Northwest Fighting Arts Portland, OR
I joined NWFA in early May after finding them on a google search. Unfortunately I did not mention kung-fu (as the ad from googleads demonstrates) when i joined to get the first 4 weeks of training for free. Silly me. The lead instructor and owner, Jeff Patterson is a great guy. Somewhat impersonal but very dedicated to both Internal Tai Chi-style arts (as of writing this he just spent a week in Vancouver BC training with HIS master) AND external Muay Thai/MMA style arts. Students have been invited to attend the second muay thai seminar in the last three months.
Classes are seperated into one of 5 different packages in 3 different payment plans. Packages are Internal Only, External Only, Internal/External, Youth class, and Group class+1 hour weekly private seminar with Jeff. Payment plans are contract based. Payments are all monthly with the cheapest being the 12 month commitment plan. Electronic debiting is the preferred method of payment. Internal arts only start at 100 dollars for the 12 month package. Extrnal only starts at 120. Combined 12 month package for both is 160. 12 months of youth classes are 120 and group+solo is 360. You'll be paying more for just a 6 month commitment and more than that for just the month to month plan. Think 20 dollar increments.
Students are all very helpful and Jeff will pair a new student with an experienced student for the first couple of classes. Everyone is respectful to a fault. Class sizes vary from 2-5 people in the morning to 30+ in the evening. Assistant instructors often lead the morning classes. John, Jeff's chief assistant will even call you at home if you miss a couple weeks worth of classes to see if you're ok and still able to come in.
The school mainly focuses on Muay Thai and Tai Qi/Qi Gong. Secondary classes are offered in grappling with tertiary classes offered in JKD/Kali. JKD classes are a bit fluid with different emphasis being placed throughout the year. Testing and ranking is available for Lameco Eskrima, the main form of FMA taught at the school.
Downsides of the school are definitely the impersonal atmosphere that develops between the students. I've never been called "sir" so much in my life. Oftentimes, that's a crutch for the fact that people don't know your name. Jeff will call you by your first name the first day, but he deals with so many people in a day that he won't remember it beyond that until you've been coming to classes for a couple months and he remembers your face. You have to really get in there and introduce yourself. I made a serious effort the first few weeks to learn at least 2 people's names every class and say goodbye to them personally every time I left and walk up and greet them every time I came in thereafter. I remember joking with a fellow classmate about what a triumph it was when Jeff referred to me by my name during class one day instead of the standard "sir". There are certainly levels of belonging that go on in this school. First being referred to by name, second being asked to demonstrate a drill, third being asked to work with a new student, and fourth being asked to lead the class for a time. Another thing was the hard sell that Jeff does after your first class. He lets you train hard for the hour, then takes you up to his office and sticks the contract in front of you. You're all worn out from training and really not able to think straight, which is a bit unfair (but highly effective).
Honestly, the upsides vastly outweigh the downsides of this school. If you can get beyond the somewhat impersonal nature of the huge student body and really try to integrate yourself, you'll fit in fine.
I'd give the school an 8/10.