Wednesday, September 27, 2017

In Defense of the McDojo

Yep, I'm going to defend that scourge of the martial arts world, the McDojo.

Does a Shodan come with that meal?

But first, let's define our terms.

What's a McDojo?

When I use the term, I'm talking about a martial arts school that waters down what it teaches in order to draw in and retain students. 

It does NOT mean:
  • A successful martial arts school
  • A martial arts school that uses effective marketing to draw in students and keep its door open
  • A school that teaches performance martial arts weapons exclusively
  • A martial arts school that caters to children
  • A martial arts school with a kids after-school program and summer break day camps
It is possible to have all those things I listed above and NOT be a McDojo.

Nope, let's talk about those teaching down "watered down" versions of their arts.  What that actually is could be a long discussion in its own right, so let's pretend we can agree on what that means.

So hey, the McDojo. It's a good thing they exist, and here's why:

McDojos are the sponge that sucks in the audience of people who are not, and may never be, interested in the "real" martial arts.

Most McDojos cater to parents who want their kids to study for physical fitness, self esteem, and discipline.  Their competition isn't Sensei Hardcore's Karate School - it's the soccer league, the basketball league, and the local dance studio.

So they deliver what their audience is looking for.  Physical fitness, self esteem, and discipline.

Learning how to defend against and use violence against other people is not on the list.

And that's what "real" martial arts are, isn't it?  The study of violence?

The truth is, most people these days are not interested in violence.  They're afraid of getting hurt in training, or they don't want to contemplate that violence can happen to them (and in reality, it's pretty rare for most people, at least in the US and Canada).

Not for everybody - dunno why, but it's true.

We weirdos who enjoy acquiring bruises for fun are a small minority of people, and we always have been.  When we live in a society where you don't have to be good at violence, most people avoid it.

McDojos capturing that audience means you don't have them in YOUR classes, Sensei Hardcore.  So you should be grateful there's a place for them to go and you don't have to waste your time and resources on them.

One more thing - some of those kids put in a McDojo grow up and then seek out "real" martial arts training.  It's not a huge number, but it's not a nontrivial amount.  Be a place where they can come to train for real and not feel bad about their McDojo days.

It's not necessary to shame people who didn't know better and earned rank in a McDojo.   They did what was asked of them. When they do get serious, they won't come to you, they'll go to the place that doesn't make them feel like bad people.

McDojos have a place in our martial arts world.  It's not where you and I want to study, but be grateful they're around, because ultimately, it's to our own benefit.

Did you ever train in a McDojo?  What were some of the things you learned there, both good and bad? Let us know in the comments!