In Defense of the McDojo

Steve

Mostly Harmless
Joined
Jul 9, 2008
Messages
18,946
Reaction score
4,528
Location
Covington, WA
Harlan, that's exactly the point. This particular example may or may not teach actual, usable martial arts. I don't know. If they do teach quality martial arts skills, great.

But many don't, and don't even claim to.

I should clarify that teaching values is NOT a bad thing. I've said before here and on my blog that people absolutely can learn positive traits like discipline, integrity, sportsmanship and a work ethic from martial arts training, but ONLY if they are actually learning a legitimate martial art.

In the same way, a person can ALSO learn these same positive traits by engaging in any activity, whether it's wrestling, badmitton, chess, marching band or underwater basketweaving. As long as they're working hard, setting long and short term goals and learning some actual skill.

So, in this context, values driven training is something that absolutely can be applied to a legit school, but not to the exclusion or in lieu of actual hard work and measurable learning.
 

harlan

2nd Black Belt
Joined
Oct 31, 2006
Messages
884
Reaction score
41
Location
Massachusetts
I'm not sure your test of 'legitimacy' stands. How does training in 'archaic' forms of martial arts apply?
 

harlan

2nd Black Belt
Joined
Oct 31, 2006
Messages
884
Reaction score
41
Location
Massachusetts
Sorry. I may be misreading, but was trying to understand.

1. It seems that your position is that people can't learn positive values in a situation where they are not learning a 'legitimate' art.

2. Can you define 'legitimate martial art'? I think you mean 'usable', but am not sure what that entails. Was throwing out 'archaic' as the first example. Iaido, might be one example.

people absolutely can learn positive traits like discipline, integrity, sportsmanship and a work ethic from martial arts training, but ONLY if they are actually learning a legitimate martial art.
 

Steve

Mostly Harmless
Joined
Jul 9, 2008
Messages
18,946
Reaction score
4,528
Location
Covington, WA
Sorry. I may be misreading, but was trying to understand.

1. It seems that your position is that people can't learn positive values in a situation where they are not learning a 'legitimate' art.

2. Can you define 'legitimate martial art'? I think you mean 'usable', but am not sure what that entails. Was throwing out 'archaic' as the first example. Iaido, might be one example.
Ahh... I see what you're saying now. No. There is some misunderstanding. What I'm driving at is that the activity, whether it's a martial art or anything else, has to be internally consistent. So, legitimacy in the context of what you're referring to is largely self-defined.

Let's say I'm running a golf pro shop and advertising that I'll teach kids to play golf. If you sign your kids up with me, I'm alleging they'll learn good values like discipline, work ethic, respect for authority and all sorts of great things. In reality, I'm just having them do vaguely golf related things, but they never actually learn to play golf. Ultimately, if I don't teach them to play golf, they won't learn any positive values because the entire situation is inconsistent.

If I'm signing kids up for golf lessons, I should first and foremost be teaching them to play golf. If I'm purporting to be teaching kids to play chess, they should be able to demonstrate measurable improvement in their chess skills.

In the same way, if I am running a martial arts school and make claims about self defense, I should be teaching self defense. If I am signing kids up for kendo lessons, they should at least be learning kendo. Any life lessons or values gained such as discipline are a side benefit.
 
Last edited:

Touch Of Death

Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Joined
May 6, 2003
Messages
11,610
Reaction score
844
Location
Spokane Valley WA
:) I was typing on a phone. Not sure if you're being serious or not, but what I mean is that a McDojo will often sell values training and minimize any actual martial training.
Here's an example I just pulled from a TKD school website. It's the first TKD site I clicked on in google:

"We're building greater unity in families, workplaces and in the communities we serve. Vital benefits in today's society!

FUN! EXCITING! INSPIRATIONAL! EDUCATIONAL!"

While any of these things are laudable, if you're not actually learning any applicable martial skill, you're not REALLY learning any values either. If that's not clear, let me know.
I am totally serious. There is nothing wrong with bettering your community by teaching kids to show some damn respect; to be stewards, if you will. Why aren't you up in arms against the Cub Scouts? Or are you?:uhyeah:
Sean
 

harlan

2nd Black Belt
Joined
Oct 31, 2006
Messages
884
Reaction score
41
Location
Massachusetts
Here is the rub: the parents are responding to the marketing of 'life lessons'. If they thought, for one minute, that you were going to teach their kid neck cranks, arm breaks, and how to shove a bo down through the abdomen and pelvis...do you really think they would be there?

We are talking about kids...and the market has spoken: parents want them in 'wholesome' activities. Probably why so much martial arts is wrapped about the 'religious' angle as well in this country...as if 'values' somehow make the activity 'better'. I have a nephew who is in a 'sword fit' type of class, and he loves it. The boffering, playing war, the bogu gear...loads of fun with foam swords. With some pride, I have to say, my nephew at least is very good at the extremely limited sword offering. But it doesn't compare to an iaido teacher explaining exactly what the cut is doing. And my relatives would not have my nephew in that class if they really thought, for one minute, that THAT is what he was learning. 'Not nice.'

Truthfully? I think the people that are paying to have their egos rubbed like it. Too many good, free schools are empty because what they have to offer...doesn't compare to what people want. America: land of the stupid and shallow. Sorry.

If I am signing kids up for kendo lessons, they should at least be learning kendo. Any life lessons or values gained such as discipline are a side benefit.
 
Last edited:

Touch Of Death

Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Joined
May 6, 2003
Messages
11,610
Reaction score
844
Location
Spokane Valley WA
Here is the rub: the parents are responding to the marketing of 'life lessons'. If they thought, for one minute, that you were doing to teach their kid neck cranks, arm breaks, and how to shove a bo down through the abdomen and pelvis...do you really think they would be there?

We are talking about kids...and the market has spoken: parents want them in 'wholesome' activities. Probably why so much martial arts is wrapped about the 'religious' angle as well in this country...as if 'values' somehow make the activity 'better'.
Values do make the activity better.
Sean
 

AlanE

Yellow Belt
Joined
Feb 8, 2010
Messages
46
Reaction score
3
Location
Alaska
I am totally serious. There is nothing wrong with bettering your community by teaching kids to show some damn respect; to be stewards, if you will. Why aren't you up in arms against the Cub Scouts? Or are you?:uhyeah:
Sean

No, no Touch, you may have gotten off on a misunderstanding of stevebjj's comments starting a few back, regarding values. Unless I misread it...

Values is being honored in all cases.

Let's say one is putting together his/her resume. If anything is missing, it won't get included or emphasized, unless the applicant wants to lie and include it.

When it comes to martial arts sales letters, or the schools' public resumes, the schools include and say things people want more of (families active together and honoring each other). They usually point to a reason to be to be seen as credible (but not always). And, they usually do not say what they can't guarantee (trophies, abilities).

In fairness to both sides, no guarantees can be made, and a lot of what will be gained is in the eyes of the students, regardless of advertising. Word of mouth helps. Which produces better fighters, better personal protectors, better athletes, better values? In which schools will the students have more money left over? Bad schools will extort folks.

I'm unsure values improve as fighting skill improves, or for that matter that values start off higher if the martial arts is deadlier to begin with.

However, and depending on "the crowd" where training occurs, there will be a greater sense of self-confidence, respect, and humility that washes over participants regularly. This regular activity can change people for the better. Students and instructors will still get away with hurting others if they can, if raised to not care too much, or if spending too much time with a crowd that distorts their sensibilities.

In both McDojos and dojos, students' additional body awareness, athleticism, goal setting, and achievements can and do mean something. Genuine self-defense means something. Maintaining affiliations and accountability means something.

Where should the money fall? Simply put, pay more for more. If you don't need RainX at the car wash, don't get it. If schools hide fees and don't tell students up front that testing (& fees) will be mandatory every 30-60 days, it's uncool to not let families budget - and intentionally trap them to not scare them off early. Just explain costs realistically. Any sport joined is more money than expected. Explain that the others schools in the area, if true, also require mandatory testing and fees. Know your marketplace -- very important for your business, to keep the door open.

We've covered values, being profitable, ethical, more profitable, and back around. Is it common sense, and are we all wanting the same things?

I think we're looking to firm up:

1) Additional profit generators - sensible to customers; sustainable and instructors can face themselves in the mirror knowing they are providing value.

2) Ideal ways to offset costs for renting facilites, etc.
 

Steve

Mostly Harmless
Joined
Jul 9, 2008
Messages
18,946
Reaction score
4,528
Location
Covington, WA
I am totally serious. There is nothing wrong with bettering your community by teaching kids to show some damn respect; to be stewards, if you will. Why aren't you up in arms against the Cub Scouts? Or are you?:uhyeah:
Sean

Values do make the activity better.
Sean
I'm not being clear, and I apologize for that. I think kids should absolutely take part in activities that teach them valuable life lessons. I am all for respect, hard work and discipline.

What I'm saying is that these things can't be taught in a vacuum. These lessons are learned as a by product of learning something else. Working hard, practicing diligently, learning some demonstrable skill.

Here is the rub: the parents are responding to the marketing of 'life lessons'. If they thought, for one minute, that you were going to teach their kid neck cranks, arm breaks, and how to shove a bo down through the abdomen and pelvis...do you really think they would be there?
Maybe, but this is a completely different discussion on the topic of what is appropriate to teach kids. As I said before, though, if I'm running the golf shop and I claim I'll teach your child a strong work ethic, shouldn't I also, perhaps more importantly, teach your child to play golf?

Taken a step further, I'd argue that I cannot teach your child any positive life lesson UNLESS I first teach him how to play golf.
Truthfully? I think the people that are paying to have their egos rubbed like it. Too many good, free schools are empty because what they have to offer...doesn't compare to what people want. America: land of the stupid and shallow. Sorry.
Certainly a legit opinion. I don't completely agree, but I can see where you're coming from.

No, no Touch, you may have gotten off on a misunderstanding of stevebjj's comments starting a few back, regarding values. Unless I misread it...

Values is being honored in all cases.
Sort of. As I said, I'm having trouble making myself clear today. Maybe I need more sleep. :)


Sort of like poetry. The best poems about death, love, life or any other abstract concept never mention these things directly. They ground the abstract concept of death in concrete terms. The poem might demonstrate death in the form of a lifeless body, or it might allude to death in the anguished features of a mourning loved one.

In the same way, I'm saying that you can't "teach values." You can demonstrate values by teaching something else. In order to instill a strong work ethic, you have to demonstrate a strong work ethic. In order to teach a child integrity you have to act with integrity. You have to ground these life lessons in real life by demonstrating them in action. And if the activity has no integrity, such as is often the case in a McDojo, there are no values being demonstrated. Or worse, negative life lessons are being taught.

We're always teaching our kids something. It's up to us whether it's a positive lesson or a negative one.
I'm unsure values improve as fighting skill improves, or for that matter that values start off higher if the martial arts is deadlier to begin with.
So many kids have learned to live with honor and integrity by stumbling into a boxing gym. It's not that the kid's values improve as their fighting skill improves. It's that they're applying larger life lessons to the practical endeavor of learning how to fight (or play baseball or whatever).
We've covered values, being profitable, ethical, more profitable, and back around. Is it common sense, and are we all wanting the same things?

I think we're looking to firm up:

1) Additional profit generators - sensible to customers; sustainable and instructors can face themselves in the mirror knowing they are providing value.

2) Ideal ways to offset costs for renting facilites, etc.
Can't wait. :D
 

AlanE

Yellow Belt
Joined
Feb 8, 2010
Messages
46
Reaction score
3
Location
Alaska
...And if the activity has no integrity, such as is often the case in a McDojo, there are no values being demonstrated. Or worse, negative life lessons are being taught.



We're always teaching our kids something. It's up to us whether it's a positive lesson or a negative one.



...It's not that the kid's values improve as their fighting skill improves. It's that they're applying larger life lessons to the practical endeavor of learning how to fight (or play baseball or whatever).

/quote]



Well said, stevebjj!
 

terryl965

<center><font size="2"><B>Martial Talk Ultimate<BR
MTS Alumni
Joined
Apr 9, 2004
Messages
41,259
Reaction score
337
Location
Grand Prairie Texas
Look I would like to add to this converstation, First of I am a school teacher by trade and then I own and operate a school for TKD. One of the main problem with childern today is the lack of values the majority have withen there lifes. If a Martial art program in some way can help these kids find some than it is a plus for society and for themself later in life. I have seen so many trouble teens get into wrestling martial arts or any other sport and have a coach that actually makes them understand the word respect for themself and there piers, that it made the biggest difference in their life as a whole. I believe all martial arts geared toward any child should have these core values.
 

AlanE

Yellow Belt
Joined
Feb 8, 2010
Messages
46
Reaction score
3
Location
Alaska
Look I would like to add to this converstation, First of I am a school teacher by trade and then I own and operate a school for TKD. One of the main problem with childern today is the lack of values the majority have withen there lifes. If a Martial art program in some way can help these kids find some than it is a plus for society and for themself later in life. I have seen so many trouble teens get into wrestling martial arts or any other sport and have a coach that actually makes them understand the word respect for themself and there piers, that it made the biggest difference in their life as a whole. I believe all martial arts geared toward any child should have these core values.
I think you're right, Terry. What you said seems to be unamimous with the posters here, which is to genuinely help folks.

That leaves (possibly) the decision to either making a living with MA, or supplement income with MA.

Supplementing income seems to be the ideal choice. Like an High School sports coach, it allows income from a day job, and extra income from an evening job, plus exercise of one's skills, and improvement of a community - without being bound by student fees for survival of the dream (business). The freedom to give value and not run an assembly line. The way martial arts were probably taught everywhere, except in temples, for generations.

Extra income generators are unnecessary in the above scenario. Paint for potential students an accurate picture of beginning costs & expected costs per year, and leave it to them. Your reputation, communication style, and 1-2 free classes will give a lot to evaluate you on, even more than your tattered belt.

Can people learn from you? Can they increase their original motivation based on something you gave them? If so, you're a fine teacher and they'll be better off than before.

There will always be somebody better (at fighting or teaching - if in doubt, just wait a few days), therefore make sure you are teaching something good. You know whether you are or not. When you are, you're not a McDojo. When we teach we can improve ourselves - but only if we're fully engaged. If we're engaged, we'll notice more situations where we won't have the exact solution. We'll have an answer but wonder if it's best. We'll explore and ask higher ups/experts. We'll remain important in our students' lives, despite not being all-knowing and all-skillful.

Just don't earn a yellow belt, then open a dojo and start wearing a black belt, and give untraceable credentials! Be who we are, and upfront with those from whom we would accept money.

If people will be who they are, and save the energy used to pretend who they're not, they can use that same energy to improve WHO THEY ARE.
 

Touch Of Death

Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Joined
May 6, 2003
Messages
11,610
Reaction score
844
Location
Spokane Valley WA
Look I would like to add to this converstation, First of I am a school teacher by trade and then I own and operate a school for TKD. One of the main problem with childern today is the lack of values the majority have withen there lifes. If a Martial art program in some way can help these kids find some than it is a plus for society and for themself later in life. I have seen so many trouble teens get into wrestling martial arts or any other sport and have a coach that actually makes them understand the word respect for themself and there piers, that it made the biggest difference in their life as a whole. I believe all martial arts geared toward any child should have these core values.
...And further more, I think that if you focus on values and task yourself and the child to define what integrity, respect, spirit, etc., are, and be able to demonstrate real life examples of where they are an issue, you will help them to become a better person and martial artist.
sean
 

dbell

Blue Belt
Joined
Jun 17, 2009
Messages
294
Reaction score
6
Location
Ashland, KY
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Mattocks
Without assigning a 'good' or 'bad' value, some that I can think of:

1) Use of contracts
2) Guaranteed promotion (sometimes based on criteria)
3) Membership in associations offering 'credentialing'
4) Local competitions with awards
5) Fees for testing
6) Fees for promotion
7) Extensive use of add-on sales (merchandise and services)
8) Franchising
9) Advertising / Marketing campaigns
10) Vertical (specialized) accounting software packages
11) Extensive use of attendance records
12) Group membership in associations offering liability insurance / health insurance for employees / legal representation, etc
13) Advertised focus on whatever form of martial art or exercise is currently 'hot' (MMA, BJJ, kick-boxing, taebo, etc)

I'm sure there are more, but those jump to mind first. I would also venture to say that health clubs, gyms, and other 'health' or 'wellness' related businesses probably follow similar models.



Some other common practices. I'm bulleting them, but I'll explain further if any aren't clear:

  1. Black Belt Clubs
  2. Mandatory seminars
  3. Rules against cross training
  4. Focus on "family marketing"
  5. Instructor Training (for additional fees)
  6. Mandatory Testing on a regular schedule (ie, quarterly... just before one's taxes are due)
  7. Emphasis on Values training/De-emphasis on martial skill
  8. Focus on teh d34dly. "We don't spar because our techniques are too dangerous."

List one:
1. Contracts can be good, if written as a win win for both parties, but in general I have not seen that.
2. Guaranteed promotions are never good. This should not be done by any school. A student should not be promoted unless they meet the minimum knowledge/skill requirement for that level.
3. Associations can be OK, provided that they are not fully money driven and are geared to helping the art grow. (I don't see that in most cases of today's associations though!)
4. Local competitions are great for those arts that do sport training/competition training and would be a good thing to be doing.
5. Fees for testing.... If outside Instructors are coming in, who typically like to be paid, then yes, this is probably needed, but I am not a strong proponent for this concept.
6. Promotion fees, enough to cover the cost of any new equipment/belts/uniforms (for those that have different uniforms at various levels), can help the school grow. (I charge $10-35 to cover the belt, depending on the level and if I have it stitched.)
7. Extensive use of add on sales. There is nothing wrong with this, provided that it is not required. Having school clothing and personalized gear is a good way of advertising the school, etc.
8. Franchising. Provided that the franchise is a valid full instructor level black belt of the original school, I have no problem with this. If it is sold to an outsider who has no ranking, or a low ranking, I'm not for this.
9. Advertising and marketing campaigns are a good thing, if done correctly and without misleading the reader.
10. EVERY school should be using accounting software, and having a vertical (specialized) package makes it even better!
11. Attendance records... Depends on what they are used for. If it is solely used for tracking time in grade, or related reasons, but not for automatic testing, and it is used for the student's benefit in some way, they can be good.
12. Associations such as this can be good for the school. However, there are insurance companies out there that do "group rates" type of programs for MA schools which may better suit the school than an association.
13. One should only advertise what they teach, and not "bend" that teaching to what is "hot" today.... If what they teach happens to be what is "hot", advertise it.

List two:

1. Black Belt clubs - I thought long and hard on this one when I opened my own school, instead of teaching for other schools, a couple of years ago. I have a "Black Belt Club", and the students pay a bit more, but they also get more time dedicated to them via extra classes and one on one time slotted just for them. (No contracts though.) Else wise, I've not been impressed with the many different black belt clubs I've seen to date...
2. Seminars should never be mandatory. EVER. But they should be available and should be of great quality and as low a cost as possible so the students can go if they want.
3. For new MA students, I would prefer that they not be cross training until they have reached some proficiency in the art. (Senior Student level) However if they have prior experience, or are adapting to the concept of MA quickly, I have no problem with someone crossing training, and encourage it at all other times!
4. "Friends" and Family marketing can be a good thing, but I'm not sure it should be a focus.
5. A school owner should be training every student as his or hear replacement. Each student should be getting "instructor" training as they go along, as that is what they are paying for in my eyes with their basic fees. Paying extra for that is just not acceptable in my eyes. In fact, in my school, once you make black belt, you stop paying class fees. (And until you reach 3rd Dan, you keep getting new material.)
6. Testing should not be mandatory... End of story there...
7. A MA school is about MA skill, not about training, the focus should be on the art, not on the training itself.
8. Some things should not be used in sparring, but training against a person that is not just letting you do the move is important in growing that skill, and that takes sparring (or what ever term is used in that style/art for the equivalent) to test the art out. You may not go full force, may need to wear pads, but I think it is important to growing your MA skill. I am not a strong proponent of most of the competition and sport rings out there, as my students would not be able to fully use their art (even if at reduced strength), so I'm not strong on competition events, but I am a strong proponent of sparring and using those skills in a controlled manner.
 

dbell

Blue Belt
Joined
Jun 17, 2009
Messages
294
Reaction score
6
Location
Ashland, KY
...And further more, I think that if you focus on values and task yourself and the child to define what integrity, respect, spirit, etc., are, and be able to demonstrate real life examples of where they are an issue, you will help them to become a better person and martial artist.
sean

While I firmly believe that defining and training strong ethical values, self integrity, respect of self and others, spirit, etc, is important, I do not think that should be the focus of a MA school, the focus should be the art and the content of the art.

If you are teaching a SD related art, your goal should be to teach your students just that, how to defend themselves, and when to defend themselves at the level of defense that is needed and no more than that level. Teaching these skills will teach them strong values, help them with their integrity, build their respect of themselves and others, and help them grow strong in self (spirit). But the focus should be on the art and skills of the art, and when to use them.
 

terryl965

<center><font size="2"><B>Martial Talk Ultimate<BR
MTS Alumni
Joined
Apr 9, 2004
Messages
41,259
Reaction score
337
Location
Grand Prairie Texas
While I firmly believe that defining and training strong ethical values, self integrity, respect of self and others, spirit, etc, is important, I do not think that should be the focus of a MA school, the focus should be the art and the content of the art.

If you are teaching a SD related art, your goal should be to teach your students just that, how to defend themselves, and when to defend themselves at the level of defense that is needed and no more than that level. Teaching these skills will teach them strong values, help them with their integrity, build their respect of themselves and others, and help them grow strong in self (spirit). But the focus should be on the art and skills of the art, and when to use them.


I can only agree with the above statement is everything is tought all aspect should come together...
 
OP
Bill Mattocks

Bill Mattocks

Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Joined
Feb 8, 2009
Messages
14,783
Reaction score
2,934
Location
Michigan
If you're teaching baseball, you teach baseball. Not ethics, morals, or other life-development skills that have nothing to do with baseball.

If you're teaching golf, same thing.

Firearms instructors teach firearms. They may discuss laws of self-defense, licensing and regulatory requirements, but they don't teach how to be a good person, morals, or ethics.

Why would martial arts teachers insert statements of personal ethics and morals being a requirement for teaching?

I'm not saying it's wrong; but I noted how many martial arts business owners in this thread insist that this is a requirement for teaching their art.

Why is that the case with martial arts and nothing else?
 

harlan

2nd Black Belt
Joined
Oct 31, 2006
Messages
884
Reaction score
41
Location
Massachusetts
Because it's still mostly an unregulated activity, where teachers can have unmonitered access to little kids, and don't have to pass a CORI check?

If you're teaching baseball, you teach baseball. Not ethics, morals, or other life-development skills that have nothing to do with baseball.

If you're teaching golf, same thing.

Firearms instructors teach firearms. They may discuss laws of self-defense, licensing and regulatory requirements, but they don't teach how to be a good person, morals, or ethics.

Why would martial arts teachers insert statements of personal ethics and morals being a requirement for teaching?

I'm not saying it's wrong; but I noted how many martial arts business owners in this thread insist that this is a requirement for teaching their art.

Why is that the case with martial arts and nothing else?
 
OP
Bill Mattocks

Bill Mattocks

Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Joined
Feb 8, 2009
Messages
14,783
Reaction score
2,934
Location
Michigan
Because it's still mostly an unregulated activity, where teachers can have unmonitered access to little kids, and don't have to pass a CORI check?

This may be true of tutors, but not for most after-school or other private instruction activities that I know of. However, perhaps my information is lacking.

Private music teachers don't (as far as I know) teach morals/ethics are part of teaching how to play the guitar or piano or whatnot, nor are they licensed / monitored. Golf instructors? Tennis?
 
Top