Would You Like Rank With That? – The McDojo Epidemic.

By Eli Knight

The term McDojo gets thrown around a lot in the martial arts community. It’s not always a term used accurately or necessarily, but sometimes it is more accurate than many people realize.

When a school or training center has multiple locations and is somewhat prescriptive about how their franchise should operate, people criticize. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that. There should be quality control and oversight, after all.

There are, however, companies that pre-package their “product” so completely, represent themselves so disingenuously that it turns into a chain store that sells watered down martial arts by unqualified instructors. These types of businesses package marketing materials, studio layouts, social media scheduled posts, etc. And honestly, these are not in and of themselves, necessarily the aspects that cheapen or turn these centers into McDojos. These same companies though, will actually send instructional video resources so that the instructors of these dojos, typically Karate or TKD, can “learn” basic elements of Krav Maga, BJJ, Muay Thai, etc. and then advertise that these arts are taught in their academies.

You may see large glowing letters “KARATE” on the building, then approach to see listed on the door a litany of martial arts also offered. Upon inquiry and inspection, one may uncover that the instructors of these McDojos are possibly legit karate or TKD practitioners and instructors who have little idea what they are doing in regards to the other arts they claim to teach. To someone with no prior martial arts training, research or insight, these phony instructors have enough salesmanship to fake it; at least long enough to get the person in the door and hook them on a 2-year black-belt-guarantee contract.

To serious martial artists who do the right thing by training hard and working to deliver the highest level of information to their students, these McDojos are extremely offensive. Perhaps the McDojo instructor feels that his karate black belt gives him the right to teach things that he has little or no training in. Perhaps he doesn’t even know the degree to which he doesn’t know something; that real academies who teach multiple arts have put decades of time into procuring the necessary level of education, training and expertise that would qualify them to be competent instructors. It is likely that the instructors who buy into these McDojo programs are just enthusiastic practitioners who want to make money teaching.

I would ask anyone looking for a place to train to do some research. If you encounter people looking for training (and you already know the deal) you should advise them on how to research qualifications and backgrounds prior to making any long term commitments. Certification, lineage, accreditation, association, experience – these things are not guarantees that you will receive solid instruction. However, these items will likely be present in legitimate training facilities. If an instructor cannot or will not tell you how he or she has achieved their rank or training, or worse yet fabricates his or her background, you have probably found a McDojo.

McDojos are cookie-cutter institutions advertising and even teaching things in which they have little to no training. They are factories that guarantee belt ranks for the right price. They have little or no concern for your progress unless you can win a championship and make a name for them by association. They will take any conceivable shortcut and misrepresent themselves as legitimate training facilities. They are a disgrace and insult to actual dedicated martial arts academies and martial artists, as well as a disservice and danger to people seeking to train in martial arts and self-defense.

Beginning training in martial arts is a decision to improve your life. As with any life decision, you owe it to yourself to take it seriously and to seek out training with professionals that take it seriously as well.