To the Commerical Dojo Owner:

This is an open letter to the guys we traditional teachers laugh at. Yes, us–the “broke” guys with the “outdated” value and teaching systems, whose absence of business knowledge balance your absence of business ethics (our view). Although you talk smack about us when discussing business, you pretend to be one of us when discussing martial arts–or while giving one of your sales pitches. Of course, when the sales pitch is for fitness classes you pretend to be another Billy Blanks, or when the sales pitch is for “MMA” (quotation marks placed for emphasis) classes you pretend to be an MMA guy–who also laughs at you. (And you laugh at them when discussing business, because they have too much ego and do business-killing things, like make their students fight…)


So, I am sparing you the indignity of referring to you as a “McDojo” owner, or “McGuro”, or “Ronald McSensei”, because I understand that not all commerical dojo owners are in fact operating a “McDojo”. There is a difference.

By the way, readers–a BJJ school can be a McDojo. A Muay Thai school can be a McDojo. An FMA/JKD school can be a McDojo. And get this…. A Tae Kwon Do school can be a McDojo. I’m serious, even Tae Kwon Do!

And let me add, that not all Tae Kwon Do is commercial/McDojo. And not all commercial schools are McDojos. There is a difference, and we must acknowledge and respect that.

Back to the subject at hand.

So, commercial dojo owners, my message is for you to stop. Stop killing the respect that the martial arts used to have. Stop the practices that kill your students’ self-esteem (which you claim to be building). Stop failing your students, your art, your fellow warriors, and disappointing parents. I understand that the arts must be watered down somewhat to fit the times. I do understand that some practices must be put in place in order to make a decent living. It is completely understandable that sometimes the art cannot be too “hardcore” if some of these students are to stick with it long enough to get in shape or learn to defend themselves. But there are many practices I want to address that I can’t stand about the art, and if you fix them you will make things better for you, better for your students and their parents, and better for the martial arts community in general. So let’s get started:

  • First, don’t EVER send a student to collections. If they can’t afford the classes, if they lose interest, if they just don’t have time these days to train, how in the world can you punish them for that? I know that they made a commitment, but good gosh–do you think anything positive will come out of stressing them out and ruining their credit? And guess what happens when you do that? They will never consider you if they decide to return to the arts, and they will never refer their friends and family to you. On top of that–you have just tarnished their view of all martial arts schools. So stop it.
  • Stop promising to “fix” kids!!! Wait, let me restate:


  • Why do I say this? Because you can’t, and you know darn well you can’t. You’re no psychiatrist. You’re not his Dad. You aren’t a doctor. You’re not a school teacher. Martial arts do not fix ADD. It won’t make him do homework. If he’s talking back to his Mom, it’s because his Mom won’t slap him in the mouth. If he is a gangsta wannabe, he will still be a gangsta wannabe–especially if you enroll him in your “MMA” (quotation marks placed for emphasis) class. When you tell him that your Karate class is a good substitute for a well-deserved spanking, you’re lying. So stop.
  • If you have not trained this kid to completely annihilate any other kid on the playground, if you do not have the confidence that this kid can “take” any boy or girl–even bigger boys and girls–on the street, don’t slap a Black Belt on him. Period.
  • By the way, you cheapen the Black Belt when you award it to students that do not have the skill to match. It is wrong. And you’re setting up your student to getting seriously hurt on the street because either he has the confidence to defend himself (but not the skill) or he does not (and he paid you to give it to him). Stop making the path so easy.
  • Do a few situps while you’re at it too, doughboy.
  • I know you have a Porsche Carrera. But don’t drive it to the school. The students want to study martial arts, not feel as if you were training them to take over your Multi-level marketing scheme. We know the martial arts can be lucrative, but if you flaunt wealth at em, and them offer to franchise a location to them when they get their Black Belt… What product are you actually selling? Self-defense skills? Or dealerships?
  • Make your guys get on the floor with guys from another dojo and mix it up sometime. If you are afraid they might get hurt and quit, then you probably shouldn’t be in this business.
  • Stop charging for tests. Multi-level marketing 101. Give it value by appealing to something else besides your wallet. And make it hard. Fail a few of them if they don’t deserve it. That 50 bucks they just paid was supposed to answer a question you don’t know the answer to:  Will they pass?  Hey! Ever seen my famous mind-reading trick? Watch this…. Oooommm…. Yes, 100% of your students will pass every test you issue this year. Wanna know how I know? ESP. Extra Stupid Purchase. They are paying for that test, so what incentive do they have to try and pass? It isn’t necessary, because it’s not pass-fail. It’s just another income stream for you. So what are you really selling? Not skill, it must be belts.
  • You don’t really teach MMA, do you? No, that’s why it’s an “MMA” class. You’ve never been in the ring (Point fighting doesn’t count). Would you send your kid to a doctor who learned from a medical school that never actually did any dentistry procedures? Well, technically, if you teach two arts, it’s a “mixed” martial art. But you know what I mean. Sheesh!
  • Stop giving little kids the Black Belt. It’s not the same. Call it a “Junior Black Belt”, or whatever, but it’s not the same as what the rest of us have. But to think of it, you probably have the same type of Black Belt and education you’re giving the 7 year olds. Well, then carry on…
  • Students need something more than just arbitrary “tenets” and pledges, and terminology to be a real martial arts program–besides the technical art. Students should be receiving something extra besides form, technique and one-step. Do you have anything further to offer? Can you give a complete history of your style? State your lineage going back 4 generations. Name the vital nerve points on the body. What do you do when a student has been knocked out? How can a small, weaker student defend himself against a man twice his strength and size? How do you teach a student with arthritis in the knees? How much of a martial arts education do you have? Well, maybe that explains why it’s so easy to give a Black Belt in 2 years; you don’t know anything. Get yourself an education, and then create a curriculum that means something. Chances are that you’re offering a basic curriculum, and treating it as if it were a full system. That’s not a matter of perception; it’s plain old dishonest.

If you want to make money with the art, then offer a complete program and make money off that. But don’t offer people wanting the real thing and sell them a watered down program. That’s what’s wrong with the martial arts, there is so much commercialization and dishonesty, it casts a shadow on the entire industry. Making money and making it accessible to anyone is irrelevant. This art and what it entails has nothing to do with money; this is a life-changing path and a way of life. It cannot be sold, and it should not be made easy to obtain. Otherwise, it is no longer the “martial” art.

Thank you for visiting my blog.


Author: thekuntawman

full time martial arts teacher, full time martial arts philosopher, and full time martial arts critic

2 thoughts on “To the Commerical Dojo Owner:”

  1. What a fantastic post. Much respect.
    I really think I have stepped into a multi-level marketing scheme in some of the places where I have trained.
    Sending students to collections is just plain bad business.

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