Cheetah asked in SportsMartial Arts · 8 years ago

Is it possible for a dojo to be both a real dojo and a McDojo at the same time?

I was traveling on business and went to a couple of classes at a dojang where a friend of mine attends. I was initially skeptical as I saw a couple of what looked like 10 year old black belts.

Then I attended the adult class. It was a great workout and very analytical in its teaching of poomse, self defense and meanings and methodology behind it. The senior level belts and black belts were very skilled and impressive in their knowledge and ability.

I couldn't help myself so as I asked the Sabumnim, "what's up with the kid black belts?"

His answer was very thought provoking. He said "For adults, martial arts are real, real self defense and a real way of life. For kids, this is an activity, they don't truly understand MAs as a way of life or a personality changer. That being said, the kids here are taught enough self defense to get them out of a school yard tussle and they do know their stuff, poomse, history, techniques, etc, they just don't really understand it the way an adult would. Unfortunately, I'm not independently wealthy. I work a full time job and run the school in the evenings and weekends for the love of the MA. I'm lucky if the school brings in enough money to pay my electric bill and a couple of dinners a month. If I was wealthy and could do this full time, I would prefer to not even teach children. I would rather devote all my time to adults and expand their training even further. Allowing children to reach the black belt level keeps them here and keeps the parents appeased. And believe me, when a child here reaches black belt, they are very skilled in respect to others in their own age range and much more skilled than children black belts from other schools in the area, just not compared to an adult. Also, you never know, maybe the training that I give a child will eventually lead them to continuing their training into adulthood to really understand the MA when they are mentally capable of this. The kids in this dojo pay the building lease and bills so that I can give the adults a true martial arts experience. Additionally, Kukkiwon does recognize children black belts with a black and red certificate where an adult's certificate is all black. If my school doesn't allow children to reach the black belt level, the parents would find another dojang. And if those parents took their children out of my dojang to another one, my adult training would suffer."

That being said, he doesn't lock people into long term contracts, his monthly fees are not exorbitant but he does have kid black belts, does do birthday parties and does have summer camps.

Thoughts? Serious, well thought out answers only, please.


Some great answers so far, I really appreciate everyone thinking this through. To clarify some question raised by the answerers:

1. JWB - He does not promote any child farther than 1st Dan. I believe the age of differentiation from Kukkiwon is 16, I don't know the exact age from Korea. At that point they have to retest for their adult 1st Dan and can progress.

2. J - My point was that the dojang is not a profit center but a break even proposition with the children involved. His point was that without children as students, he wouldn't be able to give the adults their training, which is his passion because the children's' program allows him to train adults.

15 Answers

  • possum
    Lv 7
    8 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Yes, it's possible. But for me, I don't particularly care. For one, there's no well-established definition of McDojo, so the point is moot anyway. Strip malls, contracts, kid black belts, trophies, sport, yada yada yada - these are all common definitions.

    Also, there's no real definition of black belt, either. If we do away with the common smart-alec answer that it is all about holding up the pants (which it doesn't), we must first define what it is to be a black belt. Until then, we must accept that it just means one has demonstrated all of the techniques they have been taught, and that they do it proficiently. I know, it's vague. But that's my point.

    Now, in a sport martial art, there are age bands. Children don't compete against adults, and so in a sport martial art, there's nothing wrong: the competitions are adjusted for age, and so are the requirements. When that child ages into adulthood, so too, will his/her competitors. And while they will also take the belt with them into adulthood, they will also continue to practice the things they've always been taught: nothing changes.

    But, what if the style was not about sport? It's about using lethal techniques. It's about understanding principals that even many adults find hard to grasp. And the training can be brutal: joint locks, and the like. Things that children should just not be taught: their bodies can't withstand it, and the techniques can be easily abused. Adults generally do not need supervision to use a hand gun, but you would give a child unsupervised use of a gun? Same with lethal techniques. Only this time, there are times when children are left by themselves without adult supervision: a few minutes in a bathroom, or in a far corner of the playground. Fights can break out, or techniques can be practiced that go awry.

    So in sport, you generally teach the (black belt) child everything, but in self-defense, you withold things. When they age into adulthood, the sport black belt continues with all of their skills. But the other is a black belt (commonly labelled an expert or master) and yet doesn't have the requisite skills as their peers.

    So, I don't have a problem with sport martial arts awarding black belts, but I do have a problem when the others award them. And I do have a problem that lay people can't tell them apart. This can be dangerous for the sport martial artist, who has fought under rules the lay person does not understand or know about. And vice-versa.

    Your friend is right, though. You have no idea the inspiration an instructor instills that may make them great martial artists as adults. You have no idea that a simple discussion on footwork or blocking - and not eye gouges and throat strikes - is what gets them out of a schoolyard brawl.

    Your friend is also right: children pay the bills. If he didn't serve them, someone else will. I have a few great instructors who wouldn't be my instructor without children. The are all in this as a full-time business. None have contracts, and all but two are sport-oriented.

    So as to pizza parties, after school programs, summer camp, sleep-overs, movie nights, and invite-a-friends, I don't care. If it keeps the kids interested, instills a passion, makes them better people... then why would anyone care about a birthday cake?

    Besides, I have to admire a number of kids technical abilities, some of you have discussed links of very talented kids, as have I, and they are breaths of wonder to watch. Not many adults can do what they do, even if the child may not have a complete understanding of what it is they are doing. Hopefully, one day they do. And hopefully, I am not standing opposed to them in a ring.


    Watch out for the Kukkiwon thing. It's true they don't award dan certifications, only poom certifications. But children who have poom certifications often wear the black belt anyway. And, children can earn up to 3rd poom by 16 years old. It is a matter of paperwork to convert the poom to dan, and so it's possible to have a 3rd-dan 16 year old. It's not uncommon to see 25 year old 5th dans. Nevertheless, I don't care about the color of belt or their certification. As long as it doesn't affect my own training, I couldn't care less.

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  • 8 years ago

    Yes, I believe a school can be a real dojo and a mcdojo at the same time. I do not think, however, that giving kids black belts constitutes and mcdojo in and of itself. It's the nature of the beast when it comes to running a business. You can stick to tradition and the way things should be all day long, but the bill collectors still want their money at the end of the month. So, if giving people a reward in the form of a different color belt will keep them training with you then so be it. It takes more than a good teacher to keep a dojo alive, it also takes good students. If he had good students who truly wanted to learn what he had to teach he wouldn't need to give out belt promotions to people just so they'll stay. In the end though, people like that are only cheating themselves. They just want to be able to say they're a black belt. They don't want the training and the experience and hard work to back it up.

    Source(s): Training in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu (Ninjutsu/Bujutsu) and other martial arts.
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  • 8 years ago

    I am torn on this issue.

    The way my Sensei does it is the kids are more sport oriented with basic self defense. The adults are self defense oriented and much more realistic Martial arts. Even with those parameters he will NOT issue a black belt to anyone under 15. That is one contention I have with the class, it is a full black belt, not a Junior BB. However the 15 year old is not given the same status in the class as an adult, so in a way it is a Junior BB without the official restriction.

    A McDojo / McDojang isn't just about giving kids Black Belts. It is placing money above teaching good Martial arts and compromising standards and principals for the sake of money.

    I am sorry though, the birthday parties are a sell out. That HAS NOTHING to do with good martial arts sport or otherwise, by ANY stretch of the imagination. I would never be associated with anyone that would compromise their integrity to that point, just to draw in kids. The next step is selling belts or adding 15 belts before black just for the testing revenue, or things like required testing every three months regardless of the readiness of the student. I guess I am old fashioned, I believe that if you have a quality product / instruction, you don't need gimmicks. Even if you have to make the kids class sport, make it as good a sport class as possible. Teach as much self defense as they can handle and understand. Don't compromise on technique even if they don't understand the ultimate application of it. Make a distinction between adult BB and kids and don't lower your standards just because Joe Blow down the street does it.

    Just my opinion.

    Edit: Let me clarify my position just a bit. I have no problem with the people getting together inside or outside of the class to celebrate a birthday of a current or former student / instructor, or any Holiday for that matter. The problem I have is charging non-members for holding birthday parties in Gi / Do-bok in the class as a source of revenue and gimmick to draw students. Like the black belt for a day parties that you see on so many websites. If you want to get into that open a play ground or activity hall and don't connect it to the martial arts.

    Source(s): 30 years MA
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  • Anonymous
    8 years ago

    I think this is probably pretty common. No one is getting rich teaching martial arts, not even a McDojo owner. At best they are able to pay the rent. To do that you need lots of students, and most of those students are going to be children, simply because not that many adults want to train. To keep the children enrolled for a long period of time, you have to make the training safe, fun and fairly easy. But still, the instructors are martial artists who want to train for real, so they can do that with their relatively small adult classes. The place I used to train was exactly the same. The few adults would come in and see the end of the crowded kids' class, and they would be playing games and whatnot, and then the kids would leave and we would do intense, focused workouts with lots of hard sparring.

    And even McDojo training isn't all bad. While I trained there, there was one kid who had come up through the children's program and earned a blackbelt, then transitioned to the adult class when he was 16. He had a lot to learn about sparring, but he had good form, great flexibility, a good attitude and a good work ethic. He knew even though he was a higher belt than many of the adults, most of them were better fighters, but he learned very quickly due to his background.

    I personally don't think we need to be teaching children super-serious martial arts anyway. Why should we give immature children the skills to seriously hurt or kill another person in a fight?

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  • 8 years ago

    The school you described sounds like a legitimate Dojang. In this economy its tough to run a martial arts school, so I don't blame them for teaching children. As long as hes teaching them practical self defense, and giving them the tools to be successful martial artist when they're older then I don't see the problem.

    I may not agree with giving children a black belt, but there are a few exceptional kids that do deserve one. A black belt means that you understand the basics of the art. As long as they do understand, and they can execute the techniques properly then its good. I just dont believe in giving dan ranks to kids too early.

    My dojo is a bit like the dojo you described. There are no kid blackbelts in my dojo with the exeption of a 14 year old. But my dojo has a big kids class that my sensei and 3 blackbelts including me run the class. Without the kids class we wouldnt be able to have an adult class. My dojo is legitamate and I'm lucky to have found it.

    Good answers by Sev, and J

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  • Jay
    Lv 7
    8 years ago

    That is very thought provoking. I'm rather stumped. I never thought about it that way, and the way several others here have answered. I don't teach nor do I plan on opening a school anytime soon, so my mind is elsewhere than on these sort of issues.

    Few things come to mind;

    #1, the instructor/owner seems to put monetary value on his students, which is the make of a business, not a school.

    To counter #1, his full time job doesn't seem to rake in enough for a living, so I can understand. Only, what standard of living he tries to have could be problematic and selfish, too. I don't know.

    #2, There is obviously a differential in rank between an adult black belt and a child black belt, which at one point when the child grows up, will have to be addressed.

    To counter #2, just as the instructor said, what they do as a child may inspire them to continue on to better things.

    #3, He tries to appease to parents, which tells me he'll mold and conform to whatever in order to turn a profit. Such a thing is rather untrustworthy.

    To counter #3, he does seem to want to only teach adults, as he said himself to you, but decided to expand beyond that which is valuable for the child so long as the child is getting what he or she wants out of it.

    To be honest, I'm grateful for the school I started in. I was 7 years old, and the inspiration I had was from crappy old children's tv shows like Power Rangers and TMNT (...for real). So I can sympathize. Children really can't understand what an adult can. I was mature for my age back then, but I viewed it as both a life style and an activity. What ever inspired me came from my heart, tv shows just being a catalyst, but it was my own passion that drove it out in me.

    When I started out there were around 12 or 15 other kids (varying in age, but within five years of me) that probably had that same inspiration, though I can't say about passion, but out of everyone else, only 3 others are still practicing somewhere (two of them getting into MMA around high school).

    Given that alone, I wouldn't say it's worth teaching kids, but at the same time I wouldn't know where I'd be without it.

    I disagree with any sort of business aspects (birthday parties, appeasing parents, etc.), but if the instruction can speak for itself, then I suppose that's good enough. A child with a black belt in the end is only as good as a child with a black belt can be. Any legitimate martial artist will recognize the apparent opposition, but kids grow up. They're not going to stay 12 or 13 year old black belts forever.

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  • Sev
    Lv 6
    8 years ago

    My former dojang. I'll admit, and I am a bit ashamed to say this, I got my 3rd degree when I was 17 (started when I was 4). The training was rough mind you compared to most martial art places I've personally encountered, even for the adults and quite of few of them were highly athletic individuals, young and what not. It wasn't just cardio, the people that payed attention in class walked away with valuable knowledge (and maybe cracked ribs) but I feel deep down in my heart that it should have taken longer for me. However, the material my instructors taught was of good quality. My training has served me well in the past and I've known quite a few fellow students that have had to defend themselves, some of them against multiple individuals. Since they still were able to come to class alive and well, I feel that though my dojang was very lax on the whole kids with black belt thing they still taught us a no non-sense method of self-defense.

    Birthday parties were not (until I left) spoken of. It was mentioned to the student if he/she wanted to have a birthday party at the dojang, they could but by no means was it advertised as a part of the program.

    The way I saw it, until I returned the summer of my sophmore year of college, the high rent required a somewhat fair fee ($100 per month) but also required fees for testing. My father told me that out of the 12.5 years I was there he spent no more than 12k on the school...but that's aside from the point. The point is is that although Grandmaster Yoon may have allowed the whole child black belt thing, he still pushed us even when we were children. Hell, when I came on here I learned people didn't like the idea of kids taking serious martial arts as the training was too tense for their bodies. Most people would call me a liar for saying this Grandmaster didn't treat us like kids, he treated us equally as his students. Therefore, he expected us to train hard, this included full contact sparring, breaking, etc. I remember when I was 11 I was sparring 25 year old guys full contact. I'm sure as hell not special but the training he gave me allowed me to compete with a decent degree. Whether or not people agree with this, it definitely prepared me for further encounters that I've had in life.

    So my former dojang is, now, a Mcdojang if it wasn't considered that before. But I feel that we were taught well.

    Source(s): 15 years of Taekwondo .....waiting for the thumb downs....
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  • Jim R
    Lv 7
    8 years ago

    Your question has both barrels loaded!

    This instructor's experience reflects the reality of teaching MA today. The way we trained is "too hard" even for the adults today. In the 60s there were no kids in our classes. By the 90s well over half of the students were under 18. Now I am told that the number is around 85% of all MA students in North america are kids! They can't be taught the way we were back then, they are too young, and the times have changed. We must teach kids, or suffer very small (too small to survive sometimes) classes. That said, it is entirely different things the children learn than adults.

    So my thinking it that it should be well known that ANY belts awarded before 16-18 years old are JUNIOR ranks. A 15 year old is not a match for a 35 year old if both claim shodan.

    It has become a real catch 22, damned if you do, and damned if you don't. I don't think there is a real answer for this other than to deal with it, and carry on.

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  • 8 years ago

    The problem here is that everyone wants to jump on schools that teach children! I started training at eleven years old and earned my first black belt at seventeen years old. Most normal adults know that a child black belt can not even compete with an adult in sparring! The Kukkiwon (Headquarters of WTF) awards a junior black belt called (poom belt) up until age sixteen years old and then they must test again to attain a higher belt. If I had waited until becoming an adult to start training, I would be like most adults, not have much time to train as I would want to because of work and family! The discipline is what the children need as well as some of the adults on here! I teach traditional Taekwondo to children and adults as well as mixed martial arts to a select few, Unless you understand the concept of the junior/poom belt you will never see the light! SuaKaow Edit! I've read everyone thoughts that are posted on here and this is my opinion: I have a full time job as a police officer and teach full time as well! I believe children are the future of martial arts because without them there just wouldn't be many martail arts schools around. I know of schools who only teach adults and a lot of them can't fight either! Being a full time instructor one has to bring in the money, there are some who because of wealth don't need to worry about students paying the bills,besides, if you gave your instruction away, it would be worth nothing! If you train hard, you should get promoted, if you don't, you don't get promoted, simple as that! A black belt is only a symbol,I know many of people who don't train or know any martial art and will beat the****out of those who train in the martial arts, so why is it that everyone is so hung up on anyone,even a child getting a black belt? Bottom line is...We all know that a child black belt can not compete with or against an adult! People need to grow up! SuaKaow!

    Source(s): years of experience!
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  • 8 years ago

    This doesn't sound like the typical mcdojo/mcdojang to me. It is what it is. It is a commercial dojo. It is there to make money. It can only make money or pay some bills if they have children. Therefore they must appease the parents.

    I understand what they are doing, but I still do not believe that a 10 year old should wear anything close to a black belt. That is just my opinion. If they have a black belt they should be able to compete, spar, etc against adults.

    But they have to pay the bills.

    My concern next would be if they are 10 with black belts; by the time they are 12 or 13 they will Nidan.


    Suajauw I don't think that no one is jumping on training children. The problem I have is giving children a false since of security. I've seen 7 and 8 year old black belts competing against my 6 or 7 year old son. These kids didn't demonstrate any good stances in the kata, no power, they never looked before turning. Then they went on to compete in sparring. They had no technique. My son easily defeated them. These kids cried. Not because he physically hurt them, but because they lost to a yellow belt. They lack discipline. skill, and maturity. According to Cheetah these kids have the skill according to what that instructor said. But I doubt if they have the maturity. There are reasons why we don't let children get drivers licenses before 16 or 18. They can't buy alcohol. They can't sign a contract. There is a reason why when I was in judo if you had an adult rank you had to compete against adults only; no more juniors. I was a little guy, but my instructor promoted my to an adult rank. He felt my skill level was that I could compete with and defend against adult. Therefore I only competed against adults. Not only that they always moved me into higher weight classes than I was I I did well against them. I didn't win them all, but I did well. I was one of a few people that were allowed to compete in the black belt division without having a black belt. I only lost to one of my I tried to beat him.

    Great points by Karate Dave

    Source(s): Martial Arts since 1982
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