Oh, the world of martial arts training. If you have never trained before the options before you can be staggering. First off you need to decide on what discipline you want to follow (some recommended styles will be discussed soon in a later post), then you need to find the school and teacher that is right for you. In some styles you will only have one or two choices while other styles will fill pages of the phone book. What you need to ensure is that the school you attend is not a “McDojo”.

The Japanese term for a martial arts school is a dojo, which translates out literally as “place of the way” or loosely as “place of enlightenment”. A dojo is not just a place to train the body, it is a place to train the soul and spirit as well. On the other hand, a McDojo is a school that is not concerned with your own personal advancement but on the dollar bills in your wallet and getting you in and out the door so they can concentrate on the people in line behind you (much like a certain fast food restaurant serves nutritionally void food with no care to your personal health, just your pocketbook).  I was unfortunate enough to be caught in the flash and glitz of a McDojo when first finding martial arts training for my children and want to protect you from making the same expensive mistake.

There are many indicators that let you know that the school is a McDojo. Inclusion on this list does not guarantee the school is less than reputable, but if you find many items on this list apply I would be extremely wary. Here are some signs:

  • When you ask about price at your first meeting you get the runaround, being told to come and give it a try without getting any information up front.
  • Lengthy contracts (I feel any contract is bad business for the consumer but I would sign a 3-6 month if needed.  Definitely not a 2-3 year one).
  • Additional payment required to reach a special tier or group (for example, the Black Belt Club).
  • Extremely expensive equipment needed that can only be purchased through the school.
  • Excessive fees such as belt testing, etc.
  • Children who have black belts
  • Really strange belt designs, such as belts with horizontal or vertical stripes, camouflage, etc.  Each belt is another chance to get a fee out of you.
  • Quick advancement (if they promise a black belt in under 3 years walk away)
  • Flashy demonstration teams
  • No actual sparring or use of learned techniques.  A place that focuses on point sparring without actual application won’t serve you well in the real world.

These are just some of the signs but if you encounter any of these I would use caution.  Use the Force as it talks to you through your gut instinct.  If you “have a bad feeling about this” trust your insight because it does serve you well when you actually listen.