Monday, December 14, 2009

11 Signs That a School Might Be a McDojo

I've discussed the topic of McDojos in the past, their disadvantages and their benefits, but how can one tell if a place is in fact a McDojo? To help identify them, I've compiled a list.

It Might Be a McDojo if...

1. It's located in a shopping mall.
2. The words "black belt" are part of the dojo's name.
3. Their logo involves some sort of cartoon animal.
4. They teach every martial art you can think of.
5. They advertise children's birthday parties on the home page of their website.
6. They absolutely refuse to give their prices over the phone.
7. You have to test for "stripes" between standard belt tests, both of which you have to pay for.
8. Everyone always passes their belt tests, no matter how much curriculum they forget during the test or how incompetent they are at what they perform.
9. They make the statements like "Your real goal should be to attain the rank of black belt."
10. As an adult, you have to train with 6-year-olds.
11. They do demos that involve light shows and smoke effects.

This is by no means a complete list. If you have any other items you think should be on this list, by all means, share them in your comments.

Be sure to check out "The Foot Fist Way", a classic mockumentary of a McDojo. Or, read "Enter the McDojo" for a more serious post on the topic.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

You couldn't resist recycling that picture, couldn't you? I think alot of McDojo's teach the latest fad without either being competent in said art or far more concerned with the number than the quality of their students. More than 30 students in a class is highly suspicious: even with assistent-teachers it's virtually impossible to devote the necessary attention to each individual student hence the need to hand out belts like candy. In some school testing really is just a formality: just pay your fees on time and show up for the test and you'll pass without a glitch.

Another sign of a McDojo is the claim they're part of an ancient warrior-lineage without so much as one shred of evidence to back this up. Yet another clue is the teacher's CV: if someone has more than a few black belts in different styles I'd steer clear of him (especially when he's relatively young). It's impossible to earn black belts in 5 or more styles, especially when claiming high Dans. In general making fantastic claims should be regarded as highly suspect: examples of this are Moni Aizik and Avi Nardia. Both claimed to have been in Israel's special forces and counter-terrorism units and to have seen heavy combat (firefights and hand to hand) which is totally unfounded and false. Yet they claim to teach the same material taught to said services: Aizik's organisation is called Commando Krav-maga and Nardia claims to teach kapak or anti-terrorism tactics and techniques. What they teach is basically a modified form of Japanese jujutsu & judo but of course 'commando' fighting-systems sounds much cooler and made these gentlemen rich beyond their wildest dreams.

Another rather hilarious trend is the 'black belt video/dvd-programs' whereby people claim you can make it to black belt solely based on home study and videotaped 'testing'. Can you believe there are people out there who claim to hold black belts (and have the necessary documents to prove it) without having even seen an official instructor or master in the style they're claiming rank in? A great example of this can be found here: http://cjj2004.tripod.com/internationalbudoryuninjutsusuperstore/id14.html With just a few dvd's you can become the world deadliest knife-figher, oh my. It's freakin impossible to learn a style without hands on instruction and claiming honbu-dojo status in a koryu martial-art outside Japan is plain ludicrous. "Rank is honour so is knowledge" my ass... The ninja died out long ago and if you were not taught by a master with a direct and verifiable line to Takamatsu Toshitsuge you're not a student of ninpo, simple. That woman is a fraud and while she maybe good at fighting (at least mock-fighting) and clearly has some genuine experience in Japanese martial-arts she's selling the art and feeds on ordinary people's fantasy of being a 'shadow-warrior, badass commando spy/killer' without having to endure the danger, supreme effort and blood & guts that is typical of genuine special-forces or high-level security/intelligence agencies. Just look at one of her youtube video's: http://www.youtube.com/user/BudoRyuNinjutsuDojo#p/u/3/ZvojxAIRBdA This could come from any Hollywood ninja-comedy: taking a sword from a bad actor is not that difficult (if she can do it with a competent opponent sporting a real katana and no affiliation to her whatsoever I'll be impressed) and sneaking up on someone to cut their throat is not a sign of great skill (any criminal can do it) and I don't see how it could ever have a place in genuine martial-arts training. On her blog she even claims to offer sniper-training, go figure...

Ah well, hope this got a few laughs.

Zara

Lori O'Connell said...

Not many of my readers would notice a recycled image, like you. The sign of a regular reader. :)

Those vids are pretty amusing.

Anonymous said...

It seems I've copied the link to her channel, the video I discussed is called 'Budo Ryu Ninjutsu Dojo Shinobi Stealth Camp 2009' and can be found at the bottom of the page.

Mr. White Tiger said...

What's worse than automatically passing rank tests is the act of retesting and having the audacity to charge another testing fee for the retest....oh and you gotta love the elite "Black Belt Club"....

MarksTraining.com said...

Some good points, all of which i completly agree on, except for the stripe grading instead of a full belt. I think that this should apply for children only. (adults should be able to grade the whole belt).

I think this becuase for some styles, gradings can involve an intense amount of theory, and coupled with school, it may be to much for children. Having "assesments" instead of a full grading where stripes are awarded are great ways to slowly help a child progress, as well as to keep them motivated.

Regarding there charge, each assesment should cost a small portion of the cost for a whole grading. For instance, if a yellow belt grading cost $50, consisting of 5 assesments, then each one should cost $10. (I hope I have explained myself well enough there, apologies if i have not)

MarksTraining.com said...

One more comment if I may, I have always noticed that the sign of a mcdojo is one where the teacher puts down other styles, expressing there "weaknesses" whilst bigging up his/her own saying that it is the perfect combination for sport/self defence.

Anonymous said...

Ah well, maybe I am spending too much time here or maybe I just have a good visual memory. Another explanation would be that you actually have something worthwhile to say and that there are lessons to be learned from discussions here. As to the picture: it deserved to be recycled since it’s still funny as hell (‘testees’, lol), the guy who came up with it is a comical genius.

Zara

Lori O'Connell said...

Mark, no for sure. I was talking more about adults being tested for stripes, then being charged as much as they would for a their belt tests. I have heard of some dojos doing this.

Your comment about putting down other styles is very true. In fact, the instructor does this in "The Foot Fist Way" in a hilarious way.

Zara, I like your third explanation for your being on here so regularly. :)

Lori O'Connell said...

(Zara posted this but I accidentally rejected it.)

I don’t know if having stripes added to certain belts is necessarily a bad idea: if you have a lot of material to teach it makes sense to add extra kyu-grades and either you include new colours (which is somewhat against tradition and ridiculous when you want to add red or multi-coloured belts) or you add stripes to belts. If and when I become a teacher myself I plan to have at least 8 or 9 kyu-grades before black belt, since it not customary here in Belgium to charge for tests and I don’t plan on breaking that tradition I could hardly be accused of doing it just for the money. To me the black belt is the most important belt (next to white: if you never start you’re not going to get anywhere) and a black belt should be able to defend him or herself in almost all self-defense situations (within reason of course) hence it is necessary to teach a lot and prepare them for eventualities that may not be common but could occur nonetheless. Since I plan on educating people thoroughly in the area’s of stand-up (tachi-waza), ground (ne-waza) and techniques with and against weapons (buki-waza), combined with teaching outside the traditional jujutsu curriculum and waza to complement what I perceive as weaknesses in the traditional system I do think it would be a good idea of add extra belts. Unless you want to overburden students it’s best to divide the curriculum in manageable portions and there should be a clear distinction in beginner-levels, intermediate levels and advanced material. The Dan-grades above 1st degree really should be about tradition, acquiring teaching experience, refining your skills, studying traditional weaponry and old-school waza. The most important distinction in the martial arts is between students and masters or people who are still studying the basics and those who mastered them, all the rest is optional. I don’t think the organization of a curriculum or school isn’t that important, at least not as important as sincerity in teaching, proper grading-procedures and honesty about what is taught and why.

Zara

Lori O'Connell said...

It's not the stripes themselves that I take issue with. It's the fact that McDojos charge an arm and a leg for both stripe testings as well as belt testings.

Anonymous said...

That is why I said it's not necessarily a bad idea, I think we both agree using tests as an excuse to charge unreasonable fees is a bad thing. What I don't get is why people would agree to being ripped-off: if it's clear they just want to milk you and do not teach properly I'd take my business elsewhere. There's an interesting saying in Latin about this: "Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur". The world wants to be cheated so let it be cheated. Frauds would never be able to conduct business if it weren't for the gullibility of the public.

Zara

Lori O'Connell said...

Very true Zara.