Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Kids Are Alright

Before anyone reads this any further, rest assured that this is not an indictment against the idea of children in the martial arts. As a father of three, I understand and appreciate the role martial arts can play in the development of a child. Children (ages under 14) make up about 85% of the student bodies of most martial arts schools. That's quite a figure; it makes you wonder how many of these schools would even exist if it weren't for kids. A few traditional schools will not accept enrollees younger than teenage. Others actually advertise accepting three-year-olds. Is the concept of teaching the martial ways to youngsters actually tenable? Isn't teaching martial arts to children, especially pre-pubescent children, just some glorified form of babysitting?

Certainly, there are some sincere, competent instructors who are more inclined and capable of bringing out positive attributes and changes in children than others. Furthermore, some schools are involved in community services: police athetic leagues, and other youth programs designed to eliminate drug use, gangs, and other harmful peer-pressure related activities. On the opposite end of this spectrum lies the McDojo, a derogatory term used to describe martial arts schools that, among other things, exploit the tremendous influx of revenue that kids can bring in. Quantity, not quality, has become the credo for these "schools". In the martial arts, kids need to learn discipline, respect, and especially self-worth to prepare them for the growing years.

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Blogger frotoe said...

I feel very lucky to be a part of the dojo where I train. We do have a large number of kids who attend, but it is the quality of their program that attracts new students and keeps students. All of our sensei are fantastic. The number 1 thing that is taught is respect-doesn't matter what rank you are or how old you are, respect for each other and the martial arts is mandatory. They're really good people.

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are tons of McDojo's in my area. They are ridiculous! $75/month and don't even offer a discount for an additional child. I'm very fortunate that my dojo is as good as they are with kids and with fees. All three of our instructors are very good with my daughter and I think that the kids at my dojo are really very good. A woman who works with my Mom has two of her kids enrolled at a McDojo and the owner actually told the parent that they would have to wait for the sparring gear they ordered AND PAID FOR, because the dojo needed that money for something other costs. If you're charging THAT much and don't use the money for what it's supposed to be used for, there's a major problem. I fully expect them to close shop with no warning in the very near future. It really is a shame.

3:37 PM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

That's what I want to hear; that your training with good people. I also like the notion that respect is expected of everyone in your school, regardless of who they are.
Black Belt Mama:
$75/month for martial arts? I guess it depends on the area. By me, the going price is $100/mo. A nearby school charges $129/mo. (with a minimum 6 mo. contract)

...they would have to wait for the sparring gear they ordered AND PAID FOR, because the dojo needed that money for some other costs.

I would've flipped! That's not a McDojo, that's a fly-by-night operation (which you did imply).

11:35 PM  
Blogger MrX said...

I think that one of the major obstacles to identify a bad dojo is that, in most places, parents aren't allowed to see the kids class. I can understand why this is the case but how are you suppose to know if kid's dojo is a McDojo?

My experience with my son is to carefully watch him before and after class. Sure he will probably not want to go (if you ask him at home), but once there what does he do? Does he stay close by or goes right in the group? And after class, does he seem happy, full of energy and wanting to show/explain one of his new tricks?

The question that I always ask him is : Do you want to come back? If he hesitates, I dig deeper (it was the case at our last dojo).

"$75/month for martial arts? I guess it depends on the area. By me, the going price is $100/mo."

I sure hope big price is not a synonym for quality because around here, it goes around 45$/month.

7:05 AM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

Mr. X:
Parents should absolutely be allowed to watch their kids during class. One TKD school in my area didn't want parents distracting the kids, so they set up video cameras so they could watch from a different room.

Contracts combined with unusually high prices, and quick and easy belt promotions are typical signs of an operating McDojo.

$45/month!? I gotta get out of New York!

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Our dojo is $25/month for the first person. The second person is $12.50/month; the third $6.25; the 4th free. Since I go more than once a week, I pay $50 month for me and $12.50/month for my daughter, so $62.50/month for both of us. You really do need to get out of NY. I do, of course, realize that my dojo is ridiculously underpriced. They haven't raised their prices in years.

11:36 AM  
Blogger MrX said...

"One TKD school in my area didn't want parents distracting the kids, so they set up video cameras so they could watch from a different room."

Very good idea!

Our dojo is set up with a small window to the kid's "classroom" and they mostly put the kid's back to the window. This wasn't the case at our last dojo...

Just to make things a little bit more interresting on the price subject. Did I mention it was unlimited Karate classes for 45$/month? :-)

12:11 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Whoa, I'd like to get a hold of some of those prices! Of course, for my TKD, it depends on which membership level you're in and how long you've been in that membership level. For example, in the Leadership/Instructor trainee level at my school, the fee is (I think)$170/mo for 5 years, but then it drops down to $50 forever after that (possible increase with inflation, but not by a lot so I've been told). That does include unlimited classes per month, free admission to special seminars, but not gear or stuff like that.

I don't like the McDojos either. I chose mine, which is part of a great association, but not a franchise, because they were the quality not the quantity. They actually have classes for special needs kids (CP, Downs, autism, etc.), and while my son has some minor special needs compared to those I just listed, I wanted a school that would be sensitive to his needs, and I found it, and he's not in the special needs class. I also found that on top of the discipline, respect, etc. that he's being taught, he also gets the added benefit that this has great occupational therapy benefits for my son's sensory integration dysfunction (one of his special needs issues). How can you beat that? (See my blog to see that he had an awesome first day back to TKD!)

Nope, don't like them McDojos. Makes me think of The Karate Kid.

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These Kids are goign to kick our butts ina few years, they start young!

10:48 AM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

$170/month sounds steep. But I really like the concept of leadership training. I don't think too many schools do that, or encourage that enough.
The way I'm planning it, I'll be long retired from sparring before they can kick my butt!

5:31 PM  
Blogger Lizzie Woolley said...

My dojo only costs me $60 dollars a month.

I think that kids only make up 50% or less in my dojo. Parents are allowed to watch their kids when they are training.

8:00 PM  
Blogger Mathieu said...


I pay 75$ for 3 months. It's the cheapest I ever paid and the best instruction I ever had.

Do you understand something in there? me neither.

"Isn't teaching martial arts to children, especially pre-pubescent children, just some glorified form of babysitting?"
errr... I believe parents have a big part in that. When you talk to them, it's exactly what it becomes. And it's very sad.

But, there's good also. Maybe it's glorified babysitting, but if while they're here they learn respect, humility, and good technique, all is not lost.

But three year-old? I seriously doubt what can be learned... If I try with my niece (4 y-o) she stays attentive about 2 minutes and that's it. After that, we have to play. Maybe that's the way to teach?


8:59 AM  
Blogger Mir said...

I think that it is a good application of effort and time to teach martial arts to children, but it depends on one's goals.

If I am looking towards instilling the good habit of training regularly, of seeking to do things that are challenging, of learning to obey commands, to learn to show respect to others, to work on balance, patience, flexibility, and in essence to build up the foundations that will make them a stronger black belt in the future.. YES.. this is good.

In addition, these children are placed in an environment that helps them learn attitudes that are self-defense centered: Keep alert to your environment, keep a safe distance from danger, etc. If necessary, use your skills to protect yourself. This is also good.

I see teaching children as an opportunity to place down a strong foundation for the future time when they may chose to follow the Martial Way.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Stephen Irwin said...

We only have one dojo in our area that might qualify for McDojo-dom and we normally get their ex-students.

Our kids' class is great fun. Everyone turns up because they want to be there and they each get something positive out of it.

"Be nice to your kids. Remember, they are the ones who will decide which retirement home to put you in!"

4:45 PM  
Blogger John Vesia said...

My kids won't get a chance to put me in some retirement home; I'll be out and about spending their inheritance!

12:04 AM  

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