Home > Concepts & Principles > Mindset of a McDojo

Mindset of a McDojo

This is not an endorsement of “McDojo’s” but is intended to give some insights on how many of them think. I’ve been involved with and seen many different martial arts groups since the 70’s, some more hardcore than others. I first heard the term “McDojo” in the 80’s. While that term is fairly new, the concept of martial artists watering down their training and teachings for the masses, small groups, or individuals in order to make a living is as old as the martial arts themselves. I suspect that anyone or group successfully making a living solely teaching martial arts has some traits associated with a “McDojo” or they could not stay in business.

As a general rule if someone opens a school and is teaching, it is because they believe in what they have and feel it is worth sharing. There are certainly easier ways to make a living.

Some people running a “McDojo” are in denial and don’t know that they are running a “McDojo”. Others not only know so but embrace the idea. I remember being told by the regional director of one group that the head of the organization loved the idea. His thought was that “few people eat at the most expensive restaurant in town, but almost everyone eats at McDonald’s often”. That meant that McDonald’s was serving the needs and helping more people everyday than the finest restaurants were.

There are a lot of things to consider when running a school for a living. First is that in order to keep your doors open so that you can teach anyone, the school has to be profitable. If the school isn’t profitable it will eventually have to close its doors.

A commercial school is a business like any other. You would never go to a store or shop of any kind and think they should provide their goods or services for free. Barbers don’t cut your hair for free, Doctors don’t treat you when you are sick for free, you wouldn’t expect to go to the local health club and workout for free, Schools/colleges certainly don’t teach you unless they make a healthy profit. Yet it is common for people to think that someone teaching martial arts should do so for free or for next to nothing. I think that idea comes from people watching the old tv series Kung Fu, where the hero is a Buddhist Monk with a vow of poverty. Of course that idea is unrealistic if they want to succeed in business.

Understand that anyone that has trained and learned enough to run a school has spent a lot of time money and effort to gain their knowledge and skills. They believe the knowledge, skills, and time put in is of value. Therefore the thought is if someone wants to learn those same things they need make the same commitment and also make that same  investment.

Another thought is that even if they want to run a hardcore school, only about 1 person out of 100 that starts with you ever makes it to black belt in any school. Let alone a hardcore school. In order to be able to train the hardcore students and keep the doors open, they have to have many other students to pay the bills.

The majority of people that take classes are not planning to become world class MMA competitors, or enter the military looking for real life or death combat situations.  Only a small percentage of law enforcement, and security personnel seek martial arts training, because they have guns and tend to attack with overwhelming force and numbers.

The reasons people join a school vary from individual to individual. Some are looking for all the character building and personal growth promised in the advertisements for the various schools. Some are looking at the cultural aspects. Some are looking to be able to develop a level of ability to defend themselves if attacked. Others are looking for basic fitness and want to do something that stimulates their minds and bodies at the same time. They get bored easily doing a repetitive set of exercises day in day out year after year. For that majority a “McDojo” may meet their needs. For others training in a “McDojo/McKwoon” may not only be a waste of time but, could potentially put them at risk should they need their training to save their lives.

So it is important when looking for the right school for you that you be honest with yourself about what you are trying to get out of your training. You need to know your limitations, and the limitations of the school and teacher you choose. Especially if you may have to count on the skills and training you get to defend yourself one day. Be aware that there are many teachers that have only ever trained in a “McDojo”, and never fought. It is easy for these teachers to be delusional about the effectiveness of their training, techniques, and skills. There are others teaching in this same environment that have real fighting experience, realistic skills, and teaching methods. You can even find drastically different approaches and experience levels in the same chain of schools. So you always have to do your due diligence when selecting a school in order to have the best experience for you in your training.


Mike Murphy



Categories: Concepts & Principles
  1. Erwin Ramthun
    September 24, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    I think this is the best article you have written. It even has no spelling or grammar mistakes that I could spot.


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