possible.
People seem decent, including instructor and other students.
Bad:
Ridiculously expensive.
Other:
Dangerous - instructor was taping up a bunch of injuries (dislocated thumb, problems with fingers, toes), one student had a wrapped wrist, another wrapped knee. Doing rolling, got my knee trapped under me/twisted very unpleasantly. This falls under 'other' because it's arguably necessary to have that element to get this level of training, but at the same time, I don't think I for one am ready to go there. Don't know. Doesn't matter anyway, given the price.
Verdict:
Too limited & expensive as a primary school, far too expensive as a secondary school.




No Online Info:

Aikido Institute Of Miami
(305) 446-3044
815 S Grant St Apt C, San Mateo, CA
No online info

All Stars Martial Arts
(650) 574-4771
1200 W Hillsdale Blvd
http://www.laurelwoodcenter.com/centerdirectory.htm
No online info

International Self Defense Institute
(650) 349-8631
98 42ND Ave, San Mateo, CA
http://sanfrancisco.citysearch.com/profile/930450/
No online info.

Kuk Sool Won
(650) 570-5991
31 W 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA
http://www.lowestoftkuksoolwon.co.uk/
No online info.

Muraoka Martial Arts & Holistic Center
650 341 4142
1529 South B St San Mateo, CA
http://www.telephoneguide.com/SFa2zM.htm
No online info.

Penninsula Chen Style Taijiquan
San Mateo
No info.




Discard for now:

Golden State TKD
(650) 571-6422
471 Beach Park Blvd. Foster City, CA
http://www.goldenstatetkd.com/
Consensus is that we are looking for something a bit different, though this does seem to be a better TKD school than most.

Kik's Taekwondo
(650) 571-1176
715 Bermuda Drive, San Mateo, CA
http://www.kikstkd.com/
Looks like a tourney school. WTF member. Bleh.

California Martial Arts Academy aka Tat Wong Kung Fu
(650) 341-9292
Fifty Three 43rd Ave, San Mateo, CA
http://www.tatwong.com/
Chain of some sort
Kung Fu & Kickboxing (odd combo)
Black belt program (red flag)
No free class ($10) (red flag)

SMF
http://www.selfmastery.com/index.asp
Mmmm... yeah, not so much.


World Muy Thai Team USA
(650) 697-2871
186 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA
http://www.worldteamusa.com/
Probably not the thing for now.

Peninsula Thai Kickboxing
(650) 591-2768
San Carlos, CA 94070
http://thaiboxer.com/
Minimal info.
M-Sa, lots of classes (at least 1 hr/day, many with multiple levels on one day)
Status: email unknown, will have to call
Moved to Palo Alto - too far.