Team Katame - Hesperia, CA
Team Katame is a newly-opened Judo club operating in Victor Valley, run by Mike, a USJA Sandan, and his assistant instructor Steve, who I believe is a nidan.
I'm going to tackle this review in the order that the rating system here follows.
Aliveness - very solid 5. This is a Judo club, not an MMA school, so there's not exactly a call for no-holds barred. However, we roll constantly. A typical practice involves some quick cardio warmup, then about twenty to thirty minutes of throwing drills (so far mostly just getting the position set up, because Mike wants to ease people in). This is followed by about forty five minutes to an hour of ne-waza and randori, full resistance. I'm a white belt and I've already been subjected to arm bars, carotid chokes, and gi chokes, and I'm enjoying the heck out of it.
Equipment - It's hard to rate this since it's judo, which is inherently equipment light. That said, there are a dozen loaner gis in very good shape, and the floor padding is great. Very thick but sturdy mats, with carpet padding between the mats and the floor. It's a joy to get thrown on these things.
Gym Size - We're in a gym that basically feels like a converted large storage/office area. You know those strip mall, local business lease-out kind of places? There's not a -ton- of room, but it gets the job done. We have changing areas for guys and girls, a bathroom, and the sparring mats area is large enough that five pairs of partners can do ne-waza, and maybe three pairs can do randori if folk are aware of their surroundings. That said, I have been rolled by my partner right into a different pair of students several times. No injuries, but something to be aware of.
Instructor/Student ratio - this is amazingly good. We aren't a big group, maybe eight to a dozen regulars, very rarely a dozen people in class at any one time. There's two black belts (Mike and Steve), I think four brown belts, and the rest of us are mostly white belts with one orange.
Mike and Steve roll with all of their students, no exceptions. My first night there, I did ne-waza with both Mike and Steve. Both took the time to take breaks and point out 'ok, if that happens, do this,' and let me practice it before resuming ne-waza. I have rolled with Steve every single practice since, because he always has time to specifically teach me something. Similarly, I've been in randori with both. The level of personal attention they give their guys is top notch and genuine - it's not a show to get you to sign a contract, there IS no contract. They love what they do and want to show you everything about it.
Atmosphere/Attitude - I'm sure a lot of people rate their place as a 10, but I really do mean it when I say this place IS a martial arts hippie fest. At the end of class, we line up and shoulder-hug eachother, I am not kidding.
The camaraderie is excellent here. Every brown belt or black belt I've sparred or drilled with has been highly encouraging, given extensive advice, and been very respectful of me as a training partner. When I gas out (I'm out of shape, I admit it), there's no scorn for wussing, there's just 'hey, go get water, catch your breath. take a round off). No one has anything to prove, everyone is having a good time and it shows.
Grappling Instruction - I can't judge this on a qualitative level, since I'm so new to grappling arts. I can say that the second time I did randori, I managed get an inside leg hook against an orange belt and actually throw him. Additionally, while ours is not a competition oriented club, there are members who choose to compete. Recently one of our members competed in a wrestling competition using only Judo techniques, and apparently either won or placed highly (I cannot remember which, I will provide details soon). But I'm not sure if it meets the criteria for a higher rating, so I'll rate conservatively. That said, grappling instruction is continuous, specific, and constantly pressure-tested.
Final thoughts - I've really gushed about this place, haven't I? I think it's one of the rare 'hybrid' clubs, somewhere between competition and recreational. There isn't as much focus on ceremony and etiquette as I was told would be at a rec club, but there also isn't a whole lot of emphasis on getting into competitions. It's just a very relaxed place that wants to push you to do your best, but also respects everyone's comfort level. To sum it up, I have to say it genuinely feels like a 'club' instead of a school. There is a structure and a curriculum, but we do it because it's fun, not because someone is yelling at us or there needs to be a measuring contest.
disclaimer - I am only a white belt in USJA Judo, I have not been doing this long. However, I still wanted to give my honest assessment of the place and promote a decent club.