The Rise Of The McDojo

For anybody not familiar with the phrase, a McDojo is a school that teaches a watered-down and impractical form of martial arts in the name of making money. The “Mc” is taken from “McDonald’s”, as in mass produced - low quality! They usually have all the expensive designer gear too, which you have to buy from them of course.

Many real martial artists complain about the rise of the McDojo (myself included). Many martial artists complain that those who train with McDojo’s do so because they want to get easy belts without working hard! I don’t think that’s the case as those people don’t know any better, many of them haven’t seen proper martial arts before so don’t have anything to compare with! In fairness, many of McDojo’s give a good physical workout and are fairly strict on the discipline; it’s just the martial content that is lacking. And I’m not even talking about sport martial art here, as serious sport martial artists can really move with speed, accuracy and good technique.

Part of the problem is that many traditional martial artists don’t like to promote themselves too much. In many large associations (especially single style) there is a culture that only the very top people should earn a living from teaching; the rest of us should teach simply for love of the art without “dirtying” ourselves by making too much money from teaching!
Then along come the McDojo’s who are more than happy to take the money whilst teaching an inferior product. Again, in fairness to them they are much more business like. They pay more for professional posters, sometimes they pay a lot for a franchise and they pay a lot more for a professional website.
Meantime, many die-hard traditionalists are making up posters on their own PC and making websites on WordPress (or similar do-it-yourself software). Me included!
When somebody looking to take up martial arts looks at our posters/websites compared to the McDojo’s, I’m sorry to say that most McDojo’s LOOK a lot more professional than the traditionalist who often feels obliged to maintain a low key modesty!

In the eyes of the public, your promotional material is a reflection of your teaching. If your promotional material is amateur, they’ll probably assume that your teaching is amateur (they have little else to go by). If they see a high gloss poster professionally designed with great graphics of kids in uniforms smiling, they’ll naturally assume that the teacher is professional. And when they know nothing about martial arts, it’s not unreasonable for them to make that assumption, so there’s no point in blaming the public.

I have nothing against anybody making a living from teaching martial arts as long as they are giving a fair product for the money that they take. But I’ve seen several times, high grade experienced martial artists advertising that they are the cheapest in the area. There is a sub-conscious line of thought that cheap is low quality. So if you are charging bargain basement prices for your teaching and advertising with a poster made on your PC/laptop; whilst so-called Master Dipstick from the local McDojo is positioning himself as a true professional, charging professional prices and putting out professional posters - sorry but you have to forgive the uninitiated for thinking that the McDojo is the better option!

I believe that traditional martial artists who want expand their school’s should:-
- Learn from the McDojo’s with regard to promotion and advertising (NOT training and teaching).
- Stop blaming the public for “wanting it easy” and actually be prepared to pay the money to advertise/promote properly.
- Stop seeing it as somehow sullying our martial art by making money out of it (just make sure you’re giving a fair product for the price you charge).
By being more professional in our marketing and promotion, the public who want to train will actually benefit by learning it properly (remember, they DON’T KNOW any better when they start).
If an experienced martial artist can make a full time living from teaching, that is good for them and for the students. It also frees them to go and learn more and become an even better martial artist with even more to teach.

I see youngsters in their 20’s earning a full time living teaching simplified versions of martial arts with all the designer gear, whilst 4th and 5th Dans who have been diligently training for decades think that they’re not worthy to make a living out it.

If you’d like to make a living from it, then I say get out there, be more professional with your promotion and save the unknowing public from the McDojo’s!!

PS: If you’re not sure if you are training in a McDojo or not, then I suggest you check out this article by Jesse Enkamp:

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