Aliveness: A tough one to rate. Mukyu/beginners start with almost totally compliant drills. Resistance increases as the students comprehension does. Randorii is encouraged as is adapting to a technique that isn't perfect. "Giving" the tori the technique is highly discouraged. Sparring is usually done on Saturday after techniques, gear is typically bag gloves, mouthguards and cup. Grappling is fully resisted. Because of the varying levels I figure a 5 fits best.
Equipment: Sparring gear is minimal, weapon training equipment is enough for all members to have access to a hanbo or bokken, and bo on the occasion it used. Because the main focus is tai jutsu and hanbo, the gear is sufficient for that but not outstanding. 4
Gym size: Class is outside year round barring severe storms then inside at a raquetball court. Room is very rarely a problem. Lighting can be an issue for night classes during fall/winter months. 4
Instructor/Student Ratio: There are two primary instructors with at least one or two senior students with decent knowledge of the basics to teach those and help beginners. As classes are not very large the ratio is very positive. 7
Atmosphere/Attitude: Both instructors are very approachable, friendly, and knowledgeable. There is no arrogance, questions are encouraged, and subjects vary widely. There is no "style bashing" and one of the instructors cross trains in BJJ as time permits. Both instructors also accept and encourage requests for subject matter from any student, new or old. 8
Striking Instruction: Almost every technique taught involves at least some striking. Attention is paid mainly on increasing involvement of legs and body in all striking, and accuracy of strikes. The "Rear hand step and strike" (lunge punch) is recognized to be just a training tool that is meant to be moved away from as soon as possible. 6
Grappling Instruction: Again, virtually every technique is a mix of strikes and grappling. Mechanical compliance is stressed far more than pain compliance. Considerable attention is focused on attacking one joint only as a gateway to control the next. Groundwork is not a major subject, however ukemi/breakfalls are done without fail every class. 7
Weapons instruction: Focuses mainly on hanbo, bo, and katana (with the recognition most katana techniques are either for historical/cultural purposes, or useable with a baseball bat). Instructor knowledge with a hanbo is excellent, and the knife disarms are not a common subject but covered well and with a minimum of flash for all. Weapons are not a major focus most times so 5 overall.
A small Bujinkan school just outside Metro, DC the major focus of the techniques is self defense (engage, inflict damage sufficient to break contact, disengage, don't get sued). Competition is neither encouraged nor specifically discouraged. There isn't an decidedly anti-competition attitude, it's just not the focus, and most of the kuzushi are decidely against unified rules. There are no unrealistic expectations (eg"This punch will destroy his trachea!"). Sparring takes place but generally only between regular students. Both instructors train hard with their students, and are not offended by students taking other styles.
There is almost no refrence to ninja or samurai, I've never seen a shuriken, naginata or anything exotic, and there is no mysticsm. Uniform is a black gi, unless it's hot out and then it's black gi pants and a t-shirt. The only thing taught is a wide variety of unarmed techniques, and how they translate into simple weapons.
Classes are twice a week, first two lessons are free, and 35$ a month after that, when the instructors remember to collect.
Good review. While I could argue with you about the 7 for Grappling seeing as it is a Buj school the rest of your review is pretty honest and fair so I'll give the 7 the benefit of the doubt. Good write up and explanations.
It was another tough one to rate, while there is definitely more emphasis on standing grappling and arm/body locks, groundwork is by no means ignored, and I figured ukemi was part of grappling, and that is an everyday thing. We're still not up to a good BJJ/JJJ/or Judo school by any means, but we aren't "going to the ground means you're dead!" either.