I talk to Rob From McDojoLife. Rob has been a lifelong martial artist with a black belt in Karate and a Purple Belt in Jiu-Jitsu. McDojo life has a massive social media presence that you have likely seen before where it exposes fakes, frauds and phoneys of the martial arts industries. We discuss the elements that make a McDojo, the warning signs and dangers of fake martial arts, and how you can avoid these as a student and coach.
[02:39] – Rob’s background and why he started McDojo Life
[05:03] – Extended definition of McDojo by Rob
[12:00] – You should wait until you are 16 years old to become a black belt
[14:37] – The importance of standard uniforms in martial arts
[16:04] – Freedom to choose your team
[18:40] – The issue of self-regulation within the industry
[25:11] – Cult-like behaviour in martial arts
[35:25] – Things we should be wary of in martial arts that lead to a cult
[38:07] – The veil of mysticism in martial arts
[40:12] – Hierarchy system in martial arts
[42:44] – No touch knockouts seem to indicate that people are not honestly engaging with their instructor
[46:11] – The psychology of how to finish a sale
[50:03] – How to address common objections by people to not joining your class
[55:39] – MacDojo of the martial arts industry
[59:07] – Parallels between a shady business mentor and a shady martial arts operation
[1:02:34] – About martial arts super show
[1:05:01] – Backbiting is killing the martial arts industry
[1:08:04] – People who are more educated are more likely to fall victim to a cult
[1:16:20] – The videos on Rob’s channel are not staged
[1:20:49] – About fight commentary breakdowns
[1:27:20] – Xu Xiao Dong is the reason that it’s illegal to call yourself a master in China
How McDojoLife was started
McDojoLife started based on a conversation that Rob had with a student. Rob was once a BJJ coach. One day after the class, a student came to him and asked about MacDojo. So Rob gave him his version of MacDojo, which eventually turned into the five rules of the page. And then the student said, “Well, how come no one does anything about that?” The question made Rob think about creating McDojoLife.
Rob says, “There’s no regulating body for the martial arts industry. So why doesn’t anybody do anything about that? So it stayed with my head all night like I couldn’t sleep. And then the next day, I just started a McDo Joe life on Facebook, and then it’s grown and evolved since then.”
The reason why he narrowed down the ways to spot a McDojo
Rob says, “The issue with McDojo is, and if you look at almost any article online, it’s astonishing that there are 100 ways to spot a McDojo. I was like, that’s a lot. I’m sure we can narrow this down. And I narrowed it down to about five different things that really make a McDojo because a lot of people like to put a time stamp on how long it should take to get a black belt, but then it’s a bit hypocritical, depending on who it is.
Because there’s always that exception to the rule or guideline, and so people will look at people who get their black belts in taekwondo at two, three years and go, “Well, that’s ridiculous. It’s way too fast to get a black belt in anything.” So, I spotted major issues and made five rules.”
The Five Rules for spotting McDojo
1: Sexual Predators
Paedophilia is rampant in the martial arts industry. Rob says, “There has not been a week that has gone by, in which I haven’t looked on Google and found an instructor who was arrested or being tried for fondling children or being sexually inappropriate with children.
And it seemed like no one was talking about it. Like people were so busy talking about that this guy got his black belt in two years. Meanwhile, there were like four rapes over there. Are we going to ignore that? Because that seems way more important. It’s a bit of a bigger problem. And so paedophilia was rule number one right off the bat once I started digging.”
2: No Touch Knockouts
Rule number two is no touch knockouts or mislabeling techniques. If we look at no-touch knockout, that’s ridiculous. You don’t have magical, mystical powers. You can’t move people with your mind or the force or Qi or the Holy Spirit etc. You just can’t do that.
But what’s more common is people mislabeling techniques, something like cardio kickboxing where they tell you this is for self-defence. Misleading people will get them hurt. Therefore, a problem also exists regarding that mislabeling technique.
3: Unsafe training practices
Then you have rule number three, which is lying about your belt, rank and fight record. Anyone who’s willing to lie about their belt rank and fight record will probably lie about anything, leading to unsafe training practices and cult-like behaviour.
Unsafe training practices are things like having your students line up and just punching them in the head and telling them that will help them strengthen their chin. That’s not how that works. You’re probably more likely to make them easier to knock out.
4: Cult-like behaviour
Cult-like behaviour is almost in every martial art in some way. It’s hard not to see cults absolutely everywhere. It all just depends on who’s getting the benefit, which usually means the instructors are getting more benefit than you are. Even in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, there’s a phrase called Creonte. This phrase is commonly used for students who simply just want to train in another gym once or twice. And that’s very culty saying by some instructers “No, you can’t go train, you only train with me?”
If people like to go to another gym, it doesn’t mean they’re a trader. It means that they’re trying to better themselves outside of the small bubble that you’ve created that they can’t breakthrough. That’s a cult, you’re telling them what they can and cannot do with their lives specifically, or they will be excommunicated from the group. You will no longer be a part of this affiliation if you train there. That’s a cult.
5: Shady business practices
Shady business practices are pretty standard. You can see many people who scam people by stating a standard fee when you sign up. The student pays that fee, and then all of a sudden other magical fees pop out for a black belt program. If you don’t go to the black belt program, you can’t move up in rank. These are very shady business practices. And at the end of the day, these seem to be the major issues in the industry. So the goal is to stop looking at so much of the petty crap and start looking at major issues that we can fix that are actual issues.
You should wait until you are 16 years old to become a black belt.
Getting a black belt at a very young age is also a misconception of MacDojo. Rob says, “I personally think that you shouldn’t have your black belt until at least you’re 16 years old.” Many people get their black belt when they’re five years old, eight years old etc. Rob says, “The only problem with that is we would have lost so many great martial artists. If that was actually the case.”
Self-regulation is best for the industry.
Rob says, “People have asked me all the time, why don’t you start a governing body? And I don’t think that’s how it should work. First, absolute power always corrupts. So when you have a governing body in charge, what’s stopping them from corrupting it and ruining it for all of us?
So, community spreading general information about what really to worry about what really to look for what the real red flags are is really the best way to do it. Because if we start really starting setting up a governing body, how do you do that? There are over 2000 different versions of Karate. That means 2000 figureheads of Karate.
And that’s just karate. Same goes for BJJ, Taekwondo, etc. Who are we going to say that this is the guy we want to represent for all of us? And what happens when you have petty fighting for the position of a figurehead? He doesn’t deserve it because he deserves it. So self-regulation is really the way to go through honesty, and making sure that we draw lines where we really attack people.”
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