one-time visit to Three Rivers
I was in St. Louis for a week, and didn't want to miss out on some training time. I popped in to view a class and perhaps dress out to play a bit.
The group on the mat was working hard, and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Their practice was different than Aikido as i'm used to, but their instructor seemed pretty solid.
When Freeman sensei walked in though, my decision was made.
He quickly introduced himself to myself and my good friend, who lives in St Louis and was interested in joining a school. After a brief discussion of my background in martial arts, and of my friend's lack of one, Freeman had my friend in a wrist-lock, on his knee, and asked him "Who is hurting you?" with a corny tone straight from a Steven Segal movie. Luckily, having seen enough of those films, my friend answered "I am" and was released (and praised for his "philosophical depth"!)
Freeman then asked me to stand up and attack him. I came in with a standard, slow but dedicated Shomen-ate. He performed a nice, solid kote-gaeshi. I could tell that he was well practiced. I was a bit surprised, though, that he took me down on the hard floor, off the mats and within a couple of feet of the ceremonial rocks in the zen-garden-like display that rings his mat. Having just met me, and not having seen my falls, he sure trusted me to fall well! He did commend me for a dedicated attack, and asked me to continue. After several more similar attacks and falls off his mat, i thanked him for his time. I also thanked, in my head, my judo and aikido instructors for helping me develop my ukemi!
I recommended to my friend that while i expected the students learn a lot, i also expect they have a fairly high injury rate. But perhaps i'm spoiled by a class that likes working out enough to make sure we do it relatively safely.