The McDojo phenomenon has been plaguing the world of Martial Arts for quite some time now. Be warned. The phenomenon is very true.
Let us first define what makes a school a McDojo. It is one that puts in sub-par instruction for the sole purpose of revenue. Atn its core, it is just a business. Let’s be realistic for a second. Running is school is a good source of income. Money is good. Let’s be clear about that. But as a journeying BJJ guy such as myself, the idealist in me cringes in horror whenever I hear students complain about how inadequate the training is, and how quickly belts are being given out. There was a time when a black belt really meant something.
I am always inspired whenever I get to meet someone who has earned his black belt after 7- 8 years in training or so. But would you believe that some schools churn out a black belt within just 2 years of training? Somehow, when some schools focus more on profits, a martial arts school loses its value proposition of teaching an art that was supposed to be passed down through generations, to a mill of diplomas and a stock room of ready-made black belts ready to be distributed to anyone willing to stay for the next 2 years. Two years = black belt. Sounds tempting to some.
Here is one experience that I would like to share:
I was a kid. I was around 9 years old when I first saw the movie American Ninja. And right there and then, I fell in love with the idea of wearing a nice Kimono (I didn’t know it is supposed to call a gi) and intimidate my bullies (bullying story will be told in detail in another post).
So I asked my uncle if he would give me money to sign up for the elementary school’s Karate program. I was psyched that he obliged. During my very first training session, my wide-eyed curiousity soon became a nightmarish, gut-wrenching experience… I didn’t enjoy it. What I paid was $20 back then, and soon turned out to be more of a hard-core, almost Spartan-like training session. We were training on paved ground. There was no equipament to protect the students while sparring.No mats. Just hardcore paved cement… with a bit of sand coming from the nearby construction site. I had bruises when I get home from training. It wasn’t a fun experience. But there were a lot of us taking the class. We are told to spar with higher ranked students. These students got their blue belts after 2 months. (LOL). And it’s contact Karate. I didn’t know the term McDojo back then, but it was an eye opener. I almost swore off of martial arts. I was also asked to tell my mom to advance for the next two months for the class.
I quit after 1 month.
So there. I wish not to dwell on the negative aspects of a McDojo. But rather, focus on talking about what makes a Martial Arts school LEGIT, TRUST WORTHY, AND WORTH THE INVESTMENT.
Signs that You SIGNED up With a Legit School
- There are not many black belts out there. Simply because the school believes that a black belt is a well-earned badge that signifies skills, hard work.
- Your school is comprised of people who follow policies for promotion. And if it’s a network of schools, the same rules apply.
- A solid belt system to make sure that everyone possesses the right skills before earning right of the degree.
- Your school promotes personal growth in line with training.
- There is a system of training that is strictly being followed. There are schedules for training that are being followed.
- World-class competitors are derived from the school. It’s not the competitor, but where the competitor’s lineage lies as well.
- If a school gives in free trial classes, it’s a sign that it’s a legit school. A school who has no qualms in giving 1-3 lessons for free is school confident in their craft.
- The instructor assures that the development of his students comes before his own welfare.
- If the instructor joins in the training program.
It’s difficult for those who are new to the world of BJJ to tell the bad from the good. But a little research will do good on where to go, and who to learn from.
The McDojo will continue to exist. I believe that there is no way to stop them. But come to think of it, those who know better, do better. And if you are reading this article, I bet you are one of those who knows and will do better. If you have found yourself stuck in a McDojo, better start thinking. If you feel that what you are getting is only 90 minutes worth of aerobics, and a bunch of formless, instruction-less training, then better get out of there. If you feel that your progress is way too fast by being given a brown belt in just 1 year of training, then that is a red flag!
The journey in BJJ doesn’t end with the black belt. And I sure hope that it doesn’t end in just 3 years of training. If the values presented to you by instructors focus on self-growth, respect, and awareness, then you are in the right school.