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20 Warning Signs Of A BJJ McDojo

20 Warning Signs Of A BJJ McDojo



By Guillaume (Gile) Huni, BJJ black belt and head instructor of Kimura Academy in Belgrade, Serbia.

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.

This is usually caused by ego. The instructor doesn’t want to be submitted. Age and injuries can be a factor, however even Helio Gracie at 90 years old sometimes rolled with some of his students. Injuries happen but there is nobody stopping an instructor to do a light roll with his students. Also some students will never see their instructor get tapped. Not because they are unbeatable, but because the instructor never puts himself in a situation of rolling with someone better than them.

4. Your instructor abuses of his influence to regularly receive free services from his students.

In an academy you have all types of professionals: lawyers, web designers, marketing experts, doctors…An instructor should not take advantage of his situation to ask students to constantly provide him with free services. The students pay the instructor to learn BJJ. It should be the other way around.

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. Your instructor and team mates begin to impose their will upon the rest of your life.

The instructor should lead his team on the mat. Outside of the mat, the instructor should know his place. The same goes with the team. If somebody decides to take a break or quit Jiu-Jitsu, they shouldn’t be harassed for their decision.



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 or ‘Junior black belts’ for children…Black belts in BJJ are earned by blood, sweat and tears not by paying more or by hours of attendance.

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 in the ‘real world’ (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 often denigrates students

Your instructor acts like a bully and makes fun, puts down students. He/she reacts violently to perceived acts of betrayal from students.

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.

This is a recipe for disaster. The instructor should never take advantage of his influence in order to sleep with students. Falling in love is of course normal but quick flings are not. Very often the student will leave the school after the fling is over.

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12 thoughts on “20 Warning Signs Of A BJJ McDojo

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. Fernando Araujo

    For those haters criticizing the article, stop for a second and READ everything before typing your useless criticism. It's written in the beginning of the article: "some legit schools have some of these features". Now stop your bitching because your legit school has 1 or 2 things in common with the article, you useless trolls!

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