McDojo Phenomenon

Unveiling the World of Dubious Martial Arts Studios: The McDojo Phenomenon.

In the realm of martial arts, there exists a rather controversial entity known as the “McDojo.” This term has been coined to describe martial arts schools that prioritize financial gains over genuine skill development and traditional martial arts values. While they may appear attractive and welcoming at first glance, their practices often raise questions about the integrity and authenticity of their teachings. In this article, I delve into the world of McDojos, examining their characteristics, impacts on the martial arts community, and tips on identifying legitimate dojos.

The McDojo Phenomenon Unmasked.

A McDojo is a martial arts school that values profit over substance, offering a range of questionable practices to lure in potential students. These practices may include:

1. Belt Mills: The conveyor belt of belt promotions for payment, regardless of skill level, is a common hallmark of McDojos. This tactic exploits students’ desire for recognition while undermining the true essence of martial arts—dedication, hard work, and proficiency.

2. Exorbitant Fees: McDojos often employs a “pay-to-win” philosophy, charging exorbitant fees for classes, uniforms, testing, and other miscellaneous expenses. This focus on financial gains raises doubts about the school’s genuine commitment to imparting quality training.

3. Rapid Rank Advancement: Unlike legitimate martial arts schools that emphasize gradual and merit-based rank advancement, McDojos might fast-track students through the ranks, sacrificing essential learning and growth opportunities.

4. Trophy-Centric Approach: McDojos may prioritize competition victories and medals, overlooking the broader aspects of martial arts training, such as discipline, humility, and respect.

5. Straying from Tradition: In a bid to attract a wider audience, McDojos might dilute or abandon the foundational principles and philosophy of the martial arts they claim to teach.

Impacts on the Martial Arts Community.

The proliferation of McDojos has not been without consequences for the broader martial arts community. Here are some of the impacts:

1. Misleading the Public: McDojos may deceive prospective students into believing they are joining a legitimate and respected martial arts school. This creates a false sense of accomplishment and competence among students who may not be adequately trained.

2. Undermining Authenticity: The existence of McDojos can cast doubts on the authenticity and credibility of martial arts as a whole. Skepticism might arise among potential students, leading them to question the legitimacy of any martial arts school.

3. Hindering Genuine Learning: For those unfortunate enough to attend a McDojo, the quality of instruction and the true essence of martial arts may be compromised. Genuine learning and skill development might take a backseat to profit-driven practices.

Identifying Legitimate Martial Arts Schools.

Despite the presence of McDojos, numerous reputable and authentic martial arts schools exist worldwide. To avoid falling into the trap of a McDojo, consider the following tips when searching for a legitimate dojo:

1. Research: Conduct thorough research on potential schools, including their lineage, instructor credentials, and student reviews.

2. Trial Classes: Attend trial classes to observe the teaching style, class atmosphere, and student interactions.

3. Emphasis on Fundamentals: Legitimate schools prioritize teaching strong foundational skills and techniques before advancing to higher-level moves.

4. Respect and Discipline: A genuine dojo emphasizes discipline, respect, and humility among students and instructors.

5. Evaluation Process: Legitimate schools have a structured and merit-based evaluation process for rank advancement.


The rise of McDojos serves as a reminder of the need for diligence and discernment when selecting a martial arts school. While the phenomenon may cast a shadow on the reputation of martial arts, it is crucial to recognize that genuine and reputable dojos exist. By researching and choosing a school that upholds traditional values and prioritizes skill development, aspiring martial artists can embark on a fulfilling journey of self-improvement, discipline, and personal growth.


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