Seiken Ryu Karate (Northern UK)
I currently train at Seiken Ryu Karate in Rowlands Gill. My previous experience of Karate was childhood classes at a complete McDojo. The style of Karate is Shukokai.
There are several classes in the region, and you can pay a monthly fee to train at as many as you like, or you can pay just for the classes you can make it to. My scoring is based on the Rowlands Gill class, which is where I currently train.
That class is a mixed class (adults and kids). There are adults only/kids only sessions, but real life means that the mixed class is the only one I can get to.
There are two main instructors, and there's a second Dan that helps with the class along with a couple of other black belts that offer guidance to the lower Kyus. The classes are usually pretty small, so you can often get one on one or one on two coaching. I'm one of those people that questions everything, and I've found that they're happy to answer as many questions as it takes until I 'get it'.
Classes involve a warmup with jogging, stretching, and bodyweight exercises, then a little line work and combinations. After that the class will move on to either Kata or Sparring depending on what the focus of the session is. There's a decent emphasis on bunkai in the kata, so it's actually interesting (unlike the place I trained as a kid).
Sparring in class is usually trained as continuous sparring, but the club competitions use point sparring. It's light contact for the kids (with no hits to the head), and for adults it's medium contact (with 'control'). Protective gear wise, everyone wears gloves, higher belt adults also use mouth guards. Some adults do prefer to go harder, but that's optional, and sparring partner choices are pretty limited for someone my size (adult, but a really short and skinny one!) at the class in Rowlands Gill.
The class I'm reviewing is held in a community center. It's a fairly small place, but it's more than big enough for a typical class size.
There's no mats at the community center, so throw/sweeping practice is limited to slow drills. The Senseis do occasionally get mats brought down from a different class, or otherwise arrange for people to get the practice they need before gradings or competitions, but it's not ideal. They plan to get some mats soon though. In terms of other equipment, there are pads for striking and kicking (worn or damaged ones get replaced regularly), and adults wishing to do weapons class can borrow wooden staffs and katana. Weapons class is a separate session, so if you're paying on a per session basis that means a separate fee.
It's a nice, friendly atmosphere, and people will go out of the way to help each other out. Some of the kids tend to mess about a bit, but as far as the adults go the classes that I train at, there's no 'egos', its full of people who are serious about their art and like to see others who are trying to learn.
One thing I really like is that they encourage people to explore other arts. I've been open about wanting to do something more sport/combat focussed in addition to my Karate, and they're very supportive. Other arts are discussed sometimes in class, and higher belts are encouraged to get a rounded view of martial arts, understanding that Karate is just one part of the picture.