Wear A Tie Or Tie Your Obi

Something truly wonderful happened in 1984. The Karate Kid opened in theaters across the country and it was a huge success. Let’s face it: the acting was terrible. Daniel-San never really got another role in any other major motion picture that was a success. But the movie, the movie itself, taught people some wonderful lessons about karate and the martial arts in general.

Soon after, people flocked to their nearest martial arts studio in droves. Every mom wanted her son / daughter to be the next karate kid. Every instructor wanted to be, and portrayed themselves as Mr. Miyagi. Martial arts schools across the world experienced a boon in new students.

Thus, the Martial Arts Industry was born. It was a blessing and a curse all rolled into one. This was mainly because the industry itself wasn’t really born of the movie. It had existed for years before. It simply didn’t have the strength to be a mighty money making machine.

The Karate Kid changed that. McDojos sprang up everywhere. If you are not familiar with the term, McDojo is slang for a group of schools associated with each other. It’s like chain stores or fast food chains, thus the term McDojo. These “organizations” had one sole purpose: make money! And make money they did. They took advantage of every single person they could. Tradition, technique, and skill took a back seat to greed. Teachers with any practical knowledge at all forsook that to become business gurus. Students who were mediocre at best were promoted to ranks simply for the testing fees. Suddenly entrepreneurs were running studios and forcing people to sign contracts then suing people who broke them for what ever good reason they may have had. Suddenly it was chic’ and in style to be a school owner.

The internet became popular and the problems worsened. Now any goof ball out there could post a video or put up a website and make people believe that they were a martial arts expert. Those of us who were traditionalist are just as much to blame. We stood by and allowed it to happen. In our defense, we were busy teaching our art and being what we were supposed to be…teachers…that we didn’t notice until the “martial arts industry” had practically ruined the martial arts. We sat quietly, teaching, doing and being what the martial arts were truly about while the greed for money all but ruined the martial arts.
The Karate Kid was a movie. It really wasn’t the movie’s fault for what has happened. It’s ours. We, the traditional teachers and stylist missed what was coming.

The McDojo is still out there today. It is still only interested in taking people’s money. If you can’t tell by now, I despise them. I despise what they are and what they stand for. I think most of all I despise what they do to innocent hard working people. I despise that they have taken hundreds of years of tradition and sold it and their souls for popularity and money.

There are still plenty of Sensei John Kreese’s out there. There are still plenty of Cobra Kai dojos. There are guys out there who haven’t achieved the Kreese level yet but they are diligently working on it. Don’t let yourself be fooled by these guys. They aren’t that hard to spot if you know what you’re looking for. Flashy uniforms. Extravagant websites. Expensive extra programs. Bragging in public about their skills and prowess. Vague and suspicious lineages. These are just a few of the very obvious tell -tale signs. Then of course, there is the best sign of all: your common sense. If you walk into a place wanting lessons or wanting to sign your child up for lessons and you get the sense you’re in a business you’re probably right. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, quacks like a duck…

The point of all of this is quite simply: if you’re going to run a business, fine. If you’re going to teach martial arts, fine. If you’re going to do both, ok but decide which is more important. Don’t say that you are one thing and be something else. Sooner or later no matter how good you are at it you will slip and it’s better to be one or the other than to be a fraud.

Wear a tie or tie your obi.

  1. October 29, 2011 at 2:05 am

    Its a hard call. I attended what might be called a McDojo for years. If it hadn’t existed though, there would not have been a dojo at all in my area. The instructors were locals and were good. However, to advance beyond a certain level, you had to have almost a cult-like involvement, attending dojo-central to all sorts of hours to demonstrate your commitment. And while a lot of people were keen and committed and good at what they did, I know who were driving the fanciest cars.

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