Atlanta (Sandy Springs), GA - Alliance Martial Arts (BJJ)
I have been training at Alliance BJJ for over half a year (from previously training at another Alliance affiliate). Though a bit further away than I would like, it is located in a reasonably central area, taking me maybe 20 minutes without traffic to reach. We have students from all over Atlanta and the surrounding areas who come to train with us. A number of Army Combatives come to train with us as well (Jacare has done quite a bit of work with the guys at Ft. Campbell).
We have students from geeks to jocks, with a few older dorks thrown in for good measure. Ages range from 15 to 45 in any given class, with all body types represented. Even with 2 large mats, we sometimes have slight mat space issues when doing techniques, but this is usually due more to white belt roaming (a phenomenon in which white belts practicing a technique move across the floor as they attempt to figure it out). We even have a few women who come and train with us, but I wish there were more. This is a fantastic sport for women and we have several good women to train with. The ones that come (and stay for more than 2 months) tend to get the bug, just like guys. Though it is hard in any club for white belts (I mean seriously, how many white belts have been through your school over the years), everyone is friendly and helpful. The attitude that we are training partners and not in competition with one another is pervasive.
Coaching is done primarily by Jacare, but is sometimes covered by one of his blackbelts, whether Roberto "Spider" Traven, Pat Harvey, etc. I can think of all of 1 class in the last 6 months that was not run by a blackbelt, and it was a no-gi class run by our school's top competing brown belt Chris Moriarty. It is not uncommon for Jacare to let one of his blackbelts visiting from Brazil run classes if they are in town. Though the classes tend to be big, the coaches do a fair job making sure to watch everyone and give pointers, encouragement, etc. Jacare has been coaching longer than many people have been training, and it shows.
Classes are available 6 days a week at this location and are about 2 hours in length. The typical class has:
* A standard BJJ running laps, cardio, BWE warmup.
* This is followed by either standing self defense techniques or throwing practice (uchikomi to kake, with a lot of repetition)
* Techniques on the ground. Techniques are usually taught in progressions of sets (for instance standard butterfly guard sweep, then a re-counter sweep based on uke posting with his hand, then a re-counter centered on taking uke's back).
* Next are drills. Drills are 3-7 man groups doing round robin guard passing, back taking, side escaping, etc drills, where the winner stays.
* Last (and sometimes instead of drills) is rolling (or as Jacare calls it "regular training"). Rolling is usually 2-3 rounds of 5-8 minutes each (usually 3, 7 minute rounds), starting from the knees. After this, class is dispersed and open rolling is encouraged, to wear out all of the people who still have energy left (i.e. normally not me).
Though we compete (and dominate) in local tournaments, we also have a contingent of players that compete in regional, national, and international tournaments, often with great results. Jacare encourages everyone to compete, but it is not required (though he often discusses the importance of competitions for jiu-jitsu progression). We have MMA competitors, but Jacare has strict requirements before he lets someone fight (typically at least a purple belt and with solid standup training with Manu or Traven). If you are looking for an MMA-centric school, our progression may be a bit slow for you, however the caliber of our MMA fighters is top-notch.
If I could have one wish, it would be for more no-gi classes. Currently, no-gi classes are on Tuesday nights (which is officially gi/no-gi, so sometimes it gets skipped) and Friday day classes. I understand the reasons for a base in gi grappling (which could be a thread unto itself) and would note that no one in the purple range and up is gimped in any way in their no-gi game, so Jacare must have something going right.