Martial arts is a beautiful part of life. It will challenge you to become a stronger and more disciplined person in your pursuit of physical mastery. However, martial arts schools are susceptible to scammers and crooks just like every other practice out there. Martial arts scam schools and easy belt-mills known as “McDojos” are and unfortunate reality of the practice. McDojos will offer you a unique, fast track way in which you will quickly advance through a series of belts to earn your way to black belt mastery. If you or somebody you know is experiencing these qualities in their martial arts academy, there is a high chance that they are part of a martial arts scam school.
1. Constant Expensive Testing Fees
Constant, expensive testing fees to graduate to a new belt is a very bad sign for a martial arts school. People learn skills and techniques at different paces. Determining a student’s abilities solely on how long they’ve been at a school or whether or not they paid for the next test is an unjust way to award rank. Advancing in a belt rank should be a merit-proven honor in a martial arts academy.
2. Strong Conformist Mentality
Is there a giant picture of your school’s master on the wall? That isn’t a great sign for your academy. If your instructor commands an extraordinary amount of respect, constant admiration, and invites a strong sense of fear, you are likely in a McDojo. Great martial arts schools are built from the hard work of dedicated and innovative martial arts masters. The attitude of students towards their instructors should certainly be respectful, not fearful. If there is a strong feeling that you are a part of a small cult of personality, it’s not a very good sign. Martial arts practice and mastery works to destroy the ego. If your instructor exudes a strong ego-centrism and need for worship, you are not in the best school.
3. No Application of Technique
The techniques you learn in class should be proven in practice when you get see the application in sparring/randori. When you put your skills against another martial artist in sparring/randori, you can observe why or why not the techniques you’ve learned in class are effective. McDojos focus heavily on memory and repetition with little to no sparring/randori in class. Tests for constant new belts that are based solely on a memory recall of all the techniques learned is a sign of McDojo schooling. Another red flag in McDojo doctrine is rigorous instruction that the instructor’s moves are the only and best way. McDojo instructors will not be able to explain the application, mechanics, and meaning of their techniques beyond mindless repetition testing.
4. Awarded a Black Belt in 1 Year
A black belt represents the highest achievement in a martial arts discipline. If you can 100% master your martial arts discipline in 1 year, you are either a gifted prodigy from a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, or you are in a McDojo. One of the easiest signs to detect this in is if you see a lot of children with black belts in the martial arts academy. If a parent walks into a studio without much martial arts knowledge and sees a lot of kids with black belts running around, it makes your product proven to sell on the spot. Most importantly, shop around for the best martial arts academy. Not every karate studio out there is looking to charge you an arm and a leg just to have you wave you arms around and earn a belt every week. If you are interested in a school, be sure to research the instructor online and seek reviews of the school to make sure you don’t end up in a McDojo.