I LIKE my McDojang

radshop

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First post to MT forum, and I hope it doesn't get me off on the wrong foot, but I see several recent threads about the McDojo/McDojang idea, and I feel compelled to jump in. I'm new to the forum and relatively new to martial arts (8 months), but I believe I'm a mature person and a clear thinker, so I hope you take my ideas seriously.

Il-do Taekwondo in Irvine, CA would qualify as a McDojang by the standards of many on this forum:
  • Black-belt Club (2 to 2 1/2 years, but not guaranteed BB)
  • Lot's of kids
  • Family programs - often all progressing at the same pace
  • 10 belt levels
  • Children and teenagers awarded black belts without true mastery
  • etc.
If anyone else is familiar with this dojang or with Grandmaster Chang Jin Kang, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I started TKD to get my son (age 7 at the time, now 8) into a sport and SD activity that we could do together. If I took him to a butt-kicking dojang, he would never want to go back. If it took him a year to progress from one belt to the next, he would get discouraged. We are both learning and taking it seriously, so we are benefiting. They push us, teach us a combination of sport and SD techniques, but you get out of it what you put into it. The instructors are good at what they do both technically and interpersonally.

When my son gets his BB, he will be 9 or 10, and I know he will be healthier and better prepared for SD than if he had done nothing. It's MY JOB as the parent to help him understand that he's still not ready to take on the world and running away is a safer option than fighting, but if he has to fight he will be a little better prepared (of course not bullying - referring to genuine SD). When he gets the TKD BB, I expect at that point I will encourage him to continue toward mastery or to move into judo, wrestling or something to broaden his skills, and I hope we both will have the mental toughness to push ourselves.

I think most MA students are civilian (not military or law enforcement) and amateur (not competing for money), so these folks are generally looking to "get better", not "be the best," and their level of commitment will reflect it. There's nothing wrong with a dojang targeting that market, as long as they are honest. At our dojang, a black belt seems to mean "mastery relative to your age and physical ability," not absolute mastery. They're not just giving them away or selling them, nor are they requiring us to devote our entire lives. Again, I'm okay with that.

I think a healthy dialog about "how easy is too easy?" and "what are minimum standards?" is a good thing. For those of you who warn about McDojangs out of a true passion for excellence in your art/sport or to expose real charlatans - thank you. I'm not disagreeing with you - I just think we should all avoid an "I'm more special than you" attitude.
 

exile

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Welcome to MT, rad. :)


I don't think the problem is one of 'I'm more special than you are'. It's more the same kind of problem that grade inflation at university is: even at very good schools, there is a tendency for high grades to be awarded to increasingly ordinary (or worse) performances. The result is that a strong-looking university transcript these days is so common—compared with what it was say forty years ago—as to have little credibility: if you are really good, really have earned that 3.98 GPA or whatever, you're still lost in a sea of people who have the same numbers, but don't have remotely like the real performance record that you have. It's like that wonderful line from Gilbert & Sullivan's The Gondoliers:

When everyone is sombody, then noone's anybody!.

The same thing holds with a BB. Most folks on MT understand that a BB is the beginning, not the end, of the possibilities offered by serious training in the MA. But if it merely signifies time on the floor, not genuine competence in basic techniques, their combination, and their application, then you have to wonder if its value as information about the holder of the belt is being diluted to the point where it really doesn't signify anything.

There's a response to this, which I think makes sense: you could say, well, as long as you know that your black belt was earned with sweat, dedication and application over enough time to get you the requisite level, why should it bother you? If you're secure in the quality of your own training, if you know what your BB is worth, then why should it matter what happens anywhere else? I've taken that line before, and I think it does have some validity. But there's a big if involved—the story only holds if the student realizes that they're being given the accolade, the BB, on the basis of lowered, relativized or compromised standards. That's where I think most serious MAists have problems with the McDojo/Dojang: that people are actually not aware of the distance between what they've accomplished at BB on the one hand, and what mastery of the basics, as per my comments, above, really demands. A lot of belt mills seem to be telling people, 'You're there!' when they really aren't—but could be with enough further training from a demanding enough instructor. It's that discrepancy, I think, which is the source of people's discomfort with the McDoj phenomenon.
 

Tez3

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Welcome to MT, rad. :)


I don't think the problem is one of 'I'm more special than you are'. It's more the same kind of problem that grade inflation at university is: even at very good schools, there is a tendency for high grades to be awarded to increasingly ordinary (or worse) performances. The result is that a strong-looking university transcript these days is so commoncompared with what it was say forty years agoas to have little credibility: if you are really good, really have earned that 3.98 GPA or whatever, you're still lost in a sea of people who have the same numbers, but don't have remotely like the real performance record that you have. It's like that wonderful line from Gilbert & Sullivan's The Gondoliers:

When everyone is sombody, then noone's anybody!.

The same thing holds with a BB. Most folks on MT understand that a BB is the beginning, not the end, of the possibilities offered by serious training in the MA. But if it merely signifies time on the floor, not genuine competence in basic techniques, their combination, and their application, then you have to wonder if its value as information about the holder of the belt is being diluted to the point where it really doesn't signify anything.

There's a response to this, which I think makes sense: you could say, well, as long as you know that your black belt was earned with sweat, dedication and application over enough time to get you the requisite level, why should it bother you? If you're secure in the quality of your own training, if you know what your BB is worth, then why should it matter what happens anywhere else? I've taken that line before, and I think it does have some validity. But there's a big if involvedthe story only holds if the student realizes that they're being given the accolade, the BB, on the basis of lowered, relativized or compromised standards. That's where I think most serious MAists have problems with the McDojo/Dojang: that people are actually not aware of the distance between what they've accomplished at BB on the one hand, and what mastery of the basics, as per my comments, above, really demands. A lot of belt mills seem to be telling people, 'You're there!' when they really aren'tbut could be with enough further training from a demanding enough instructor. It's that discrepancy, I think, which is the source of people's discomfort with the McDoj phenomenon.

Hear, hear!! I'm hard to put to add anything so I won't!
 

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Welcome to MT, rad. :)


I don't think the problem is one of 'I'm more special than you are'. It's more the same kind of problem that grade inflation at university is: even at very good schools, there is a tendency for high grades to be awarded to increasingly ordinary (or worse) performances. The result is that a strong-looking university transcript these days is so commoncompared with what it was say forty years agoas to have little credibility: if you are really good, really have earned that 3.98 GPA or whatever, you're still lost in a sea of people who have the same numbers, but don't have remotely like the real performance record that you have. It's like that wonderful line from Gilbert & Sullivan's The Gondoliers:

When everyone is sombody, then noone's anybody!.

The same thing holds with a BB. Most folks on MT understand that a BB is the beginning, not the end, of the possibilities offered by serious training in the MA. But if it merely signifies time on the floor, not genuine competence in basic techniques, their combination, and their application, then you have to wonder if its value as information about the holder of the belt is being diluted to the point where it really doesn't signify anything.

There's a response to this, which I think makes sense: you could say, well, as long as you know that your black belt was earned with sweat, dedication and application over enough time to get you the requisite level, why should it bother you? If you're secure in the quality of your own training, if you know what your BB is worth, then why should it matter what happens anywhere else? I've taken that line before, and I think it does have some validity. But there's a big if involvedthe story only holds if the student realizes that they're being given the accolade, the BB, on the basis of lowered, relativized or compromised standards. That's where I think most serious MAists have problems with the McDojo/Dojang: that people are actually not aware of the distance between what they've accomplished at BB on the one hand, and what mastery of the basics, as per my comments, above, really demands. A lot of belt mills seem to be telling people, 'You're there!' when they really aren'tbut could be with enough further training from a demanding enough instructor. It's that discrepancy, I think, which is the source of people's discomfort with the McDoj phenomenon.


Nothing more to say, except I hope her kid realizes the difference and doesn't get jumped one day because "He's a black belt"
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you have to know the difference! He may be getting great instruction, I don't know. But if he's just getting passed through because he is getting excersise and not leaning the basics and how to use them right, I hope he doesn't go bragging around school or whatever! I have had several kids come to my school because they were black belts at the mcdojo up the street and got beat up bad because they really did not know the basics fundementally!
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Also he should realize no one should know your a black belt because they will start stuff with you just for that reason!
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As long as you're happy. Take many of the opinions on MT with a grain of salt. It is the internet, and everyone has an opinion.
 

Tez3

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As long as you're happy. Take many of the opinions on MT with a grain of salt. It is the internet, and everyone has an opinion.


Exactly, so many of us don't have the rank to be taken seriously. We haven't been in MA long enough to cultivate the air of disdain a true master has.

radshop, Exile is the best beloved of us on MT, his words are wise and compassionate, we listen and appreciate his words, I'd recommend others do the same.
 
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radshop

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Exile - I get your point and why you are concerned, but I don't see a good alternative proposed. I'm still glad that there's a dojang close to home that meets our needs. I'm not saying that a BB should be handed out like candy, but I'm also OK with the idea that it's relative to age and physical ability. If they gave patches or medals instead of belts to kids to keep them motivated, I'd be OK with that as an alternative, but they don't, and I'm okay with that, too.

Mr Mann - Absolutely agree that it's my job as a parent to teach my son responsible, safe behavior regardless of whether he has a BB or not. (BTW - it's "his kid" not "her kid.) We are learning sport and SD techniques, not just doing jumping jacks. They hold me as an adult to a much higher standard than they hold my son. So when he gets his BB at age 10, I expect he will be proficient in sport and SD techniques FOR HIS AGE. Could your kids beat him up? Don't know and don't care. I'm surprised that you let kids beat up other kids bad - doesn't sound like the kind of place I would want to go at all.
EDIT: Sorry if that came across as disrespectful - maybe misunderstood what you were saying. At any rate, my son is a sweet-tempered boy, mature for his age, and good social skills. If I keep doing my job, shouldn't be a problem as you describe.
 
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Tez3

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Exile - I get your point and why you are concerned, but I don't see a good alternative proposed. I'm still glad that there's a dojang close to home that meets our needs. I'm not saying that a BB should be handed out like candy, but I'm also OK with the idea that it's relative to age and physical ability. If they gave patches or medals instead of belts to kids to keep them motivated, I'd be OK with that as an alternative, but they don't, and I'm okay with that, too.

Mr Mann - Absolutely agree that it's my job as a parent to teach my son responsible, safe behavior regardless of whether he has a BB or not. (BTW - it's "his kid" not "her kid.) We are learning sport and SD techniques, not just doing jumping jacks. They hold me as an adult to a much higher standard than they hold my son. So when he gets his BB at age 10, I expect he will be proficient in sport and SD techniques FOR HIS AGE. Could your kids beat him up? Don't know and don't care. I'm surprised that you let kids beat up other kids bad - doesn't sound like the kind of place I would want to go at all.


I think you have the wrong end of the stick here and are being unfair. When people arrive at a class wearing blackbelts and with their blackbelt certificates in their hands we assume that's what they are...blackbelts. We assume they have enough knowledge and high enough standards that they can hold their own against our blackbelts. Sometimes it's not until they spar you realise that they aren't the standard they think they are, they are far lower. They get themselves hurt because, believing they are BB standard they can take on anyone, the BB they are sparring assumes they are the same as them so goes in appropriately and thats where people get hurt. it's not a case of allowing anyone to beat anyone up, it;'s a case of poor instructors handing out grades without standards. It does no one any favours.

.
 
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radshop

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I think you have the wrong end of the stick here and are being unfair. When people arrive at a class wearing blackbelts and with their blackbelt certificates in their hands we assume that's what they are...blackbelts. We assume they have enough knowledge and high enough standards that they can hold their own against our blackbelts. Sometimes it's not until they spar you realise that they aren't the standard they think they are, they are far lower. They get themselves hurt because, believing they are BB standard they can take on anyone, the BB they are sparring assumes they are the same as them so goes in appropriately and thats where people get hurt. it's not a case of allowing anyone to beat anyone up, it;'s a case of poor instructors handing out grades without standards. It does no one any favours.

.

Yeah - I read that after I posted and realized it was a bit hasty. I understand the point - just reacted to the "beating up" language. I don't think, though, that any kid should be put in a position to get hurt without some assessment, not just making asumptions based on a belt. Adults - different story - let them be responsible for their own decisions.
 

exile

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Exile - I get your point and why you are concerned, but I don't see a good alternative proposed. I'm still glad that there's a dojang close to home that meets our needs. I'm not saying that a BB should be handed out like candy, but I'm also OK with the idea that it's relative to age and physical ability. If they gave patches or medals instead of belts to kids to keep them motivated, I'd be OK with that as an alternative, but they don't, and I'm okay with that, too.

I don't really have an alternative, rad. If you look back through the archives, you'll see a lot of old threads addressing this issue of standards, and none of them wind up with anything like a conclusion, or a resolution. It's something that comes with the turf, I think. With universities, as per my previous comparison, there are all kinds of ranking systems for undergraduate and graduate programs, and there's a general consensus about what the top quality institutions are (though college and grad program rankings are way tricker and more subjective than many people think, and have to be viewed with a certain skepticism). But for MA schools, nothing like that existshow could it be done? I can't really think of a way that would make sense, be practical, and acceptable to most MAists.

In some federations, there is a so-called poom belt awarded: it's a BB for under-15s, I think. One of our really outstanding instructor/practitioners, Terry Stoker (aka terryl968), an MT Advisor, could give you more information about the way poom belts are awarded and how they are connected to adult BBs.

But let me just suggest that there may be two separate issues here: one is motivating kids, which is always challenging and requires a certain amount of ingenuity, while the other is dealing with adults. These are often folded in together when McDojes are brought up, but they actually represent distinct questions, I think.
 

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Yeah - I read that after I posted and realized it was a bit hasty. I understand the point - just reacted to the "beating up" language. I don't think, though, that any kid should be put in a position to get hurt without some assessment, not just making asumptions based on a belt. Adults - different story - let them be responsible for their own decisions.


But they have been assessed! They have a Blackbelt and the certificate signed by head of style/school etc.
I believe he was using the words beating up to try to emphasis the danger of giving belts to people who aren't mature enough or skilled enough to wear them. IMO no one under at least 16 is either of these however well they do their katas or sparring with their own age group. 18 would be better.
 

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Sounds like you are very happy with what you and your son have got and are enjoying your time together at this school. That is wonderful and nobody is going to knock that.

Reading your post it is very clear that you are an intelligent person and completely aware of what you are getting for your time and money. My main problem with McDojangs in general is that not everyone there will be as aware as yourself. You will note from the many threads on this subject that everyones idea of a McDojang is slightly different. My concept of a McDojang is one where people are being misled and being sold something that is not as advertised, often at obscene prices.
 
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radshop

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Appreciate all the responses - obviously I have opinions but am here to learn and open to changing my opinions. I hope to be in MA (and on MT) for a long time, so we'll see what I think down the road.
 

Makalakumu

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Rad - Personally, I think every martial artist should take the whole concept of rank with a grain of salt. There is very little relationship between arts, or even between teachers of the same art, when it comes to rank.

That said, I think the only good measure of a martial artist is the level of skill they have attained. Even this is subjective because the "bar" for what is "good" is never set in stone.

The bottom line is this...if you enjoy what you are doing and you are happy with what you have...then what more can you ask for?

Know that there is always room for growth.
 

exile

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Appreciate all the responses - obviously I have opinions but am here to learn and open to changing my opinions. I hope to be in MA (and on MT) for a long time, so we'll see what I think down the road.

Good perspective (for all of us, probably!). The thing about MT that's so good is the way it allows you to sharpen your own thinking. I've changed my views on various things in the time I've been on MT, not only because of what others have said to me, but—even more—because, in trying to formulate my ideas carefully for the ongoing discussion, I came to realize that there were blind spots, or alternatives I hadn't considered—things like that; I was forced to think things through from scratch again, to take those things I'd overlooked into account.

The best kind of thinking, I strongly suspect, is thinking aloud, in company with a group of intelligent, knowledgable and congenial people who hope to do their own thinking aloud in your company—and that's what MT offers, to a T!
 

Tez3

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radshop. I think you'll enjoy MT, there's several threads I can think of that will address points you made on your OP.

There's very few of us who think gaining a BB is being a master, the general opinion is that is the beginning of knowledge but theres some good opinion on that on MT likewise about children and BB. Exile has given good advice I believe on that and who to ask. Enjoy!
 

jks9199

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It's real simple.

You know what you want for yourself and your son out of martial arts training. If you're getting that -- than the school you're in is good for you.

McDonalds isn't bad food. It's not great... but, y'know, there are times when I want a Big Mac or Double Cheeseburger. And there are times when I want filet mignon or just a good steak.

We all look for different things out of our martial arts training. A guy who's looking to go pro in MMA is looking for something different than what I want as a working cop, and someone who's looking for a sport/activity for their kids and maybe some daycare is after yet another. Where the problem comes is when someone thinks they're getting one thing, and are instead getting another. Lots of the commercial programs out there are not at all useful, AS THEY ARE TAUGHT, for a cop. MMA is not good, AS PRACTICED FOR COMPETITION, for a cop, either, because there are no mats in the real world, and the fight doesn't end with a submission. But some of what I practice and teach isn't appropriate for kids -- and wouldn't be within the rules for the ring, either. It's all in what you want... and being sure you get what you want.

Exile discussed rank inflation a bit earlier, and that's another problem with some of the commercial schools. Whether it's adding extra belts (often with a concomittant belt testing fee) or simply passing students to collect the fees or with weak grades... the real problem is that we keep using the same words, but meaning different things. There's no easy solution, though, because each style has its own interpretation of black belt. I'm not going to try to rehash any of the many threads about this... The search function here on MT is pretty good, if you want to dig 'em up.

I'm not 100% sure how to tie this next part in -- but it fits. I'm struggling with trying to get some more students into the class I teach without lowering my standards or losing what makes it special. I recently asked one of my students, who's a brown belt, but won't be able to test for black for at least 2 more years (because we don't promote black belts under 18) whether he thought that he might be able to get some of his friends and schoolmates into class. He told me that most of the ones who might be interested did Tae Kwon Do for a couple years, and got black belts so they're not interested anymore. I asked how he felt about that -- and he said that he knew what he was learning was more effective, and worth not having a black belt yet... Make of that what you will...
 

Brian R. VanCise

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It's real simple.

You know what you want for yourself and your son out of martial arts training. If you're getting that -- than the school you're in is good for you.

McDonalds isn't bad food. It's not great... but, y'know, there are times when I want a Big Mac or Double Cheeseburger. And there are times when I want filet mignon or just a good steak.

We all look for different things out of our martial arts training. A guy who's looking to go pro in MMA is looking for something different than what I want as a working cop, and someone who's looking for a sport/activity for their kids and maybe some daycare is after yet another. Where the problem comes is when someone thinks they're getting one thing, and are instead getting another. Lots of the commercial programs out there are not at all useful, AS THEY ARE TAUGHT, for a cop. MMA is not good, AS PRACTICED FOR COMPETITION, for a cop, either, because there are no mats in the real world, and the fight doesn't end with a submission. But some of what I practice and teach isn't appropriate for kids -- and wouldn't be within the rules for the ring, either. It's all in what you want... and being sure you get what you want.

Exile discussed rank inflation a bit earlier, and that's another problem with some of the commercial schools. Whether it's adding extra belts (often with a concomittant belt testing fee) or simply passing students to collect the fees or with weak grades... the real problem is that we keep using the same words, but meaning different things. There's no easy solution, though, because each style has its own interpretation of black belt. I'm not going to try to rehash any of the many threads about this... The search function here on MT is pretty good, if you want to dig 'em up.

I'm not 100% sure how to tie this next part in -- but it fits. I'm struggling with trying to get some more students into the class I teach without lowering my standards or losing what makes it special. I recently asked one of my students, who's a brown belt, but won't be able to test for black for at least 2 more years (because we don't promote black belts under 18) whether he thought that he might be able to get some of his friends and schoolmates into class. He told me that most of the ones who might be interested did Tae Kwon Do for a couple years, and got black belts so they're not interested anymore. I asked how he felt about that -- and he said that he knew what he was learning was more effective, and worth not having a black belt yet... Make of that what you will...

This is a really good post on how to look at it. (wish I could rep you) Each and every one of us needs to look at what we want and then how to accomplish it. Some training halls might fit certain individuals needs and others well simply may not. In the end each of us is responsible for our own training!
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terryl965

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radshop I will ad my .02 cents here for you, in all my years of training over forty of them. I have trained with people I like and respect, some say they are fakes and no nothing other say they are not the real deal, well for me it is simple I am the one training and know what I want and that is why I train with different people. If you and your sone are getting what you wanted than that is all that matters.
 

exile

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I recently asked one of my students, who's a brown belt, but won't be able to test for black for at least 2 more years (because we don't promote black belts under 18) whether he thought that he might be able to get some of his friends and schoolmates into class. He told me that most of the ones who might be interested did Tae Kwon Do for a couple years, and got black belts so they're not interested anymore. I asked how he felt about that -- and he said that he knew what he was learning was more effective, and worth not having a black belt yet... Make of that what you will...

I think what it shows is that people who have had exposure to something of high quality recognize its worth, and are less willing to compromise on something which is easier to attain but lower in quality. If you haven't experienced that higher quality, though, you have no basis for comparison, so you're perfectly happy with what you've got. It's not just TKD, either. I'm very sure, from what I know about it, that Tez' MMA club, where she teaches, is tough and demandingyet the MMA McDojo phenomenon is itself the subject of another current thread. Any MA that has a wide appeal is going to wind up with a pyramid-shaped sorting of schools in terms of standards: more schools at the bottom of the standards criterion, and progressively fewer as you move toward the highest standard at the top.

But there's another factor which plays into all this: the fact that for a lot of people, rigorous practice, relentless drilling of techs, emphasis on mastery and other expectations that go along with high standards are not crucially important, because they do not expect to actually have to use their training in self-defense. The difference in the role of unarmed combat expertise in the China or Okinawa of several hundred years ago, on the one hand, and modern suburbia, on the other, probably accounts, more than anything else, for the lowering of training standards in the western world since the TMAs fetched up on our shores at the end of WWII.
 

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