Integrated Fighting Arts, Austin, TX
Integrated Fighting Arts (IFA) Academy, located three blocks west of the University of Texas (UT) Austin campus, specializes in detailed instruction in Boxing, Kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), Submission Grappling, Wrestling, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), and Filipino Martial Arts. Since 1990, our academy welcomes anyone interested in attaining realistic fighting skills, getting in great physical condition, and having a lot of fun in the process.
That's the official website blurb, and the rest of the website is pretty nice too. You can see the teaching style and academy on the many videos the site has to offer, so you can probably get all your questions answered there, but here's a more detailed review anyway.
Aliveness - It's pretty alive in here. Sparring goes on pretty much every day in boxing and grappling (less often in Filipino arts, but it's a regular occurrence), and you go as hard as you and your partner agree too. Any stand up sparring can be taken to the ground, so long as you drag your partner to the mat after getting there. Grappling starts standing, so takedowns are an important part of lessons.
Equipment - This gets a five, but only because nothing is new. It's all perfectly functional though; several hanging bags, plenty of mitts and shields of various kinds, a wrestling dummy or two. All kinds of good stuff to be had.
Gym Size - Not especially huge, but it is all dedicated to the business. There's a second floor, if the first should get too crowded. The floor is carpet, and the mats are quite nice. They cover the entire floor when pulled out, so plenty of room on those too.
Instructor/Student Ratio - Classes are small (usually), and Frank teaches 'em all and always has an answer ready for any question, so I do believe this category merits a nine. Also, private lessons are available at $80 for an hour.
Atmosphere - Quite friendly, but this is a fighting academy, so when the boss starts talking, the students are expected to pay attention. That said, I've made some good friends through the place, and really enjoy it.
Instruction level - I was tempted to get 10's on these, because the man knows his stuff better than anyone I've ever seen, but this isn't a full-time pro fighter gym, so 8 it is. Regardless, if there's anything you ever wanted to know about fighting, be it punching a guy or the history of punching guys, Frank can tell you, and show you, all about it. Everyone should roll Mr. Benn at least once in life. The class curriculums are designed to complement each other, so what you learn in one will show up in the next.
A word on the stick/knife sparring; stick sparring uses armor, so aggression can be (and is) high, but injuries are rare. Knife sparring uses nothing but a blunt knife, but we don't attack the face. This is also done with high aggression.
Long Time Lurker, First Time Reviewer
I basically concur with just about everything Socrates has posted. The instruction is technical, personal, and pressure-tested and Frank will always take the time to answer any questions or concerns you might have. I only left the Weapons Instruction blank because I am not in stick and knife so have no metric to judge.
In terms of outside competition, although there had been a decline in our participation (which had included a Pan-Am Silver in recent memory), we have been putting together small teams again recently and have had some limited success at the local level. I look forward to running into more of the Austin area bullies as time goes on!
As a quick addition, here is the archive of Frank's old writings from rec.martial-arts. I think it (along with the academy's website) does a pretty good job of reflecting the level of instruction offered.