Beware the McDojo

Published on 1 April 2023 at 08:28

When it comes to martial arts, there are many studios and schools around the world. However, not all of them are trustworthy, authentic, or offer quality training. This is where the term “McDojo” comes in.


A McDojo is a martial arts studio that prioritizes profit over quality training, and as a result, often dilutes the tradition and art of the martial art they teach. While these places may have impressive appearances and promising advertisements, they are often not as they seem. McDojos can be found anywhere, from big cities to small towns, and it is crucial to be able to recognize them before investing time, money, and effort into them.


I aim to inform  both of my readers about some of the most famous McDojos and what to look out for to avoid falling for a McDojo.


Famous McDojos


Ashida Kim’s Black Dragon Fighting Society

Ashida Kim first rose to fame in the 1980s via his books and videos on the deadly art of Ninja, claiming to have learned under a ninja master named Hatsumi. However, there is no evidence of Hatsumi’s existence, and many of Kim’s claims and accomplishments are questionable.


Kim was notorious for charging high fees for his training and often misled students with his unrealistic promises about their abilities. He also made false claims that his books and videos were the only legitimate resource for learning the art of the ninja.


Yoshukai Karate

Yoshukai Karate was founded by Tsuyoshi Chitose, who learned karate from his father and other masters. However, despite Chitose’s martial arts background, Yoshukai Karate studios have been accused of being McDojos.


Yoshukai Karate schools were known for their high fees and long-term contracts. They often emphasized the importance of competition but held their own tournaments, where only their students could participate. Yoshukai Karate schools also typically required their students to purchase expensive uniforms and gear.


Dragon Society International

The Dragon Society International is a martial arts organization that claims to be founded by Grandmaster Rick Tew. The organization has been accused of promoting unrealistic fantasies and teaching a martial art system that is not authentic.


Dragon Society International’s website includes disclaimers that students should only use their skills for self-defense, yet they offer lessons on topics such as astral projection and energy manipulation. They also offer up to 21 levels of certification, which has led critics to suspect that they are more focused on profits than improving their students’ abilities.


Seidokaikan Karate

Seidokaikan Karate was formed in the 1980s by Kazuyoshi Ishii after he left Kyokushin Karate. The style emphasizes full-contact sparring and has been the subject of controversy over its legitimacy and safety practices.


Seidokaikan Karate schools have been accused of being McDojos due to their high fees and lack of proper safety equipment during sparring. Additionally, Seidokaikan Karate is known to have a high injury rate due to its full-contact nature and lack of proper safety measures.


What to Watch Out for to Avoid a McDojo


With the numerous stories online of people getting scammed out of their money by McDojos, it’s essential to know what to look out for and how to avoid them. Below are some tips on how to do just that.


Check the Instructor’s Background

A legitimate martial arts instructor should have the necessary experience and training to teach their chosen martial art. Therefore, it’s essential to ask questions about the instructor’s background, training, competition experience, and certifications. If they can’t provide details or have questionable credentials, that’s a red flag.


Observe a Class

Before signing up for a class, it’s essential to observe one to get an idea of the instructor’s teaching methods, class atmosphere, and if it’s suitable for one’s fitness level. If the studio doesn’t allow you to observe a class, it’s a warning sign. Additionally, if you notice that the class is chaotic, disorganized, or unsafe, it’s best to look elsewhere.


Be Wary of Long-Term Contracts

McDojos often require long-term contracts to secure a student’s financial commitment, and this is something to be cautious of. These can be a red flag as students may be forced to pay whether they attend classes or not. If the studio requires you to sign a long-term contract, it’s best to proceed with caution.


High Fees and Hidden Costs

One of the most significant signs of a McDojo is charging outrageous fees for lessons, equipment, and testing fees. If the studio’s fees are much higher than the standard price for the area or is asking you to pay an annual “membership” fee, they may be a McDojo. Also, be wary of hidden costs, such as extra fees for belt tests or an obligation to buy equipment from the studio.


Unreal Expectations

All martial arts require dedication, patience, and hard work. Beware any school that has a 3 year old black belt or pushes an advanced course to get you promoted to a certain belt status quickly. Belts are systematically derivative of your hard work. Paying more money does not mean your work is going to mean more towards your success.


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