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20 Warning Signs Of A BJJ McDojo

20 Warning Signs Of A BJJ McDojo




The McDojo phenomenon is a plague that has infected martial arts schools all over the world. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has not been spared by this. What exactly is a McDojo you may ask?  It’s basically a martial arts school or franchise of schools that have shady and poor instructors, that are only focused on making money and that make false claims. Most schools are run as businesses but a MCDojo’s sole function is to make money.

Here are some signs of MCDojoness. Some legit schools have some of these features, if your school has most of these features then you should be asking yourself some questions. Just to specify that we are talking about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu here, with the gi. In some submission wresting/MMA schools instructor’s BJJ lineage is not that important. 


1. The instructor’s lineage is unclear. Who did the instructor get his/her belts from? If you ask them the simple question “who did you get your black belt from?” and the answer is unclear or confused then be careful. That means that something is wrong or that the instructor has lied or is covering up of past lie.

2. Long term binding contracts. If a club tries to tie you in a multi-year deal with very difficult exit requirements then you know that they are trying to get your long term commitment by clinging to your finances. They’re in it just for the money.

3. The instructor, who doesn’t have any serious injuries, never spars with his students. Some instructors are older so don’t spar with the young guns and that is understandable but it is always suspect when a fully fit instructor doesn’t roll.

4. The academy charges a really high walk in fee for visitors. It’s normal for a gym to charge a walk in fee if the instructor is a black belt but there some schools that are run by purple belts but charge like 25 euros for visitors.

5. The instructor has a cult like following from his students. Discipline is important in any school, however some instructors push it too far. In this case, it’s not a MCDojo, it’s a cult!

6. The instructor starts freaking out if the students haven’t paid the fees in the first days of the month.

7. Pressure is placed on students to purchase academy products and services (academy gis, privates, patches, seminars, DVD’s, etc). Sometimes it’s even mandatory.

8. The academy has “Black Belt Fast Track” course…Black belts in BJJ are earned by blood, sweat and tears not by paying more.

9. There are extra belt colors. Beware of a school that has adult green belts. This ‘intermediate’ belt does not exist in BJJ and has been added in between white and blue belt to give incentive for students not to give up before getting a blue belt. In Brazil where BJJ comes from, there never have been adult green belts. This is a something that has been added in the US, Europe and other countries.

10. The instructor teaches self defense without having had real life experience (is not ex army, police, security, bouncer etc) he just learned it from a certified courses. 

11. You are not allowed to compete. It is not “honourful”. The academy doesn’t encourage competing or has a very poor competition record. There are Jiu-Jitsu academies that teach a more self defense type of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu however competition, just like self defense, has it’s place in a BJJ player’s path. How can you consider yourself a BJJ player if you have never even competed once?

12. The instructor is a blue belt in an area surrounded by black belt schools. There some examples of these kind of schools. One of them is a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu school in London where the instructor is a blue belt. That academy is walking distance from Roger Gracie’s academy which houses a bunch of black belts. You also have all the top academies in London nearby. Where would you rather learn Jiu-Jitsu?

13. The students only start to roll after 6 months or so of having learned techniques. There is some logic in that way of of thinking, however, rolling with a fully resisting opponent is an important part of a beginner’s understanding on Jiu-Jitsu. Getting smashed as beginner is also part of the learning process.

14. The instructor is a black belt in Judo/aikido/karate and a blue belt in BJJ (or any other belt) but wears a BJJ gi with his TMA black belt. Run for the hills when you see this :)

15. The instructor charges for stripes and belt promotions. advancement in rank is an expense instead of a honorable achievement.

16. It looks like BJJ, the techniques are BJJ, the gis are BJJ, the style is BJJ but….it’s not BJJ. It’s got a goofy name like Gorilla Jitsu, ground fighting Do or Mongolian/ American/ Russian Jiu-Jitsu…

17. Your instructor sound and acts like a motivational speaker.

18. Nobody ever fails at belt tests.

19. Cross training in judo or wrestling is discouraged.

20. Your instructor has a habit of dating students.






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42 thoughts on “20 Warning Signs Of A BJJ McDojo

  1. JanneM

    ATT uses green belts and Dave Camarillo cslss his stuff Guerilla jitsu. Still legit. In bjj no one should fail a belt test. There should not be formal test in a firsy place.

  2. Hannah

    I used to train at a tkd school. It wasn’t bad for what it was, but a McDojo none the less. I guess you could say you got out of it what you put in. My favorite part was sparring, but we only got to do it once a month (which pissed me off). It took about a year and a half to get a black belt, sometimes 2. I’ll tell you straight off, 90% of the people looked like crap and didn’t deserve yellow belts let alone black belts. There were a very small few that were decent fighters (not point tkd fighters). Dues were $40 a month. Testing started at $55 and went up the higher in rank you got. If I remember I paid $350 for my 3rd degree black belt test. It was like $500 to test for master. In 2007 I wanted to start training BJJ after watching UFC 60, but there was no school within 120 miles. So I grabbed a training partner, bought a book and we trained. It wasn’t pretty and probably not the most effective, but we were trying to grasp the concepts. In 2009 a 2 stripe black belt from ATT moved to the town and we wanted to go train BJJ/ MMA with him. The cross training was frowned upon and we basically had to choose where we wanted to be. I would have had no problem doing both, because I would have learned certain things from the tkd that I would not have found in BJJ/ MMA. We chose BJJ and the people I’d trained with for 8 years don’t talk with me any more. This past September one of the sister schools had a Royce Gracie Seminar and invited us. They were one of the few people who didn’t care we trained BJJ. After going to that seminar I was pretty pissed. 90% of the people there were tkd people wearing brand new bjj gis they bought for the event. No one had trained a day of BJJ (with the exception of the 2 blue belt instructors). Both of the instructors were blue belts (one a first stripe). Here’s the kicker. They earned their belts online at the Gracie Academy. Nothing wrong with that I suppose because I hear that they fail quite a few, but it’s not the same as training under a qualified instructor. The 1st stripe blue had attended 5 Royce seminars over 3 years the other guy none. They don’t train at all with a BJJ instructor. The guy with the 1 stripe on his blue earned that in April 2013 and in Sept 2013 he was promoted to a 3 stripe blue by ROYCE. The other instructor who had 0 stripes was given 3 that day by Royce. Being a 3 stripe blue is serious business. These guys wouldn’t even roll with me or my husband or anyone else for that matter. Now the school is the first Royce Gracie Affiliate in Missouri and you can earn “legit” BJJ belts with them even if you don’t train at their school. This is just their way to get all of the other sister schools legit belts so to speak. I just think its funny that we were frowned upon for wanting to learn BJJ and now they see the $$$ and want to jump on the band wagon. Worse off Royce Gracie is condoning this. If you want to see for yourself check out their site. You can read everything and even watch live BJJ classes on their closed circuit cameras. I hope more people spread the word about this. The one thing I love about BJJ is how you have to earn your rank and prove yourself on the mats. It’s not like tkd and I hope it stays that way. Stuff like this is bad for the art and will breed more McDojos, which is BAD! End of rant. Sorry for being so long winded. Here is the link. http://ywrma.com/royce-gracie-network/

  3. Kiron

    I used to train at that Gracie JJ school in London. The teacher was good, I have nothing bad to say about him, I guess the fact that it was the only connected school to the one in Torrance and Rener and Ryron Gracie even did a website exposé on the instructor which further boosted his credibility! What most people did realise that coming into the class was that he was a blue belt and he didn’t know everything. This works in two ways, first of all, how can one expect a blue belt to know super advanced stuff? – he was merely teaching the basic foundations. We all knew he wasn’t a black belt in disguise lol and he told us specifically what the deal is: THIS CLASS IS FOR SELF DEFENCE FOUNDATIONAL BJJ ONLY. Secondly, even black belts don’t know everything. There’s no such thing in BJJ as being technically stagnant, we all are learning constantly every day! Whether you have a blue belt, purple, whatever, it’s important that the teacher can apply those techniques in real life, otherwise what’s the point of wasting your time? Furthermore, my old school had fair prices, much lower than others in the area so money wasn’t an issue. Now I train with a Royler Gracie black belt who is fantastic!

  4. Andy

    Dave Camarillo’s Guerilla Jiu Jitsu is as real as it gets. He is a Black Belt in Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Here is a link to his credentials: http://www.bjjheroes.com/bjj-fighters/dave-camarillo

  5. alex

    This is all so foreign to me. I trained in Pasadena California under kyron Gracie, Orlando Sanchez black belt world champ and in Sacramento CA under Cassia Werenck also a black belt world champion. I ha e never heard of a green belt in an adult program. Classes are great and are run ver similar. Condition Technique Practice Spar That’s even day…. You have to earn your stripes and belts….

  6. Tommy

    Not sure why cross training in Judo is a bad thing. One was born out of the other. I’ve crossed trained in BJJ just to work on my ground work for Judo.

  7. Richard R.R

    You just forgot to mention 1 point. The instructor that has won gold medal and is proud of it, but actually he did not have to fight as he was the only one in the category… Or won a bronze medal/silver medal where he only fought once and lost, but still go the medal and them claims to be a champion…….. There is a teacher here in New Zealand that is just like that, pretty much all the topics you wrote he does it! Plus the one I mentioned above… Pretty bad..(By the way, he has a picture with you on his facebook page haha!!)

  8. Juan P. Garcia

    I agree with a lot of the topics, but i don’t see how is wrong to have green belts before blue to give incentive for students not to give up before getting a blue belt. The goal is to keep students and grow BJJ it is a positive thing and if that work to keep them motivated i think is great. Always will be haters or people who talks with out not knowing SH….

  9. Ben

    Quit a few legit schools have intermediate belts as an in-house system between white and blue belt. For example, American Top Team has an adult green belt. I cannot imagine walking into ATT and telling them they run a McDojo.

  10. Az

    Doesn’t Saulo use green belts? Maybe i’m wrong… If he does though, it’s amusing to see an Ad for Saulo + Xande on the side of this article, yet you’re claiming green belts are McDojo-ish. ;-)

  11. Concerned BJJ Practitioner

    The charging of belt advancement bothers me greatly. When classes are 150+ a month locked in a year contract, and then they tell you if you want to go for the next belt you gotta shell out additional money. I’m like WTF?

  12. Aaron

    AGREE. Dave is legit and has taught me so much. His overall philosophy is a blend of many of his experiences, hence the ‘Guerrilla’ name. But what we learn is legit BJJ from him and his highly qualified and formidable instructors. There is nothing McDojo about it.

  13. R.

    Why is there a green intermittent belt before blue? Can you even compete as an adult in competitions? No. Congratulations , if you are 18 and have a green belt , you actually have a white belt with a pacifier. PERIOD. I’ve seen the mcdojos all around the Midwest. In fact , I left a school to learn real Jiujitsu ( cross train) so a known bjj legend wouldn’t “hand ” me a blue belt 9 years ago because I had attended his seminars..I’ll quit now before I go on a rant about the level of deception that has infiltrated this once pure art.

  14. Joe

    The adult green belt drives some people crazy! Saulo Ribeiro awards the green belt before blue. He has said he does so because it’s part of his tradition and he spent a long time at green belt himself. His lineage? Helio>Royler. Enough said. Regarding Dave Camarillo and Guerilla Jiu Jitsu, surely the author didn’t mean to impugn him or it? Right? Anyone would be lucky to train with him.

  15. Dion Watts

    I get your points but if you’ve spent any real time in the BJJ world you would know that many of your points are way off. I can name a lot of world champs who do those very things at their schools that you claim are signs of a McDojo. A school needs to make money to survive. I didn’t understand a lot of those practices until I owned my own school and realized you can only be a successful school if you can keep the doors open. I am not saying that there are not McDojo’s out there but I am saying that you list is not solid info.

  16. Lovebjj

    Basically you are saying don’t run your school like a business, run it like a club where you only have 20 students after 8 yrs of being open, you’re in a crappy facility, and you live there. The goal of a martial arts academy is retention and making sure that you spread jiu-jitsu to as many people as you possibly can. Nothing worse than a bad instructor, but most of the stuff said here is way off. If the value is there, there is nothing wrong with contracts.

  17. Sergio Vita

    1 – A line of black belt that he says he can also be false. 3 – Injury. has no escape. all have over 20 years of training. 4 – Visit at my gym, do not pay! In others, nor accept paying. 6 – I disagree. The payment day is important to keep the accounts of the academy and who lives on JJ. The pleasure of some is the livelihood of others. 7 – Students are restrained their free will to choose a kimono or a different lycra. are required to use the one that sells the teacher. 10 – This is what exists! kkkkkkkk 11 – And it comes with theories and philosophies that “we are not geared to competition.” Of course not! Has no experience in the field, was never put to the test. And that’s not to buy nor fool! 12 – The ranks of these instructors supposed blue bands are premeditated and forced long before the time and at 3 years already becomes black belt! 13 – No coment 14 – Fake Humble. 15 – be nominated is an honor, but to be must do to deserve. 1- A linhagem do faixa preta que ele diz ter, pode também ser falsa. 3- Lesões. não tem como fugir. todos temos com mais de 20 anos de treino. 4- Visita na minha academia, não paga! Em outras, nem pagando aceitam. 6- Discordo. O pagamento em dia é importante para manter as contas da academia e de quem vive do JJ. O lazer de alguns é o ganha pão de outros. 7- Os alunos são tolhidos do seu livre arbítrio de escolher um kimono ou uma lycra diferente. são obrigados a usar aquela que o professor vende. 10- Isso é o que mais existe!! kkkkkkkk 11- E vem com teorias e filosofias de que, “não somos vocacionados para competição”. Claro que não!! Não tem experiência na área, nunca foi posto a prova. E esta não da para comprar e nem enganar! 12- As graduações destes supostos instrutores faixas azuis são premeditadas e forçadas muito antes do tempo e em 3 anos ja se torna faixa preta! 13- No coment 14- Falso Humilde. 15- ser indicado é uma honra, mas para ser, deve fazer por merecer.

  18. Chris

    There are plenty of legit schools with adult green belts. R., I hate to break it to you, but a blue belt is basically a purple belt pacifier.

  19. Harriet

    Hi, I’m a first dan black belt in tae kwon do. I trained hard for 7 years to become a black belt, and have been training a further 2 years before my 2nd dan, which I will be taking in a few months. We are always sparring and encouraged to compete in competitions. However there are sometimes children at gradings (I am on the judging panel) who are awful, although they always seem to pass them most of the time if they’re lower belts. Back when I first started 9 years ago, I failed 2 gradings and had to wait another 6 months each time, and I wasn’t terrible. I feel kinda like the system is getting worse.. when I watch the colour belts I feel almost embarrassed and ashamed. Even the instructors at the grading look like they’re in pain. I’m beginning to feel like they’re only doing it for the money.. we have so many students that are high colour belts but are terrible.. I’m losing faith in them

  20. sean browne

    Re: Point 6, why should students expect to train if they haven’t paid? Instructor shouldn’t ‘freak out’ but it is not acceptable for students to pay late either.

  21. Jiujitsu guy

    John Kanei was exposed as a fraud in Yokosuka, Japan. He was teaching on the Navy base until a Bullshido post exposed the guy as a fake. Then he suddenly “resigned”.

  22. Justin Morris

    This article is horrible. Some of the points hit the nail on the head while others describe the top Jiujitsu schools in the nation run by the top black belts in the world. Sounds to me like the author would prefer working out in a garage and not paying for lessons while still wishing to be trained by a black belt.

  23. Jeffrey Gutierrez

    I call bull shit on 10/14/16 10)Self defense can be taught by anyone. Its SELF Defense look up what it is. Im not teaching or selling navy seals special forces ninja or body guard training 14) just because i wear a bjj gi it doesnt mean im selling bjj. I do i have BB in JJJ. We tug and pull clothing and its proven the bjj gis last longer and take more damage. Im no telling/selling people bjj. The problem is people being dishonest. cloths dont make the man. 16) Brazilian are not the first ones to come up with grappling. You can trace this to the greeks and all the way to African. JJJ and Aikido has Nenwaza but no point system and its grappling. The Gracie's did not create anything new but a point system MMA is not new it is just a rebranding of martial Arts. Over all ask question understand the products and buyer beware

  24. Bill Jones

    I don't hate this article. But some of the points are typical of someone that hasn't put in years in the martial arts industry. Some of the points are right on. Others, not so much. I certainly agree that unclear lineage, an instructor that won't train (when healthy or under appropriate circumstances), dating students, no cross training allowed, fast track to black belt, and not really bjj are all tell tale signs of a problem. Several of the others, however, are not. Price is based on value. If people are willing to pay a certain price, then why shouldn't it be charged??? Same for blue belts running a school. Just because the author doesn't want to train with one doesn't mean the next guy doesn't. Maybe that blue belt is a great guy and has alot to offer. Why is he not allowed to make a living in the profession he chooses. Again, the market will decide how well he does. Alot of people have accepted the extra belts. Green belt is used by Saulo Ribeiro and Pablo Popovich among others. They are legit schools. The JJGF is introducing a "white/blue" belt between white and blue. I don't like it, but I have to accept it. Within the next 20 to 30 years, the bjj belt system will be as messed up as every other art. Sad, but true. "Contracts" are not, necessarily, a bad thing. They do two things: 1. Ensure commitment from students which allows a business to grow and have equity. 2. Ensure commitment from the instructor which allows the student to be confident. Never forget that a contract is a 2 way agreement. In most states (U.S. speaking here) a lopsided contract is neither legal or binding. So if the instructor is conducting himself in a manner unbecoming, the student can often get out. Additionally, lengths are often stipulated by the state as well. I've had people come in and say, "too bad i'm in a 4 year contract with place "x". Or I'd switch right now. That length of contract isn't legal where I'm at. So they get out pretty easily. I use contracts with 4 caveats for release (Anytime in the first 30 days for any reason, loss of job, serious illness or injury, move more than 25 miles away). Anyway, interesting read. Thanks for posting it!

  25. Steven Placido

    Not a great article. Some points were valid. The author just went a bit to far. For example. Calling an art Gorilla jujitsu. Dave Camirillo started Gorilla jujitsu in California USA and is a high ranking Judo champion and a blackbelt under ceasar and ralph gracie. He taught jujitsu at AKA in sanjose CA for 10 years. AKA is where Daniel Cormier, Cane valasques and other high level cage fighters train. He merged the arts together for his style. People may think he shouldn't call it gorilla jujitsu but this academy is NOT a mcdojo. In fact it is one of the best places to learn the art. Im a blue belt under Sergio Silva and in no way bias twords Dave. Author should get all the fact before slamming a VERY skilled instructor.

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