Monday, 7 December 2015

Thoughts on McDojangs/McDojos

*Originally posted on the FMK blog on the 31st of May, 2015.

In this blog, I will generalise about current trends in the Martial Art education systems that I have been observing in recent years. I recognise that what I have written below most certainly is not applicable to every individual case.

Yes we've all heard of them. Most of us have even seen them with our own eyes. McDojangs/McDojos are what many consider to be a disgraceful spectacle of the Martial Arts communities across the globe. The words McDojang and McDojo are blended neologisms (new word created via the blending of two already existing words) that have currently not been codified or denoted. The only difference being that a McDojang refers to schools that express the systems originating from Korea such as Taekwondo and Hapkido, and McDojo refers to schools that express systems from Japan such as Karate's subsystems, Aikido and Judo. The similarity between the two that puts the 'Mc' in front of Dojang and Dojo is that these schools focus primarily on making money. Money has nothing to do with Martial Art in essence. However, even good schools nowadays must generate a profit to keep the doors open. A school becomes a McDojang/McDojo when money becomes of more value to the instructor then providing good quality Martial Art tuition. This unfortunately is the case with many schools out there. Many people will train for 3 years (some horror stories even tell of 1 year) and obtain a thing that is 65% polyester and 35% cotton to rap around their waists. The fact that it is (most often) painted black inflates many people's egos. Once the black belt is obtained, many people leave with a sort of 'job done mindset. Do they have any idea that Martial Art in it's purest form was not what they received? No. Do they have any idea that Martial Art is a continuous life journey through life geared towards self observation and longevity? No. Do they care? No. What of the instructors? Do the instructors care that these are the sorts of people they are mass producing? Most often, no. Do they care about the profit they're making? Yes. What is even sadder is that many instructors themselves were trained in McDojangs/McDojos, hence they know nothing different.

At some point, one may begin to ask oneself; "How on Earth did the Martial Art community turn out to be this way?" I think it is largely due to the 1984 Karate Kid movie. Let me say right now that I think The Karate Kid is a brilliant movie. The writer of The Karate Kid, Robert Mark Kamen, was a Martial Art practitioner. In writing the movie, he wanted to alter the publics perception of what the practice of Martial Art was suppose to be geared towards. Prior to the release of The Karate Kid, people thought Martial Art was all about 'Beaten people up!'. Kamen set out to enlighten society that "The secret to Karate [Martial Art] lies in the mind and heart. Not in the hands." I think The Karate Kid did a very good job at illustrating this. For this reason, The Karate Kid is in my own opinion, far superior to Bruce Lee's films. Unfortunately however, broader society misinterpreted the message that Robert Mark Kamen was trying to educate people about. Parents started to think in ways such as; "Oh this Karate thing looks like a great place to leave little Johnny for an hour each day. I'll drop him off there and grab a coffee with Jone". And thus Martial Art schools were flooded with children. Through my experiences in teaching children, I have observed that they have many fine qualities of a Martial Artist that adults far too often lack. These qualities closely relate to the artistic side of the practice. They value physically expressing themselves but most of all, they just want to have fun. They LOVE fun. The qualities I have observed that are lacking are refined martial technique and realistic understandings of combat. Putting it basically; adults generally find it easer to express the Martial, whilst children find it easer to express the Art. The adults are yang and the children are yin. It is very rare to find individuals who are well associated with both aspects of the practice. As children became the main clients for Martial Art schools, instructors never had the opportunity to teach much of the martial wisdom and thus much of it has been forgotten by schools in the west.

It is sad that Martial Art is currently being represented by many in western countries in such undignified ways. I then ask myself, "does it really matter?". What I mean by this is that, through my own studies I have gained an understanding of what Martial Art is - something much deeper than what is being expressed in the commercial world. I train in private to limit my physical limitations and constantly express the wisdom I have read from books such as the Tao Te Ching with people in my daily life such as those at school. I know there are many people in this world who do this as well. So why should I be concerned about McDojangs/McDojos? Yes they are a thing in this world but they do not define me or my expression. I see that as long as I and others that I know of, regardless of commercial popularity, express the essence of Martial Art, it is not in danger of extinction. It seems that by its very nature, Martial Art is something that thrives in individuals who are often fairly unknown in the commercial world. But don't waist time being concerned about McDojangs/McDojos or any Martial Art school for that matter. This is because life is very limited and they are businesses. I say; bring the focus back to Tao, bring the focus back to Zen, bring the focus back to the self. You are your own universe and that's all that's important. I think it would be appropriate to finish this blog with a quote that I see much truth in.

"Commercialism does nothing to enhance the reality of truth, although it can lead one to the start of the path."  - Miyamoto Musashi, Book of Five Rings - Page 5

Thanks for Reading

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