When you're looking for a martial arts gym, it's important to do your research.
Not all gyms are created equal. Some may be more interested in making money than in teaching martial arts.
How can you spot these so-called "McDojos"?
In this blog post, I'll give you some red flags of a McDojo on how to avoid being scammed by a shady martial arts school.
Table of Contents
Red flag #1: They claim to offer a black belt in 6 months or less
Beware of martial arts schools that promise to give you a black belt in an unusually short amount of time.
In most cases, it takes years of dedicated training to achieve this level.
If a school is offering a quick path to a black belt, it's likely that they're more interested in your money.
You can often see black belts who are just kids in these kinds of schools. If you see 10-year old kids wearing black belts in a martial arts gym, run and save your money.
Red flag #2: Their fees are too good to be true
When it comes to martial arts schools, you usually get what you pay for.
If a school is charging rock-bottom prices, it's likely that they're cutting corners somewhere.
Maybe they have unqualified instructors, or maybe they're skimping on equipment and facilities.
In any case, it's not worth risking anything by going to a cheap school.
Red flag #3: They don’t require you to sign a contract
A good martial arts school will require you to sign a contract, which protects both the school and the student.
This document should outline the school's policies and procedures, as well as the student's rights and responsibilities.
If a school doesn't require a contract, it may be because they're hiding something or do not want to take any responsibility if something wrong happens during training.
Red flag #4: They allow you to pay for only one class at a time
Most martial arts schools require students to pay for a certain number of classes upfront.
This allows the school to keep their prices low and to make sure that serious students are committed to the program.
If a school allows you to pay for only one class at a time, it's likely that they're not focused on quality instruction.
Red flag #5: They have no affiliation with any legitimate martial arts governing body
There are several martial arts governing bodies, such as the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) and the World Karate Federation (WKF).
These organizations set standards for schools and instructors, and they offer other benefits to members.
If a school is not affiliated with any of the legitimate organizations, it may be because they don't meet the standards.
Red flag #6: They’re run by unqualified instructors
A good martial arts instructor will have years of experience and a solid credentials.
They should be able to show you their training history, lineage and any awards or rankings they've achieved.
If an instructor can't show you these things, it's likely that they're not qualified to teach.
Red flag #7: They don’t offer a free trial period
A good martial arts school will offer a trial period, which allows you to try out the program before making a commitment.
This gives you a chance to see if the school is a good fit for you.
If a school doesn't offer a trial period, it may be because they're not confident in their program and they are just interested in getting paying students as fast as possible.
Red flag #8: You’re taught ineffective techniques
A good martial arts school will teach techniques that have been proven to be effective in real-world self-defense situations.
If you're being taught ineffective techniques, it's likely that the instructors are more interested in showboating than in teaching you how to really defend yourself.
Red flag #9: You’re never allowed to spar with other students
Sparring is an important part of training in most martial arts. It allows you to test your skills in a safe and controlled environment.
If a school doesn't allow students to spar, it's likely because they're trying to hide the fact that their techniques do not work in a real life scenario against a resisting opponent.
Red flag #10: The head instructor does not want to spar with students
Most McDojo instructors completely avoid sparring with students.
If your instructor is legit, then he/she should should be willing to spar with students. This allows them to show their students that they're confident in their skills and that they're able to put their techniques into practice.
If the head instructor is not willing to spar with students, it's a sign that they're not confident in their own abilities.
Red flag #11: The school has a high dropout rate
A high dropout rate is usually a sign that something is wrong with the school.
Maybe the instructors are unqualified, maybe the techniques are ineffective, or maybe the people in the school are creepy.
In any case, it's not worth risking your safety by going to a school with a high dropout rate.
Red flag #12: The school is always trying to sell you something
A good martial arts school will be focused on providing quality instruction, not on selling you things.
If a school is always trying to sell you something - whether it be expensive seminars, certifications, belt promotion acceleration programs, etc - it's likely because they're more interested in taking your money.
Red flag #13: You’re never allowed to ask questions
A good martial arts school will encourage students to ask questions. This allows you to get the most out of the instruction.
If a school doesn't allow students to ask questions, it's likely because the instructor has no idea about the stuffs that he/she is teaching or they are just making up techniques that do not work in real life for different scenarios.
Red flag #14: They don’t have a regular schedule of classes
A good martial arts school will have a regular schedule of classes, so that students can plan their training around their other commitments.
If a school doesn't have a regular schedule, it shows that the management or the instructors are not professionals.
Red flag #15: The instructors are more interested in competition than education
Many martial arts schools focus on competition, and while there's nothing wrong with that, it shouldn't be the only focus.
A good school will strike a balance between competition and education, so that students can learn both self-defense and the sports side of a martial arts.
Red flag #16: There’s little emphasis on safety and injury prevention
A good martial arts school will place a strong emphasis on safety and injury prevention.
If a school doesn't seem to care about safety, it's likely that they do not care about your well being.
It's not worth risking your safety by going to a school that doesn't care about it in the first place.
Red flag #17: They don’t have a clean and well-maintained facility
A good martial arts school will have a clean and well-maintained facility, because it's important for both the students and the instructors.
Practicing self defense requires you to be in close proximity with your training partners and you will need a good hygienic facility to clean up before and after classes.
Red flag #18: The instructor demands cult-like loyalty and worship
A good martial arts instructor will be respected by their students, but they shouldn't demand cult-like loyalty and worship.
If an instructor demands this from their students, it's a red flag that something is wrong.
These kinds of instructors can build a dangerous toxic culture and predatory behavior inside the gym. Nothing good will ever come out of this kind of environment.
Red flag #19: You don’t feel like you’re part of a community
A good martial arts school will make you feel like you're part of a community, because the sense of community is important for both the students and the instructors.
A legitimate martial arts gym should give you a vibe of finding a second home and a second family.
Red flag #20: You get the feeling that something isn’t quite right
If you get the feeling that something isn't quite right at a martial arts school, it's probably because something is wrong. Trust your instincts and look for another school.
To wrap it up....
Hopefully, this list of red flags has been helpful in identifying potentially dangerous McDojos. By being aware of these warning signs, you can avoid wasting your time and money on a martial arts school that will not provide you with the training you need.
Please share this post with your friends and family members to help keep them safe, and be sure to let me know if you have any additional questions about how to spot a McDojo.
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