3 Guaranteed Signs Your Dojo is NOT a McDojo by Jesse Enkamp

Are there any Mcdojos out there representing or I should say misrepresenting Knockdown karate.Read this interesting article. 

But still, many Karate-ka are unsure if their dojo is a McDojo™ or not.

And frankly, I feel bad for them.

Like we say in Japanese:

“I no naka no kawazu, taikai wo shirazu.”

(“A frog in the well does not know the great sea.”)

You see…

It’s hard to know if your dojo is 110% legit or not – unless you’ve travelled around half the world, visited different masters and tried various dojos for comparison.

(Like me.)

So, today I decided to set the record straight – by spotlighting three particular traits that I believe every great dojo features.

Things I’ve seen with my own eyes.

There are obviously more than just three things that separate great dojos from McDojos™, but these should give you a starting point for evaluating your own dojo.

Hopefully, you’ll recognize at least ONE trait.

If not, well…

My deepest condolences.

So read closely, as I now reveal 3 guaranteed signs your dojo is NOT a McDojo™.

#1: Knowledge Over Money

First up:

In a legit dojo, sharing of knowledge always comes first.


Money comes second.

Smart practice, super hard training and steady progress are the fundamental cornerstones in the teaching philosophy of a great dojo.

Not how fat your wallet is.

Don’t get me wrong though: I’m not saying a good dojo can’t operate as a business. It sure can.

However, if you need to pay hefty fees to learn things you’re already supposed to be learning, chances are big you’re in a McDojo™.

How come?

Because a good sensei genuinely cares about his craft. That care will undoubtedly be manifested in the very atmosphere of the dojo. The main concern of a great sensei will always be your physical, mental and spiritual development.

Not how many digits your bank account has.

That being said, let me reiterate: A great sensei should be paid accordingly. There’s nothing honorable in selling oneself short, and everyone needs food on the table.

Yet, when opportunity arises, a good dojo goes for knowledge first, profit second.

McDojos™ are fundamentally the opposite.

#2: Reality-Based Training


Many Karate-ka are often slow to appreciate how their beliefs about human violence can be distorted by a slavelike adherence to their dojo’s training methods (often disguised as “following tradition”), as well as by a natural desire to avoid injury during the course of training.

Nowhere is this as obvious as in a McDojo™.

In fact, it’s possible to become a “grandmaster” in Karate, and to attract students who will spend years trying to emulate your skills, without ever discovering that you have no ability to defend yourself in the real world.

Sadly, this is the case in McDojos™ – where training is often based on a single person’s distorted perception of reality, rather than actual reality.

Training in a real dojo should always be based on truth.

  • No filter.
  • No bullsh*t.
  • No impractical interpretation of reality for the sake of “following tradition”.

Just hard, cold, facts.

See, the meaning of tradition was never to blindly follow the footsteps of masters.

But to seek what they sought.

A great sensei knows this.

And teaches this.

#3: Quality Over Quantity


Anybody can shout: “50 crunches!”

But few people can explain why, and how, those 50 crunches will actually make your Karate better.

See, in a McDojo™ you often do useless stuff for the sake of doing them.

In a real dojo, on the other hand, you do stuff for a specific purpose:


Because, a real sensei understands that you don’t have time to stagnate. Your time is precious. Life’s too short to suck. And Karate is more than a hobby, social activity, “exotic sport” or physical exercise for you.

Karate is a vehicle for self-discovery, where you’re relentlessly reaching for the edge of your potential in the quest of understanding yourself.

(Read that again.)

It’s about finding your true self.

Your true character.

And, faced with the prospect of guiding you on that arduous journey, a McDojo™ sensei panics. Because, frankly, he can’t lead you to a place he’s never been himself.

That’s why a McDojo™ can only challenge you up to a certain point.

After that, it’s only quantity – never quality.

  • 10 more techniques.
  • 20 more techniques.
  • 30 more techniques.

Instead of, say, 3 effective ways to improve your previous techniques!

More is not always more. More is often just a distraction.

Less is more.

Especially in a great doj

Jesse Enkamp is a self-titled Karate Nerd™, best-selling martial arts writer


2 thoughts on “3 Guaranteed Signs Your Dojo is NOT a McDojo by Jesse Enkamp

  1. Pingback: The Queen of the Ninjas | Karate Gi

  2. Hi Jesse,

    Thanks for your time and dedication in writing all this.

    I’d gone through the experience of about 10 years in a McDojo. It was actually a fairly traumatizing experience, because as a 11-year old, I had looked up at and so intensely revered and repected the adults and black belts that were teaching me. I looked at karate as a method to improve my character and personal ethics.

    After 10 years in the organisation, I’d seen a good number of red flags that I’d ignored. First, so many well respected black belts began disappearing. Our sensei would tell us inappropriate details of how they were awful, disrespectful people. We were never allowed to visit other dojo’s or cross train. We only had tournaments in-house. When I was a red belt, (which I was quite proud of), I was suddenly “bumped up” to black belt, unceremoniously, and without strict grading guidelines. I was then given my own dojo to manage, which I professed that I wasn’t ready for, but was given anyways.

    Over time, I was “jumped” to 3rd degree black belt, without grading, and I had felt immensely betrayed. I worked immensely hard at earning what I set out to achieve, and now the standards had become so watered down that I lost respect for myself and the organisation.

    Since my own students then looked up at me, I sometimes tried to compensate for my inherent feeling of being a fraud, by emulating the teaching styles of my head sensei. (Tough, strong, big fancy demonstrations, but no earned respect or honest representation of ability).

    After 2 years of teaching, I had lost all respect for the organisation. My sensei had made a few racist remarks, and since that day I left and never looked back.

    Sadly, I’d turned my back on karate, when I should have only turned my back on this organisation.

    I’m trying to get back on the path of training seriously once more – but I’m extremely nervous of walking into another McDojo. Do you have any recommendations?

    Waaay TL;DR:
    Very jaded from 10 years of culty McDojo. Still love karate, but too nervous to join another in case it turns out to be yet another one. Recommendation?

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