How To Spot And Avoid A McDojo/Belt Factory

Martial arts is a study of discipline.  While the main premise behind martial arts is self-defense the main benefit is self-discipline.  Self-discipline is very difficult to come by, which is why so few people have it.  Whether it is abstaining from hard drugs, not eating those donuts while on a diet, or saying no to a psycho ex who is promising you sex if you will get back together, people have a hard time resisting temptations that lead to bad places.

This is why martial arts has been so popular for thousands of years in Asian countries.  It gives men a path to physical, mental, and spiritual self-improvement.  If a student has progressed far enough he can even make a living teaching others his art.

A Bit of Background on Martial Arts

The origin of the “black belt” is a mostly American tradition.  In Japan, a student was given a belt to tie around his waist in order to hold his pants up.  This belt was seldom if ever washed.  Over time it would turn green with grass stains, then brown from dirt stains.  If he went to battle it might turn red from blood stains.  If the soldier survived long enough this unimportant clothing accessory would start to rot and turn black.  That is where the “black belt” comes from.

With globalization, the art was brought to the West in the mid-twentieth century.  (The changes Communism brought to China also chased many kung fu masters out.)  Things went well at first.  Many men who lacked something in their lives pursued it with passion.  At the time, many became so good that, in some states, anyone who acquired a black belt had to register with the police.

How Things Started To Go Wrong

Teaching true self-discipline required teachers to maintain high-level standards that many students could not meet.  A teacher, facing financial problems when starting out or simply to make more money, would lower his standards in order to keep more students.  These students would receive black belts they didn’t deserve it and, in turn, would go on to teach others — lowering the standards further.  These schools might become good money-makers for their owners, but the students they produced were sub-standard.

Since these schools took on the most students, and produced the most black belts, the faster they spread what’s known as the McDojo.

Today, I’d estimate 80-90 percent of all martial arts schools can be classified as McDojos at some level.  Of course, some will be more than others.  Perhaps you don’t want a Navy Seal-level training commitment at this point in your life (I don’t), but make sure what you are spending your time and money at is not a waste of both.

But Why Does It Matter

The problem with McDojos being so numerous is students who are passionate about martial arts and have what it takes to make it in one of the real schools will often simply find the martial arts school that is most convenient for them to get to.  They are beginners and don’t know how to identify a real school from a fake one.  This is bad for the student and bad for the real instructor because if he sets standards that are too high for the average person and he only gets a few prospective students a year come into his school then he will be forced to close or lower his standards just enough to stay open and become a pseudo-Mcdojo out of necessity.

I am not opposed to people having entrepreneurial spirit and making money, but people go to McDojos to learn self-defense and people who think they know something but don’t get into trouble as this story demonstrates.

“when a school opens and you go to see the instructor, and he looks like what he does is a lot like the things you see on TV, you tend to believe that they really do know what they are doing”

You can buy a uniform and black belt online for less than $50.

“In 2 years I did get my black belt. I went through the test with a dozen other people…and amazingly enough we all passed”

“Most of us stayed and went for our 2nd degree black belts. And then third.”

Then later one of these guys got into a real fight.

“one of the guys who blazed his way through to black belt in 2 years and stuck with it along with me was beaten up in a way I didn’t think anyone could survive. He was a mass of ripped flesh and broken bones and blood”

“He says now that he was confident until he was hit with the first punch. All that kata practice hadn’t taught him how to block effectively…We’re not black belts. We’re a bunch of well conditioned dancers.”

Martial arts does build confidence.  However, confidence that lasts until the first punch is as useful as game that lasts until your first approach.

“We didn’t spar. We weren’t allowed to compete. The reason given that sport held no place in his teaching…We were conned. This joker left his own instructor as a blue belt with only 2 years instruction”

How To Prevent This From Happening To You

This is why, if you ever decide to start studying martial arts, learn some of the red flags of a McDojo.  Here are a few common ones.

1. Are there black belts who are children

2. Are students going through different belt levels very quickly and getting a black belt after only a few years

3. Lack of sparring or no contact sparring

4. A teacher whose credentials are unbelievable for someone his age

These are pretty common.  Here are two more I would like to add.

Your teacher rarely corrects your technique.  Practice does not make perfect.  Practice makes permanent.  When you come into a school on day one I guarantee there are many things wrong with your kicks, punches, posture, stances, and everything else.  If your teacher does not correct them he either doesn’t care or doesn’t know any better himself.  Practicing imperfect technique makes it harder to unlearn later and increases your chance of sport injuries.  Only by knowing the corrections that you need to make and making them can you get the discipline to make your martial arts…better, not perfect.

Are you afraid of the higher level students?  You should be.  They are supposed to be better than you.  You probably won’t be practicing with your teacher very much so the best way to qualify the effectiveness of a school’s curriculum is by the upper level students.  Do you want what they have?  If not, the school is not for you.

Read More: 5 Things I Learned About Life From Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

106 thoughts on “How To Spot And Avoid A McDojo/Belt Factory”

  1. Great warning. My art of choice is Krav Maga, and I’ve been very fortunate to find a couple real badass instructors. I attended one month of classes at a KM McDojo, a very popular one, and was horrified to find that over half the class was spent doing push-ups and throwing around a heavy ball.
    Further, the way they striated techniques was a joke. Told students it would take a year until they had the basics down enough to learn weapon defenses.
    That’s when I left. In real KM schools, the very few that exist, you won’t be there more than a week or two without blocking knives and disarming guns. Simple stuff but the McDojo made it sound like it was so advanced they would even talk about it.
    Again, great article.

    1. “blocking knives and disarming guns” in a week?
      “Simple stuff.” Really?
      Even McDonald’s requires longer training.

      1. It is simple with plastic knives and guns. You think you’re practicing at full speed, but IRL things go faster and messier.
        At KM I learn to do it too, but even the teacher admitted that IRL, attempting to block a knife would only get you to the hospital (few are that honest), you’re far better running or/and grabbing a chair.

        1. I’m always suspicious of people who say “run”.
          People always assume they can outrun a crazy guy with a knife.
          Old people, women, guy with a limp, short legs, sure just run haha.
          Someone needs to tell most of these people the reality…
          Most of you will never be able to fight these guys or get away.
          You’re just going to die.
          You are fat…
          out of shape…
          an indoor cat…
          you get out of breath jerking off…
          He’s a lion, you are a deer.
          Good luck.

        2. “People always assume they can outrun a crazy guy with a knife.”
          If you can’t (not in shape, in a corner, etc.) Grab a chair or an other big thing.
          Sure you’ll probably get hurt, but it’s better than standing there thinking “Well I’m going to die anyway”.

        3. Agreed. I’m a fan of the “here’s my wallet” camp, as that’s the option least likely to get you killed. And if they don’t leave you alone the second you fork over your money, beat the crap out of them until they’re no longer able to stab you.

    2. That actually sounds like a sign it’s NOT a McDojo. I personally agree that weapon defense should be taught much sooner than a year, but I can understand their viewpoint too. Noobs think they’re hot shit and would be more likely to get in a fight with an armed robber rather than simply giving up their wallet.
      I think you missed the key point in this article that the longer the process takes, the less likely it’s a McDojo.

  2. Great stuff. If you really mess someone up all that training will come in handy in prison for the 5-10 years you will be there,

  3. If you live near a major city or even a small one with some shitty parts, there should be plenty of boxing gyms within driving distance. You just have to do some research on the place and check out the coaches resume. If he has a reputation for churning out champions, you’re in luck as the quality of instruction you’re getting is beyond the price.

    1. So, instead of pointing to something specific, you lazily put up a google search results page…
      full of people on internet forums debating, for example, Roman-Greco wrestling vs. KM in on-the-mat grappling..??
      Yup, you’ve got me convinced.

      1. Indeed. Although lately I’ve been coming to suspect that their air force, tank corps and small arms might be helping them out a bit as well.

  4. What a great post. I searched around for a good dojo for my boy and after several inspections, I found a jiu-jitsu dojo that is truly a diamond in the coal field. The instructors are both full-time, one black belt, one brown. Grappling is mandatory and I have seen both instructors and several students compete. Nobody is allowed even a blue belt unless they are at least 16 years old. If any Kings need a recommendation for a dojo in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, contact me.

  5. Haha that first picture you used of the fat guy kicking in the air is one of my good buddies from high school. We did taekwondo together and he was pretty good, even for his size. Too bad senior year of high school he got caught with cocaine, an unregistered fire arm and over 10 grand worth of prescription pills in his car after speeding. Last I heard he still has 4 more years to go.
    As for the martial arts side of things, I think it’s best to go with a variety of techniques that provide you with a spectrum of ranges. But it takes time and dedication to being good a variety of disciplines instead of being somewhat familiar with just a couple. Since competing in taekwondo, I’ve taken up judo, and jujitsu. TKD helps with a longer range of self defense, then judo helps you bring an opponent to the ground, while jujitsu obviously helps with your ground game. I’ve only recently taken up KM to help with defense against an opponent with a weapon, whether it be a knife or a gun. After the first day of KM, you never forget “eyes, nose, throat, knees, and balls”

  6. I went to a McDojo but didn’t know it until I started Muay Thai training at a different facility.
    Not even in the same REALM of what I was use to.
    Our teacher is one no joke bad mofo that grew up on the streets in Brazil.
    At the end of every class we spar.
    I totally agree, #3 sparring is a must and where I was really put to the test and learned.

  7. I would say all except for number 2 can be thrown out the window, but then again, belts are worthless, so even that can be thrown out the window.

  8. To avoid McDojo’s, I suggest looking at: full contact Karate (Enshin, Ashihara, Daido Juku, Shidokan, Kyokushin), Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, or Judo. I suggest avoiding Tae Kwan Do, Shotokan Karate, and most Okinawa styles (Shorin-ryu, etc), although there are some good teachers in those styles, they are more difficult to find. If a Tae Kwan Do school is called something like “Kim’s Karate” or “Lee’s Martial Arts”, it may very well be a McDojo.
    In Japan, a lot of styles used to have only white and black belts. The different colored lower belts (blue, green, brown, etc) are often used by MA schools, including legitimate ones, to make extra money by charging students for their next “belt test.” MA instructors often struggle financially and that’s one way they try to get extra income. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a McDojo.

    1. shorin ryu is legit
      i have a green belt in it it took me like 5 years to get to green belt and am testing for brown belt
      as for sparring
      shorin ryu we use boxing glives and do full contact to any part of the body except the back and groin
      we are a more legit style of shirin ryu
      heck we barely have kicks
      our emphasis on low kicks was legit
      but i also do judo and bjj and starting to like it im glad i came to america
      i was born here but raised in mexico but my shorin ryu school in mexico was all full contact

  9. Having a black belt myself, I would recommend staying away from karate. I only felt that I deserved my black belt because I was heavy into competition, and learned Brazilian Jui Jitsu and Wrestling on the side. Dojo quality has gone way down, learn MMA if you want to fight, or hit on other guy’s girlfriends.

  10. Martial arts are gay. Krav maga or what the hell ever seems cool enough.
    Im sure your stupid ninja kick will protect you from a bullet though tool. And that tapout shirt is a chick magnet.

    1. There are three places you are most likely to get into a fight.
      1) A bar or other place that serves alcohol.
      There are four states that allow you to carry firearms into a place that serves liquor and I am sure that pulling out a gun and pointing it at someone even in those states will get you arrested which brings us to number 2.
      2) Prison
      No one expects to go to prison, but whether through a woman’s false accusation or a DUI in some states or other reasons you may find yourself in one some day and you can’t bring your gun with you. Martial arts may end up preventing prison rape in such cases.
      3) You may get mugged at night.
      In movies a man will slowly walk up to you brandishing a baseball bat and talking about how you are in the wrong part of town. In reality he will hide behind some bushes leap out and hit you, take your wallet and run away. Or he might have a gun and point it at you. He already has a gun pointed at you and you won’t be able to pull your gun out, turn off the safety, and get a shot off before he simply pulls his trigger. In both of these examples pulling out out a gun will take too long and scare the attacker into hurting you more. Martial arts would be more practical.
      A firearm is more deadly for sure, but since about half of US households own guns anyone planning to attack you will take that into consideration and plan accordingly (assuming their brains aren’t fried from meth). Very few people expect you to know kung fu. It is the attack you don’t expect that will get you.

      1. 1. Bar fights are not gentlemanly. I don’t get smashed enough to instigate bar fights nor do my drinking buddies. Fear of being sued stops me.
        2. I record all of my sexual acts just in case a ho tries to pull a fast one. I also never use my real name. Alreadyhave 1 dui, and the drunk tank is pretty safe.
        3. If someone jumps you with a gun. A roundhouse kick is still slower than a bullet. Muggers are not raptor level hunters.
        I live in Texas. I wish someone would try to break in without the alarm going off or dogs barking. A small handgun or the sound of a pump shotgun through a door will stop intruders.

        1. Don’t don’t get smashed enough to instigate bar fights, but some do (and some do even with very few alcohol). So yeah, knowing how to fight unarmed is useful.
          You don’t need to learn a complicated martial art for 20 years, some have been especially designed to be learned in very little time (for soldiers to get good fast).

      2. It’s important to note that, even if you’re carrying a gun, you might have to be able to at least grapple effectively enough to get the gun into play. Staying in shape and learning how to fight is important to self-defense, even with firearms.
        If you beat the shit out of someone, you may also go to prison. There aren’t perfect answers to self-defense; being ready to kill the other guy before he kills you is a part of it, but so is avoiding the need to use lethal force in the first place.
        Lastly, bone up on your state’s use of force laws. Taking a CCW class and talking to a lawyer is probably a good idea.

  11. A few things. The bit about the black belts is inaccurate. Modern belt systems come from Judo (which of course is why the Japanese martial arts such as karate, aikido, and post-Restoration jujutsu all began using them in the 20th century – because those styles were developed after Judo). Brazilian jiu jitsu has used the belt system since its creation because it began as a sister art to Judo which focused on ne-waza or grappling. Really interesting history there, about how the Gracies adapted BJJ from Judo over time, but I won’t give you the Gracie speech, since it is not too relevant to why there is a belt ranking system in most modern martial arts.
    Other thing. McDojos are not completely useless. If you spent 10+ years as a kid training in tae kwon do, that is not time wasted. You know a shit ton of stuff a kickboxing, muay thai, or kyokushin beginner does not know. Sure, not all of it is good and you’re just going to have to unlearn some of the very bad habits you were taught. But, it is still experience, and much of it CAN translate into useful fighting technique under a good instructor and with lots of “live” practice.
    I know an aikidoka who got into BJJ and gets wristlocks on people as a blue belt you don’t see other blue belts using. It gives him a slight advantage to those who started from a pure blank slate, because again, it’s experience.
    All of the above said, though. If you find yourself in a McDojo, get the fuck out right now.
    Source: 3 year student of Japanese JJ and BJJ.

  12. forget about the aggressive martial arts… Tai Chi is the only one worth learning… it’s the original grounding marital art…

  13. Over time it would turn green with Highly dubious. Nor were what we now call martial arts very popular in Asia. Martial meant spears and swords and bows, and not too many farmers went to the dojo after work. I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of “martial arts” were probably invented in the last 150 years or so.

  14. This guy (Anton Mohammed) is real. I trained with him. No bs, very dangerous guy.
    Also did some Small Circle Jujitsu

  15. If you’re young and you want to learn real self-defense get into a boxing program like PAL or Golden Gloves and take it to the point where you have at least a few competitive bouts. You could then add a grappling program like Jujitsu or just ordinary high school/AAU type wrestling. This will prepare you better than 98% of martial arts classes.

  16. Muay Thai and Western boxing are the best real combat experience. Nothing makes you tough like getting punched and kicked in the face day after day. Even those who aren’t that good, but who stick with it end up tough as nails. There is nothing like seeing the fear in the eyes of your attacker when he hits you and you don’t even blink.
    Wrestling, judo and Brazilian jiu -jitsu follow a close second because you will go full force against tougher guys at every practice. As for Krav Maga, unless you can go full contact, how do you know if it will really work?

    1. I can relate to your though process, but Muay Thai and western boxing are sport. Wrestling, judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jutsu (which is actually judo, btw) is sport. Krav Maga is not a sport. It is meant to defend your life. Muay Thai, boxing, wrestling, judo (including Brazilian Jiu-jutsu) have rules. Krav Maga does not, especially when your technique involves moving about the throat with a knife. Besides, I don’t care to see who is tougher or stronger or who can take more hits, I just care about surviving. But, if sport is your thing, then by all means, continue. I fight to live, not to win.

    2. Problem with boxing is that it works by reflexes. Boxing drills wired you a certain way, and in the street you’ll fight exactly like in the ring, you will box, you won’t punch in the throat, you won’t kick in the balls, etc. And you won’t be well prepared against those either.
      As for Krav Maga, They don’t go full contact for ugly techniques (throat, eyes, etc.) but if you chose a good place, they do for everything else.

      1. PP Nice theory. I was a boxer and a wrestler. I did some Muay Thai too. I have won street fights with ball kicks, leg sweeps, and hip throws. I was able to avoid a number of well executed martial arts techniques. The foot work of boxing and Muay Thai translate well in any conflict, so do the evasive techniques for avoiding punches and kicks. It is easy to add ball kicks, knee stomps, throat punches and eye pokes to your arsenal on the fly. Participating in full contact sparring helps you develop an ability to think on your feet in the middle of real conflict, especially when you get hit hard. Try fighting with blood gushing from your nose and a cut over your eye, or after someone has planted their foot up against your left ear. There is no substitute for that.

        1. Of course what you learn in boxing is useful, it’s a great sport.
          As for addaptingto a no-rule environement on the fly, I don’t believe it, if boxing is

        2. Believe it or don’t, I have done it and seen it done by others. If there is no full contact in your ‘art’ then its all just a version of free form kata. If you haven’t been kicked, punched or otherwise struck full force by someone during training, you have no idea what you(or your art) is really capable of. You have never successfully executed a technique on someone that was resisting you with all their speed and strength. Most importantly you have no idea how you will really react under the strains of combat and the inevitable injuries you will sustain. If you have successfully used KM or TKD in combat to personally defend your life or protect others, I am all ears. I don’t think those arts are useless, I think that they leave out an important aspect of the reality of violent conflict, namely, hands on experience. Practicing moves in a gym or dojo is one thing, really using them on someone is another thing entirely.

        3. Apparently my last message was sent uncomplete, the end was supposed to be “if boxing is your main combat sport, when you get attacked, you will box”.
          “If there is no full contact in your ‘art’ then its all just a version of free form kata.”
          And there is full contact in KM. Just not for eye gouges, throat punches and the like, obviously.
          “If you have successfully used KM or TKD in combat to personally defend your life or protect others, I am all ears.”
          I don’t defend TKD. KM is now teached to many armies and special forces all over the world, and is used by the mossad for decades. Given they are the more likely to have to defend their lifes, I guess what they learn is effective for that.
          The real problem, like in most combat sports, is to find a good place to learn.

      2. You don’t need to kick them in the balls if you hit hard.
        There is something to the sporting rules and padded surfaces influencing your fight style but when you have a better, stronger overall fighter it’s tough to argue.

        1. Uh well you have to make sure you don’t get kicked in teh nuts.
          Do I need to take a special class?
          I think practicing nut shots is a little dumb, you know it’s there and that’s all there is to it.
          I’ve kicked a few people in the nuts and they don’t automatically drop.
          That’s the difference between a competition atmosphere/sparring and real fighting.

        2. “I think practicing nut shots is a little dumb, you know it’s there and that’s all there is to it.”
          That’s where you’re wrong. Just like for boxing punches, kicks to the balls need drill.
          “I’ve kicked a few people in the nuts and they don’t automatically drop”
          Because you don’t train at it. You’re proving my point here.

        3. LOL, c’mon man
          Props to your elite nut kicking skillz
          Some of the MT guys are just too fast and aggressive and conditioned to pain. You go for a kick and they jam you up and punch, knee and elbow the shit out of you.
          Go to a MT gym and see if you can kick some of the better fighters in the nuts. Let them know nut kicks are fair game and see what happens.
          I think you’ll be better off losing the gentleman’s way.

        4. “Some of the MT guys are just too fast and aggressive and conditioned to pain. ”
          Don’t be delusional, MT guys aren’t much more resistant than MMA fighters, so if the second collapses and stays down for minutes, I doubt a MT guy would do much better.
          “Go to a MT gym and see if you can kick some of the better fighters in the nuts.”
          Funny how we were talking about a real life situation and you slide into “yeah but in a MT gym..”
          Anyway, both MT and MMA use stances with legs spread and they’re not used to have to defend their balls. Adopting a new stance and expecting different strikes won’t be natural to them.
          Also, it looks like I have offended you, didn’t mean to. But like I said, in a dangerous situation, you fight like you’re used to.
          “I think you’ll be better off losing the gentleman’s way.”
          The day you have to fight for real and not for sport, the ruthlessly effective way is better than “the gentleman’s way”.
          But I agree that MT is still a good sport to learn how to fight/defend yourself, in that domain it’s still miles ahead of most martial arts 😉

  17. Nice article. I’ve been boxing for about 7 years now. A good boxing gym is of great value to a man looking to learn to protect himself and his family, to learn discipline and boost testosterone, and reach peak physical fitness. The same can be said about a good BJJ, Krav Maga, or Muay Thai gym. Find a place that is combat-oriented and go get beat up a little. Man Up. If you aren’t losing in sparring, you probably aren’t learning.

      1. Why not both?
        There’s something to be said for the use of force continuum. I mean really: are you willing to pull a pistol on some drunk guy who grabs your girlfriends tits at a bar, and be locked up at a maximum security prison for 10 years?
        Also what about those poor saps in the UK, or liberal bastions like: Chicago, LA, or NYC. They can’t legally carry firearms, and lengthy prison sentences await those who break the law and carry anyway.

  18. Great article, Anton.
    I’ve trained at a couple BJJ schools and promoting based on membership tenure at the gym rather than skill/improvement is a big one, as you mentioned. This seems less common in BJJ than in Karate/TKD, but there are some jiu jitsu schools that do it.
    Another thing would be the instructor emphasizing the air-tightness of the self-defense/fighting capabilities. Training martial arts contributes to self-improvement in many ways. That said, in our society the best overall practice is almost always to disengage from a confrontation rather than escalate it in a non-sport setting. An instructor that says otherwise might be selling you snake oil.
    Finally, I have heard several disgruntled students complain about poor billing processes — difficulty canceling a membership, that kind of thing. These guys are just looking to make money and don’t care about the satisfaction of their customers.
    Thanks again for the great guest post.

  19. Join a boxing gym that trains a lot of FIGHTERS. People are forced to become more serious when proper training either means victory or an ass beating. I’d ignore any hand to hand “combat” institution that doesn’t compete or at the least have intense sparring sessions.

    1. Seconded. Boxing teaches you to take a punch, which is probably more important than any moves or techniques when you’re actually in a fight for real. Not being afraid of getting hit is the key.

      1. I joined boxing club a few months ago and get punched in the face on the second training. Didn’t get any punch since elementary school.
        Boxing is kinda addictive.

    2. Exactly, katas often aren’t suitable to real fighting. It’s fine if you just want sport, but no-BS combat sports (as boxing or krav maga) are far better for real life situations.

    3. Martial arts aren’t about victory or loss. Even in a “victory” in sparring, chances are that you’re still gonna get your ass kicked. Another rule of thumb, don’t go to a place that has “victory” in sparring sessions. Sparring is supposed to be a way to get better. It’s not about winning, it’s about constant self-improvement and learning.

  20. If it’s a certification game that you are looking for, you are already a beta loser. What are you planning to do? Throw a belt into a bar fight and say “I won”? Better you get a Certified Feel-Good Training Products Junior Purchasing Agent certificate. It will get you farther with chicks, at least the one you work for. You want to learn? Survive? Lessen injury? Even win? Piss off guys (any) in a bar, late. Start a fight. If you don’t lose, start another. When you lose, and losing means getting really hurt (so unfair, wasn’t it? even when the real fighters knew you were a wuss and didn’t have to go so far as make you cry and lose teeth), figure what went wrong and what you really, really need to learn. (If substantial hurt for days didn’t happen, just see a therapist for your learning and place in the world.) Seek the nearest education, McDojo or whatever. You will learn something. Keep pissing off guys. Fight. Win. Lose. Hurt. Contemplate on whether or not the sequence of training helped you. Seek education (you’ll get better at choice selection). Piss off guys. Fight. Win. Lose. Hurt. Learn from others. Improve. Rinse and repeat. (Or just die.) At some end, you’ll know where you are. (For the advanced: studies on military and law enforcement show that the first two-year hiatus from reinforcing training or fighting brings an alarming almost 70% decrease in actual vs. perceived technically scored ability above baseline — so keep fit and keep the katas, understanding the bunkai. Script half your own katas, with half weighting to the situations you can expect — only 4, 6 at most in one man’s lifetime, calling for unique sequencing. This is how the katas were developed anyway. When you prove them, teach them to a worthy. That makes you.)

  21. Krav Maga is a shit martial art not practical at all it is for mat rat theory fighters who need their manhood validated.

    1. It is very practical, as it keeps only effective and usable techniques (as opposed to most martial arts). The problem is that you can’t strike full force as you’d do in boxing, which is understandable when you targets include kidneys, throat and knees.

  22. The failure to deal with your own fears is one of the key problems when it comes to getting hit. When you get hit you have to deal with it and as the article rightly points out, without sparring or similar activities that are designed to induce fear you will never be able to deal with it.
    There has been a definite shift in recent years towards combat arts and away from sports. Many of the traditional martial arts are now taught as sports and not as a combat art, hence the popularity of MMA, BJJ, Krav Maga etc.
    Personally, I’ve found Systema to be a lovely fit for what I’m looking for. The absence of any ranking system and the promotion of working your body as a cohesive system is a pleasant change.

    1. You ever fought anyone with that dere systema?
      There’s a lot of bs with Systema, they say it’s used by Spetsnaz (it isn’t Sombo is which is a sport system).
      There’s a difference between exercise and learning to fight effectively.
      Also Krav Maga has no sporting element.

      1. I do nightclub security of a weekend so I have had to call upon that training on occasion.
        A lot of bullshit is there? I’m tipping that you’ve never done any training in it or indeed experienced Systema. It is one of several unarmed combat forms used Russian forces, including Spetznaz. I’ve trained with a couple of former Spetznaz members in Systema so I’ll take that first hand knowledge over what you may have heard.
        I never suggested that Krav Maga has a sporting element to it, it is another fighting art that was derived out of and for combat.

        1. “Many of the traditional martial arts are now taught as sports and not as a combat art, hence the popularity of MMA, BJJ, Krav Maga etc.”
          See you kinda did say Krav was a sport there chief.
          No I have not trained Systema, and no it is not used by Russian Special Forces, maybe special ed but…
          No they SAID they were spetsnaz, big difference. Just like everyone who teaches Krav was an Israeli commando but in reality they were a cook and took a 3 week course.
          Spetsnaz trains in Sombo, sorry but that’s the way it is.
          Systema is a made up system by some ex army guys looking to turn a buck.
          Maybe it works, if so great but it looks suspiciously like Aikido and I never see anyone fight back.

        2. What I wrote was nothing like what you are suggesting. Basic English comprehension shows that I was suggesting the exact opposite.
          When the histories of people are pretty readily available it takes a brave or stupid person to suggest that they are something they are not.
          Until you experience it, you will fail to understand what it is and its benefits. Do yourself a favour and get to a certified school for a couple of lessons to experience it for yourself. There are many people who come to Systema from other martial arts, including Aikido but it is quite different.

        3. Nah I quoted you calling Krav a sport like BJJ and MMA, don’t try to wiggle out now.
          It’s not my comprehension, you just don’t know wtf you are writing and you fell for some bs artists.
          Systema is not associated with Russian Spec Ops in any way.
          Feel free to post any evidence that it is.
          Look like Systema to you? No, it’s Sombo. Fedor was in Russian Army, he doesn’t do Systema either.

        4. “Many of the traditional martial arts are now taught as sports and not as a combat art, hence the popularity of MMA, BJJ, Krav Maga etc.”
          Two parts to this statement. The first “Many of the traditional martial arts are now taught as sports and not as a combat art,’
          This is quite clear in differentiating between sport and combat arts. Many traditional martial arts such as TKD, Karate etc. are taught as such nowadays.
          Second part of the statement – ‘ hence the popularity of MMA, BJJ, Krav Maga etc.” This contrasts as these are non-traditional martial arts and have grown in popularity as they are combat arts, not sport focused.
          Is that clear enough for you?
          Russian army doesn’t get taught Systema so the fact that he is doing Sombo is of no surprise or consequence.
          You are being deliberately obtuse and simply sitting there holding your breath with an ‘Is not!’ argument. It smacks of immaturity and a complete absence of the characteristics of a man.

        5. Nice attempt at shaming.
          Krav Maga is not a combat “sport” so stop talking out of your ass. There is no context in which that statement is correct.
          Spetsnaz does not train Systema, they do combat Sombo as well.
          Putin was ex KGB has a black belt in Systema, oh wait…Judo which is a lot like…Sombo.
          Nobody does Systema in Russian Military except ex Russian Military guy who invented it to rip off gullible Americans.

        6. I’m not calling Krav Maga a combat sport and have not at any stage. This is something that you’ve convinced yourself of and cannot see anything different.
          You’re being an imbecile.
          Are you familiar with a guy by the name of Sonny Puzikas? Verified ex Spetznaz and also a guy I’ve trained with in Systema. KGB is not Spetznaz either, your comment is irrelevant.
          Realise that just maybe you don’t know everything.

        7. “Many of the traditional martial arts are now taught as sports and not as a combat art, hence the popularity of MMA, BJJ, Krav Maga etc”
          There it is in your own words, MMA, BJJ, Krav Maga, etc.
          Just because one of the guys claims ex-spetsnaz and they make money from it doesn’t mean spetsnaz uses systema.
          Claiming to be ex-sov spec ops is a proven way to get money from Americans.
          I know it was invented by an alleged ex-spetsnaz guy but they train Sombo.
          Sorry, that’s the truth.
          Plenty of guys invent their own systems, this is one of them.

  23. oh, yeah, I’d like to wrestle with some masculine men…
    we could be like Greek gladiators and fight naked…

  24. I went to a mcdojo as a kid in the mid to late 80s. It was better than staying home and watching TV; at least it was exercise and sometimes fun. However, I was being taught useless robotic techniques (eg. x-blocks above the head, reverse punches from the hip, kata, 3-step sparring, and jumping kicks, all punctuated with loud kiai), developing false hope, and spending time and money when I could have been playing a sport or learning a real martial art like boxing or judo.

  25. Just my two cents worth but if anyone takes an interest in traditional Japanese weapon arts, try learning Jodo (not Judo), the art of the short stick. I learnt it for about 5 years and you learn how to wield the short stick against a sword. Now I know that practical self defence is the main motive for most people wanting to learn martial arts but learning a traditional weapon art complements a lot of empty hand stuff. Although its pure kata training, you learn a lot of important concepts like distancing, timing and targeting not to mention self discipline in the process. Plus, it takes considerable nerve to be able to meet a partner who attempts to cut/strike at you with full force while waiting to counter his attack. Nearly had my fingers fractured and saw a near concussion once when a timing for the person wielding the Jo was a bit off and he got clipped on the side of the head by his partner’s wooden sword.

  26. #5: Consider a teacher who is also the official instructor for your local LEOs.
    I am enrolled in our city’s branch of Krav Maga Worldwide, which I realize is a controversial off-shoot of “real” Krav that is watered down for mass consumption, but I’m fairly certain the ex-MMA fighter owner of the facility, an accomplished fighter but with little business sense, only chose that franchise system because it was easier to start than a ground-up no-name Krav studio.
    Regardless, under his instruction, we disarmed firearms and knives during the first session, and spar at the end of each hour. I get injured in some fashion just about every class, which was an eye opener (sometimes an eye closer, lol) for me.

  27. Great article.
    I myself have practiced a martial art for 8 years. I do not own a black belt nor do I think it is something important and have not pursued it. It is important if you pursue teaching and therefore some kind of official recognition.
    At my dojo we do not even distinguish Kyu level (white up to black), everyone is a white belt until they turn Dan. The point is, that martial arts are about competing with yourself and overcoming your limits, not about competing with others. The ranks have completely destroyed this notion.
    A good sign of a McDojo is lots of belts with lots of colors and lots of newly bought kimonos. In a good dojo you will spar and get dirty and only the dedicated ones will remain. When a lot of people are attending with a very clean look, usually means it’s a con.
    I cannot underline enough the importance of a teacher that will correct you and that will make you spar every now and then.

  28. I’m sorry, but that story made me laugh out loud. I know I shouldn’t because a man was crippled from a beating, but holy shit, lol….
    How do people not understand that if you don’t spar, you are not learning how to defend yourself?

    1. why would someone practicing a discipline that involves self-control and overcoming fears become a “punch, pisses-self mess” after a decade?

      1. I think he’s referring to the brain damage repeated strikes to the head can cause. Google pugilistic dementia. Boxers, kickboxers, and mma fighters basically end up getting alzheimer’s while their still young due to the accumulation of brain damage over time.

    2. Join a MMA/BJJ gym and get into the submission grappling/BJJ side of things. Skip the boxing / kickboxing which as you mention causes long term brain damage over time. I don’t have time for that stuff anyway. But even if I didn’t I’d probably just use that time to put into improving my marksmanship even more instead.

  29. I “earned” a “black belt” from a Taekwondo McDojo when I was 14. All my “training” was completely useless when I got into real fights, of course, but the one nice thing I’ll say about it was that it was outstanding at teaching kids discipline and self-control. Even though we were essentially well-conditioned dancers (as the article brilliantly says), even dancing requires physical and mental skills as well as self-discipline. Most kids dropped out when they realized that class is tedious, drilling the same moves over and over, studying Korean history and language, etc.
    If I had a kid, sending them to a McDojo wouldn’t be my first choice – there’s probably better ways for them to learn self-discipline AND gain a real skill – but there’s at least a silver lining if you think of it as a dance class. McDojos seem like bastions of masculinity in comparison to the new feminist standards, where they would award everyone black belts on day one and allow fat people to be exempt from exercise.

    1. excellent point man. I’m of the believe that no training is truly wasted. If it’s given you discipline, and made you acquire a skill through work, it’s way better than sitting at home on your ass watching tube (which is sadly what most kids are doing these days). Sure kickboxing and TKD are sports, not fighting. but people compete, become champions. People also become champions in ping pong or badminton. sure that has no other real application but it doesn’t mean it’s a total waste. you still had to learn how to work to be the best at something.

  30. Nice article. A woman who works in the same building as me was telling me about this great Kung Fu place she and her son attend. I was in Kung Fu years ago and was thinking about finding a school. So then this dumpy lady tells me that she and her marshmallow looking kid were both black belts. I asked what sort of workout and exercises it entailed, because the school I attended previously worked us like dogs. She says, “Oh, we don’t do that stuff.Just forms” Yeah, fuck that. Kid needed some damn exercise.

  31. Don’t do random, shitty martial arts. The martial arts I’ve done are Muay Thai and BJJ, both of which are excellent. I don’t really see the point of doing TKD, Karate, or most of them considering you’re not allowed to hit others in the face and, in most of them, you can’t even kick to the legs. It makes everything total bullshit. On top of this, most who do that shit can’t even hit.

      1. From my understanding, most Karate schools don’t even allow strikes to the head or kicks to the legs. That basically sums up my argument. The original Karate stuff is quite legit, but that’s not what’s taught in most of the Karate schools.

      2. Yeah his dad is a karate teacher, so he did karate as a kid. But he’s also a black belt in BJJ. He’s also been training in MMA gyms that teach full contact striking, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu since he was a teenager.
        So what do you think made him a good MMA fighter? Doing karate as a kid? Or the professional level mma training that he’s received for DECADES while training with the best MMA fighters in the world?

    1. That’s only in sparring – do you want every single person to go home with a bloody nose and missing teeth? It’s for safety reasons. IRL, you can hit anyone wherever.

  32. I have issue with the sparring point. In my experience sparring you always kick above the belt to score points. What this teaches you is to NOT kick the legs. In fact I would argue contact sparring is WORSE than useless because it teaches you to roundhouse kick high when you should be front/side kicking low to the knees in a real fight.

    1. Sparring is also not like a real fight.
      The dynamics are so different, the best way to learn is to just fight people who piss you off or who bully you.
      Of course this isn’t acceptable anymore but I did that growing up when everyone was smaller and losing wasn’t so bad.
      When you are old it’s hard to learn to fight because you really have no idea if you are any good or what you would do.
      And if you want to fight there are legal and medical consequences.

  33. BJJ schools are becoming mcdojos now.
    A lot of rolling around on the ground, no takedowns or strikes, just practicing for BJJ tournaments.
    Nobody bothers to ask how this would work if the guy could punch me or kick me in the head.
    In other words, like Karate and Kung fu it assumes the other guy will fight like you.

  34. Better yet, get trained on how to fire and holster a mini9mm, get a concealed weapon license, and never visit a dojo.

  35. How to know a writer is full of crap – he believes and spreads myths like black belts had to register with police (never happened, anywhere, ever) or that martial arts are thousands of years old, or that the black belt comes from rotting unwashed belts. Good grief.

  36. I’m pretty sure I’m in a good school, as my instructor is very keen on giving sharp advice and he’s very, very skilled himself. Though I really don’t want to give him the McDojo tag, I know that he does charge for each testings.
    Usually each of our 45 minute class include high cardiovascular exercise/activities such as jogging/sprinting, jump roping, strength-builing (pushups, sit ups, mountain running, burpies), and then we do curriculum, depending on the day of the week. So forms, hand movements, kicks, board-breaking, and such. He doesn’t do any of those “guaranteed” things mentioned above (That is probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard), and he says you need to earn it. This being the case, NOBODY in our class has ever gotten their black belt in a year, or even two years. And we do light-contact sparring nearly every class – sparring without padding. Yeah, my brother kicked me in the face once…that really hurt…
    So even if you might call if a Mcdojo (Mcdojang), it’s a pretty damn solid one at that.

  37. So much of your intro information is not accurate. Belts were begun in Judo in Japan probably. They were to keep the gi top secured, nothing to do with pants. Also your story of the belt turning black is urban legend. The first belts were probably black with white belts coming later. I do support your views of the McDojo and if one wants to learn martial arts, to look for more traditional schools.

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