McDojo defined



I recently had to explain to someone what a McDojo was, and in doing so, I compared it to a "Belt Factory" but then of course, I had to explain that term as well.

I began wondering if the general use of these two terms, which are always used with disgust in martial arts circles, was universal. After all, they aren't real terms that are given in any vocabulary list.

For the record, I see a McDojo as the proliferation as schools, which while in itself isn't really negative, it is bad when the subject taught is of fast food-like quality. That led to the "belt factory" claim where schools produce high number of students, whether through the ease of obtaining rank or through high turnover rates. Then again, just because students advance quickly, that too may not be so bad; maybe the quality of instruction is very high.

What I consider a belt factory is a school that gives out rank when the student has no real skill. Taught point sparring only where the students use no real skill or technique and just flail at each other while only being able to strike "legal" areas and expect that this will translate into the street. Where endless forms are taught with no understanding of how any of it actually be applied. And where you have 7-10 year old black belts.
I heard that elvis got his 2nd Dan black belt in TKD when he bought a new car for his master. :rolleyes:

I just think thats disgusting.
many students get too caught up about the color around their waist and not what they truly know.

this is understandable that a student shold be excited about advancing to the next level, it shows commitment and ability. but when a school or instructor gives students false rank certification, it not only disrespects the teacher and organization... it disrespects the art as well.
It is a very good question.... What constitutes a 'McDojo' and what is a 'Real Dojo?'

Many of the schools I would term a McDojo are called such because they focus on fitness and do a lot of sparring and forms. These schools attract a lot of kids because they have a lot of games/drills which are designed to keep the class exciting. Because kids are the primary students, kids have the black belts... you don't see many adults.

The schools that I would term a "Real Dojo" are called such because they focus on self defense and do a lot of basics, forms, and self defense techniques and not much else. A real class would have to be more than 1.5 hours because you stretch/warm up for 15min, do basics for 45min, do forms for 30min, then move into learning A self defense technique where you spend the last 30min working on just it. It doesn't attract many students because most consider it boring.

Are these good definitions of each? Probably not. The first type is more sport oriented and so the Black Belt's ability would reflect that fact. The second type is more self defense oriented and the black belt's ability reflects that... Its easy to play games so it is acceptable that you can get your black belt in less time if your intent is to be good at games.

Is the second type so much better? Probably not. It normally isn't that interesting a class, you go in and you wear yourself out doing basics and that is pretty much it. It sounds good to me, because that is what I want out of the martial arts. A person who likes what they are doing is not going to see their art as a McDojo because it satisfies their needs. Most people just want the black belt. Its curious that many of the first type don't have many adults even though they've been around for a long time. That tells me that the instructor hasn't been teaching the art as a life-long thing instead of just a 'gimme my black belt' school. Type two has more adults then children because the instructor is good enough to have developed loyalty to him and has given the student a love for the art and has changed their life... that is what a Real Dojo is all about.

For me... McDojo is defined as something akin to 'movie night.' It is something that you do two or three nights a week and that is it. The students don't think about class until it is time to train again... aside from bragging about what they did in class. It primarily puts out students that just 'play' the martial arts.

A 'Real Dojo' is defined as something closer to a religion... nevemind, bad analogy because many people today only treat their religion as something they do on sunday... but a real school produces student's who treat their martial art as a way of life. It is something that constantly excites and invigorates them. They can learn something new every time they do a form, but they don't need to learn something new in order to enjoy it... just getting out and practicing the basics over and over gives them joy because it is just something that they love to do. This type develops a deeper understanding of life and of their art because of the way it is practiced and treated.

Time-wise a McDojo produces black belts faster because the students want the belt... Real Dojo's don't put much stock in belts... the fun is in the learning and the exploring of the art and not in what color belt they wear. To this type, belt tests are dreaded because while they might pass they will never feel as if they deserve that rank... this in turn motivates them to work harder so that they prove that they deserve it... So to simplify.. A McDojo student works to earn his/her next belt while a Real Student works to earn the belt s/he already has.

But that's just what I see....
I agree with Turner. I would say a McDojang is a school that "passes out" rank with no real skill (I seen this before), and/or an instructor trying to make money off of you without you learning much. They charge you "x" amount for the test, and test you just because you paid for it.

I would say my school is the real thing. For one, they don't charge for tests (until black belt when you just pay for the belt and cert). Our tests for color belts are hard. You have to "know" your level of requirements or you fail. That's that. Which is forms, step sparring, combo's, self defense, breaking (for higher ranks), ect.

In class, they work us. If you are not sweating after one of these classes, you are not trying hard enough (and usually the instructor notices and works everyone harder). That's hard core training. Even if you don't ki hap loud enough, he'll work ya, so just amagine what he does if you don't do a technique right (push-ups or something of that nature).
if you are a veterian at MA it would be easy to tell the two apart. if you are just startig MA it would be harder to tell the difference.

ultimitely it is up to the student as to what his MA experience will be like. even if it is a mcdojo school. the student can train hard and apply certain lessons in life or bring them to his next school etc...

im not defending mcdojo's in any way. im just stating that if student has the potential to do great things, he will. no matter where he studies MA.
Look, if your going to use ranking as an indicator of a "McDojo" you need to qualify what you mean by giving a time frame. Everyone is going to say their school is the real deal. We are all blind to our own. Your going to defend what you do and I'm going to defend what I do. It's not like somebody is going to wake up and say, "Hey, I go to a McDojo!"

I feel like the school that I go to has a pretty average time frame for belt testing. We test every six months. I know some schools test EVERY month. Then they only test on the new material they have to know for that belt. Many students I know who go to a school like that soon forget all the lower level stuff. They don't understand why they need to know it. Just ask them how they're going to teach someone one day (God Forbid). Then the you can kinda see the light bulb come on. That is a product of a McDojo or Belt factory.

But to say that many schools aren't concerned with belt rank, I feel is a farce. Competition makes you be concerned. Many of the Tournament organizations that have ranking (not belt ranking) by point systems, only allow competitors to be a certain belt level for so long or they can no longer compete. And these are representitives from EVERY type and style of martial arts.
My school has tests every six weeks. That doesn't mean we take our tests every six weeks. We are required to know the material and have (at least) three months between belt tests. The six week thing is for people who have all the requirements, but can't test for some reason on that test day. They have a choice to re-schedule. Or if you don't think you are ready (or the instructor doesn't), you can test later.
But to say that many schools aren't concerned with belt rank, I feel is a farce. Competition makes you be concerned. Many of the Tournament organizations that have ranking (not belt ranking) by point systems, only allow competitors to be a certain belt level for so long or they can no longer compete. And these are representitives from EVERY type and style of martial arts.

I've attended several of what I consider a McDojo and several of what I consider a "Real Dojo" Of ALL the different schools I attended, ONE was interested in rank and only TWO put ANY stress on competition. Competition is just something that most did for fun and you never knew that there was a tournament unless you looked at the bulletin board and saw the flyer. Classes were not focused on developing your sparring skills or making your forms prettier... if you wanted to compete you'd hone your skills in your own time. There were plenty of times a group of students would show up to class and the instructor would congratulate them for winning what-ever place they got and everyone else would look around and say "Tournament? What Tournament?" Again, this is just my definition and doesn't fit everyone. Some people are in the martial arts to be better than someone else and some people are there to be better than themselves.

Examples of rank being an issue:

Goju-Ryu Karate: There was a belt test once the whole time I trained there and that was at the end of three years when I and a few others tested for green belt and one tested for brown. There were four kyu ranks... one green and 3 browns. Rank was not an issue.. I was a white belt for 3 years only testing in my last class before joining the military.

Shorinji Kempo: There was never a belt test in the two years I attended. We remained white belts for the entire time and didn't care. We even worked on the same material the entire time and didn't care. Did we suck so bad that we weren't allowed to be promoted? Nope... cause I was already teaching at the time and knew everything that the instructor was showing us... we were just there to practice for the sake of practice.

Hapkido: Never a test... instructor always said that we would test, but never got around to actually doing it. Not an issue.

Kyokushin Karate: Testing wasn't an issue. There had been students there for a year that were still wearing white belts and they were darn good fighters. It was just not something that anyone cared about. Skill was the issue, not a piece of cloth with some color on it. Competition was an issue because it was a full contact art that you either got in there and were better than your opponent or you got in there and got beat down bad.

Tang Soo Do: Testing was once a month. Rank was an issue, you trained for your next belt. No wonder most of the students were children and there were several Nidan 13yo and even the adult nidans had little knowledge of anything but sparring. Competition was an issue. The whole class was geared towards getting better for the next tournament.

The list could go on just from my experience, but that is enough. The fact is, rank and competition doesn't mean anything to a 'real' warrior. S/he is not concerned with being better than anyone else or what color piece of cloth is closing the Gi. It is all about the training. I've been to classes where we worked on one self defense technique for 3 hours (after doing basics for 1 hour) Three hours of breaking down a technique into parts and really getting to know the technique. It gets boring to a lot of people and that is why a 'real dojo' who caters to the 'real martial artist' is often a very small class... Because it is serious. The goal of the class is to develop your skill to its peak.. not just to get better than someone else or make you better than an average... The idea is to work one technique or drill until you've got it down pat. There is no play, there is no competition, there is no ego building... the purpose is to hone your weapons to be used when the time comes to use them. If your class is all about playing games and looking pretty while doing a form.. you are in a McDojo. If you live from rank test to rank test you are in a McDojo. If you have to learn something new once a week to keep you interested in the class, you are in a McDojo.

But thats just my opinion....

The TSD school you went to was a McDojang. In my former TSD school, testing was every three months (for white, orange, green, and blue), then it went to every 4 months (brown, purple, red, red with stripe), then a training period of 6 months (for cho dan bo). Again, we had to know our requirements for each belt. If we didn't, we failed. If you were a cho dan bo, and failed you test for black, you had to wait another six months. Most of us didn't really care about the test thing (except a few). We just loved training.
I agree 100%, the Tang Soo Do school was a McDojang... I enjoyed the class because it was a good workout, but that was all it was to me.. a way to keep in shape. I approached the instructor about his teaching a McDojang to see his perspective and of course he didn't think that he was (I didn't come out and out and say "Hey! This is a McDojang!") because his students always cleaned up in competitions. Now, if you compare his students to those at the competition based on sparring and how they look doing form, his students were above par. They were excellent; they had good snap to their technique, they were fast, they were tricky and they flowed through their forms like water. His product had a beautiful exterior but was hollow on the inside.

If you play games all the time you are going to get good at games.

By saying that I make it sound like I don't like competition at all, but that just isn't so, I'm in training to fight MMA... Competition is good if it is used for the right reasons. I am not going to fight to see how good I am or to win a prize or fight for honor or glory... I fight for knowledge. I go into the fight to test myself and my knowledge and to learn something new. I don't consider my ability to win an indication of skill because it isn't. Sparring and Forms are only a small part of what it is to be a 'real martial artist.'

Black Belt (n) The rank of expert in a martial art such as judo or karate.

The public is in awe of a person who is a 'Black Belt' because they use the websters dictionary definition of the term. It seems that only martial artists believe that a black belt is just 'the beginning.' I think that is just a bunch of zen crap used to explain why black belts these days suck. Of course it is a beginning... every day is the beginning of the rest of your life; if you want to get all mystical and zen-ish. The public has expectations of a martial artist and the martial artist often falls short. A Black Belt is supposed to be an expert, not a beginner. I think it is high time that we start living up to what is expected of us and quit shirking from our responsibility.
I take my role as an instructor very seriously. When a student comes to me to learn the foremost thing on his/her mind is to learn how to defend his/her-self. A lot of people join the martial arts for fitness, discipline and other reasons, but they pick the martial arts because it is supposed to teach them how to defend themselves. It is dishonorable to take students into your class who are looking to learn how to defend themselves in the street and only focus on playing games. If I imply or I say that I provide something, I am obligated to give that. Schools that form a core around competition and martial sport should make it clear that the information taught is "for entertainment purposes only." A 'real martial art' isn't fun because it isn't for entertainment purposes. It's not something you go and do because you ain't got nothing better to do or you want to feed your ego, its something that you do because you are extremely serious about learning how to stop some deviant from hurting you and yours. If playing games is what you are about, I have a problem with you because you advertise/imply that you provide skill for the street and then don't provide. Its called fraud, its dishonorable and those things go against everything that a martial artist is.
Ami Tou Fou! You know, this is kinda weird. These martial arts organizations which exist to preserve the knowledge within their respective arts; have different rules and regulations? It is only individual perception which gives fault to their respective schools. Perception is just that; perception. The way i/we want something to be! I might like a particular style, yet i'am bound by membership within the martial arts community at large to respect, honor, and yield to other styles existence as well as to these styles practioners. The martial way does not consist of ridicule! If their rules call for something that one does not agree with. Then it is those whom disagree which have the problem, not the style or it's practitioner. Ones perception can and does lead to evil interpretations of what is believed by the perceiver. This is not, the expression of dignity, virtue, honesty, perserverence, humility, and the like! One must deal with his/her own problems before one can perceive the existence of another's! No martial arts style or practitioner is perfect in any way. Their is and will continue to be error for the understanding of the betterment of the art and the practitioner! Thus, ones perception tends to fail to see the reality of the experience. Finding the reality is finding one's self without ridicule, evil, and chaos. First, one must find this reality of experience within self; then and only then can one find this same experience within other arts their practitioners respectively! :asian: "Sabba Papassa Akaranam", or Aviod All Evil! Sincerely, In Humility; Chiduce!
Thank you, Chiduce, for the "cast the beam out of your own eye before removing the splinter from someone's" speach. I often forget to do that... Thank you for reminding.

No human being is perfect and I can accept that. But, I do believe we, as martial artists and as human beings, should hold each other accountable and ensure that an individual's highest potential is struggled for in what-ever endeavor they embark upon. Each of us has roles to play; some will be warriors and some will be athletes. It is impossible to expect that everyone play the same role. However, it is possible to expect them to acheive their potential without acting in a dishonorable manner... which goes back to what I said before... if you say or imply that you provide a service then it is dishonorable if you take their time and money and don't provide that service to the utmost of your ability.

These roles need to be established. There is major differences between martial art and martial sport and in order to maintain a high level of integrity, instructors need to know which role they are in so that they provide their students with what they need or send their students to someone else.

And hopefully everyone knows that I speak from my own perspective and until I conquer the world and crown myself emperor (Muah Ha Ha) everyone is welcome to disagree with me without having to worry about being de-jeweled. I may bark and make my presence known, but I'm chained up in the back yard and can't bite.

- Doug
Originally posted by Turner

The public is in awe of a person who is a 'Black Belt' because they use the websters dictionary definition of the term. It seems that only martial artists believe that a black belt is just 'the beginning.' I think that is just a bunch of zen crap used to explain why black belts these days suck.

I agree about the public, but the black belt being a true beginner is historically accurate I believe. See this post:

jeffbeish wrote:
Then you had to defeat at least six Judoka of the same or higher rank as you were, in a contest referred to as batsugan (if that is the proper way to spell it). Anyway, after that exciting blood sport we had to perform some kata and other stuff in a testing area. Then you paid like $2 for a certificate and license in Judo as a beginner (1st dan) and some of us American/European types would get one with some English stuff on it. I joined the Kodokan and became a life member after some years.

He's referring to the 1950s. Recall that the black belt started in judo.
While re-reading Musashi's Book of 5 Rings i came across this gem showing that the "McDojo" is not so recent a phenomenon considering the following was written in the year 1643!

The field of martial arts is particularly rife with flamboyant showmanship, with commercial popularization & profiteering on the part of both those who teach the science & those who study it. The result of this must be, as someone said, that "amateuristic martial arts are a source of serious wounds".

So i guess everything old is new again...
I somewhat agree with Turner. But let me qualify: I am NOT a
black belt.

First off, most would agree, that generally speaking, a
black belt in most arts can kick some tail in the street. A.K.A.
defend him/herself! If you don't buy into the spiritual/zen
aspect of martial arts, then what else is there? Are there more
strikes/blocks/parries/stances/ or kicks to learn?? I don't think
there are in most styles (but I'm no expert here). In Kenpo,
my understanding is that when you acheive a black belt, not only
should you be able to execute strikes/blocks/parries/stances/ or
kicks of the system, but you learn motion, you learn the how's,
why's, what if's, completion, etc. There's 4 more ranks beyond
1st black in kenpo that you can actually test for, but these are
(to my understanding) extensions of techniques that have
already been learned. And there are no extra
strikes/blocks/parries/stances/ or kicks involved. Kind of extra
tools to really drive home the point behind it all.

In life, there is no end to anyone's learning, even the geniuses
of this world have admitted to not knowing it all. But none of
them said "my genius is only the beginning of knowledge" when
yes, probably on the grand scheme of things, it could be worded
that way.

I'm a computer programmer for a living. I'm well above most
that are just starting college pursuing an IT career. There's
plenty to learn after college, and if one so desires, there's a life
time of stuff to learn, because no one person knows it all. Is
this similar to the beginning that most of you refer to?

To say it's just the beginning, when a b.b. knows so much more
than non m.a-ists, and a those in his school without a b.b. is
just so foreign to me. This is what makes me think that the
zen comes into play, that it's looking on the grand scheme of
things, or comparing it to the life time of learning in m.a. that is
out there. A b.b. in one's chosen style ... is the BEGINNING
of learning in THAT SPECIFIC style?!??!? Is this what you're
leading me to believe? Or are you saying that you now must
learn how your abilities to take a life can be dangerous in the
wrong hands, and now one must learn to prevent the taking of
a life unless 100% necessary, and one must not disturb one's
life spirit as a pebble disturbs a still pond. So many say that
a b.b. is "just the beginning", but NEVER NEVER NEVER do they
even TRY to explain WHY . Maybe once I get one, I'll
understand better, but for now, it's starting to get annoying.
I challenge the members of this site to go further into depth
the next time they decide to run this tired old line by me again.
"Most of us didn't really care about the test thing (except a few). We just loved training."

Devil's advocate here...

What's so bad about working to earn a belt, and being proud of getting a belt? Heck, I've always looked forward to testing. For one, tests are fun and a good change, so much so that I give them often, not once every six months or more. The only problem is when someone becomes what is another interesting term, a "belt collector," which is usually lower colored belts across multiple styles, none of which the student stays at for more than a few months.

Another problem I guess is for the poor people who earn decent belts in their training, but because they aren't yet a BLACK belt, no one takes them seriously. "Oh wow, you do Karate?! Cool!!!! So you like kick butt, right? Awesome! So you're like a black belt, right? Excuse me? A blue belt? Ha! Ha! Ha! What the hell is a 'blue' belt?" This does not take into account the hard work that the student has put in thus far, nor does it take into account the fact that the student put in more hours and worked harder than the jerk who makes fun of him.

Someone else also wrote:
"A 'real martial art' isn't fun because it isn't for entertainment purposes."

Says who? You have to be miserable? More importantly, people can't study the arts for the fun of it? Granted, a student will not go as far or get as much out of it if they are treating their involvement like a hobby, compared to someone who makes their training a way of life. But why instantly knock someone who doesn't have the time in a really busy schedule to dedicate more than a couple hours an evening, a few nights a week? People work for a living now, and personally, I'd be nowhere if I got kicked out of schools for being unable to spend every waking moment working on my art.
Originally posted by Kirk

A b.b. in one's chosen style ... is the BEGINNING
of learning in THAT SPECIFIC style?!??!? Is this what you're
leading me to believe?

I believe this. When you know the techniques you're ready to start learning.

A black belt in most arts knows all the techniques; in some that isn't true until a higher rank of black belt. Is an art the sum of its techniques? If so, a black belt isn't a beginner. Is an art more than the sum of its techniques? Is it expected that the student will learn the techniques, then develop his or her own characteristic means of using them? That he or she will try to understand how the system fits together; what its overall strategy is; what the design principles were; and how to use it in situations not clearly covered in earlier training? If so, a black belt is ready to begin.

You can't start working until you assemble your tools. In that sense, a black belt is a true beginner. I don't think it's mumbo-jumbo--I think it's the case for many, though not all, arts.

Latest Discussions