southerncrossm, Author at Southern Cross Martial Arts - Page 2 of 2

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Southern Cross Martial Arts Codes of Practice

At Southern Cross Martial Arts we have strong child protection and member protection policies in order to make training at our schools as safe as it can possibly be, and to ensure that everyone knows what standards of behaviour are required of them.

Part of these policies covers mandatory codes of practice for instructors, students and parents.

We take these codes of practice very seriously.

The student code of conduct can be found here:

The instructor code of conduct can be found here:

The parent’s code of conduct can be found here:

Sparring at Southern Cross Martial Arts

Sparring in martial arts training at Southern Cross Martial Arts is seen as an inherent training practice necessary to student development. Sparring is also recognised as having an increased risk of injury potential. As such we have developed a comprehensive safe sparring policy for our members. See below for details.


Policy Statement

1. Sparring (kumite) is recognised an integral part of martial arts training and is seen by Southern Cross Martial Arts Association Inc as vital for the students development.

2. It is recognised that sparring has a higher risk of injury than other types of training.

3. Sparring must always be supervised by a qualified instructor.

4. Mandatory protective equipment must be worn during all sparring sessions.

5. Any blood indicates excessive contact and lack of control. The student code of conduct applies and the infection control policy must be implemented immediately.

6. Sparring carries a risk of infection, injury or even death. Participation in sparring, requires acknowledgement and acceptance of this risk (see the waiver policy).



Sparring is where two or more practitioners engage in the motions or semblance of fighting, using any part of the body or a weapon, without the landing of heavy blows that might otherwise cause unnecessary bodily harm, with the intention of safely training the practitioners in timing, distancing and the use of various fighting techniques.


Free-Sparring is sparring where the use of fighting techniques by one or more of the practitioners is not predetermined or advised. The purpose of free-sparring is to test a practitioner’s ability to respond spontaneously and effectively to unforeseen attacks (self defence) or competitive situations.


One-step-sparring is sparring where the motions of fighting are predetermined and known to each participant with the intention to drill the practitioner’s ability to utilise one or more specific fighting techniques. Control-sparring includes any specified attack-defence routines being practised by two or more practitioners to develop the skill of the practitioners in executing the technique.

Dynamic Simulations:

Dynamic simulations is where two or more practitioners (with an attendant ‘coach’, ‘safety officer’ and one participant playing the ‘woofer’) participate in semi-scripted free flowing scenario’s to cause an adrenal stress situation to inoculate the student participant in the effects of a Sympathetic Nervous System activation. The ‘woofer’ is to wear the padded simulation training suit (see OH&S requirements for equipment policy) and be trained in the role.

Free-Sparring Restrictions

Students and members with less than 3 hours training time under direct, qualified instructor supervision, may not participate in free-sparring at all.

Children in the Junior Dragons (4-7 y.o) and Red Dragons (8-12 y.o) may not engage in freesparring with any degree of deliberate head or facial contact. In addition to normal sparring equipment requirements, children in these two programs must wear the ‘dipped foam’ type Tae Kwon Do style head-guard to prevent head injury in the event of a fall.

Sparring Supervision

For the intermediates and adults classes both free-sparring and one-step-sparring, the ratio of Accredited Instructors to practitioners must not exceed 1:12 pairs.

For the Red Dragons program the ratio of Accredited Instructors to practitioners must not exceed 1:5 pairs.

For the Junior Dragons program the ratio of Accredited Instructors to practitioners must not exceed 1:1 pair.

In addition to the provisions for sparring in general, and in accordance with the first aid policy, one certified instructor/assistant instructor with a Senior First Aid certificate must be present to supervise every session in free-sparring.

Practitioners must be closely monitored to check on their physical and mental state. Particular attention to the following policies:

  • hydration policy
  • infection control policy
  • pregnancy policy
  • heat related illness policy

Protective Equipment

All participants in free-sparring must wear safety equipment as specified under “Approved Safety Equipment”.

Approved Safety Equipment

All safety equipment:

  • Must be proprietary based i.e. not home-made
  • Must be maintained in good working order, preferably to manufacturers standards
  • Must be regularly cleaned with proper attention to hygiene (refer Infection Control Policy).

The following safety equipment must be worn by all participants involved in free-sparring:

  • Mouth-guard
  • Sparring or boxing gloves (for seniors the Wraptor MMA mitts by Warrior are preferred)
  • Groin-guard (also recommended for females)
  • Shin-instep guards (elastic stocking type)
  • Tae Kwon Do style dipped foam head-guard for children.

The following safety equipment is not compulsory but is highly recommended:

  • Breast guard

Focus-Mitts are to be worn when a practitioner is acting as a foil for punching drills.

Throwing/Grappling Mats which meet Southern Cross Martial Arts Association Inc’ OH&S requirements must be used for all activities involving the practice of throws, wrestling, submission holds; including where such activities are included in sparring.

Appropriate instruction in the correct and safe use of any equipment supplied must be provided before the equipment is to be used.

Participant Matching

In a competitive setting all free-sparring participants must be matched as close as possible according to age, height, weight, maturity, skill levels and experience.

For training and practice free-sparring, participants of different age, height, weight, maturity, skill levels and experience are desirable to provide the broadest possible range of training experience. Strict controls and supervision are required to maintain safety and prevent excessive contact.

Sparring Rounds

The number and duration of rounds that a practitioner is required to participate in must be adequately controlled and reflect the level of skill and experience of the practitioner.

Rules – Prohibited Targets

Junior Dragons & Red Dragons Programs In the Junior Dragons and Red Dragons programs no facial or head contact is permissible. Students are allowed to punch and kick to permissible targets only.

Permitted strikes are:

  • Punches
  • Kicks

Permitted targets are:

  • Front of the torso
  • Inner thigh
  • Outer thigh

Prohibited targets are:

  • Face
  • Head
  • Back
  • Joints
  • Groin

For Red Dragon program students who are purple/white belt and above may also utilise the following techniques if both people sparring are purple/white belt or above:

  • Foot sweeps
  • Judo type throws
  • Takedowns
  • Ground grappling & submissions

Other Programs

Permitted strikes are:

  • Punches
  • Kicks
  • Knees
  • Open hand strikes to the torso
  • By mutual consent in a controlled competitive arena – elbows

Other permitted techniques (by express instructor instruction only):

  • Foot sweeps
  • Judo type throws
  • Takedowns
  • Ground grappling & submissions

Permitted targets for strikes are:

  • Face
  • Front/side of head
  • Front of the torso
  • Inner thigh
  • Outer thigh

Prohibited targets are:

  • Back
  • Joints
  • Groin

Prohibited techniques:

  • Headbutts
  • Eye gouging 3
  • Spitting
  • Suplex type throws
  • Neck strikes
  • Finger & joint locks (except grappling submissions)

Allowable Contact

Junior Dragons & Red Dragons Programs

  • Any sparring for the Junior Dragons and Red Dragons practitioners is to be light contact only. This is defined as controlled touch contact to the uniform only.
  • No deliberate penetrating strikes are permissible.
  • No deliberate strikes to the head, face or neck are permissible.

Youth & Seniors

Any sparring for the youth and senior students is to be semi-contact. Semi-contact is defined as light to moderate body contact with minimal risk of injury.

Practitioners must immediately provide feedback to each other to prevent unnecessary escalation of contact in training.

Full Contact Competition

Whilst Southern Cross Martial Arts Association Inc does not train students specifically for the competitive arena it is understood that some practitioners wish to test their boundaries. Students are to be counselled on the inherent risks of full contact competition, the assumption of that risk and informed of other training options.

Should the practitioner still wish to compete then they may be trained to industry best practice by suitably qualified personnel.

Full contact sparring is contra-indicated as a safe training practice.

Preferred rules for competition include:

  • Kyokushin Karate
  • WKA Shoot Karate

These rule sets do not allow punches to the head.


Hepatitis B is a serious illness transmitted through blood contact. It can be prevented by vaccination, and you are strongly advised to see your doctor about getting vaccinated.

Current Tetanus immunisations are also highly desirable. See the Infection Control Policy.

2016 Gasshuku

Masaji Taira Sensei, the 9th dan chairman of the Okinawa Goju Ryu Kenkyukai, returned to the Gold Coast for his 6th visit in as many years in March and spent week on the Gold Coast with us before the seminar.

Taira sensei taught classes at our Helensvale Honbu as well as at the Robina dojo, working everyone on the links between the traditional Goju Ryu warm-up and the practice of kata and self defence applications.

He made numerous positive comments about the progress of students over the past 12 months since his last visit.

The camp itself was once more held at the PCYC owned and operated Camp Bornhoffen in the Numinbah Valley. This picturesque location has proved to be very popular with Taira sensei and the attendees due to the food, the amenities and location.

Students travelled from Indonesia, New Zealand and all over Australia to attend training with Taira sensei and to get together in friendship. There were 30 participants overall representing nine different dojo’s.

The camp was a ‘live in’ event with on site accommodation and several hours of training in both Goju Ryu and Kobudo each day.

The highlight for me was seeing the various members of the broad spectrum of dojos represented all getting together and training and supporting each other despite the huge differences in levels of understanding of Taira sensei’s material and methodology. There was definitely no sense of elitism, only a mutual desire to improve understanding and technique.

This seminar was different from Taira sensei’s previous visits because the central theme was linking the basics to the advanced kata applications, rather than focussing on the advanced kata applications. These conceptual linkages led do an ever increasing amount of those ‘eureka’ moments that come with training in kata and bunkai with Taira sensei.

Planning is already underway for next year… of course.

10 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Choosing a Martial Arts School

With the huge growth of Mixed Martial Arts over the last decade, more and more Australians are joining martial arts schools and becoming part of this virtual explosion. With the global success of the UFC it is not uncommon for UFC veterans and UFC champions to be household names. Rising from obscurity and almost total banning just ten years ago, mixed martial arts is now the fastest growing professional sport in the world!

To add to this global UFC/MMA phenomenon the martial arts in general now have a proven track record of helping people to improve their lives over a variety of key areas. The positive psychosocial benefits of martial arts have been demonstrated time and time again with a variety of peer reviewed studies and this information has entered popular culture and has seen the popularity of martial arts increase rapidly over the past few years. It has also seen the type of person training change: from the archetypal ‘angry young man’ of the early days, it went through a cycle of being mostly children in the 90’s through to a popular activity for people of all ages today.

Consequently, martial arts schools are becoming more prevalent with hundreds new ones opening up each year. Many people are joining schools that may not be the right fit for their particular needs. Therefore, what follows is what I have determined in over thirty years in this industry, to be the ten biggest mistakes people make when choosing a school. They are detailed below in no particular order.

There are well over 1,000 martial arts schools on the Gold Coast and the martial arts and combat sports (they are different) are a largely unregulated industry. There are all sorts of claims being made by all sorts of people: claims ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime; from harmless to outright dangerous. Dodgy schools are now so common there’s even a term for them – McDojo’s. In turn this has even spawned a spoof Indie internet based TV series called Enter the Dojo, featuring the mythical ‘Master Ken’, his system ‘Ameri-Do-Te’ and his well meaning but clueless students. When I watch Master Ken’s antics I both laugh and cringe, as I have met many instructors like him over the years, and sadly, I am likely to meet many more.

So how is the student, or prospective student, to navigate through the hype and find a decent school? Let’s look at what not to do, to work out what you can do better.

Download our free report below to find out.

Download Our Free Report >


Suspending or Cancelling your Membership

The process of cancelling or suspending memberships was/is all covered in the signup and induction process which everyone goes through upon enrolment – remember the PowerPoint presentation and discussion with the admin staff when you enrolled?

The purpose of this little section is to remind everyone of our membership structure and how they work, and how to cancel with minimum fuss if that is what you really want to do.

As you will recall, all of our Direct Debit training fees are calculated on a 48 week year, averaged over the week/fortnight/month. Training fees include in class activities and do not cover belt test examinations (gradings or graduations), tournaments or any other promotion or special event. Because the fees are averaged they may continue to come out of your account even during the 4-week break – it all depends on what date your direct debit falls, and whether it is weekly, monthly or fortnightly.

The payment of membership fees via Direct Debit attracts a 10% discount off the normal cash fees and also has more flexible weekly and fortnightly payment options. We do not use ‘lock in’ fixed period contracts like many martial arts schools and gyms however certain conditions still apply:

  1. Direct Debits can be cancelled with 7 days written notice. This written notice must bear the account holders signature.
  2. Direct Debits may be varied to higher or lower amounts (i.e. changing from Silver membership to Basic Membership or vice versa) with 7 days written notice. This written notice must bear the account holders signature.
  3. Direct Debits may be suspended for non-emergency or travel purposes for a maximum of four weeks per year providing the four weeks does not include (in whole or in part) the four week Christmas/New Year break period.
  4. Direct Debits may be suspended for emergency, illness or accident purposes for a maximum of twelve weeks per year.
  5. Direct Debit suspension requests:
    • Must be made in writing on the Direct Debit Suspension Request Form (downloadable from our website) and this request must bear the account holders signature;
    • Must start and end on a fee payment day/date (i.e. date depends on whether payment is made weekly, fortnightly or monthly);
    • For travel and other non-emergency situations must be made 7 days prior to the suspension commencing;
    • For emergency situations, such as illness or accident, must be accompanied by a medical certificate;
    • Must be accompanied by the Direct Debit suspension fee of $25.00.

Please note that if a Direct Debit membership is cancelled and not immediately replaced by another payment option such as cash fees, then the membership is lapsed and a membership fee will be payable when/if the former member returns to training.

You can train right up until the last day, it doesn’t have to be quitted then give 7 days notice. It can be given 7 days notice, and then stop training.

When a member has been absent for a week without a known reason we will contact them directly, usually by phone, text or email. We will continue to do so until we hear from them and/or they return to training. In the event that someone sends us an email or a phone message saying they want to cancel or suspend their membership we immediately send them a cancellation form. These forms are also downloadable from our Facebook group and our website. Membership continues to be current until the form signed by the account holder is received.

On occasion, people don’t return the form and then ring up and abuse Hannah for payments continuing. We’re up front with this from day 1. It is your responsibility to sign and return the form. If you do want to cancel it’s no problem, just send the form.

All we ask is that you’re honest with us as to why you’re actually leaving – if we’ve done something wrong, we can’t fix it if we don’t know.

2016 Okinawan Training Tour a Success

The 5th Southern Cross Martial Arts Association training tour to Okinawa has concluded successfully with our members returning home on the 12th, and our Melbourne friends moving on to Tokyo for another week. 

The trip commenced with Kobudo training straight up on the Monday morning, working on the bo kata Ufugushuku no kon. Some of us had a bit of an idea but for some it was a first time experience. Training was led by Satoshi Kinjo Sensei (7th dan) of the Ryukyu Kobudo Hozonkai and held at the Kubogawa Dojo in Shuri. It was fun and educational and Kinjo Sensei was very patient. 

After training we went upstairs to Masakazu Kinjo Sensei’s private Kobudo Museum. The newcomers were suitably impressed. 

That evening we attended training with Taira Masaji Sensei (9th dan) of the Okinawa Goju Ryu Kenkyukai working primarily on Gekisai and applications contained therein. As usual there were refinements and any number of personal “aha!” moments. Afterwards Taira Sensei and his wife Taira Chioko Sensei (she is a senior teacher of Ryukyuan classical dance and culture) laid on a welcome party that went well into the night. 

Among the many taste treats for the evening was horse sashimi, a favourite of Sensei’s, as well as plenty of tuna and salmon sashimi and no end of the local tiny chorizo sausages and, of course, Orion beer. 

Tuesday we headed to Shureido for custom gi purchases, including name embroidery etc before wandering around Kokusai Dori and the Makish Markets for a while and then attending training with Taira Sensei again, this time working on refining Saifa. Once again we were welcomed and treated to Okinawa’s overwhelming hospitality and only made it back to our hotel early in the morning. 

Wednesday morning we headed out to the famous Naminoue beach and shrine before heading out to the Budokan to show everyone around. Due to the small size of our group we didn’t train there this year so Hannah and I acted as tour guides and showed everyone around the Budokan, Onayama Koen (the park containing the Budokan) and the shrines on site before catching the monorail out to the magnificent Shuri Castle so Mrs Taira could introduce us properly to Okinawan Dance. It was spellbinding. 

After the dance recital finished we quickly headed down to Taira Sensei’s house on foot in the pouring rain. Obviously Mrs Taira knew all of the shortcuts and we also stopped in for a delicious cup of an Okinawan coffee blend. It was “oishi!” Once there was a break in the rain we headed down to the dojo for several hours of work on Seiyunchin before several more hours of Okinawan hospitality. 

Thursday morning was a bit of free time before heading to Shuri for Kobudo training with Kinjo Sensei again. We revised the bo kata from our first session as well as a little Shushi no kon Sho, before moving on to the basics of sai. We were all sad to finish training but we had to get going down to Taira Sense’s dojo for another night of training there. We worked on his new grading requirements and especially focused on timing, distancing and ‘kime’. We videoed the new requirements for future reference, and on Sensei’s request, dissemination among the broader kenkyukai organization. After training there was of course eating and drinking and more than a little impromptu karaoke as Taira Sensei and his visitors kicked off on the 50’s rock. It soon got down to broader discussion on musical tastes and Sensei seems to have a soft spot for Jimmy Barnes……go figure. And thanks Youtube 😉 

Friday morning we jumped on the monorail to Shuri and then caught a cab to Hokama Sensei’s museum out in the boonies. We had tea with Sensei before checking out the museum and getting some calligraphy done. Dai Sempai Mick got an especially nice one on the local bingata fabric which simply said “home”. 

Of course, after all of that we had to head back in to Naha, grab our gear and head off to Taira Sensei’s for training. We reviewed the previous discussions and did some more filming before working on some basic applications and then sitting down to another round of Okinawan hospitality. It was a very late night!

Saturday we walked from Naha to Shuri and walked up the Shurikinjocho stone steps to Shuri Castle. There are lots and lots of these steps…. The ladies had both been to Shuri before so they headed off looking for local craft shops to check out some bingata, an indigenous Okinawan art form with painting on fabric. Sensei Hannah is getting quite a collection of it and Mrs Taira sent her to the good places. Sadly, it was Saturday and most were closed. Next time.

The lads checked out Shuri Castle for a few hours before everyone met up again to get ready to go out to the Miyazato Cultural Centre for our (now) traditional Sayonara party. Taira Sensei and Ms Taira were there, as was Kinjo Sensei and some of our Okinawan friends. Everyone was enthralled by the show and the level of expertise in weapons handling showed by our hosts, the Miyazato family. It was a great ending to the formal part of the trip.

On Sunday morning our Melbournians headed off to Tokyo leaving the Gold Coasters roaming around shopping for souvenirs. We checked out the Tsuboya Pottery street and the area around the Makishi Markets before being taken out for a wonderful Korean Barbecue dinner with Kinjo Sensei. The food never seemed to end and it was awesome!

New Fitness Kickboxing classes commencing in February

Our Fitness Kickboxing classes have been developed by professional martial artists, fitness professionals and strength & conditioning coaches to enable participants of all fitness levels to maximise their results and reach their fitness goals.

The best part is that no experience or fitness is needed to get started.  Even if you have never done an exercise class before, or never thrown a punch or a kick, our qualified instructors will guide you through every step of the way.

In each class you will learn practical kickboxing combinations that you will get to practice on your own boxing bag at your own pace. Then you can pick up the pace and get the most awesome cardio workout.

The hour long classes will have you burning around 800 calories increasing your strength flexibility confidence and enabling you to get more out of each day.

The end result will have you leaner toned and bursting with energy!

The format follows the basic principles of variable duration kickboxing rounds utilising the whole body, interspersed with various bodyweight exercises and, for the more experienced, kettle bells and medicine ball exercises. The classes follow a high intensity interval training protocol (HIIT), which has been found by scientists to produce longer lasting fat burning effects due to the ‘after burn’ effect on the metabolism.

So it’s not just the 500 to 800 calories burnt during the session that make it effective, but it’s the fact that your kick started metabolism keeps burning fat after the workout.


Classes commence Monday 1s February 2016

  • Monday, Wednesday & Friday 6am to 7am
  • Saturday 9am to 10am

Classes will be taught by the newest member of our team, Megan Atkins.

Megan began her martial arts training at the age of 13 under Ajarn Geordie of Black Dragon Kai. It was through her training that she developed a passion for fitness and wellbeing. As a young girl battling confidence issues and depression, martial arts gave her a welcoming family and a place to bring out what was inside of her. The more skilled she became and the more aesthetically her body transformed, the more confident she became. Through her training, her interest in fitness developed into a passion for supporting others in their own mental & physical transformations.

Subsequently Megan completed her Certificate III & IV to become a qualified personal trainer & fitness instructor followed up with a Level 1 Strength & Conditioning Coaches qualification and courses for training Children. Megan is currently studying a Diploma in Management and will begin a Bachelor in Natural Medicine to become a Naturopath.

Megan ‘packs some punch’ with the latest industry knowledge in weight loss/management nutrition & performance eating which goes hand in hand with fitness & kick boxing training. She is a big advocate for whole-food healthy eating and can offer personal dietary advice to fast track your fitness journey.

Megan believes that “motivation is what gets you started, but habits is what keeps you going” and through professional advice and support you can equip yourself with the right habits to continuously achieve your goals. Megan believes that if you look after your physical body first, your mental health, relationships & work will improve also.

Annual Okinawa Training Tour Underway

The senior instructors and some black belts and friends from the Southern Cross Martial Arts Association have just departed for the annual pilgrimage to train in Okinawa, the birth place of Karate.

The group will spend time training in Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate with Hanshi Masaji Taira (9thdan) and in ancient Okinawan weapons with the Kinjo family at their Kubagawa dojo.

Keep your eyes on our Facebook feed for details and pics.


The Positive Benefits of Martial Arts Training

By Damien Martin


The martial arts industry is currently undergoing unprecedented growth and there is strong evidence that the participation rate is ever increasing. This article considers whether this is a positive thing for the participants and society as a whole. A review of the literature has revealed overwhelming support for the positive aspects of traditional martial arts training and has reinforced the need for the traditional values and methodology to be maintained with the only negative results being from non-traditional schools.

The Positive Benefits of Traditional Martial Arts Training: What Does Martial Arts Training Achieve for the Individual?

Most martial arts instructors who have been teaching for some time have at least one outstanding success story and popular culture abounds with such stories and case studies where the student turned his or her life around and owed it all to their martial arts training. In my experience, these case studies represent the tip of the proverbial iceberg, as most of the psychosocial benefits of martial arts training are very subtle and not at all overt.

Traditionally martial arts instructors tend to primarily advertise the physical benefits of martial arts: fitness; coordination; self-defence skills; balance and so on. Some add self-esteem, self-confidence, and improved social skills to the list of benefits. This gives an impression that the only benefits are physical and that martial arts are ‘rough’. This emphasis on the physical, combined with the movies and images of popular culture, has lead to a misconception of the realities of long term martial arts training and can create a perception in the uninitiated that martial arts promote violence and violent behaviour.

According to the research of Bandura, Ross & Ross (1961) in their famous Bobo doll study, martial arts training should actually increase aggressive behaviour because aggression is supposed to be learned through the imitation of violent behaviour. The theory of Bandura et al. seems to support the intuitive response to the perceived violence of martial arts training and this has lead to many martial arts instructors experiencing difficulty in having martial arts training accepted in schools as part of the curriculum. Indeed in some cases the teaching methodology has been found to increase aggression (Reynes & Lorant, 2002; Endresen & Olweus, 2005) and this further exacerbates the difficulties.

The difficulty in identifying the positive benefits of martial arts training lies within the inherent difficulty in defining such a diverse range of practices (Buckler, Castle & Peter (2009); Vertonghen & Theeboom (2010); Vertonghen & Theeboom (2012); Vertonghen, Theeboom, & Pieter (2014)).

This article seeks to review prior attempts by social researchers to define and categorise the martial arts, and further investigate whether martial arts training practice promotes aggression or if the contrary is true and that practice not only decreases violence and aggression but promotes other, albeit invisible, positive psychosocial outcomes.


Before we can proceed in investigating the potential benefits of martial arts, we need to define three broadly applied terms often found in the literature: (1) martial arts, (2) combat sports and (3) traditional.

1.    Martial Arts

The term ‘martial art’ can mean many things to many different people and the definition can therefore be problematic as it not only tends to be synonymous with the Asian fighting traditions in the popular mind, thus ignoring the rich tradition of arts in the West. Such a generic term further fails to define the purpose of the practice of the art or sport. Furthermore, what are termed ‘martial arts’ in popular vernacular tend to actually be combat sports or modern derivatives of the original warlike practices. Much of the literature on ‘martial arts’ is fraught with non-practitioner definition errors, a fact which has been identified by a number of authors (Vertonghen & Theeboom, 2010; Vertonghen & Theeboom, 2012; Vertonghen, Theeboom, & Pieter,2014) and continues to cloud research results.

Buckler, Castle & Peter, (2009) discussed a number of classification systems for defining martial arts however a firm and satisfactory definition remains elusive and varies between cultures (i.e. Japanese vs European) and contexts (i.e. military vs civilian application). There are literally hundreds of different activities referred to as ‘martial arts’ and the reasons people participate in them are as diverse as the arts themselves.

In the context of this paper ‘martial art’ will encapsulate the physical practice of martial arts, regardless of origin, whether practiced for self defence or self development including the modern combat sports. Effectively, this includes anything which uses fighting principles and/or methodologies for the development of physical and mental skills to develop and individual as a person, and/or as a fighter.

2.    Combat Sports

A combat sport is broadly defined as a competitive contact sport with (usually) one-on-one combat. Depending on the particular sports rules, the winner is determined by one or more of the following methods: scoring more points than the opponent; rendering the opponent helpless; by submission; or by disabling the opponent. Boxing, Kickboxing, amateur wrestling, Fencing, Arnis, Judo, Brazilian Jujitsu, mixed martial arts, and Muay Thai are examples of combat sports.

Judo, Fencing, Wrestling and Tae Kwon Do are combat sports which are included in the Olympic Games.

Many combat sports have derived from martial arts and share many common core values.

3.    ‘Traditional’

The term ‘traditional’ can be even more vague in the literature. In the context of this article it will mean an art or school that has a history of effective application in the field it was designed for; has a strong curriculum and pedagogical system; has a hierarchical structure and an underpinning philosophy.

Traditional martial arts from Asia are often accompanied by Buddhist/Taoist philosophy and ethics, as well as specific training methods and goals, whilst European martial arts (i.e. fencing etc) tend not to have such dogma attached. Traditional martial arts training is an effective way of transmitting desirable values and, over time, indoctrinates students with the idea of respect, a sense of consequence, a sense of personal responsibility, and a sense of connection to the self through a strong mentor / student (i.e., the sempai / kohai in Japanese martial culture) relationship.

Overall, the philosophy of traditional martial arts is pacifistic (i.e., it abhors initiation of conflict and teaches minimisation of harm to any would-be assailant) as typified by the famous phrase by the ‘father’ of modern karate Funakoshi Gichin, “There is no first attack in Karate” (“Karate ni senti nashi”).

In addition to the obvious self defence benefits inherent with martial practices, the aim of traditional martial arts training according to Zivin et al. (2001) “is to develop a centred, calm, discriminating mind that is subsequently applied in all areas of life; the antithesis of a mind set for aggression, whether impulsive or not”. It must be added that the aim for children participating in martial arts is often different to that of their parents but the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In the experience of the author, the parent’s aim is usually to have their child develop a respectful attitude, physical skill, mental clarity, and an understanding of the body and of the physics of action, whilst the child is looking for something ‘cool’, fun and stimulating.

It should be noted that these mental benefits are achieved partially through the challenging physical training, and partially through the incorporation of philosophy into the training. The specific philosophies differ considerably from style to style, and even school to school, but the basic principles they share include respect accorded to “seniors” (such as instructors and parents) as well as peers, consideration of the younger and weaker, perseverance at difficult tasks, and, most importantly perhaps, integrity of self and doing what is “right” (Vockell & Kwak, 1990; Abernathy, 1995; Wiley, 1995; as cited in Ripley, 2003).


It seems self-evident that for any behavioural or physiological changes to manifest themselves it is necessary for the student to habitually attend to their training for a period of time; therefore it is no surprise that a number of researchers found that there is a positive correlation between length of time practicing, and associated attainment of belt rank, and increases in self-confidence (Duthie, Hope & Barker, 1978; Konzak & Bourdeau, 1984), independence, self-reliance (Konzak & Bourdeau, 1984; Kurian, Verdi, Caterino & Kulhavy, 1994), and self-esteem (Richman & Rehberg, 1986). Simply put, the longer someone trains, the more apparent benefits they gain from the training.

Self Esteem & Confidence

Pyecha (1970) found that martial arts practice also leads to more easygoing and warm-hearted individuals, Spear (1989) noted increases in self-confidence, Finkenberg (1990) noted increases in self-esteem, whilst Brown et al. (1995) noted increases in both self-esteem and self-control. Madden (1990; 1995) found a reduction of feelings of vulnerability to attack with increased feelings of confidence.

Legg (2013) reported martial arts training was effective in teaching children of parents with mental illness to self-manage behaviours and emotions and be better able to focus/concentrate on daily life. It is evident that involvement in interesting social and leisure activities provided opportunities to improve self-esteem.

Reduced Aggression

It has long been held by martial arts practitioners that training in martial arts decreases aggression and hostility yet this is contraindicated by the learned aggression model of Bandura et al (1961). The preponderance of social research on this question supports the notion that martial arts practice reduces aggression.

A number of researchers have found that martial arts practices cultivate decreases in hostility and decreased feelings of anger (i.e. Daniels & Thornton, 1992; Brown et al., 1995). Furthermore, a number of researchers have presented descriptive, cross-sectional data showing lower scores on hostility and aggression and/or higher scores on self-esteem and positive outlook for traditional martial arts students when compared to students of non-traditional martial arts or other sports. Not surprisingly, these positive characteristics increased with greater length of training in traditional martial arts (Daniels & Thornton, 1990; Kurian, Verdi, Caterino & Kulhavy, 1994; Lamarre & Nosanchuk, 1999; Nosanchuk, 1981; Trulson, 1986). Further investigation demonstrated that the improvements were not due to natural attrition of more aggressive students (Nosanchuk & MacNeil, 1989).

Kuśnierz, Wojciech & Litwiniuk (2014) postulated that combat sports and martial arts training enabled participants to diffuse emotions and relieve tension, which resulted in decreased level of aggression. They also found a link between ag­gressiveness levels being affected by the specificity of the training and instructor qualifications.

In reference to the reduction of aggressive tendencies Grabert (1996) went so far as to say “the strong emphasis on mastering techniques in karate, repetition in training and the delaying of participation in competition involving combat are considered to be devices towards achieving this goal”. King & Williams (1997) found “a goodness of fit between martial arts and task orientation” (goal setting). This is compatible with the structured approach to goal setting engendered by the belt ranking system within martial arts.

Nosanchuk & MacNeil (1989) examined the aggressive tendencies of participants at a number of schools offering karate, tae kwon do, or jujitsu. At each school, they evaluated a number of indicators of a ‘traditional’ martial arts school including the relative importance of meditation in the class, the amount of respect the students showed towards the sensei, the dojo, and each other, the level of contact allowed to vital areas of the body, and the relative importance of kata. Based on this evaluation, they classified schools as ‘traditional’ (more meditation, respect and kata, less contact to vital areas) and or “modern”. At the commencement of the study beginning students in both traditional and modern schools had similar scores for aggression. It was noted that the more advanced students in the traditional schools showed lower scores for aggression than beginning students but no change in the scores of the students at the schools with the ‘modern’ emphasis. In effect the traditional training reduced aggression whereas the modern training did not.

Both Trulson (1986) and Regets (1990) obtained similar results; however in contrast, Egan (1993) found that both traditional and modern styles of training led to improvements in general mental health. The traditional martial arts students showed significant increases in scores for self-acceptance which were not reported for the students with a modern emphasis in training. Most research supports the hypothesis that it is the training environment and style of instruction influencing these differences.

One of the most cited studies in the area of aggression and martial arts was conducted by Trulson (1986). At the end of the six month study, the students in the “traditional tae kwon do” group showed a decrease in aggressiveness and anxiety and an increase in self-esteem. In contrast, the modern tae kwon do group showed an increased tendency towards delinquency and an increase in aggressiveness. Students in a control group doing just exercise showed an increase in self-esteem, but no other significant changes.

It should be noted that Nosanchuk & MacNeil, found aggression actually increased with greater length of training in a non-traditional school, as did Trulson (1986). This is likely to be due to the overemphasis of the self-defence, competitive and violent aspects of the training and a de-emphasis of the ethical framework. This would support the learned aggression model of Bandura et al. (1961). It must also be noted that to date, no studies found increased aggression or hostility to correlate with length of traditional training.

Researchers Reynes & Lorant have conducted numerous studies looking at martial arts training and aggression levels. In 2001 they found that martial arts do not attract more aggressive children than other activities. In 2002 they found that judo training does not reduce aggressiveness in young boys however this could be due to the emphasis on competition in modern Judo. In 2004 they had mixed results when they found that Judo practice reduced anger scores whilst karate practiced had no effect. These mixed results are likely due more to methodological issues within the studies as identified by Vertonghen, Theeboom, & Pieter (2014).

Engaging At Risk Youth

The use of martial arts training and programs to engage and teach youth and achieve positive outcomes has been well documented. The literature review by Binder (1999) provides a review of empirical evidence that supports anecdotal reports about the positive psychosocial consequences of martial arts practice. Traditional martial arts provide exactly the experience that will engage young people who are at clear risk for delinquent acts or impulsive violence, and even start them on positive life paths (Cannold, 1982; Fuller, 1988; Penrod, 1983; Wesler, Kutz, Kutz & Weisner, 1995; Zivin et al., 2001). Twemlow & Sacco (1998) reported that martial arts training “can be an extraordinarily helpful, ego-building form of psychotherapy” and noted that this was particularly true for “control of aggressive impulses”. Trulson (1986) reported that data suggests that training in the traditional martial arts is effective in reducing juvenile delinquent tendencies.

Vertonghen & Theeboom (2010) created a table that listed the authors of the research they looked at, the target group, the type of martial art the group participated in, the personality trait that was observed, and whether the effect was positive or negative. Each group of youth participants showed positive effects in their traits due to participation in martial arts.

Engaging Children with ASD

The author has considerable experience in training children and youth diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and has found that with some modification and consideration for sensory processing issues, martial arts training can be tremendously beneficial. His experiences are supported with research which indicates that the traditional training model, with its structure, hierarchy, predictability and Kata (forms or templates). For example, Bahrami et al (2012) found that Kata training was effective for reducing stereotypical behaviour in children with ASD; Movahedi et al (2013) also found that Kata training was effective for consistently reducing social dysfunction in children with ASD; and McKeehan (2012) found martial arts training was an effective methodology for improving baseline behaviours in children with ASD as evidenced in dramatic gains in social skills, physical ability, respect, and overall attitude.

The results of these studies may help educators working with students on the autism spectrum to establish effective strategic plans under which martial arts training will be provided and utilised to engage children with ASD.

Engaging Children with ADHD

In addition to the benefits of martial arts for students with ASD, children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have been found to benefit from martial arts training and the benefits have been investigated by researchers.

Ripley (2003) found that martial arts training helped ADHD children improve their overall behaviour which in turn led to better school performance (i.e., higher grades).

Morand (2004) reported that martial arts training two times a week yielded improved homework completion, improved classroom behaviour, reduced inappropriate callouts in class, decreased leaving seat in class, and improved academic performance in boys diagnosed with ADHD.

Marquez-Castillo (2013) reported that martial arts training can alleviate symptoms of ADHD and improve academic performance.

Cheyne (2013) reported that the practice of the martial arts helps children with ADHD develop skills of self-regulation providing they are taught by an instructor who understands and appreciates the needs of a child with ADHD and has the skills to create an environment that supports the learning of these children.

The aforementioned studies lend empirical support to martial arts as a positive intervention for children with ADHD and when taken in context with Trulson (1986), Regets (1990), Biddulph (2003), and Lakes & Hoyt (2004), martial arts training in a traditional environment seems to have overwhelmingly positive psychosocial benefits for the practitioner, and by inference, the family and community at large.

Other Benefits

Columbus & Rice (1998) conducted a phenomenological analysis of the reasons people trained in martial arts and found a number of themes where positive results were reported. These included experiences of self, others, feelings and emotions, situation outcomes and adaptive functioning. Bouchard, Focht and Murphey (2000) linked martial arts to improvements in the pain threshold and the use of martial arts training in pain management.

In another study Lakes & Hoyt (2004) found that martial arts practice improved cognitive self-regulation, affective self-regulation, prosocial behaviour, classroom conduct, and performance on a mental math test with demonstrated greater benefits for boys than for girls.

Biddulph (2003) posits that the modern lifestyle has caused increased pressure on families, and that this increased pressure is often manifested in behavioural issues for boys. According to Biddulph, this modern lifestyle has led to a decrease in contact with fathers and the attendant male role models and mentors. The statistics on divorce (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2002c, 2004) and single parent families (Rich, 2000; Gold Coast City Council, 2004) appear to heavily support this position. Rich also found that decreased socioeconomic status brought about by divorce and single parent lifestyle also led to educational disadvantage and increase risk of unemployment and juvenile crime. Figures from the Queensland Police Service (2005) would seem to support this evidence. Biddulph (2003) clearly supports the practice of martial arts explicitly (p. 144) and implicitly with his position on positive male role models and mentors, which can be found in any good, traditional martial arts school. Lakes & Hoyt (2004) found that martial arts training for children led to a significant improvement in cognitive self-regulation and classroom conduct with boys showing greater improvement than girls. This would tend to support Biddulph’s assertion.


The research tends to show a clear correlation between martial arts training and the development of a variety of psychosocial traits which are seen to be positive. Unfortunately the mechanism whereby martial arts training develops or achieves these benefits is still obscure and requires further investigation. Thus, like Vertonghen, Theeboom, & Pieter (2014), the author calls for more research due to identified problems with prior study’s methodology and this further research needs to investigate the impact of personality, socioeconomic status, culture, age, martial art (or combat sport) and teaching methodology.

What is evident is that a professionally developed martial arts curriculum delivered by a suitably qualified instructor has a plethora or benefits to the participant. This makes the lack of martial arts in school curriculums in Australia even more disappointing.

Winkle & Ozmun (2003) identified considerable barriers to implementing martial arts programs in school curriculums, no matter how desirable this may be, and at the forefront of these barriers is a lack of suitably qualified instructors. One of the challenges facing a martial arts instructor in having their programs approved for addition to (or within) a school’s curriculum is credentialing of ‘qualifications’ or ‘accreditation’. In the Australian context there are challenges in ascertaining whether an instructor has appropriate certification and indeed what appropriate certification might be.

In the current legislative environment there is little to no legislation of the teaching of martial arts, however there is some control of martial arts competitions and promotions in some jurisdictions (i.e. NSW Combat Sports Act 2013). Instructors are usually able to teach whatever they like wherever they can negotiate a better deal. Qualifications, accreditations and memberships can be of some assistance where there is a set policy in place about who can teach students. In many cases the minimum requirement is a first aid certificate, a ‘working with children’ check and some sort of qualification (i.e., either a Certificate from a Nationally Recognised course, an NCAS Level 1 or 2 or similar).

One of the other barriers to implementation is the lay persons perception that martial arts and combat sports form part of a homogeneous whole. This becomes problematic if the individual in a decision making role has had a negative experience with the martial arts or a martial artist at some stage in their lives. Given the population saturation of martial arts participation in Australia, and the lack of regulation or quality control on what is taught, unfortunately negative experiences are all too common; even to the point of the term ‘McDojo’ being introduced into the popular lexicon to mean a martial arts school of poor quality that teaches a watered-down, fake and/or impractical form of martial arts in the name of profit.

The author has been teaching martial arts now for almost 3 decades and is currently teaching a variety of classes with children, adolescents and adults on a daily basis. Like most instructors he has observed many students gain positive benefits from their martial arts training and has adjusted and altered the delivery model numerous times over the years to better facilitate the development of those benefits for the students. He would like to see more research on the mechanisms available for maximising the benefits of martial arts training, and to develop further professional development opportunities for martial arts instructors to help them to better deliver their lessons.

About the Author

Damien has been training in martial arts since he was 13 years of age. He holds dan grades in Okinawan Goju Ryu, Japanese Goju and modern freestyle karate, as well as being a certified Muay Thai trainer and Docé Pares Eskrima instructor.

Damien worked in the private security industry in Australia for 18 years where he was constantly exposed to some of the seedier and more violent characters in our society; an environment where techniques, tactics and training methods had to work! He has been lucky enough to travel the world with his work and has trained extensively in law enforcement and firearms tactics in the US and the UK.

Through his Dojo Damien is the Gold Coast Shibuchō of Taira Masaji Sensei’s Okinawa Goju Ryu Kenkyukai, and the Chief Instructor of the Gold Coast Kudo Doko Kai and teaches up to 5 classes a day at the Gōki-Kai Karate-Do So Honbu Dojo. He continues to train daily and considers himself a lifelong student.

Currently he actively teaches numerous Karate classes a day to children and adults. He also works part time as a community support worker with at risk youth on the Gold Coast, and as a teacher’s aide for special needs teens.



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The Emergence of the Modern McDojo

During a course I taught last month I used some video clips from an internet based TV show called Enter the Dojo. Funny stuff! The actors in this show are able to mimic the antics of the dubious ‘masters’ floating around out there in the martial arts industry and obviously have a lot of actual experience in dealing with McDojo’s and McMasters. My laughter is always tinged with a bit of sadness at their antics as in almost every episode I see someone I know, or something I’ve experienced in my 30 years in the arts; except the people I know and the things I’ve seen were real, not comedians in a TV show.

The main actor (as well as writer and director) is a guy by the name of Matt Page. A bit of web based research on Matt shows that he is a serious actor, having been in over a dozen TV shows, and an accomplished martial artist. He started training at age 16 and has a black belt in Okinawan Kenpo and American Kenpo, as well as experience in JiuJitsu, Kickboxing and Stick Fighting. He’s been around the proverbial block and is obviously dismayed at some of the things he’s seen as the show is aimed at raising public awareness about the harm McDojo’s can do to the arts in general, but particularly to the students who get sucked in by them!

So what is a McDojo? A McDojo is a school that teaches a watered-down and impractical form of martial arts in the name of making money. They place the importance of profit well ahead of teaching anything realistic or credible in terms of self-defence, and are dangerous in that they send unprepared and often over confident students into a world thinking they can fight when in actuality they have no real martial arts skills. Often McDojos teach a lot of bullshido, which is a term based on a parody of the philosophy of bushido (the ‘way of the warrior’ and is used to define deception, fraud, and lies in terms of martial arts.

McDojos take a real martial art like Karate and water it down so that anyone and everyone can get a black belt quickly, and without ever having to train hard or learn actual skills. When I say fake or fraudulent, I’m referring to the people who don’t have any martial arts or fighting experience yet claim to have such, or teach false and fraudulent techniques (see Master Ken’s ‘Hurticane’ in episode 9); usually the art is learned from some mystical master under questionable circumstances such as in a graveyard at night, or in some other unverifiable place. They make grandiose claims about techniques that can ‘never fail’ or their ‘accelerated learning techniques’ enabling faster promotion and black belt status. Advertising for McDojo’s often includes things like ‘beat any man’ or ‘become invincible’ and so on.

The name McDojo is a play on the McDonalds restaurant chain which is probably not fair to McDonalds. After all, they don’t claim to be anything other than a fast food restaurant……. McDojo was coined as a derogatory term which compares the similarities between the two organisations – they’re both fast, everywhere, unoriginal, all the same, and cheap. Well, maybe not $$ cheap but tacky, like eating your low cost, substitute meat product burger off fine china…..that sort of cheap.

McDojo’s are often referred to as ‘belt factories’. This is a term that refers to the practice of promoting people based on attendance, rather than skill acquisition. These ‘belt factories’ turn out unskilled black belts who have no depth to their art or actual self defence skills. They can ‘kiai’ well though and often excel in things like musical forms and showmanship demonstrations, although many don’t because even this requires practice, skills and (…shudder…) sweat!

The term McDojo is often thrown around by ‘traditional’ martial arts practitioners (what does that mean anyway?) and is aimed as an insult to anyone who charges fees or tuition. They base this on the fact that Master X said “you should never charge for lessons”; which was a nice sentiment in the 19th century where you only ever taught one or two students in your back yard, and they were probably relatives anyway. They also forget that the students of Master X fed him, arranged his transport, did his gardening and more. There’s more to being a McDojo than being a business despite the wishful thinking of the traditionalists.

Another McDojo practice that I’ve written about in the past is the use of long contracts. I know of Gold Coast schools that use 3 year contracts on the ‘black belt club’ and 5 years contracts for their ‘masters club’ and who regularly put the debt collectors on people who quit.

Then there’s gradings based on the ability to pay. One organisation that I briefly trained with charged US$1800 per dan grade, preferably paid in small unmarked US currency. That worked out at US$1800 for 1st dan, US$3600 for 2nd dan, US$5400 for 3rd dan etc. And this was a ‘traditional’ Okinawan system!

Many McDojo’s also have cult like training practices whereby the instructor is elevated to being more than a mere mortal and often goes by such titles as Grandmaster or even Supreme Grandmaster (no, really!). Again I’ve discussed this element before. Martial arts is supposed to teach humility and respect but unfortunately in some organisations this is only expected from the students.

Sadly any martial arts school or organisation can quickly become a McDojo if they are not careful. There is a fine line between sound business practices and ripping people off. As a business a school needs to make sufficient income to pay its overheads like rent, advertising, wages and so on. These were not traditionally considerations for martial arts schools, and indeed, still aren’t for community based clubs like PCYC’s etc. As a martial arts school, the trip down the slippery slope builds up momentum when it becomes about money, about quick bucks and ego gratification; it’s definitely not as simple and clear cut as many internet pundits would have it either.

Simply branding someone as a McDojo because they teach children, or have multiple ‘styles’, or different belts is far from accurate too. To put it simply, the days of the ‘one pony show’ or single ‘style’ martial arts school are largely gone. Today’s martial arts student, or potential student, has more choice and is far better educated than their predecessors (thank you Sensei Google…) and has more choices open to them.  It’s a proven fact (read or re-read the report available on our website if you need clarification) that martial arts training is good for kids in so many ways, so to say any school that teaches them is dodgy is, well, dodgy.

Southern Cross Martial Arts Centre is unashamedly a business. We simply could not offer the levels of service or professionalism we do, nor have the highly trained staff we do, if we also had to hold down full time jobs to live. As a business we have to strive to make sure the bills are paid so we can continue to teach and keep our doors open for our students. In the modern era there are reduced Government resources for sport and recreation facilities which means there are less community centre places available; then there’s more competition, higher wages (and indeed, wages!! Unheard off when I started teaching). There’s also increased costs for advertising and banking and power and, well, everything. We work very hard to maintain the balance.

So, how do you work out if a school is a McDojo? Here’s a few warning signs:

The School

  • You attend a Chinese Kung Fu school that uses the Japanese belt ranking system, or vice versa.
  • You attend a Tae Kwon Do school and the instructor is called Sensei, or Renshi, or Shihan etc (these are Japanese titles after all).
  • You attend a ‘Judo’ school, but all the grappling elements have been curiously eliminated from the training.
  • Your instructor names his style after himself (i.e. Joe Son Do, Dux Ryu, Rex Kwon Do).
  • Your instructor claims to have secret techniques that he can only reveal to you once you’ve received your black belt.
  • Your instructor claims to offer MMA training, but has never had a single ring/cage/mat fight.
  • The students seem to be more interested in putting on a fashion show than learning martial arts.
  • Your instructor claims to be some kind of champion (check out Jim Carey in this hilarious parody)
    There are lots of trophies around the dojo for unverifiable tournaments.
    The uniforms have lots of unnecessary patches.
  • Poor or no discipline and lots of kids running around like they’re in a school playground and they’ve had too much red cordial.
  • There is no structure to the classes.
  • The history of the school and/or the style is long and complicated and is unverifiable because it is ‘secret’.

The Instructors

  • Your instructor claims to be an MMA champion (or kickboxing or any other combat sport) but only ever ‘fights’ his own students (if anyone that is).
  • Your instructor claims to be a very high ranking black belt yet they are quite young.
  • Your instructor tries to flirt with your girlfriend when she attempts to visit you at the dojo.
  • Your instructor is having an affair with one of his students.
  • Your instructor gives a speech during class about how their art is superior to all other martial arts.
  • Your instructor is overweight (oops, that could be me, “let’s change that to your instructor is overweight, but is not awaiting back surgery ;-)…..”)
  • Your instructor insists that you refer to him/her as master/grandmaster or some other ego boosting term both in and out of the dojo.
  • The instructor walks around like a king but doesn’t actually (physically) show any techniques.
  • Your instructor insists that their style/form/technique is invincible and that everything else is wrong.
  • Your instructor speaks with a fake Asian accent, wears a Kimono or Chinese clothing out of the jojo and insists on being called by their ‘Shaolin monk’ name.
  • Your instructor insists that sparring and tournaments are too dangerous for their superior techniques and participation by his students could actually kill or maim people unnecessarily.

The Classes

  • While sparring your instructor complains that you’re not being aggressive enough; then, when you become more aggressive your instructor complains that you’re being too aggressive.
  • No one sweats.
  • There is no obvious curriculum.
  • There is no physical workout (no one is tired after training).
  • There is no sparring.
  • There is no real self defence training.
  • There is no discussion or talk or training regarding the law surrounding self defence or what is reasonable (see Master Ken in action).
  • Your instructor talks in absolutes (i.e. this technique is ‘guaranteed’ to knock someone out etc).
  • There is so much etiquette and bowing and secret handshakes that this takes up a large amount of class time that could or should be dedicated to actually training.
  • Every technique is accompanied by a kiai.
  • The only numbers associated with techniques are not repetitions, but the number of degrees you have to spin (i.e 360, 720 and so on).

The Black Belts

  • The advertising says you’ll receive your Black Belt in a specific amount of time (i.e. 12 months, 18 months etc.).
  • Students can receive a black belt in a short amount of time.
  • There is no noticeable difference between the performance of a Black Belt, or that of any other rank.
  • Most of the Black Belts haven’t reached puberty yet.


  • Your instructor won’t allow you to compete in a tournament because his techniques are too deadly and you’d actually kill or seriously injure anyone you competed against.
  • While at a tournament, your opponent finds out who your teacher is and high-fives his teacher.


  • Every student grades every time.
  • You can get a Black Belt in a fixed period of time (i.e. less than 2 years).
  • You ‘earn’ your new belt based solely on attendance.
  • When paying for your belt examinations, the instructor asks: “Do you want fries with that?”
  • There are no objective testing criteria other than attendance.
  • No one ever fails a belt test.
  • Everyone does the same curriculum –there is no progression of skills, fitness or anything other than attendance.
  • Children complete black belt using the same criteria as adults.

In all seriousness, McDojo’s are insidious and cult like and seize upon people’s fears and even feed them. They do not allow the attendance of non-sanctioned seminars/classes/events, and have strict rules about what you can do, what you can wear, and who you can associate with. The goal is essentially to make sure that you only socialise with people from your McDojo so that it becomes the centre of your universe and therefore you fear not being able to train there. You have no friends outside of the McDojo, all of your free time is spent at the McDojo, and any questions or queries are met with offers to ‘upgrade’ your program for the ‘secret’ knowledge, or with fortune cookie wisdom, or a beating – remember not all McDojo owners or instructors are bad martial artists (well, physically anyway). Over time people become ‘conditioned’. Then there’s the feeding of the ego – you’re an invincible black belt; you can defeat 10 men; you are a ‘master’; and so on.

Our advice? Do your homework, keep an open mind and think critically (refer back to the recent Karate By Jesse article), and keep your training in perspective. Remember, family first, work second and training a distant 3rd.