RUFMA Rating: Rutgers FMA Club
RUFMA is the Rutgers New Brunswick Filipino Martial Arts Club. I've only been attending for about a month but I'm loving everything so far. The primary style taught is Doce Pares, though in about a week we are going to NYC for some Pekiti Tirsia training. Some older members have also told me that throughout the year we get teachers from other schools who are friends of our coach (as he likes to be called, as he has a western boxing background) to give us instruction.
I'm giving this a seven because at the end of each 2 hour class, we spar full contact with no armor but padded sticks. Also, almost all of our drills involve practice on an opponent, stick to stick; we don't strike the air for practice. In addition, there is an optional weekend class for students who wish to train for WEKAF where there is heavy sparring (no soft strikes) but with full body armor and unpadded rattan sticks.
The sticks we use are imported from Manila, but I can tell they are really cheap. Almost all the upperclassmen, the assistant instructors, and the instructor himself have their own personal sticks. The sticks the club treasurer sells are really cheap "scorpion" rattan sticks. But they are good for practice and only 14 dollars without a bag, and 25 with a bag (for 2 sticks; 1 stick is 7 dollars). Buying a stick is optional, for class all the students without sticks are provided with sticks, but these are well used, chipped but still serviceable. The padded sticks and WEKAF body armor also have this well used and worn look, but work just fine. We do not have any uniform or belts; there are no ranks here. In fact, my first class Coach told us to just come in whatever clothes we want, stating that we need to learn to fight comfortably in the normal clothes we would wear everyday. It gives the class a very informal feel which I will expand upon later.
Gym Size: 3
We are not a big club. There are maybe only 20 of us who come to all the practices, give or take a few "now-and-theners." We practice in a dance studio that we share with many other clubs. There are no mats on the ground, and honestly even with the small class size I sometimes find myself without enough space to practice with a partner without colliding with someone else practicing around me. But we do not bring a lot of equipment; everyone brings their own sticks or borrows some from the club, and the WEKAF equipment is only brought on weekends. Maybe a punching bag will be brought now and then, but otherwise we are pretty self sufficient so a large space is not really needed. It works.
I really like the people here. Everyone seems helpful, and unlike the Karate school I use to go to in middle school (which I recently figured out to be a McDojo on reflection). It is very personal. We are all friends on facebook, and our Coach somehow balances being a strict and practical teacher with getting to know his students without crossing over into that morally gray area of "I thought you were my friend, coach..." etc. where things get awkward. A friend of mine who practices pekiti tirsia in Jersey City learned and is still learning in a backyard. Very informal, but very practical. His class was made up of personal friends "in the know" of the instructor, who did not have a formal "dojo" or business. He taught them because he enjoyed teaching and was their friend. I've seen my friend fight (he's been doing pekiti tirsia kali for 4 years now) and and have asked him to show me some stuff; he's the real deal. The instruction/mood/atmosphere/attitude here has that same "backyard teaching" feel.
Striking Instruction: 6
Again we tend to almost always practice with a partner, stick to stick, hand to hand, in addition to tournament style practice.
Grappling instruction: 5
This gets a 5 because Eskrima is not at all a grappling art. It cannot compare to BJJ or Judo. However, I have been taught some disarms here that flow into arm bars and throws, but so far (and I doubt there will be) there has been no ground fighting instruction. I gave it a 5 though for the "upright" grappling/wrestling techniques (my teacher is incorporating both western boxing and panantukan, which has some grappling, into how he teaches us).
Weapons Instruction: 9
Eskrima is a weapon art, first and foremost. From day 1 I've had practice and instruction with a stick.