Obukan Judo (Portland, Oregon)
Also on Facebook under Obukan Judo Dojo, Inc.
Location: Peninsula Park Community Center, 700 North Rosa Parks Way, Portland, OR
Cost: $30/month if paying monthly. 5% progressive discount if paying 3, 6, 9, or 12 months in advance, to a total of 20% off when paying for an entire year's dues. Also, US Judo Federation membership ($50) and gi. Discounts for kids/family memberships (I have neither, so I'm not familiar with the details).
What that gets you: Practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:15pm to 7:45pm. Instructors are usually there early and available for questions and extra coaching. Saturday practices are available via another club Obukan has an agreement with, and as long as we're polite and ask permission of the instructor there we can attend their Saturday morning practice.
My background: Not an athlete or martial artist. I fenced for two years in college and tried to do Muay Thai at my university's club while in grad school, but I am a terrible striker and have never been in great shape. Bottom line: I didn't know how to decide on a style or school until I found Bullshido and did more reading, so if I sound like a noob, it's because I'm a noob.
That said, I am very happy with Obukan since I started in February and I intend to stay there to work my way to shodan eventually. I promised in this thread that I would review the club after getting my green belt. Tonight I tested with five other white belts for it. So that's from February 1 to July 28, and I missed a lot of practices due to injury or travel, so judge whether that is fast/slow/right on for yourselves. Also in that thread, judoka_uk started got pretty excited about how great my club sounded given the beginner's program and transition to the main class. As far as Judo clubs go, I think I landed in one that's pretty close to ideal. It would be nice to have a dedicated building, and that is a goal for the board of directors. Here's the short version and then I'll do the standard review numbers:
Pros: Lots of experienced instructors and other black belts, great attitudes, focus on effective Judo. Super cheap, even for Judo (cheapest Judo in Portland, even if you're paying month by month).
Cons: Community center has no changing room, mats need to be constantly pulled back together, practice only held twice a week (biggest con in my mind).
Hard contact limited to one range of fighting. All practices have about 30 minutes of randori, not including drills where we're going throw for throw to practice something specific. White belts are not to spar with each other but told to find partners of higher rank. Most of my randori has been with black belts, all of whom take different approaches. Some let no mistake in footwork go unpunished. Some wait for me to make a few attacks and then go a bit harder, but will allow me to at least attempt whatever I think I'm doing. Some just come in and kick my ass. Shiai is less frequent, perhaps 2-3 times/month, and usually in preparation for competitions.
Bring your own gi. Tape is usually available, if you need tape. Some people might loan out a blue gi for a competition, but not for practice. Mats are primarily for wrestling and not the super-nice Judo kind, if mats count as equipment.
Gym Size: 7
I'm not sure about this since I don't know the square footage. We practice in a gym at a community center where there is ample room to have the juniors/beginners on one end and the seniors (maybe 15 or so?) taking up about 3/4 of the space. It's enough room during randori, with minor collisions once in a while when two of the better Judo players are really going at it.
Instructor/Student Ratio: 9
"Senior Instructor": 9th Dan (no longer actively instructing, oversees administration). "Head Instructor": 7th Dan (does not engage in randori anymore, but is actively instructing). Who can I reliably count on to be there for instruction: Three 5th Dans, two 4th Dans, many other black belts whose ranks are between 1st and 3rd (not technically instructors, but they are to me since I'm a noob). Fifth Dan Rod Conduragis leads most practices and is active in telling me what I'm doing wrong, as are the other instructors.
Supportive but challenging. The attitude of the instructors that they are happy to practice with us (even though they aren't getting paid) trickles down to everyone else, and it appears to me that everyone wants to get better, whatever their rank. Mutual benefit and welfare is a priority in this club, and consequently it does not appear to attract douchebags at all. Rod Sensei is the right combination of hard on us to make us better and very supportive of all efforts we put forward. In my opinion, this is where the club really shines. If that makes me a hippy then so be it.
Grappling Instruction: 9
How would I know? I'm a lowly green belt. That said, it seems to me that it's excellent. Competitions are highly encouraged, and at least locally, Obukan appears to blow everyone else out of the water. I don't know how that would translate nationally. Rod Sensei drills us to make good, clean throws regardless of context, and his advice is to learn few throws very, very well over practicing how to do lots of throws.
Striking Instruction: 1
It's Judo, so there isn't any. Since I meant to find a Judo club, this is approximately as important to me as whether the club provides snacks during practice (1=no snacks, 10=fresh sushi served off of hot naked women).
Weapons Instruction: 2
You can come early to watch some of the black belts do compliant partner drills involving fake weapons if you want, but that's about it.