Gracie Barra Seattle - Bellevue/Redmond Academy
This review is for the new Gracie Barra academy in the Bellevue/Redmond area (the "Eastside" in Seattle parlance). There is a larger associated academy in Seattle proper, but I have not visited it.
This school opened Feb 2009 as an extension of the Seattle academy for Eastside students.
Aliveness - 9
Sparring is used regularly and often as a training tool. Each class ends with two stages of sparring. First students are matched by the attending black belt for specific training. This may involve starting from a specific position (in guard / side control / etc) and sparring to a particular goal state (being reversed). After this the mat is open for an hour of free sparring.
The instructors also often set up round robin sparring where students line up (usually organized by approximated weight), two students from that weight take the mat, and the winner stays in to spar the next person in line.
Instructors are available throughout open mat to roll, offer advice, and observe.
Equipment - 8
All equipment is brand new and the mats are in great shape and well kept. The "8" score represents the quality of the equipment, but also that this is only a jiu-jitsu academy. You will not find a cage, ring, or stand-up equipment here or any weight-training equipment.
Gym Size - 7
I'm not very good at approximating square footage. The size of the matted area is large enough to hold 30 or more students, so it's decently sized. There is a changing room and bathroom, both in very clean condition. The gym has good heating for winter training. Ventilation is quality with high ceilings so stuffiness (from sweat) isn't a problem.
Instructor / Student Ratio - 9
Instructor to student ratio is excellent. All classes are taught by a black belt. The white belt beginners classes (currently taught by Jesse Ruth) tend to be small and have a high degree of personal attention from the black belt. The Monday all-levels class taught by Rodrigo Lopes is large and so personal instruction is a bit lighter, but he takes time to observe every student and regularly interacts with students working drills to comment or correct them. The Wednesday no-gi class taught by Cindy Hales is incredible, with lots of personal attention from the instructor. Overall, the high level of instructor interaction is one thing that makes this a top quality jiu-jitsu academy.
Atmosphere / Attitude - 9
There are no noticeable cliques. Blue, purple, and brown belts are open to rolling with lower ranks. Instructors are serious, energetic coaches who use humor to keep things easy going and focused. Problems with "berzerkers" and other strange grappling archetypes are minimal and handled quickly by the instructor. There is a lot of mutual respect among the students. New students are accepted into the fold quickly.
Grappling Instruction - 8
I am currently a white belt so my estimation of grappling instruction quality should be tempered by my inexperience. My impression is that the quality of instruction at this school is extremely high. Students regularly attend, and win, competitions. At least one instructor is a pro-MMA fighter with a quality record (Cindy Hales). Students are encouraged to train for and enter competitions.
Class scheduling is solid and each class has a long duration. Typical classes involve 20-30 min warmup, 30-min technique, 30-min focused training, 30-60 min sparring. Tuesday and Thursday classes are extra long, with the added white belt portion (although white belts can stay for the all-levels class afterwards for a 3-3.5 hour night of jiu-jitsu).
Intensity is tailored to the attendees, with beginners classes being low intensity and advanced classes being high intensity (with more conditioning as well).
Striking Instruction - N/A
There is no striking instruction at this school.
Weapons Instruction - N/A
There is no weapons instruction at this school.
Overall I highly recommend this school.
This is a comfortable, exciting place to train with great instructors and a lot of personal attention.
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Cost is $110 / month for unlimited training.
I grew up in the area, and I'm glad this has opened up.
Jiu-jitsu is good for the community.
I am a member of Gracie Barra Seattle, and attend the Bellevue location. The facility is top-notch and the instruction is superb. Rodrigo is a very competent instructor, and the atmosphere is competitive yet friendly. I highly recommend this school.
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