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Four Schools That Offer Courses off the Beaten Path

In stressful times like these, sometimes doing something out of the ordinary is the best solution. Picking up an instrument or learning a new language, for example, are skills that we can easily learn in a classroom or through a personal instructor.

But not all lessons are created equally. For the more curious person who’s looking for an alternative to basic knitting or learning piano, there are some alternatives—some really wacky alternatives.

Ninja School
The mystique of the ninja has been analyzed and glorified throughout popular culture for decades, from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill series. But in this day and age outside of Japan, where can one acquire such skills?

Warrior Quest International is the answer. Based in Denver, Colorado, Founder Mark Steven Grove has culled together a core group of instructors with decades of experience in the modern warrior tradition of the Kurai Kotori Ryu (Clan of the Dark Lone Bird), which includes the ability to use a variety of weapons in combat such as the short staff, knife, short chain, and throwing spikes.

But while Warrior Quest provides a plethora of information on everything from the origin of the female ninja to information pertaining to certain types of poisons a ninja might use, you shouldn’t expect to turn into a killing machine.

“We get a lot of people in like that … we love to have them come in and see what it’s all about, a lot of times they’re surprised by how much of the ninja discipline we practice and sometimes they’re disappointed. I mean, we don’t go around trying to kill people or anything like that,” said Sara Salazar.

Salazar is a seven-year “Jiki Deshi,” or personal student of Grove’s. “There isn’t enough I can say about Warrior Quest. Mark is a wonderful teacher and there truly is something for everyone who comes through our doors.”

Kissing School
You think you’ve got the necessary skills to deliver a kiss that kills? Do you make your partner’s knees buckle with your perfect pucker?

Maybe you do, but most likely you don’t, according to Holistic Psychotherapist Cherie Byrd. Turns out kissing is the kind of skill that can be crafted under the proper guidance and instruction.

Byrd’s Kissing School has been a long-standing course in Seattle for eleven years. “I’ve been a therapist for over thirty years now, and what I noticed about people in relationships is that the connection is about opening the heart and dropping the veils,” she said. “It’s about looking deeply into each other and learning how to touch each other in intimate ways, and I wondered what basic feedback do they use to do that. Kissing is one of those.”

Whether you’re married, in a relationship, or single, Kissing School has a lesson for everyone. Don’t have a kissing partner? The school can provide one for you. Not in a relationship but have a friend willing to join you? Not a problem. Prefer private lessons? Done.

“Some people come in quaking at the knees, especially when a wife brings her husband and he didn’t know where they were going, that’s happened a lot,” Byrd laughs. But after a day’s lesson that relies on a lot of tantric practices and learning how to receive and offer—most people don’t know how to do both, Byrd says—people leave changed by their experience.

“It’s like watching flowers blossom. It’s just amazing how much people change in a day; they all look about fifteen years younger,” she says.

Like most businesses, enrollment is down due to economic woes, but Byrd insists her school should be more relevant than ever.

“Whenever anything happens, love goes out the window. It becomes the last thing that people think about, which is really inside-out, in my opinion,” Byrd said. “But it’s what heals everything and keeps you enthusiastic. It’s really the support of everything and we forget that so easily.”

Reality TV School
Believe it or not, not everyone possesses the ability to be the next Heidi and Spencer Pratt or Omarosa.

But if you want to be or have a desire to make your own mark in the world of reality television, there’s a school for that. At the New York Reality TV School, founder Robert Galinsky wants you to be the best reality TV personality you can be.

“In reality shows, it’s about creating your own identity and bringing forth your own magnetic personality. [People] usually think they should be fake or sensationalize, when actually you should go in the exact opposite of that,” Galinsky says. “People need to show up as themselves, but be very specific. People overlook those little things in their life that make them interesting. I mean, not everyone drives a tractor for work or hits yoga every morning. It’s those little details that matter.”

 The only program of its kind, the school puts actors and non-actors alike through the rigors any reality TV contestant might face, from the audition to the interviews to being on an actual show.

“We are about finding and highlighting what makes you unique, building your confidence, and examining how you package yourself, so you can get cast on the show of your choosing,” Galinsky says via his Web site. “We train students to be exciting, confident members of Reality TV casts and … readily showcase the dynamic qualities of their personalities to be able to shine, showcase, and supersede the expectations of cast mates, producers, and audiences.”

How you want to wield that knowledge—say for Lauren Conrad-good or Speidi-evil—is up to you, of course.

Clown School
“Clowns are not normal, but who wants to be?” says Zipp the Clown, founder of the Concord School of Clownology based out of Pleasant Hill, California.

Using her more than thirty-five years of experience, Zipp, as she’s called, takes her clown school pretty seriously. Students go through a four-month course that includes basics like applying makeup and making balloon animals to nailing routines and finding their inner clown.

“Whether you’re fat, thin, tall, short, as a clown you need to understand that you’re somebody else, and it’s really great to be somebody else,” Zipp says. “I’ve had lawyers, pharmacists, and teachers take the course.”

Graduates walk away with a certified diploma and an understanding that when you’re a clown, you should be prepared for a little razzing by the occasional Average Joe.

“You cannot learn clowning in a classroom, so we’re in and out,” she says. “And when they’re clowns, people will yell at them, ‘Hey clown!’ and that sort of thing, but they get used to it after a while.”

So, turning a sad clown’s frown upside down? A useful skill indeed

These types of schools prove that education can be what you make it. What better way to shake off the economic doldrums than picking up a new and off-the-beaten-path talent or career?