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McDojo FAQ

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I.  What is a McDojo? XI. McDojo History
II.  Why should you care about McDojos? XII. Other Questions/Clarifications
III.  Red flags & warning signs of a McDojo XIII. Author's credentials/Martial arts knowledge
IV.  What to do if in a  McDojo
V.  Characteristics of a good, non-McDojo school
VI.  Guide to picking a new school & avoiding a McDojo
VII.  What is Bullshido?
VIII.  Is there any good in a McDojo?

Questions? Comments?  Complaints? 

IX.  What is the thinking behind owning a McDojo?
X.  "I am the product of a McDojo" article

---Email me----

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What are McDojos?

A McDojo is a school that teaches a watered-down and impractical form of martial arts in the name of making money. They place the importance of profit well ahead of teaching anything realistic or credible in terms of self-defense, and are dangerous is the aspect that they send unprepared & often over confident students into a world thinking they can fight when in actuality they have no real fighting skills. Often McDojos teach a lot of bullshido, which is a term used to define deception, fraud, and lies in terms of martial arts.

There used to be a time where a black belt meant something, back in days where it took years upon years of intense training, pain, and sacrifice.  Those who wore a black belt around their waist had earned it, and they knew how to fight.  Those days are gone though, and honestly, having a black belt anymore is useless. Who doesn't have one?  With McDojos cranking out thousands of black belts to students who've trained maybe one or two years, there is no standard anymore.  We have hundreds of thousands of black belts under 12, many even  under 6, and a society that believes they earned them.  We have 12 year old 3rd degree black belt instructors, wheelchair bound people with black belts, morbidly obese people with black belts, and we have 30 year old 9th degree grand masters. We have people who have never been hit or actually hit another person wearing a black belt, and people who think forms and one-steps are crucial to learning how to fight.  All of these people are essentially ballet dancers with gi's on: they've taken the martial arts and turned it into a dance.  To accommodate everyone and anyone willing to pay for their black belt, they've lowered the standards so that even a 6 year old could pass the test. They've ruined any honor of earning a black belt forever, yet these students who unknowingly wear the rank they have not truly earned yet don't know that they don't have any real fighting skills.  They don't know that all they've done essentially is memorize forms, punch the air, and then pay for their belts month after month, and they won't know until either it's too late or until they seek out the truth.  

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Why should you care?

If you are taking or currently interested in taking a martial art for self-defense, a McDojo is something to watch out for. They will not teach you anything useful, instead your main focus of training will be in areas that hurt your ability to realistically fight. If you are only interested in martial arts for a form of sport or exercise, then a McDojo might be alright for you, but only if those are your sole intentions & goals of taking the class. However if you are interested in learning how to defend yourself, you must know how to identify a McDojo. With more McDojos outnumbering the real, credible schools, it is necessary to be able to spot the McDojos from the real schools.

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Warning signs and red flags of McDojos

There are some schools that can be described as a full fledged 100% McDojo just from a few characteristics or descriptions, and then there are some schools that are alright but still exhibit some McDojo tendencies. What is important is to be able to tell the flaming McDojos from the modestly alright schools, and then obviously from the real non-McDojo schools.  Some of the red flags and warning signs have links next to them explaining why they are bad, and more may be later added if people don't understand why some signs are wrong.

******Red flags******

---------------> If the school exhibits any of these, even just one, it is a 100% McDojo, without a doubt or question. <---------------

  Kid black belts: the younger the black belt, the worse the school is.    [What is wrong with this?] 
  Belt Factory: If students are promoted quickly, such as reaching a new rank every two months, and/or reaching black belt in less than 3 years. Skill is usually superseded by the ability to pay for testing fees.   [What is wrong with this?]
   Lack of sparring: the school rarely spars or never spars, for whatever reason.
   Point sparring: If the ONLY sparring that is done is "point" or "tournament" sparring, or is watered down with numerous rules such as no contact or light contact, no punching to the head, no catching, trips, throws, take downs, joint locks, grappling, hits to the back, legs, below the belt, etc… and the techniques encouraged are kicks, jump kicks, and spins.  [What is wrong with this?]
  Instructor claims to be a high ranking master (such as 9th degree) and is under 50  [What is wrong with this?]
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******Warning Signs*****

Warning signs: Like the red flags, they identify McDojos. The difference is that just exhibiting one doesn't mean that the school is a 100% McDojo with as much confidence and assurance as the above red flags, but it is most likely a McDojo. If the school exhibits a couple of these traits it is a McDojo:

Instead of focusing on sparring, the class is mostly divided into practicing kata/forms, one-steps, board breaks, etc..
The school or instructor promotes the idea that his school and/or style is the ultimate best in the world, or that cross training in another form of martial arts is 100% unnecessary.
If the school or instructor forbids entering tournaments, or if tournaments are restricted to specific styles or associations.
If the idea of take-downs or wrestling is never addressed, or if "anti-grappling" techniques are taught.
If the test for belt advancement consists mostly or entirely of memorization and making your form & one-steps look pretty
If board breaking has a heavy emphasis, or is taught to be an indicating to how well you would fight, or is used as a supplement to full contact fighting.  [What is wrong with this?]
If the school has too many belts, or made up belts (such as camouflage belts)
If the school insists on long contracts and or uses collection agencies for late or missed payments.
If there are expensive clubs that you must join in order to learn or participate in various clinics or seminars, such as the "black belt club", or "masters club"
If the school owns an actual franchise, such as "Karate for Kids" or "Tiny Tigers"
If the school uses a pitch book to get you to join or to convince you to sign your kids up
If the self-defense techniques that are taught aren't at full speed or contact, or if the school is insistent only on one way of doing it
If the equipment (gear/uniforms/weapons) costs too much and/or is only ordered through the organization
If testing and monthly fees are excessive, for any reason
If the instructor is a master, yet under 40.
If the instructor's credentials seem sketchy or are non-existent.
If the instructor proclaims to be a master of many arts, and is also extremely young.
If the school advertises that the grandmaster of the style regularly teaches there
If the school has many students, such as over 100, or if there are many black belts
If once reaching black belt students are encouraged to go start their own school or consider teaching
If ground-fighting is offered, it's exclusive to club members (which usually have a high fee) and/or not allowed until a high rank
The instructor rarely works out with the students and has his assistants do most or all of the teaching
If they teach weapons like the sai and nunchaku as a form of self-defense
If they are a Chinese martial art and use karate belts
If they glorify or try to imitate the Samurai or ninja.

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If you want a good school, you want:

If you are interested in what a non-Mcdojo school should exhibit, and want a martial arts class that teaches you credible and real self-defense, your focus of training must be on sparring.  Forms, one-steps, board breaks, even most of the self-defense techniques they teach will not help you a bit on the street, they are often just used as class fillers. The best way to prepare for the street is through sparring, and not point/tournament sparring, nor low-contact sparring. You need lots of continuous sparring, with at least hard contact.  You also want something with less rules, preferably that allows take downs and grappling.  The less rules and more contact that is allowed, the better you will be at handling yourself in the street.  Now not all schools will allow the beginner belts to go at it right away, and that isn't necessarily bad, but only if they get you sparring relatively soon..  None of this "you don't start sparring until green belt" stuff; you need sparring, and lots of it.  You also want to call around and make sure the prices they offer are fair, and that when you need to purchase equipment you can either get fair prices from them or be able to purchase your own gear on your own.  

Full contact sparring, at least at some point in the training, and with as little rules as possible
Address grappling in addition to stand up fighting, or at least encourage cross training in ground-fighting
Emphasis on sparring and conditioning over forms, one-steps, and board breaking

Fair prices for the amount of training you will receive
When training great is necessary to be purchased, the student should be allowed to purchase their own equipment 

What is important:

Most people have this notion that style is the most important aspect in choosing a martial art, as well as some people automatically brand traditional schools or all Karate and Taekwondo schools as McDojos or useless.  This isn't true.  Not all Taekwondo or Karate schools are McDojos, although they do seem to hold a higher percentage in McDojos.  However good schools exist and so you should never simple dismiss a style (unless it's a made up or bullshido style such as Dim Mak).  The quality of the instructor is far more important that what style they happen to teach.

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What to do if you are in a McDojo and just found out:

 Honestly, if you are interested in learning how to defend yourself, you should try to leave and find a good school.  However that isn't always possible because some places bind you up with long commitment contracts, and some areas are restricted in the schools available.

There are steps you can take to do in the meanwhile if you are stuck in one:

1) Assess how much of a McDojo you are in:  if you are in a 100% McDojo then there is going to be quite a bit to work on and unlearn, but that's alright as long as you admit it and start taking the steps to remedy the problem.

2) Assess where your true skill is:  the only way to do this is through full contact sparring, with no rules.  Get a couple buddies, find some space, and then spar.  If you get hit, don't point your finger and yell "you need to learn control" like you probably did in the McDojo, take it as a nice hint.  Allow take downs, grappling, submissions, throws, joint locks, trips, hits below the belt, hits to the head, the back, etc.  And don't just spar other friends taking martial arts, spar people with no experience, or limited experience.  Go head to head with a boxer and also with a wrestler.  If you are smaller, grab a bigger friend and test your stuff. If you do this, say every weekend, you'll learn where your weaknesses are, and then you can start working on that individually.

3) Train in areas of your weakness:  Once you find out what your weaknesses are, try to rectify them.  If you found out that you struggled using full contact because you're used to pulling your attacks, practice that.  If you've found out some of the moves you've learned are ineffective, such as your kicks getting caught or are too slow, either fix that or get rid of them.  If you are like a fish out of water when taken down, learn some grappling.  If you are beaten with punches or at close distances, learn some boxing.   It isn't too hard to find someone who's had some boxing or wrestling experience; just have them show you a few things.   If you can take other martial arts classes, do so!

4) Keep sparring, that's the only way to find out how you are currently in skill level, and your closest indication to how you will fight on the street. 

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Is there any good in McDojos at all?

Yes, if you are just looking for a sport, exercise, or some fun activity for your kids, a McDojo might offer it. The ATA (American Taekwondo Association), the epitome of a McDojo, offers many positive features to training, even though 99% of them are McDojos. I've seen ATA people get healthier, get better self-esteem, and have remarkably positive results on kids in their Karate for Kids and Tiny Tigers programs, from goal setting to better grades and improved behavior. If you want to put your kids in a fun program for sport, and for that only, then you probably wouldn't mind most McDojos. The problem is with credible self-defense and coming into the streets thinking you are prepared to defend yourself when you have never been taught to fight. If you want to fight, you must avoid McDojos.  But if you just want a sport for fun and know that the stuff they are teaching is not meant for the street, go ahead.

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The Guide to avoiding a McDojo

Ok, so you're interested in finding a good martial arts school?  Here are a few steps to follow:

1. Find out about the schools in your area  and write them all down.  List their location and style.
2. Check the list and eliminate any schools who's style you don't want to learn, if applicable.  (Not recommended, but do it if there is a preference to what you want to learn)
3. Call around and get prices and how many days available for training, and write them down.  Call them all and write it down.
4. If the school has a website, go to it, and read everything available.  Does anything sound fishy? Does it sound good?  Are there pictures of eight year olds with black belts?
5. Go to each school .  Usually most schools offer at least a free day, take it.  This will be your best indication on the school and the instructor.  
6. Watch some classes:  especially advanced classes if they allow it. You especially want to do this if they mandate contracts.  Are there little kids with black belts?  How many students are there?  Does the instructor work with the students or do trainee or assistant instructors do all the work? Do they spar, if so what rules, and how often?  Make a mental note all of this.
7. Ask questions.  Ask how long on average it takes to reach black belt, the average length in between testings, what type of testing & association fees they have,
how often they spar and what contact level to they use, etc..  

8.  If you hear any of these phrases (or something similar) to your questions, do take note:

"We don't believe pain or getting hurt is necessary to learning how to fight (or train)"
"Sparring with contact means you have no control"
"It's harder to throw a kick and stop it inches from someone's face than just actually hit them"
"If you can throw an attack and pull it without hitting someone during sparring, you can throw an attack and hit an attacker on the street easily"
"We have advanced training that allows us to promote faster than other martial arts"
"You should never wrestle a wrestler"
"We have anti-grappling techniques that can stop any grappler"
"Our martial art comes from [insert asian country] and is over 5000 years old."
"We believe in upholding the noble principles of the Samurai & their code of Bushido"
"With our sophisticated training, you can become a black belt within 2 years"
"We charge more than other schools because we offer world class training, we've even had winners at national or world tournaments"
"If a child can do all the same requirements as an adult to become black belt, then why shouldn't he be given a black belt?"

9.  Take in all the information and assess, do any follow-up questions if necessary, and then make your decision.  Don't feel you have to rush into this.  Don't focus on which style is better than another style, focus on the individual school and the instructor; that's where the difference is.

 **Remember, finding a good instructor and school is more important than any petty conflicts over which style is superior. **

************There is no superior style, it all depends on the school, the instructor, and you.************

10.  Make your decision, and enjoy.

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What is Bullshido? How does it relate to McDojos?

McDojos are schools are schools who's motives are after profit first, at the expense of offering watered down material.  They take a real martial art like Tae Kwon Do, water it down so that anyone and everyone can get a black belt quickly, and without ever having to get hurt, and they make it a McDojo. Bullshido is essentially fake or fraudulent teaching, which is also often used in McDojos.  When I say fake or fraudulent, I'm referring to the people who don't have any martial arts or fighting experience yet claim to have such, or teach false and fraudulent techniques.  One such example of Bullshido is Dim Mak.  For everything that needs to be said about Dim Mak, I recommend seeing the video on on Dim Mak.    Click to see video-->

More on Bullshido, taken from  :

"Bullshido" is the more general term used by some martial arts aficionados to describe what they see as outright fraud, deception, or ineptitude in the teaching of martial arts by modern instructors. The word is a portmanteau of "bushido", the samurai code of honor, and "bullshit". Bullshido is posited as the antithesis of bushido, and is applied to situations or schools where martial art instructors publish unverifiable assertions as to their lineage or training methods or emphasis what is described as blatant commercialism at the expense of substance in their training, conduct, or business dealings.
Coined by Neal "Phrost" Fletcher, the founder and site director for the website, the bilingual play on words reflects an assertion by some of the martial arts community that there are those who train to learn how to fight, those who train to pretend they know how to fight, and those who claim that they can learn how to fight on the street without ever having fought in the dojo.
Formerly in East Asia, the tradition was that when an unknown (the traditional martial arts community had a system of references), fraudulent or ineffective school would open in a community, it would eventually be shut down by other schools in the neighbourhood through direct challenges before they could harm or defraud many potential students. If the established schools were impressed by the martial ability of the newcomer during the encounter, then they would, by tradition, be allowed to stay open. If the new school couldn't defend themselves effectively, they would be disgraced by being publicly defeated. This traditional political encounter between different schools became a favourite motif of martial arts movie makers. In modern, Westernized society, such practices are considered illegal, and therefore this kind of self-policing of the Martial Arts community is generally prevented. Consequently, almost anyone can learn a few moves and invent their own style, or claim to be the secret heir of a heretofore unknown ancient tradition going on to teach as many gullible souls as possible under the protection of local law enforcement.
Bullshido is also said, by proponents of the concept, to consist of impractical training methods if they are used out of the contexts for which they were originally intended. Noted martial artists such as Jon Bluming, Bruce Lee, along with many (though not all) members of the forums have asserted that board breaking and kata (forms) are of limited benefit towards actual fighting proficiency and often used by alleged McDojos as "filler" to occupy class time. This view is very common in modern mixed martial arts or "combat sport" circles as well. These critics maintain that such ancillary activities often become the focus of one's martial arts training at the expense of learning how to implement the techniques in a realistic situation. They suggest that the best means to prepare to use one's skills in a realistic situation is through the use of full or hard contact, non-stop sparring with which their current skill levels can be realistically evaluated.

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What is the thinking behind a McDojo? 

Why are McDojos the way they are?  Do people just sit around wondering how to make money and then receive this evil epiphany to open up a McDojo?  Usually not.

   Most school owners of McDojos do not know they have a McDojo.  Often they are the product of another McDojo and have been encouraged from their instructor to start their own school.  They've never actually had to use their stuff in the street to know the truth.

  Not all schools start as McDojos.  Some start as alright schools and move over to the Dark side slowly as a way to keep open, or because they found specific ways of operating increase profits and they like it.

How does this happen?  Well, first...what does every school need to stay in business?  Students.  So the first goal of opening and keeping a school running is to bring in new students and the second goal is to keep students.  What usually happens with the real schools is you have a regular flow of new students, but they drop out within a year or two.  Why do they drop out?  Most people don't like to get hurt, and most people get bored easily.  Many people do not have the commitment to stay in one activity for years on end, especially if the main goal is years upon years away.  People simply don't have the perseverance to stick it through.  And this is why most real martial arts schools do not have many students, they usually just have enough to pay the bills and order a little equipment.  How McDojos respond to the problem of losing students because of pain and boredom is to reduce or eliminate any possible pain (replace full contact sparring with no contact or point sparring), and instead of taking years upon years of getting a black belt, they reduce the time to about two years, add a couple belts, and then make it so they students are regularly advancing rank every 2-3 months?  Why? That reduces boredom, and it makes the short term goal of earning a black belt seem close and possible, yet gives each rank something new to learn (AKA: forms, one-steps, board breaks, etc) to keep people interested.  This way people feel they are learning a lot, they have reasonable & easily obtainable goals (but something that still requires a little work to make you feel like you earned it) and that they have learned something.  Replacing full contact sparring with point sparring or little to no contact ensures that no one gets hurt (outside of occasional accidents), and this keeps people doing it.  This works especially well if convince the students that this type of sparring is actually BETTER than contact sparring (for whatever joke reason).  In a McDojo, things are planned out really well, and you feel like you are learning, that you are better than most schools, and that when you are advancing you are improving.  Why would a mother keep her kids in a martial art where there was a good chance of them getting hurt? They don't want that.  They want the reassurance that little johnny is always safe, but that he's having fun and learning something at the same time.  Although this really isn't possible, to a person with no real combat experience, point sparring looks effective and fun.

Now, the McDojos know not only how to keep their school open (through what I just mentioned), they know how to make money.  They know how to exploit the business to get as much money as possible, and where is the money at?  The kids.  McDojos know what parents want (AKA: fun, improvement & advancement, goal setting, improvement of character, grades, self-esteem,  better behavior, etc) which they can offer, and they know what parents do not want (kids getting hurt, kids getting left out, singled out, or left behind, kids losing interest or giving up).  Then they put together a program that combines the interests and avoids the fears of the parents, and what do you get?  Franchises like "Karate For Kids", "Tiny Tigers", and programs like "Lil Dragons" or "Little Ninjas".  So what's a parent with no martial arts experience supposed to think when they walk into an ATA school, see a bunch of happy children and happy parents, are sat down and walked through a pitch book where they see how their kid will have fun, learn, get better, how "every kid is a winner, every kid is special"?  Of course you're going to bring your kids, the instructor is going to mention the Black Belt Club for a specific price which includes putting a black belt around your kid's waist, taking a picture, and then framing the picture and the belt on the wall saying "future black belt".  Can you blame them?  These McDojos know how to sucker anyone, and of course, at a high price.

Basic philosophy summary:

What any martial arts school needs to say open:    A) New students   B) Students to stay

Any school knows how to bring in new students, the problem is keeping them to stay long-term.

Why do students leave =  bored, frustrated, feels like they aren't getting anywhere, dislikes getting hurt or injuries or sparring

McDojo Solution = increase belts, increase rank promotion & years to get black, add lots of filler activities to memorize (board breaks, forms, one-steps, self-defense techniques), and reduce sparring or limit it to point sparring for safety concerns.  Advertise it as an advanced & sophistical system of martial arts training for all ages

Result = Get plenty of new students and students who stay, and makes lots of money. 

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This article is from A bit old, but still very effective:   

I went into a training program in good faith. I didn't know much about karate, or even that there were different types of martial arts, but I did know that I wanted to learn how to defend myself.

To someone like me, whose only exposure was through TV and movies, when a school opens and you go to see the instructor, and he looks like what he does is a lot like the things you see on TV, you tend to believe that they really do know what they are doing. When the price seems reasonable and he says "you look like you're in pretty good shape, good enough I can promise you'll be a black belt in 2 years" you get excited, and you sign on the dotted line. When he offers you a 10% discount for paying cash up front, you jump at it. And then you start your classes, knowing that in just 2 years you'll be a black belt and you'll be able to defend yourself.

He was right. In 2 years I did get my black belt. I went through the test with a dozen other people, and we all paid $500 to test, and amazingly enough we all passed. We were downright proud of ourselves and each other for getting through 2 years of sweat with each other, helping each other to learn along the way.

Our classes just seemed like what a karate class should be. We bowed in, we called each other 'sir" and "ma'am"; we exercised and pushed ourselves hard to get into shape; we learned countless katas and spent hours working on special kicks.

We learned a lot.

What we didn't learn though, and didn't even realize we weren't learning, was how to use the techniques that were in the katas. We never learned to combine techniques. We never realized just because we could do these katas well, and just because we had nice looking, fast and powerful kicks, that we didn't know how and when to use them. We never sparred. None of us had ever taken any real contact.

Most of us, so damned pleased with ourselves for sticking with it for two whole years, stayed and went for our 2nd degree black belts. And then third. The only thing that changed in the class patterns was the katas we learned. But we were doing so well!

I could have stayed on that happy little path for the rest of my life if not for what happened to someone else. I wasn't even there, but it opened my eyes. It scared me so badly that I had to start reading notes posted on the Internet, and comparing what other people were saying about their schools to what was going on in mine. I even started checking out the things other schools in the area were doing.

One of the men I started class with, one of the guys who blazed his way through to black belt in 2 years and stuck with it along with me was beaten up in a way I didn't think anyone could survive. He was a mass of ripped flesh and broken bones and blood, and that was after a few days of healing. He lost the hearing in one ear and for a while they weren't sure he was going to walk again. All because he was attacked, and he thought he knew how to defend himself.

He says now that he was confident until he was hit with the first punch. All that kata practice hadn't taught him how to block effectively. We were never taught that a kata is a fight from one side and that the things we were doing represented someone else fighting us. It was just patterns we had to learn. Block-punch-kick... well how in the hell was that supposed to teach us anything when we never really knew what it was in the first place, what the movements represented, and how to counter attack?

We're not black belts. We're a bunch of well conditioned dancers.

This guy could have died. As it is he will have lasting effects of being beaten for the rest of his life. It was an eye opener for all of us, when we realized none of us had ever even taken a serious punch. Things just kind of fell into place then. We didn't spar. We weren't allowed to compete. The reason given that sport held no place in his teaching, but the truth is that he couldn't afford for us to be exposed to people in the martial arts who knew what they were doing.

A few months later, we know. We were conned. This joker left his own instructor as a blue belt with only 2 years instruction because he thought he was good enough. It wasn't good enough. His ego could have gotten any of us killed.

If you own a belt factory, please think twice about what you are doing. Your students trust you, and the rely on you to teach them well. I spent a lot of years of my life thinking I was being taught by a high ranking black belt when he was just a smooth talking jerk who couldn't stick with his own training. I thought I was about to test for my 3rd degree black belt. Now I know, after talking to people and then going to see other schools, that I am probably no better skilled than the average 1-2 year student with a orange or green belt. I might be faster and have more endurance, but they know more than I do.

I have started training now with a Chung Do Kwan teacher who is 100% different. Nothing is a given with him. He didn't promise me anything and hearing my version of How-I-Got-My-Black-Belt insisted I begin as a white belt, and he would give me ample opportunity to progress if I learned things quickly.

You know, that first black belt just isn't as attractive anymore.

I just want to be able to defend myself.

If you own a McDojo, think twice. It's not your life that might end in a bloody heap on the side of the road. Can you live with that? I hope not.

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History of the McDojo

Has the McDojo always been around?  When did the McDojos start to take over?  

To assess the history of the McDojos, I went through the archives of the American Taekwondo Association's magazines.  I did this because the ATA is the largest martial arts association in the United States, and because they are the biggest organization for McDojos.  I figure with them being the leading manufacturer of the McDojo, that other schools looking to embrace the McDojo philosophy followed suit after seeing their success.  So, straight from their own literature, the history of ATA Taekwondo:

The Gradual Evolution of Taekwondo

(Taken from the article entitled "Taekwondo's Growth Explosion; The Growth of Taekwondo over the Last Ten Years", by Master Bill Clark.   The Way of Traditional Taekwondo, Vol 1, No. 1 Summer 1995  pages 23-25.)

The 1970's

Made up of mostly men, very few females.  Sparring took a major role, and dominated most classes with the predominantly male students working towards competition.  

Training was archaic compared to today's standards.  Cloth-covered boards were used to improve boards-breaking ability.  Training aids were in the infant stages of being developed.

The 1980's

Females began getting involed, as well as many children and teenagers.  Taekwondo became more of a family activity.  Classes became better workouts for health conscious martial artists.  The teaching of forms took over more importance than actual sparring.  

Safety improvements evolved with many items entering the market which could be used to improve safety in both training and sparring.

Machines which improved flexibility became available, as well as many other advancements to improve martial arts training.

Tournaments concentrated on both forms and sparring.  Self-defense was the reason most people were enrolled in Taekwondo classes.

The 1990's

The 1990s version of Taekwondo is geared toward the complete family unit.  It now has appeal to all ages.  Many schools are offering classes where families can train together.

Training and flexibility approaches become more conventional.  Blocking is easier to learn with the development of padded items specially designed for blocking drills.

Tournaments emphasize safety and form over toughness and sparring.  They are also now open to any individual who desires to compete.  A system of ranks has been established so everyone has a fair chance at being World Champion.  Judging is more precise and professional.

Overall development of the student still remains unchanged.

Full Article available on request.

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Other Questions/Further Clarifications

 QUESTION: Why should it take longer than 2 years to reach Black Belt?  What if my system is more advanced than yours?
 2 years for a black belt is a joke.  Like anything that requires some form of mastery or skill, things take time, maturity, and experience in addition to knowledge.  Think of a doctor.  Would you trust someone who, instead of 7-8 years of schooling, only had 2, even if he read of the same books and knew the material?  You'd be crazy.  Would a Marine still be a Marine if there was a way for a recruit to get through the multiple month training in 1 week, even if still met all the requirements at the end for a normal recruit?  No.   You need years of experience and maturity along with your knowledge, and this you don't get from a martial arts school who gives out black belts in 2 years.

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QUESTION: If a child can pass the same requirements as an adult for black belt, then what is so wrong with kids having black belts?
  I get this question all the time.  Quite simply, if a child can pass the same requirements to get an adult black belt, then the requirements are set too low.  The school just lowered the standards to let ANYONE get a black belt.  Kids shouldn't be able to get a full fledged adult black belt.  Black Belts should be something only the best of the best can get, and there test to get it should show levels of martial arts, athleticism, and skill above the general population.  Memorizing forms, one-steps, and self-defense techniques aren't it.  Now, if your 8 year old is willing to go full contact sparring with a full sized adult, and will win, then sure, he should have a black belt.  But can kids do that? No.  If you can find someone under 14 who can and is willing to step up and prove himself, then fine, by all means.  But 99.9999% of  kid black belts CAN'T  EVEN DEFEAT SOMEONE UNSKILLED IN THEIR OWN AGE, let alone a full grown adult attacking them.

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QUESTION:  Why all the hatred with board breaking?  Why is it a filler?
 Board breaking as a means for entertainment or fun is fine, but it serves absolutely no training benefit.  It doesn't matter if you can break boards, it won't help you in a fight.  You won't be able to snap someone's ribs easily just because you can break boards.  Why? Because when you break a board you have it held as firm as possible, and take your time breaking it.  It isn't trying to block, move, or attack you back like your opponent in real life will, and since no opponent will just stand firm waiting for you to attack them, it's virtually useless to think you can just throw a kick and break someone's ribs easily.  The only way board breaking could be useful is if you somehow attached it to some part of a mobile opponent who was trying to prevent your attacks while attacking you at the same time.  The problem is McDojos use it as a supplement to full contact sparring, saying that if you can break a board you have the power to drop an opponent, but this isn't true.  The only training that will reflect how much power you have in a real fight is sparring.

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QUESTION:  Why is full contact sparring better than point or tournament sparring?  Why are so many rules bad?

 Sparring is important because it is the closest training you have to prepare yourself for the street.  How you spar is the closest to how you will handle yourself in real fight.  If you train to pull your attacks and bind yourself by all of these rules, you will do so on the street.  If you spar with rules like no punching to the face, you won't punch to the face in a fight, or be able to defend a punch from your opponent.  If you don't train with contact, you will pull your attacks in a fight.  If you don't know how to deal with a full contact blow to you, you'll get hurt right away.  If you've never had an adrenaline rush, it will be used against you when you do have one in a fight. This isn't just a theory, it's a fact.  Most McDojo students who get in a fight either freeze, get beaten badly, or result to using tactics that they did before they started their training.  Either that or they throw a kick and get it caught, and then punished because they are used to their opponent not really trying to catch their kick (so they don't know if it's fast enough), and if their opponent punches they get hit (because they aren't used to their sparring partner punching at them).  If you want it to work on the street, YOU HAVE TO DO IT IN SPARRING.  I remember once being at an ATA tournament watching two brown belt kids spar.  One kid kicked and hit the other right in the nose, and the first thing the other kid and the parents started doing was yell at the other kid.  No one ever stop to think, "wow, my kid doesn't know how to block an easy attack because he's used to his opponent pulling the attack".  

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QUESTION: What's wrong with a young master or grandmaster?
 Usually it means they are self-promoted.  40 year olds who call themselves grandmasters are essentially saying "ok, i've learned all that is possible to learn", and that just isn't possible, specifically when they are young.  McDojos often self-promote the instructors to being a Master or Grandmaster for promotional reasons, and what you should think of when you see a school advertising that the grandmaster teaches think is "McDonald's CEO now working the grill at the 41st and 20th street McDonalds".  It just doesn't happen in real martial arts, masters and especially grand masters are VIP, and aren't found at little local martial arts schools.

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QUESTION:  What's the best style to learn? Are all Taekwondo schools McDojos?
 There is no ultimate style, it all depends on the school and the instructor.  Although more McDojos teach Taekwondo and Karate, that doesn't mean there aren't good schools out there.  I hate the American Taekwondo Association and call it the epitome of a McDojo, but I don't know, there possible could be some schools out there in the ATA who aren't McDojos.  A small percentage, but it probably still exists.

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QUESTION: What experience do you have to be making these claims?  How do you know so much about McDojo?
 I have over 15 years of martial arts experience and still going.  My first part included being in a McDojo (a school of the ATA), and I grew up in it, became a 12 year old black belt and later started teaching.  I worked my way up to having my own classes in high school, and was given many "instructor" books from the ATA on how to open up a school and run an effective business.  It included pre-made advertising (very effective), a pitch book I had to memorize and use, specific ways of talking and dealing with kids to earn their trust, business strategies to hook and catch students, their parents, rationale for reasons why we were the way we were, and a variety of other things that, even at 16, made me sick to my stomach.  The older I got the more I knew it was bull, and soon I left to learn some real martial arts. While I was looking for new styles, I saw many schools, in a variety of styles, and found that a certain number of them all exhibit many of these same McDojo philosophies.  I've been around the country and saw  the same thing over and over too; I understand how they work and why they think the way they do, and don't get me wrong, they are smart.  They know how to run a business, there's no doubt.  It's just at the expense of learning martial arts I protest.  Outside of that, I also have years of experience in Wing Tsun, ISKA Karate, boxing, and wrestling.  I don't compete, so I don't have any such experience in that area, but I've had my share of fights to know what works and what doesn't.  Currently I'm not in any school, but I still keep up with my training and sparring quite regularly.  

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QUESTION: I have another question/complaint/issue to bring up, yet you haven't addressed it.
 Contact me

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