Top martial arts instructors around the world like Professor Pedro Sauer, of Gracie Jiu Jitsu say beware of all the, “McDojo” belt Factories out there because they offer watered-down sports based programs with very little educational value.
Sauer says, “this is a huge problem, because the public has no idea when it is walking into a fake dojo with instructors with belts from numerous instructors. These places usually lock the student in with 1 year contracts, and milk the money out of them until the end, and by that time the student has made a lot of friends in the program and decides to stick with it even though the instructor is obviously a fake.”
Beware High Price, Low Quality
Terms like “McDojo” are not intended to be complimentary, because they address a very real problem in commercialized martial arts curricula. Most McDojo’s tend to be high priced, low quality, fast paced and taught by unqualified – instructors. Paying a lot for instruction doesn’t mean quality instruction. It usually just means that the instructor has high overhead. It is easy for an instructor to hide lowered standards behind a big school and a flashy demo team.
A tell-tale sign of a fake dojo is when they promise you a black belt – guaranteed – in one year. For the right price, these schools offer fast advancement and ranking in martial arts. The problem with fast paced learning is when all is said and done, you still can’t fight your way out of a wet paper bag. Another problem with these programs is they teach their students to move in a way that can be damaging to their joints.
In the words of Alexander Pope, “some people will never learn anything, for this reason, because they understand everything too soon.” Sauer says under proper instruction, it takes, “around 10 years to become a black belt. There are 4 degrees per belt, until you become a black belt, after that it takes about 3 years per degree. After 9 years instructors can award black belts but most people want the main instructor to award the black belt, because it is a once in a life time event.”
Seeing Through Fakes
So how do you spot a McDojo? Sauer says, “Ask the Instructors a lot of questions about how they received their belts or where they got them from, and when they received it. Also ask to see their certificates, or Google their name. The student should not stay with an instructor who received belts from multiple teachers, because they could be fakes.”
Before enrolling in any martial arts program, check to see if the school keeps records that can verify the credentials of its instructors. Sauer says, “Every certified Gracie Academy has a database, with records on the time, place and where the instructor received his advancements.”
Things like high student turnover can be another indicator of some sort of fraud. According to Sauer, “Martial Arts Programs in Taekwondo are pretty well known for having fake black belts. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (B.J.J.) will surpass many other curricula in the future. The public and real instructors must get involved in denouncing frauds by reporting them to the Better Business Bureau. With the help of the public and the martial arts community, we can eliminate fake instructors from the equation.”
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