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#379862 - 01/24/08 06:37 PM McDojo's and "The Consumer" for thought.
Zach_Zinn Offline

Registered: 12/09/07
Posts: 1031
Loc: Olympia, WA
We all know it is a popular position to revile McDojos, I think we all have a similar defnition of this term, so i won't bother trying to beat a dead horse and define it here.

The purpose of this thread is to dig deeper into the issue and maybe touch on some things people don't always think about with the McDojo phenomenon.

It seems to me that 9 times out of 10 people blame the McDojo across the board, but I have to wonder if it is the McDojo that is entirely responsible for the phenomenon, or if perhaps the attitude of people seeking martial arts instruction can play a role in the eventual creation of a McDojo.

I have been teaching a bit over a year now, and one of the things which continues to amaze me is people's weird attitudes about martial arts, when people have no previous training they often expect something very, very different from what they get. I've had more than a few people walk through the door with no previous experience, and yet have ridiculous expectations in terms of advancement and what skills can be impartment in a limited amount of time.

Also, amazingly I have found (in my thus far limited experience) that alot of people are far more willing to throw money at MA training than simply show up and put the time in. They unquestioningly have bought Gi's (usually asking about them long before I even reccomend investing in one), but actually showing up and/or doing the work seems to be the part that throws them for a loop.

When they find that they are not interested in what training really entails, they seem to almost feel cheated, I am not sure whether this is due to media presentation of martial arts or what.

I have always believed that Karate (or any MA) simply is not for everyone, but it is very difficult to square this concept with what is expected of you when you teach in any sort of public scenario.

Bottom line: Sad thing is people eat up what is served at McDojo's, but they often seem to lose interest in real training.

It would be tempting to say that these people have this attitude because they've been conditioned by the McDojo phenomenon to expect something unrealistic, but I think this explanation falls short of the mark, as you see this sort of behaviour just as often from people with no exposure whatsoever to MA as you do with ex-McDojo students.

It's a chicken or the egg type argument, what do you guys think?

#379863 - 01/24/08 06:48 PM Re: McDojo's and "The Consumer" for thought. [Re: Zach_Zinn]
BrianS Offline
Higher rank than you
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 5959
Loc: Northwest Arkansas
Essentially,you are right. The public is responsible for the thriving mcdojo. They want afterschool care, rank, the "good stuff" , etc...and are not willing to put in the time and effort it really takes to become a decent karateka.

Expect more of it,not less.
The2nd ammendment, it makes all the others possible. <///<

#379864 - 01/24/08 09:10 PM Re: McDojo's and "The Consumer" for thought. [Re: BrianS]
MattJ Offline
Free Rhinoplasty!

Registered: 11/25/04
Posts: 15634
Loc: York PA. USA
Gotta disagree. Public would never have thought to ask for after-school care, etc, if it wasn't offered from the school in the first place. Could you imagine someone going into Mas Oyama's dojo back in the day and saying "Hey that looks cool except for all the contact. By the way, can you help my kid with his multiplication tables?"

Water flows downhill.
"In case you ever wondered what it's like to be knocked out, it's like waking up from a nightmare only to discover it wasn't a dream." -Forrest Griffin

#379865 - 01/24/08 09:24 PM Re: McDojo's and "The Consumer" for thought. [Re: MattJ]
BrianS Offline
Higher rank than you
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 5959
Loc: Northwest Arkansas

I didn't say the public invented, I said they want it. It was offered and widely accepted. If the public didn't want it, it would have faded quick.
The2nd ammendment, it makes all the others possible. <///<

#379866 - 01/24/08 09:27 PM Re: McDojo's and "The Consumer" for thought. [Re: BrianS]
MattJ Offline
Free Rhinoplasty!

Registered: 11/25/04
Posts: 15634
Loc: York PA. USA
Oh. Well, nevermind.
"In case you ever wondered what it's like to be knocked out, it's like waking up from a nightmare only to discover it wasn't a dream." -Forrest Griffin

#379867 - 01/24/08 09:31 PM Re: McDojo's and "The Consumer" for thought. [Re: Zach_Zinn]
Ronin1966 Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 04/26/02
Posts: 3119
Loc: East Coast, United States
Hello Zach:

Make chicken cutlets {Apologies could not resist w/ the which came first thing...) !!!

The known agendas are difficult enough. I am here to...XYZ or I am here because of...X. The unconscious ones are far harder. Once background, context for "the why I am truly here" is found, is a lengthy process but possible to work on. Discomfort should be integral to good training IMHO. I propose the goal is to challenge the strange thinking, un-informed agendas.


#379868 - 01/24/08 10:06 PM Re: McDojo's and "The Consumer" for thought. [Re: Zach_Zinn]
cxt Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 09/11/03
Posts: 5844
Loc: USA

I think its a self feeding situation-----poorly informed consumers---unrealistic perceptions of what martial arts is "supposed" to be like--add that to McDojo's that feed the perceptions added to McDojo tend to TARGET the youth market and you get people that "buy in" from very young ages a very specific "kind" of martial arts.

In a very real way the McDojo often gives the customer exactly what they want.

So they, IMO, feed off each other.

There is a law (Greshims law if memeory serves) that "bad money drives out good"
Sadly, it applies to the martial arts as well----bad schools often end up devalueing ALL schools.

The poor schools tend to poisen the well for the schools that are of greater quality----you wouldn't think so---you would think that more bad schools would make the "good" schools that much more valuable---and to a point they might---but they also tend to kill the market.

Good, if depressing, observation in your post.

I sadly agree.
I did battle with ignorance today.......and ignorance won. Huey.

#379869 - 01/24/08 10:16 PM Re: McDojo's and "The Consumer" for thought. [Re: Zach_Zinn]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6772
why stop there....take away cost, belts, rank, org membership and the temperature in the dojo equals whatever it is outside that day - and you end up with a nearly empty dojo.

add in all the ego-stuff with temperature control, then just do pushups, line drills, shiko dachi punches plus solo kata and suddenly customers will flock.

nothing new. most people just want to join social groups that boost confidence by giving rewards for memorizing exercises.

I have no problem if thats enough for people - better than them sitting on the couch and drinking. False advertising is still annoying though...

#379870 - 01/24/08 11:33 PM Re: McDojo's and "The Consumer" for though [Re: Zach_Zinn]
bearich Offline

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 49
Loc: Dayton, OH
You can't really pin the issue on instructors or the consumer. The fact of the matter is that both are to blame.

Yes many people stroll into dojos/dojangs/whatever with vast misconceptions about martial arts and what they entail. There are those who think that after three months they'll be the next Bruce Lee ultimate street fighter. But on the polar opposite, there are those who are walking through the doors not caring one bit about the martial aspect of it and want solely to focus on the art and/or the health aspects of a workout. And as mentioned, there are parents who enroll their children simply because martial arts will serve as a baby-sitting service while mom & dad don't have anywhere else to put them for the time being; sad to say but I've seen it myself.

Now you've poised the question as to where the problem stems from. I don't know if I would really call McDojos a problem per say. Do I like them - not personally. But if someone is getting into martial arts to socialize and workout, then I'd rather have them join a McDojo for two simple reasons. First is that the McDojo might spark their interest to further the study of martial arts and force said person to broaden their horizons and see what else is out there in terms of what falls under the martial arts umbrella. Second, that is one less person I have to worry about taking up my training time in which I could be learning something that I'm interested in. If they're down at Billy Bob's School of Karate and Waffle Fries goofing off and not paying attention, that's one less person to distract me or my sensei while I'm learning (as my sensei would probably point out at this moment, admittedly at times I can be a goof off and distracting but at least I'm funny about it).

So what brought on the the McDojo phenomenon? I believe that the McDojo phenomenon can basically be traced back to a few issues (preemptive note: I am not trying to argue society impacts and impressions, merely giving my two cents on the factors contributing to McDojos):

Technology: This is probably the biggest one simply based on the fact its so encompassing. But the truth is that society, and today's generations, have a much easier life than those who were training only a few decades prior (please note at this juncture that I fall into the "under 30" group so I'm not trying to be mean to all the young whipper-snappers). While technology has certainly opened up a vast number of avenues for the sharing of information, it has made people "softer." For example, I remember as a child watching TV on a set where you had to physically get up and walk across the room to change the channel - nowadays, two decades later, nobody would consider buying a TV unless it comes with a remote. Why? Is it really that much of a strain to get up, walk across the room, and physically press the channel up/down button? No, but we have become so accustomed to the convenience of a remote - the ability to use technology to do less work with a greater reward.

"I want it now!" mentality: This sort of ties in with technology IMO. As a culture, with the vast leaps and bounds we've made in the past few decades, those of us in more advanced civilizations have come to expect things instantly. We no longer want to wait on things when we can have it now. Nor do we really ever question if we shouldn't have something. As Zach_Zinn mentions earlier, some people are not cut out for martial arts. But why should that stop you from taking a martial art if you have enough money to throw around.

Medals/Tournament Competition: While tournaments and competitions are certainly an acceptable aspect of displaying one's martial art skills, to the uninformed, decisions can be made about the quality of fighting skills being taught simply based off the number of shiny medals and trophies a place has hanging in the front window. It is the whole dangling a carrot at the end of a stick routine.

We've all seen the musical/dance katas and at one point (if not more than that) thought "There's no way that would ever work in real life" or "I could so take him/her in a fight." Can there be martial artists who are adequately trained in self-defense and like to perform musical katas; sure, I'm not arguing that. But what is going to impress the average Joe more: an empty store window where the students train in blood, sweat, and tears or the twenty medals and trophies hanging in the store window next door? Often the instructor with the window full of plastic and medals will be viewed as "the better of the two," regardless of what training takes places between the two schools. This will then create a cycle in which the tournament instructor is then given a certain set of expectations by the student so that he or she may someday win medals themselves, thus enabling them to reach that carrot on the end of their stick.

Therefore, the instructor, if he wishes to maintain said student will then have to make sure the training he offers falls within the parameters to fulfill the students wishes. That student then goes and wins a trophy for the school, which gets placed in the window, another average Joe walks by, conjures up ideas and dreams of winning his own trophy, enrolls in the school, and the cycle is repeated.

The Media: We've all seen how unrealistic martial arts is portrayed not only in movies (Bloodsport to name one), but in television (Kung-Fu), news stories (The Human Stun Gun news piece anyone), and so on. I don't think I need to go on with this any more.

Capitalism: Unless you've lived under a rock, by now you're probably realized that in a capitalist society, if there's a product or service out there, someone has thought about how to make money off of it. Take the Pet Rock for example - Gary Dahl made millions of dollars off the idea of putting rocks in a box with air holes and calling it a pet. With the growing popularity of martial arts in the media, it was only inevitable before someone decided to make money off of teaching martial arts. Now granted, there are some legitimate instructors out there who do make a profit and run a quality school and they're is nothing wrong with that. However, when the student base is your only source of income, your primary incentive then becomes sustaining and growing your student count (in order to stay above the red) over teaching what you want.

And finally. . .

Martial Arts Instructors: A tad controversial at first glance I know. But simply put - for every student that has walked through the doors of a dojo, wanted the easy way, and got it; someone had to give it to him or her. If every instructor that was initially approached about a fast track to a black belt and replied with "Sorry, we don't do that here. We value a hard work ethic over X,Y, and Z." then we might have never seen the spawning of McDojos. However, whenever someone voluntarily chooses to run a martial arts school for their primary source of income (see Capitalism above), the instructor has two chooses: 1). Teach how he/she wants and hope the quality is good enough to keep them afloat, or 2). Teach what they think would appeal to a larger market segment, effectively increasing their potential for students and lessening the chances of undergoing financial hardship.

So back to the question at hand - which came first. Hard to tell. Was it the student who wanted the easy fast track to the black belt? Or was it the instructor trying to make a buck and keep his/her school open? Hard to say definitively.

#379871 - 01/25/08 07:38 PM Re: McDojo's and "The Consumer" for though [Re: bearich]
Vennificus Offline

Registered: 01/21/08
Posts: 206
Loc: The frozen realms of Kah-Nah-D...
No single Martial Art is for everybody.
Maybe there should be some restriction on McDojo's.
Isn't this like teaching kids how to make guns in your basement? you'd think it would be carefully controlled and left to the masters. I have Little MA experience, but I know there is more than is thought at first.
This beleif has been strengthened in my... three? days in the FA forums.

As to what started it, It was probably an ambitious learner. We all know people who want to go to great lengths to be seen as superior. It is from them that the demand came. When someone saw this demand they decided to teach them to stop their whining. Eventually everyone wanted it, and those who got to learn it decided to teach as well. They needed someway to feed themselves, so they capitalized.

And for future reference, The Egg came first. eggs were not only around long before the chicken, but the chicken had to come from somewhere. What laid the egg? The chicken's evolutionary predecesor.
Livestrong Johnnyboxcutter!!

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