In my area (same as yours) the Gracie Bara schools are popular beyond belief, a side effect of this however is that the lower and mid tier guys tend to be very very average. This doesn't point to anything bad about the instructors or the school (an average purple belt will still own 99.9% of the people he will encounter), but just due to the amount of students it seems they don't get the focus and attention they deserve/need. Before I get bashed, the top level guys are very good and i don't question them at all (in fact i don't question anybody at any level that competes). Also the Gracie Bara guys are not bad by any means, they could just stand to have a little more individual attention in my outsiders opinion. (there is like 50 gracie bara schools in houston so this may be case by case)
Now I see you used to train under team tooke, Tooke is the real deal, no questions asked, but i assume he is not your head instructor since he is most definately not a purple belt.
While I am not affiliated with team tooke in any way I find it hard to beleive he has his name on any kind of bullshit program like you are describing. (100% MT with no head gear is fucking insane)
If you are looking to switch go check out paradign training center, my school is affiliated with them and they are one of the top teams in houston for bjj. (they also do wrestling and MT)
sorry just wanted to follow up and make clear that i am not accusing any of the local gracie barras of bieng mcdojos or bush league, just overpopulated.
If you are doing martial arts for self defense and self development, I think taking a lot of head shots at 100% is counter productive. One of my teachers only flows because he trained in a similar school, and because of all the head injuries boxing and sparring that hard, he gets headaches from even minor contact. There is a lot more awareness now about TBI and how injuries now can become serious problems later. I THINK that the WTF has a rule that you can't compete for 3 months after a knock out, and for a year after a second. A 3rd KO = permanent retirement. If that isn't WTF, I think it is another large company.
I'm really against even rocking the head for these reasons and others (I most of all enjoy small glove sparring) and I believe you can get a good painful reaction in friendly sparring without turning someone's head. There is benefit to fighting and going 100%, but you need a real professional who believes in that kind of training, who also believes in and exalts safety, has some sports safety training, emergency response plan, and rules based on sound science regarding how to handle clients that have been hurt in the past.
Just be careful.
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