New York, NY - New York Jiu Jitsu
New York Jiu Jitsu is a school founded and headed by Sensei Jason McCarthy, a third-degree black belt in American Jiu Jitsu, and also founder of the MIT branch of the American Jiu Jitsu school. American Jiu Jitsu was developed by O'Sensei Joe Puleio, whose credentials include seventh-degree black belts in two Japanese Jiu-Jitsu schools (further credentials on the website).
The Reviewer: My prior martial art experience was a year of McDojo TKD in Ohio, at a school run by a fat man who couldn't kick above his knee. In addition, he borrowed a large sum of money from my father and then vanished. I use this experience to gauge the bullshido content of the school.
The Negative: There are so many positive qualities to the dojo that I will begin with the negatives. The school puts a great deal of emphasis on Ippons (choreographed counterattacks, which are drilled many, many times), particularly at the lower levels. If students assume they are capable of defending themselves because they have a five-strike combo memorized if the assailant happens to grab their wrist, they may someday have a rude awakening.
As the belt testing is mostly based on successfully performing these choreographed routines, it can lead to people having higher ranks who would clearly get the snot knocked out of them in a real street situation. That being said, the higher ranks (purple, brown, black) have a far more rigorous testing system, and students will not attain those ranks unless their skills are at the correct level.
There are also many belt levels (I believe 16 to get to black), which is a bit irritating.
The student must supply the initiative (ie to ask for faster punches, more resistance), and take responsibility for pushing themselves. That is not necessarily a bad thing, although it isn't uncommon to see students "going through the motions".
The Positive: Balance - the school is ideal for people who are interested in a martial art for self-defense purposes, do not have the time or energy to devote to a more rigorous MMA school, and would like some degree of formality and ritual. Classes are generally fun and engaging, while capable of being challenging. For this reason it is an exciting prospect to train, and never feels like a burden.
Instruction - the instructors are very knowledgeble, realistic people. There is no "one style" bullshido, and instructors are all fans of MMA and sport fighting. As the instructors blend their knowledge into their teaching, a typical class may include some aspect of Muay Thai, BJJ, boxing, etc. They are also very supportive, but realistic. Anyone who lets their guard down while training will be corrected immediately.
The Style - American Jiu Jitsu is approximately 70% stand-up and 30% ground, with the ground being more prevalent in the higher ranks. There is also some stick-and-knife work at the higher levels as well (I'm not there yet). Practicality supercedes all in training, which is a major plus. Eye gouges, fishooks, bear claws, and all other manner of dirty tricks are taught and encouraged in life-or-death situations. While much of the training is based on choreographed routines, the instructors emphasize the reality that on the street such combinations are unlikely to work exactly as planned.
Although I haven't been in any fights since my training, one experience showed its effectiveness. While I was washing dishes, my girlfriend snuck up behind me and pressed behind my knee. My arm went instinctively out to prepare for an upper rear elbow, to be followed by a lower rear elbow from the other side (thankfully, I was able to stop myself before doing serious damage to both her and my love life). Although it wasn't a real "street" situation, I realized the Ippon training is effective in getting the student to react in combinations, rather than in single attacks.
Possibly my favorite aspect of the training is the concept of "defensive stance", a way to put yourself in a ready (but non-threatening) position while attempting to diffuse a situation through talking.
Classes - there are a number of classes available, including a cardio focused grappling class, striking and ground workouts with pads (which are no picnic, believe me!) and classes to teach the appropriate techniques for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. By selecting a combination of classes, most students can craft a training schedule that will challenge and improve them.
Money - The school is not terribly expensive, considering it is situated in the incredibly expensive SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. This brings me to the best point of the dojo - Sensei Jason is a very successful trader (I believe bonds). The school is not run as a money-making enterprise, but rather more like a club of enthusiasts. Many of the instructors have lucrative day jobs, and are teaching not to support themselves (or bilk students, as in my prior experience). That should give an idea of the environment of the school.
Overall: While having some Bullshido elements (many belt levels, choreographed combinations), NYJJ is a good fit for students who would like to learn a practical system of self defense in a positive environment. I would recommend it highly to everyone excepting people who intend to compete immediately in MMA (although it could provide a solid competitive foundation), and those long-haired goofballs who would prance around with bo staffs when I was in college.
EDIT: As the school has moved to a new space, I have increased the gym size to 9. I expect in the next few months the equipment will improve as well.