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What is a McDojo?

A McDojo is a disparaging term used to describe a martial arts school. The same way some would describe getting a college degree via a certificate you can order online without doing the work. It means getting a black belt without the value of a black belt.

I've been wanting to write about this for a while. Here is my definition. A McDojo is any martial arts school that is delusional or intentionally misleading about what they do.

I am writing this because it bothers me to see so many martial arts practitioners mocked online. If you don't know what they're doing or why they're doing it, it's impossible to judge.

There are so many forms of martial arts that most schools would fit into the following categories:

1- Combat sport 2- Art for presentation 3- Self-defense

One is not better than the other. Misidentifying a karate school is like saying an offensive lineman is bad at football because he can't complete a pass.

-Combat sport is the martial arts of effective aggression. Those are for people who want to Fight hard in a sport with rules and expectations. That's not self-defense. While learning boxing or jui jitsu will help you with self-defense (the same way that playing basketball will ultimately make you a faster runner) that's not the goal or focus. Combat sport schools draw in a lot of fit athletes who often strike hard and expect to draw blood in training.

-Art for presentation. You've seen those images of people doing side kicks straight up like a 90 degree straight line? There's little value to that in sparring, or in self-defense, but it is an incredible martial arts accomplishment. Demo teams, tricking and forms such as tai chi would typically fall into this category. Success in this type of martial art shows incredible speed, flexibility and choreography.

Self-defense. This is the art of protecting yourself where there are essentially no rules, and the anticipation of an uneven matchup. For example, someone has a gun or a knife or is trying to force you into a car. I don't care how tough you are in boxing or how flexible you are, this requires a different skill set and intense training. The crazy thing is the people who benefit the most from this are those that have limited physical abilities. They can't kick higher than their shin but they certainly deserve to know how to defend themselves. When you see an 80-year-old woman try a technique to take down a young man with a gun, it's not a McDojo if you offer strategies to get away quickly. The 7 and 80 year old need to learn their own strengths and abilities to avoid and get out of dangerous situations as much or even more than someone with physical strength.

Personally I value and appreciate all 3 of these styles and believe I incorporate some training on all 3 because it's helpful to know the various ways the same strike is used. (Like knowing a kick in football is different than a kick in soccer.) And any lineman should know what the quarterback is trying to do.

The old saying if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will always be a failure. Look a little closer at what the instructor is teaching to empower people for their own goals and potential before judging.

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