Posted On:5/28/2009 3:37pm
For readability, I'm going to break this review down into smaller, more easily digested chunks (makes it sound delicious, I'm sure). To start off with, the YMCA offers two judo classes a week. Tuesday and Thursday. Tuesday is throws day, Thursday is matwork day. Each class runs from 1800 - 1900 for the beginner/kid's class, and then 1900-2030 for the advanced/adult class. Attendance is decent, with an average of 20 kids and around 15 adults. There are three main instructors (shodan and higher) with the occasional senior student pitching in. This dojo is recreational with the opportunity to compete (though most of the ones I have heard of are oriented towards juniors).
Aliveness: This! Is! JUDO! The rare kata sessions aside, half of every class is spent in randori (if not more). You get out of it what you put in it - there is no yelling coach here to motivate you. The instructors expect you to put in some time with freeplay, but don't force you past what your limits (self-imposed or not) are. The odd mix of recreational and competitive players makes for a varied randori experience.
Equipment: The reason I voted this a 9 is because there is a fully stocked weightroom right next door. This is my one-shop-stop for lifting, cardio, and judo. There are freeweights (including a barbell in the corner where I do my deadlifts), a squat rack, treadmills, machines, benches, you name it. If you need a nice warmup or a post-judo workout, the layout is very nice. In terms of the judo room itself, it is your average, run-of-the-mill judo dojo. Lots of velcroed-together mats covering the floor, which luckily get cleaned regularly. One large crash pad usually tucked unobtrusively away.
Gym Size: Smaller than I would like for the amount of people. It's not cramped by any means, but you definitely do need to keep an eye out. To be honest this is more of a personal preference than anything. I like lots of room to spread out. As long as you have any sense at all of what's happening around you, you'll find you have room to work with.
Instructor-Student Ratio: Like I mentioned earlier, there are three main instructors. One of them is an older gentleman who has obviously used his body hard - he can and will offer good advice, but don't expect to roll with him. With up to 20-30 students, it can be tough to get individual correction. On the flip side, all the teachers are very good about teaching concepts, even if it does mean they have to wade through a sea of randori to show you how to pin correctly. They may not notice that you need help, but they do offer it thoroughly if you bring something to their attention.
Atmosphere/Attitude: Very mellow. The kids class has lots of fun, with games thrown in every once in a while. There is some amount of discipline expected regarding the traditional tenets (bowing onto the mat, to opponents, etc), but the general feel of the dojo is relaxed.
Grappling Instruction: The best you'll get anywhere within the Olympic peninsula. Actually, this isn't saying much. I will say that this dojo is very good at finding a balance between matwork and standing techniques, with one class per week devoted to each. The loose format per class is usually 10 minutes of warmup, anywhere from 10-20 minutes working techniques, and the rest randori. The randori may be restricted to the techniques learned that class, or may be open. Unfortunately, due to the split-class format, there is no transitory randori (from standing to pin). If you're throwing on Tuesday, you get up after a throw is done. If you're grappling on Thursday, you start from the knees and never stand up.
The grappling instruction itself is competent. Supplementing the instructors are the various backgrounds of the students themselves (wrestling and BJJ experience). I don't know what kind of competition experience the instructors have, but they know the rules in and out. They have also trained some good competitors - most of the middle and high-school students compete semi-regularly, and place highly.
I realize that most of the information in this review is time-dependent. I don't know how much longer these same instructors will be here, or how long the high school program will continue, or how large the classes will remain. However, I hope this gives some of you an idea of what this small dojo in this small town is like. And I also hope that this review will help any other locals find our dojo and add to the class.
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