I’ve often said that choosing a martial art to study and practice is an extremely subjective thing. And it is! Not only does one have different types of martial arts to choose from (striking, grappling, weapons-based, etc) each of those types have different schools and styles to choose from, often differing from one another on some very key levels. For example, although I study Okinawan karate, not all Okinawan karate dojos will offer the same aspects I may be looking for.
The thing is, there really isn’t a BAD reason to join a martial arts school, unless you or reason is because you want to actively bring harm to someone else. Notice that I didn’t say it was bad to defend yourself, but I would be lying if I hadn’t encountered a bully or two walking into my dojo over the decades. If your goal is to learn how to fight so you can bully, intimidate or harm others, good luck finding a good instructor who will be willing to teach you.
A few years ago, when I started the challenging task to find a new dojo to train in by virtue of being 3,400 kilometres away from Sensei, I coined the term “Coffee Club Dojo.” This refers to a dojo or martial arts school where the students and/or practitioners spend the majority of the class joking around, chatting slit about non-dojo-related matters and waste their time. This grates on my last nerve, and can make it difficult for a prospective student to positively identify whether the style in question may be suited to them.,
What’s the difference, you ask? The difference between a McDojo and a Coffee Shop Dojo is that a McDojo teaches a watered-down version of a specific art in the interest of maintaining the highest student count possible and making the most money. Students will often climb in rank quickly, provided their cheques clear and they’re willing to pay any associated fees. A Coffee Shop Dojo is one where financial gain may not be a priority and may not even be a consideration, but the student body treat the dojo as a social club rather than a place to learn. The instructor in these schools will often be complacent about this behaviour and may even take part in it.
I know what some of you may be thinking…. If these folks are treating their dojo as their own personal social club and use it to socialize, who are they hurting? there’s no bad reason to be in martial arts, right? Well, the problem I have with this type of environment is that it may sway or provide a wrong impression to a prospective student. Although most individuals should know what they want out of their training, it’s very possible that some wouldn’t. Further, some youths who may be brought in by their parents may not have the inherent knowledge to recognize that this may not be the place to get the best training.
Ultimately, preference is key and knowing what you want is important. that’s why it’s critical that you allow yourself the opportunity to observe a class before participating. you need to have the opportunity to ask some questions and get a feel for how those questions will be answered. If your goal is to LEARN the martial arts and get in shape, learn to defend and protect yourself and better yourself, a casual, laid back atmosphere may not be for you. But if you’ve never set foot in a martial arts dojo before, how will you know? And THAT is the question that begs answering…
When you practice an art that’s suited to you and your needs, there will be struggle. But it should be smooth-flowing. there will be difficulty, but you’ll be energized and have a hunger that will make you want to train harder, faster and stronger. there may be blood, sweat and tears but as I shared in a previous post some time ago, he who sweats more in training, bleeds less in battle. Martial arts is a subjective thing. Be sure you exercise that choice and find something suited to you. Food for thought… ☯️