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poprocket
4/11/2016 11:30am,
I have been training at my martial arts club for about a year and a half and have been slowly noticing some subtly off-putting things about it. I’m not saying which art or any names for the sake of privacy. I was hoping for some thoughts and guidance from those more experienced as I am not sure what is ‘normal’ martial arts culture and what is shady. Also to be clear, the club is not a McDojo, the techniques are real and authentic and the instructors have a lot of technical knowledge.

The Layout of the Organization:
- The organization in my country is a branch of a ‘mother’ organization in another country, and my country’s ‘president’ oversees all the clubs in my country but instructs at my home club. I will refer to him as ‘President’ from here on in.
- President communicates with the council in the motherland regarding administration

The Huge Amount of Volunteerism:
- A huge emphasis is put on recruitment. Recognition is given to those who recruit more members.
- A requirement for progressing through the belts is volunteer teaching time. This requirement becomes more significant as you progress higher through the belts, with four/five hours a week expected.
- It seems you are expected to put training/teaching ahead of many other responsibilities as you progress.

The Cost of Participation:
- There are a large amount of courses/events that go on throughout the year that everyone is pushed to attend, in addition to training throughout the week. Many people regularly skip them because they can’t afford it.
- Everything seems to be really expensive considering all instructors are volunteers and all we need is a simple training space.
- The cost of belt gradings go up significantly as you advance through the belts, e.g. the full cost of a black belt grading a few hundred dollars

The President’s Inner Circle:
- There seems to be a favourite ‘inner circle’ with President, a select few ‘nth’ degree black belts that are privy to the inner workings of the organization with others left out.
- President also has a history of asking select students to stay with him as roommates so he can mentor them.

The Social Atmosphere:
- There is almost a dogmatic enthusiasm that is common among people who train in the organization. I used to have it too before I started noticing things that didn’t seem quite right.
- All everyone seems to talk about is the martial art. I have been on hiatus with training because of an injury and have been feeling isolated because most of my friends are in the organization. Even if I join them to socialize after training all they talk about is the class I hadn’t attended.

I would appreciate any feedback or thoughts as this has been weighing on me for the past while. The shadiness seems so subtle compared to other horror stories I have read, so I’m not sure what to make of it. What is normal, and what is not? Our organization doesn’t do things like discouraging cross training or bad mouthing other clubs, but it doesn’t seem exactly ideal either. Help?

Devil
4/11/2016 11:59am,
Also to be clear, the club is not a McDojo, the techniques are real and authentic and the instructors have a lot of technical knowledge.


Tell me more, because I'm sure as **** not going to take your word for it. What martial art?

submessenger
4/11/2016 12:17pm,
Also to be clear, the club is not a McDojo, the techniques are real and authentic and the instructors have a lot of technical knowledge.
Without getting into detail, and as Devil alluded, it may be helpful to know what other experience you have that leads you to this conclusion.



The Layout of the Organization:
- The organization in my country is a branch of a ‘mother’ organization in another country, and my country’s ‘president’ oversees all the clubs in my country but instructs at my home club. I will refer to him as ‘President’ from here on in.
- President communicates with the council in the motherland regarding administration

Nothing overtly wrong, here.



The Huge Amount of Volunteerism:
- A huge emphasis is put on recruitment. Recognition is given to those who recruit more members.
- A requirement for progressing through the belts is volunteer teaching time. This requirement becomes more significant as you progress higher through the belts, with four/five hours a week expected.
- It seems you are expected to put training/teaching ahead of many other responsibilities as you progress.

The Cost of Participation:
- There are a large amount of courses/events that go on throughout the year that everyone is pushed to attend, in addition to training throughout the week. Many people regularly skip them because they can’t afford it.
- Everything seems to be really expensive considering all instructors are volunteers and all we need is a simple training space.
- The cost of belt gradings go up significantly as you advance through the belts, e.g. the full cost of a black belt grading a few hundred dollars

The President’s Inner Circle:
- There seems to be a favourite ‘inner circle’ with President, a select few ‘nth’ degree black belts that are privy to the inner workings of the organization with others left out.
Again, this happens in a lot of schools; we could have an entire ethics argument just on these points, but there's nothing overtly wrong, imho.



- President also has a history of asking select students to stay with him as roommates so he can mentor them.
OK, this is a little weird.



The Social Atmosphere:
- There is almost a dogmatic enthusiasm that is common among people who train in the organization. I used to have it too before I started noticing things that didn’t seem quite right.
- All everyone seems to talk about is the martial art. I have been on hiatus with training because of an injury and have been feeling isolated because most of my friends are in the organization. Even if I join them to socialize after training all they talk about is the class I hadn’t attended.
While cult-like enthusiasm is sometimes a marker of something askew, I have to ask: Are you there to learn a martial art, or to score a date?

goodlun
4/11/2016 1:43pm,
I have been training at my martial arts club for about a year and a half and have been slowly noticing some subtly off-putting things about it. I’m not saying which art or any names for the sake of privacy. I was hoping for some thoughts and guidance from those more experienced as I am not sure what is ‘normal’ martial arts culture and what is shady. Also to be clear, the club is not a McDojo, the techniques are real and authentic and the instructors have a lot of technical knowledge.

Like everyone else I am not taking your word on this.



The Layout of the Organization:
- The organization in my country is a branch of a ‘mother’ organization in another country, and my country’s ‘president’ oversees all the clubs in my country but instructs at my home club. I will refer to him as ‘President’ from here on in.
- President communicates with the council in the motherland regarding administration


Are there other competing orgs of the same art in your country?
Is there any sort of inter art competition?



The Huge Amount of Volunteerism:
- A huge emphasis is put on recruitment. Recognition is given to those who recruit more members.
- A requirement for progressing through the belts is volunteer teaching time. This requirement becomes more significant as you progress higher through the belts, with four/five hours a week expected.
- It seems you are expected to put training/teaching ahead of many other responsibilities as you progress.

Some arts place an emphasis on higher belts being able to Teach, ie a Black Belt should be able to run a class.
This can be a part of the curriculum.
However I personally am not to keen on these people outright taking the place of paid instructors.
Any sort of other volunteerism at a club that is for profit irks me a lot.
Getting back to recruitment this really rubs me the wrong way unless the club is new and in need of getting some base numbers down. Even then its really on the owner to do this. Although rewards for members that bring in other members can typically be cool. It shouldn't really ever be the focus of whats going on though, as in it shouldn't eat into class time other than a quick announcement.
It its just about having as large of a class to make profit margins big than its a HUGE red flag to me.



The Cost of Participation:
- There are a large amount of courses/events that go on throughout the year that everyone is pushed to attend, in addition to training throughout the week. Many people regularly skip them because they can’t afford it.
- Everything seems to be really expensive considering all instructors are volunteers and all we need is a simple training space.
- The cost of belt gradings go up significantly as you advance through the belts, e.g. the full cost of a black belt grading a few hundred dollars


Sounds like this art has all the trappings of bullshit in it, going back to my first point I highly doubt its even effective.
Depends on the events to.
Competition of course should be plentiful and not sponsored by the gym itself.
Seminars by people not related to the gym but well known in the community could be a good things.
Basically true extras that come from resources outside of the organization I see paying for, otherwise nope.
Belt grading itself I am mixed on. I have seen places where it makes sense, I have seen a lot of places where it doesn't.



The President’s Inner Circle:
- There seems to be a favourite ‘inner circle’ with President, a select few ‘nth’ degree black belts that are privy to the inner workings of the organization with others left out.
- President also has a history of asking select students to stay with him as roommates so he can mentor them.


Given everything else going on this is a bit of a red flag to me. However there is always going to be an inner circle everywhere.
Some people just click, some people are more dedicated to an art, some people are just plain better at an art.
All that being said this doesn't seem to be that sort of thing, this seems much more cult like than that. Possibly a lot more brown nose like.




The Social Atmosphere:
- There is almost a dogmatic enthusiasm that is common among people who train in the organization. I used to have it too before I started noticing things that didn’t seem quite right.
- All everyone seems to talk about is the martial art. I have been on hiatus with training because of an injury and have been feeling isolated because most of my friends are in the organization. Even if I join them to socialize after training all they talk about is the class I hadn’t attended.


This in it self isn't exceptional I have a bunch of friends on facebook that all I talk about with is BJJ. That is where I know them from that is what I have done with them and that is all we really have in common.
Of course that is also the only context I hand with them in. I rarely would see them outside of the GYM anyways.

Permalost
4/11/2016 1:56pm,
All of the things you've mentioned are common in martial arts schools. There really is a good amount of money that goes into keeping a storefront dojo with lights, running water etc, especially if its in an expensive part of town. But without more specifics its hard to say. I think you'll find that if you look at comparable schools, you'll see the same stuff: a crew of low-paid instructors under a chief instructor who runs the school under an umbrella organization that gets paid to use their name and stuff. I was in an org like that for years.

If you want to practice with a group that doesn't care so much about money, I highly recommend looking outside of typical dojos etc, because if they have a brick and mortar school and a website and a yellow pages ad, they're spending money to make money. I trained for four years out of a garage dojo where it was much cheaper because there was lower overhead, then I trained with a park group that was even cheaper still. And the quality of teaching was better than I got at the strip mall dojo.

I generally recommend people to act on their gut instincts when they feel like a dojo may not be right for them, for whatever reason. A lot of people stay longer than they should because they don't want to disappoint their teacher/training partners and have been conditioned to see their time + rank + knowledge as valuable and it would be a waste before making it to black belt (or whatever arbitrary rank they want to say they got). In some ways, its much more difficult to leave the longer you decide to stay, like those old couples who hate each other but will never ever divorce. So if you're having those feelings early on, maybe you should act on them. Look around though, and realize that they're not the only dojo in town who wants to take your money and funnel it up the organization.

goodlun
4/11/2016 2:02pm,
All of the things you've mentioned are common in martial arts schools. There really is a good amount of money that goes into keeping a storefront dojo with lights, running water etc, especially if its in an expensive part of town. But without more specifics its hard to say. I think you'll find that if you look at comparable schools, you'll see the same stuff: a crew of low-paid instructors under a chief instructor who runs the school under an umbrella organization that gets paid to use their name and stuff. I was in an org like that for years.

If you want to practice with a group that doesn't care so much about money, I highly recommend looking outside of typical dojos etc, because if they have a brick and mortar school and a website and a yellow pages ad, they're spending money to make money. I trained for four years out of a garage dojo where it was much cheaper because there was lower overhead, then I trained with a park group that was even cheaper still. And the quality of teaching was better than I got at the strip mall dojo.

I have noticed that places that are in "retail" space vs say commercial or industrial space, or your alternatives tend to be quite a bit more McDojo in nature.
That is not to say their isn't any quality stip mall places. I just have never found one that I would prefer over the other options.

poprocket
4/11/2016 2:15pm,
Tell me more, because I'm sure as **** not going to take your word for it. What martial art?

Fair enough, this thread has me questioning that statement. However everything seems credible and many instructors have cross-trained in other arts. From what I know about McDojos, this doesn't seem to be one.

Devil
4/11/2016 3:43pm,
Fair enough, this thread has me questioning that statement. However everything seems credible and many instructors have cross-trained in other arts. From what I know about McDojos, this doesn't seem to be one.

If you can't name the martial art you train in without giving away too much information about yourself, that means you train in a bullshit martial art. Period.

If your answer was Judo, or BJJ or boxing or wrestling. Hell, even Karate or TKD or Kung Fu.....nobody would know who you are.

You're not telling us because you're training with some cult run by a self promoted and self titled Grandmaster or some such ****.

Permalost
4/11/2016 4:01pm,
Fair enough, this thread has me questioning that statement. However everything seems credible and many instructors have cross-trained in other arts. From what I know about McDojos, this doesn't seem to be one.

Not that cross training is bad but it doesn't bode well for the art you train that its teachers credibility comes from cross training in other stuff.

goodlun
4/11/2016 4:03pm,
Fair enough, this thread has me questioning that statement. However everything seems credible and many instructors have cross-trained in other arts. From what I know about McDojos, this doesn't seem to be one.

For what its worth your confusing McDojo with Bullshido.

GJJ would be an example of a McDojo that teachs quality stuff.

Silat master that teaches in the park for free can be an example of Bullshido without the McDojo component.

No touch Karate would be an example of both.

Permalost
4/11/2016 4:14pm,
Mcdojo/bullshido or not, it sounds like the root of your issues with them is that they want being a student of their school to be a big part of the identity of their students.

Devil
4/11/2016 4:26pm,
GJJ would be an example of a McDojo that teachs quality stuff.

You're confusing a style with a school. Gracie Jiu Jitsu is a style, not a school. There are many GJJ schools.

goodlun
4/11/2016 4:49pm,
You're confusing a style with a school. Gracie Jiu Jitsu is a style, not a school. There are many GJJ schools.

Maybe its not system wide, but every GJJ place I have been to has had McDojo like qualities.
However I am very willing to admit the may experiences are far from definitive for the system.

Devil
4/11/2016 5:48pm,
Maybe its not system wide, but every GJJ place I have been to has had McDojo like qualities.
However I am very willing to admit the may experiences are far from definitive for the system.

I don't know how widespread that is but it's definitely not system wide. There are tons of GJJ schools that I'm familiar with and none of them are McDojos.

I know about the Gracie Academy online stuff and all that but that stuff is light years apart from the schools I'm personally familiar with.

Dr. Gonzo
4/11/2016 8:11pm,
The Gracie family is too large and too varied to make such generalizations.
Further, their student base in then exponentially varied.
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is solid jiu-jitsu.
But what Gracie Jiu-Jitsu means is interpreted differently by each Gracie.

Broomie
4/11/2016 9:04pm,
Do you realize that between the 3 of you the concept of a Gracie school has been completely obfuscated.