10 posts / 0 new
Last post
Black Tiger
Black Tiger's picture
How does one compete with a McDojo?

Advise required

How does one compete with a McDojo?

I have a school that teaches "freestyle Martial arts" its like Freestyle Karate meets freestyle Jujitsu, which as far as I'm away doesn't have a syllabus past 1st Kyu. The Instructor makes me look anerxic. In his class the kids are always screaming and he's always shouting at them. I paid a visit to his class as he moved into the area I was in. He teaches "Self Defence" but you can gain a black belt in it. Its a non-contact style with no sparring in it. I've asked him if I could get an interclu between us but again he doesn't want his students to spar!

 My student base was quite healthy until hebegan training nearby, I remember he visited me introduced himself and as I have nothing to hide told him how mch I was charging as he was originally asking to train with me. He has undercut me per lesson in fees. He advised he's managed to get grants from govenment funding to pay for various things so making his school look quite posh with new mats, pads, etc. although I have been unable to get the same type funding.

Now I practice a Full Contact style of Karate, work on bunkai and spar as per Sabaki rules. We teach a full syllabus upto 4th Dan and we don't take messing about by the students. I looked at other schools in the area and we are the only Full Contact School. So this is where I want to market my school. I'm planning a 50-man kumite to raise funds fr new mats, also trying to get free publicity in the local press too.

What are your thoughts, I don't really want to drop my standards or change my Gi's to "freestyle" gi's etc

Jason Lester
Jason Lester's picture

Hi ken, hope you are well.

From what you have said above it sounds like you have lost some of your students to this new school? Please correct  me if i am mistaken. Where i live there are 30+ martial art clubs just in and around town alone, some of which are full time centres etc, its all money, money, money.

What one has to except is if someone wants to do karate, thats what they will do, if one wants to do krav maga thats waht they will do. Yourself need not change anything to a point but your school must offer something the next school dont, regarding your fees let this not worry you, as long as your students are getting good value for money then you have nothing to worry about.

Your fees are what they are, just because the school down the road is cheaper doesnt mean its any good etc. 3 years ago i set up a seperate non traditional school for those who dont want to traditional karate, because sometimes people just dont want to do karate, however, any inquirys you have you can say well we also have a seperate self-defence and fitness class etc, tracky bottoms and tshirt.

By doing the above you wont loose any future students, you may or may not need a syllabus but i recommend it so its there for people who want to progress. Of course you can add the new class to your advertising, posters, website, local paper and so on.

Word by mouth as most of us know is the most powerfull form of advertising, if someone has had a good service for example and were very impressed, they tell there friends, the key is to keep those impressed and they will keep coming back.

Another way to get noticed is run charity events every few months or so, for local charitys or national. Raise money for a particular charity then go and award the cheque etc and make sure the local paper is there for pics and story.

Obtaining new students is not easy, so offer a month free trial for example, you may be doing this already or have tried it, whichever way you opperate you dont have to change your suits and doubt your standards will drop.

Encourage your students to have a look at other clubs and styles, be open with them, they may have already done so and not told you but if encourage them todo so you will have a more open club etc. The information they bring back to you could help you and your club and go a long way.

Im not sure if the above is of any help but do hope so.

Never give up, never give in, never back down, as rocky says, its not about how hard you get hit, its about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.

Kind regards,



Gary Chamberlain
Gary Chamberlain's picture

I've got no idea how to 'compete' with McDojo as we sell different things.  Does it bother a small restaurant - with loyal customers and good food - if McDonalds opens up down the road?

You'll never please everybody, so make sure you're happy with what you do. Gary
shoshinkanuk's picture

ah this is an easy one -

1. Storm the dojo and challange the rival instructor, take him out and take over his non-contact dribble school!

Seriously don't worry about them, full contact is a specialist choice for many martial artists anyhow.

karate10's picture

Be real and stay true to your studies/ MA program in what you offer the students and never let a 7-11, McDojo or any clown Dojos school put you down.

John's picture

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Rob Redmods Instructor feedback section http://www.24fightingchickens.com/category/instructor-training/

I think Rob is right in saying if your going to run your club like a samurai warriror temple with your students being indentured disciples your not going to be able to compete with someone who treats there dojo like a buisiness.  From the sounds of it even doing a few things better would make your club a better run buisness.

I would really like to know what kind of results you would get from asking your students what goals do they hope to achieve in a full contact karate club.  Asking them "what do you hope to have gained after doing this for 4 months? A year?  Five years?"  Maybe you'll find that most of the stuff you do in class is irrelavent to peoples goals.

I cannot imagine a good argument against Rob's idea of a servive oriented instructor. The articles on this site go hand in hand with what Rob says.

Why are people leaving your club for a shiny new one? I imagine that if you read the instructor training articles your could probably come up with some ideas of why.

Jon Jepson
Jon Jepson's picture

If i can add my 10 peneth worth , for me , let the `Mcdojo` have there day . Around my area we have the base of a big sports karate association , run by a nice guy , but run as a sport semi contact and kata comp form/style buisness (you have to buy your sports style Gi`s , sparring gear etc from the assosiation for `insurance purposes` ?) . I and a few other older/wiser ? students left after the sudden explosion of competitions we where suposed to attend to gain grading oppertunities and favour . The more `courses` one went on , the better you where thought of . And the more gradings you got invited too . I didnt start to train for this style of sport karate and political favour and so his school lost at a stroke around 6 experienced students of all grades from 2nd kyu to 3rd Dan .

I supose what im getting round to , is that if your ok with what you do , carry on doing it . If youve got 10 or 100 students . If they want to come training , they will . Dont lower your standards . If it was easy , everyone would be doing it .

Jon .

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

A lot depends upon how you measure the success of a dojo. Is it number of students? The quality of martial arts practised? Medals won? The students’ abilities to protect themselves? How much the students enjoy training? Profit made? A mix of any of the above and others besides? All can be valid and a dojo can be very successful against one criteria but not so successful against another. Numbers of students is not the only measure of success. A dojo also needs some money as there is no getting away from the fact that money is needed for premises, equipment, insurance, etc. so it needs to be factored in to some degree.

What do you want your dojo to be? Having decided that, you work towards that and the students will decide if what you offer is for them or not. Measure your success against your own criteria and your own objectives. A dojo with smaller numbers but higher standards could be easily be deemed to be more successful than one with lower standards and greater numbers. Standards also speak for themselves and I know plenty of groups will very high standards and large numbers of students. It’s not an either or.

It also important for all of us to understand that what we may offer is not what everyone wants. Taking my kids to McDonalds will be a more enjoyable experience for them than taking them to eat at a high end gourmet restaurant (cheaper too!). It’s OK if people want something we don’t personally approve of so long as they know what they are getting and it is offered honestly. I know what I’m getting from McDonalds. If they advertised saying it was high end food, then that would obviously be dishonest. I know I’m getting fast food and all that that entails; so there is no problem. If people enjoy the training and feel they are getting good value for money we have to accept that there is no problem there. If we want to sell the merits and value of our particular approach, then we should be sure to “provide the alternative” by leaving others to get on with what they do while we do what we do to the best of our ability.

The way to “compete” is therefore to do what you do and do it well. Success should also be measured against the criteria we set for ourselves.

All the best,


Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

I teach in a University where there are also TKD, Ju Jitsi, Kickboxing clubs and many more. For a long time I saw us as competing for a limited student base and was always pissed off when a new club was allowed to open. It took me a long while to realise that we are not in competition at all. Each student finds the club that they want and I realised that those who chose to do TKD want all that TKD has to offer. Those students would never train with me because I don't teach what they want, and the same goes for all of the other clubs.

In my opinion, not a single student who would succeed and flourish under you, will go and train at the other place and the students who choose to train in that non-contact system, would ever train with you anyway. 

In fact, some may well come to see the limitations of where they are and make their way over to you in the longer term. I have seen this with a few GKR students who have moved over to me. I have heard all the negativity towards GKR but have to say, the ones who moved over ended up being very good and by their own admission, GKR got them started up until the point where they wanted more.

As everyone else is saying; do your own thing and don't be drawn into competing - especially in your own mind.

swdw's picture

This is difficult if you are paying for a commercial location. What is most important is being able to look at yourself in the mirror and feel satisfied with what you are doing.

I hope you find a good solution to this issue because it can be a difficult one to deal with.