Having moved to Chelmsford for a new job and keen to carry on with martial arts training, I found a club called Laurence Sandum's Black Belt Academy. The website looked very nice and it was very close to where I lived and so I decided to have a look. It was all very professional when I walked in and Laurence (the owner) guided me around, telling me what marial arts they offered. He then sat me down and told me the prices, which were outrageous!
99 joining fee (apparently down from 199), which included t-shirt, shorts and MMA gloves and then 70 a month tuition and if you wanted to do another martial art, it was another 35 a month! If you lost your uniform, each part would be 30 each and things like pads you had to buy seperately at 60!I thought because they were offering 6 lessons a week, I would get more for my money and then just cancel the direct debit if I didn't like it.
When it came to going to the classes, it was both comical and impractical! The Jeet Kune Do they were teaching was sloppy, half hearted and over complicated (Jeet Kune Do is a very effective martial art if it is taught properly) Some of the intermediates and advanced students were all over the place and had no co-ordination, horrible technique and had a false sense of achievement wearing their belts, which they basically bought instead of earned. I remember one drill we had to do where if we were faced with someone in the street, we would roll onto the floor and take them down!
Sure, like that is going to be a full proof plan! One of the worst parts were the kicking drills. The school thought that if they taught the martial art that Bruce Lee engineered, everyone who studied it would be just as good. No one in the school, not even the instructor, could connect or defend kicks properly because they had made it too impractical, so you can imagine how laughable it was seeing 15-20 people trying to do it as well.
When I decided that this place was a joke and essentially a McDojo, I went to the reception and asked to cancel. She was very nice and gave me the number for the EFC, who were the contracting company. Contracting company? Alarm bells started ringing so I phoned the EFC and asked to cancel my direct debit that I signed. It turns out that I didn't sign a form for direct debit transfers, but instead it was a 3 year contract that was almost impossible to break! NOT ONCE did Laurence say the word contract to me and I specifically said I did not want to sign up for the 3 year black belt course. Yes I should have read through the form properly, but I had never heard of any type of contract when it came to martial arts. When I asked if I could cancel after a year, they said no and the only way to cancel is if you move more than 25 miles away from the school, if you have a official medical document saying you cannot train or if you buy out your contract.
DO NOT go to Laurence Sandum's Black Belt Academy, as the training itself is terrible and if they didn't have the EFC backing them up, it probably would have closed down(I heard that the BJJ class was being instructed by a white belt who only has a black belt in Judo and that the Muay Thai classes were being instructed by someone who trained through DVD's!) But the more devious side is that they will not say anything about a contract and once you've signed it, you have signed 3 years of your financial life away. The EFC are a dirty contracting company who will lock you straight into a contract and then not let you out. Both the Academy and EFC are a strictly commercial, money making team and they will probably have a shtick about how they embody the passion and true essense of martial arts.
So please make sure that if you enroll in a martial arts school, the three letters of EFC do not touch it in any way shape or form. I have found another club that will give me unlimited training at 40 a month but more importanly, excellent, high quality instructors that are task masters and impliment common sense and effeciency for self defence in the street.