Before we answer the question of how to recognize that we train in BJJ Mcdojo, we need to find out what it is and where it came from. Mcdojo is a pejorative term referring to a martial arts school that is solely established to make money instead of genuinely teaching martial arts.
The McDojo phenomenon began in the 1970s as a result of the popularity of Bruce Lee and Hong Kong martial arts films and comic book characters such as Iron Fist, Master of Kung Fu, and Sons of the Tiger. During the ’80s and ’90s, media such as G.I. Joe, The Karate Kid, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Street Fighter, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Dragon Ball Z gave it legs, while in the modern days, the rise of the popularity of mixed martial arts, etc. has created a market of people who want to learn how to fight. Where there is demand there is a supply. And this is how Mcdojo began to form.
Unfortunately, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has not been spared by this. The existence of BJJ Mcdojo is a fact. So how you can recognize that you’ve come to Mcdojo instead of the good professional gym? First of all, it is worth paying attention to the instructor, the atmosphere and the conditions on which we can attend training. Below are the things that are signs of training in Mcdojo.
Top 10 Bjj Mcdojo signs
1. The instructor’s lineage is suspicious
There should be public information about your trainer. Who he is, how long he trains, from whom he received the belt, maybe some of his achievements, etc. If you can’t find such information, it gets a bit strange. Always you can just ask him directly about that. If you ask them this simple question “who did you get your black belt from?” And they avoid the answer, or the answer is unclear, confusing or just strange then be careful. That means something is wrong in that gym.
2. The Instructor doesn’t roll and sometimes looks obviously out of shape
The instructor, while not being injured, who never spars with his students is a little bit suspicious. Of course, trainers sometimes do get to be picky about who they roll with, but they do not have the luxury of not rolling at all. If you’ve never seen your instructor sparing it will be another red flag.
3. A cult-like atmosphere and treating instructor like an idol
If you feel something like the cult vibe in your club better run away fast. If the instructor requires a cult-like mentality in terms of loyalty from his student something is wrong there. Discipline and loyalty are important but not in this way. Your trainer should never require you to be his blindly loyal follower.
4. “Belt buying”
The next warning sign should be for you a view of students getting promoted faster than you can learn their names and an obvious lack of skills of all the higher belts. If belts can be bought without regard to the time required for attaining a sufficient degree of knowledge, then you’re not in a legitimate academy. Belts in BJJ, especially black belts are earned by blood, sweat, and tears not by paying more or by hours of attendance.
5. Obligation to pay for promotions
The belts are given honestly, there are no shortcuts, everything seems ok. However, this is not the case when the trainer tells you to pay, for example, for the opportunity to come to promotion. Furthermore, if getting a belt or even a stripe has a price, make sure you switch schools ASAP.
6. Long-term contract and paying for everything
If you are required to sign a long-term contract full of binding points that do not make much sense you should be careful. In a normal gym, you won’t be charged for everything, like being late, leaving training, etc.
Surprise mandatory fees like “We have a guest instructor today so there’s a mandatory fee we’ll collect at the end of class. If you don’t want to pay, please step off the mats” should be also the brightest ever red flag for you.
7. Mandatory Merchandise
If you have to wear a certain gi, rashguards, and/or t-shirts, etc. every time you train, you’re being exploited. Having to use the instructor’s brand of a mouthpiece, buy your training stuff only from their shop, etc. is irrefutable evidence of a BJJ McDojo. Another example of such mandatory merchandise is a situation like this “your old patches are no good anymore in order to continue training you must upgrade to our new patches.”.
8. Instructor abusing his influence to receive free services from his students
Being friends with an instructor is ok, helping each other is ok. But the instructor asking his students to constantly provide him with free services is not ok. The students pay the instructor to learn BJJ. It should be the other way around.
9. Instructor claiming he is self-defense expert
If an instructor who even avoids rolling starts preaching about self-defense experience, leave immediately. If he wants to teach you self-defense without having real-life experience in the ‘real world’, he just learned it from some courses, etc. it’s not a good sign.
10. Place where you live
Although some of the best gyms in the world are located in the U.S, a huge percentage of Mcdojos are in the Western World, especially the U.S. So, if you live somewhere there, there is a good chance your gym is a Mcdojo 😉
If you noticed a few of the red flags from the list above, maybe it is a moment for changing your gym. Life is short, don’t waste it for BJJ Mcdojo. Read more about fake BJJ black belt.