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.
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 certified courses.
11. You are not allowed to compete. It is not “honorful”. 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.