I recently spoke with a grand master I befriended in Chicago about promoting and day to day business of our programs. He often messages me to ask how my program is doing and offers advice on how I can improve my school.
Something he said, really stood out to me. He said, in Korea, You cannot open a dojang (martial arts school) until you are 5th, or 6th degree black belt. This is with an accredited degree. Not some random, so and so hands you a certificate, but a Kukkiwon, and or Kwon certificate.
Here in the states and in other parts of the world, it is not so well regulated. Anyone, trained or not can open a gym and deceive. Thus, when their student goes to another gym, they must re-start, re-learn as their instructor has lied to them because of their selfishness and ignorance. My questions are, why is there no state inspection for the safety of instructors who open their doors? Who is questioning their credentials? Did you research the instructor before paying for class? There is a common phrase used in the martial arts community to describe programs that are not legitimate. These are called Mcdojo’s. These programs will be elaborated on below, along with their instructors. Please understand that I do not mean to demonize these instructors. It has been my effort to help these programs become accredited and do things the proper way. It is a disservice to the students to not give them our very best, to not offer them the very best and then charge them the most…
I put together a list of programs to avoid in considering a martial arts school.
5. You wear more than 5 patches on your uniform.
6. Average students are awarded black belt in 1-2 years.
7. No option to try free class.
8. Master before 18 and Grand master before 40.
9. The master will not spar with the students.
10. The master will not let the students spar with a visiting challenger/black belt.
11. No cross-training/outsider participation.
12. No spectators.
13. Instructor does not know applications to moves.
14.If taught application they never work except when your master does them.
15. Program has students who went to “States” “Nationals” in their own program… and are awarded for having the best kiyap (yell).
16. There is a sign that says “Guaranteed Black Belt”.
17. There are 11th dan, 12th dan, 13th dan or even higher ranks.
18. Your Master has one of those higher ranks.
19. “Your style was created by your sensei, yet it’s still “traditional” – and it has several “special advantages” over all other styles. Oh, and most likely, the name of the style is absurdly long.” ~ Karate by Jesse (Wrong about Taekwondo).
20. There are camouflage belts.
21. There are more than ten color belts.
22. Testings are fifteen minutes long.
23. Nobody ever fails at testings.
24. The school sign has the words ‘traditional’, ‘commando’, ‘classical’, ‘effective’, ‘100%’, ‘original’, ‘Okinawan’, ‘dragon’, ‘Japanese’, ‘secret’ and ‘elite’ in the same sentence.
25. You can promote online.
26. The program does not compete.
27. Competition is mandatory.
28. You are often/always doing forms/pattens to music.
29. If you use weapons, they glow in the dark and weigh a maximum of 3 oz.
30. The instructor uses students as punching bags.
31. The instructor refuses to teach you certain techniques, because they are “too deadly”.
32. Kids’ classes are more games and chaos than actual instruction.
33. Your schools website doesn’t say anything about the actual style of martial arts, nor the instructor’s credentials.
34. There is no proof of the instructor’s rank/credentials, nothing to back it up, but their word and their aggressive attitude.
35. Weapons are taught with instructor having no formal training.
36. Disarming of weapons is taught with a lack of understanding.
37. Self defense is completely impractical.
38. Self defense requires that you step into the attack to defend yourself.
39. Take downs are not effective.
40. Attitude of martial arts is present, but spirit is missing <-
^What does that last one mean? It means that for a good number of programs, they know how to act like a martial arts school. They can put on a face, be tough, and carry a heavy fist. However, this is not the way of the pure martial art. Martial arts is grounded, flowing and confident. It strives to work as one, not to be a force in aggression, but in unity. How these fake misleading instructors carry themselves is top heavy. They lack the foundation to stand on. They are too puffed up in the chest and proud in the attitude that the gentle unifying spirit of the martial art cannot work in them. They rarely dare to be exposed to pure martial arts for fear of starting over, that their training, or lack there of would be in vain. But, this would be the path of a true martial artist. This is integrity. It doesn’t matter where we start, or where we fall. Get up and keep going. Just don’t pull others down with you. Don’t lie to others, don’t charge others for something that isn’t your best. Give them this courtesy. Persevere and do your best. This is your integrity on the line. It will take self-control and indomitable spirit. You can do it! We are leaders! Be a leader worth following!