White Dragon Judo Club - St. Louis, MO
Aliveness-8: The instructors are traditional guys teaching traditional judo. Experienced students go hard and fast, and noone is encouraged to give away throws to their sparring partner. I almost gave a 9, but noone seems to be over the top with their intensity or gives the impression of Olympic aspirations. I haven't seen any broken bones, but they are serious enough that when a student protested a technique that dropped him on his back by stating that technique is illegal, said student was told by the instructor that did it to him "it's illegal in a tournament, but NOT in randori".
Equipment-8: maybe a little on the high side. The mats are not brand new, but they are in decent shape, as are the crashpads, and there's no shortage of suitable surfaces to land on. They have loaner judogi jackets on hand for visitors and they are in decent enough condition-definitely not brand new, but not torn and tattered beyond wearability. In short, the equipment present is more than adequate to be conducive to good training.
Gym size - 7: again, maybe a bit on the high side, but I estimate the dedicated space in the old strip mall to be about 300 square feet, and it is pretty much ALL mat. Other than a small strip of a walkway and chairs at the front of the space, the entire area is pretty much devoted to mat/training space. One thing that does detract from the training space is the support pole right in the middle of the mat. It's wrapped in foam padding, and has several rubber bands attached, so it just is what it is.
Instructor/student ratio-7: this was the hardest rating to feel confident about. I have yet to actually meet the head Sensei. There are multiple black belt level instructors at the club, and there is at least one of them leading training, with the exception of the youth fundamentals class, which may be led by one of the brown belts. On weeknights, there are often multiple instructors present, resulting in a teacher/student ratio of roughly 4 or 5 to one, and sometimes smaller. I have also seen classes where there were 10+ students and a single instructor. So, there is a bit of inconsistency in this category, but I have never observed a class that wasn't overseen by at least one individual who appeared competent and attentive to the students actually learning and improving.
Atmosphere-8: I have observed multiple classes covering just about every age and experience level, and have yet to see an ego. Instructors and advanced students are very helpful in explaining finer points of technique, and are respectful and mindful of those students who are not as proficient or physically conditioned. As a personal anecdote, I am fast approaching middle age, and extremely out of shape, and I was worked physically right up to the point that I wanted to give up, and was given just enough slack, and encouragement, to keep me going through to the end of my first class.
Striking instruction-1: it's traditional Judo
Grappling Instruction - 8: Again, these are traditional instructors teaching traditional judo. I know there are active competitors in the dojo, and the instructors can boast various local and regional wins, but I'm not sure exactly how far that extends to the national arena.
Weapons Instruction - 1: not a weapon in sight, unless you count the planet earth