Bear Essential Combat
I've been training here for a relatively short time, but I'll give my impressions :)
Aliveness: Most every drill/training exercise we do is done with progressive resistance. Most striking drills are done with partners and only occasionally are the heavy bags/pads used for conditioning purposes and muscle training. The school spars constantly and moderate/full contact sparring and rolling happen in every class. Even 'dead' drills are done with some resistance, depending on the skill level of the practioner. We don't hit a few pads and call ourselves experts. Any technique that's to be used has to be doable on a resisting opponent.
Equipment: The equipment in the gym is average. It's not sparse but it's nothing to write home about. There are loaner gloves/wraps/guards, etc... for those not yet having their own equipment. There are a line a heavy bags against the wall and some decent 'wrestling' mats that can absorb a fall fairly well. It's a small gym so there isn't much room for a TON of state of the art equipment, but what they have is suitable for the needs of the students.
Gym Size: It's a smallish gym in physical size. This is ok since the student base and class size is currently small. There's still easily enough room to train/spar/roll without bumping into anyone else or crashing into anything.
Instructor to Student Ratio: The student base is currently a select group of regulars and so individual classes tend to be small and personalized. The instructors can easily see everything that everyone is doing and are always right on top of things, correcting mistakes, making suggestions and the like. It's also easy for the instructors to watch everyone sparring/rolling and coach from the sidelines. At times, you're almost getting a private lesson because of the small class size. There is DEFINITELY no issue with having too many students at once and not enough instructors.
Atmosphere: It's a very laid back place to train. The instruction is professional and you're expected to take it seriously, but no one's going to punch your ticket if you make a mistake here and you certainly don't have to worry about getting mauled by overly agressive students if you're less experienced. We're free to fling jokes around and chat as we train(within reasion of course) and you don't feel like anyone's going to give you brown stars if you don't do as well as you'd hope. The instructors are patient with even the newest of students and are willing to go over techniques over and over again without complaint.
Striking Instruction: The striking we do is mostly MT with a traditional base. The instructor has gone and still goes to train in Thailand from time to time and has competed in numerous tournies here and there. Emphasis is on learning the basics first and focusing until a technique is second nature, such as good footwork, correct posture when throwing a kick, etc... Safety in training is also paramount as every student is made to wrap up and use good quality gloves, shin guards, headgear and the like to insure that we can go all the way to full contact with minimal injury.
Grappling Instruction: The instructor has won several submission wrestling competitions and still trains an active team. His training spans from BJJ and Judo all the way to traditional wrestling. Techinques are all taught with a progressing degree of resistance to each techique and it's not unheard of to spend a whole class discussing the finer small details of a given takedown, submission, escape, etc...so that you know WHY you'd do something a certain way instead of just how. We roll every class and normally have the instructor coaching from the sidelines.
Down for the count,
I feel obligated to make mention at this point, that Bear Essential Combat has closed down. I THINK it's due to financial issues, but I'm only guessing at this point. I haven't heard from Bear as of yet. I dunno if replying to my own thread is the best way to handle this, but for anyone's sake who's looking for a school, I felt I should say something. Thanks everyone.
Correction on this, Bear's reopening on April 1st.
As of April 13 2010 I received a series of text messages from Bear. He is open and back and running...I plan to go in on Monday 4/19/10
Bear closed his gym last year