Several years ago I was living in Arizona and I was considering getting back into martial arts. I visited several schools, and I’ve actually visited dozens of schools between when I stopped training and started again at my current Dojo, but this one stuck out. This one still makes me laugh.
This dojo I went to visit was only a few blocks from my house and was about 15 feet from my bus stop, so it was perfect as far as location goes. I wasn’t driving at that time so I couldn’t find a school too far away because it would either cost too much to taxi or take too long to bus.
I walk in and it’s a very small dojo. It’s a room just big enough for a small boxing ring that they built and a walkway around it. Pictures of masters from all sorts of different styles and lineages adorn the walls. There was no indication outside, online, or inside at this point as to what style was taught. There were three people inside. A woman that looked like she just crawled out of a pile of dead cats, a student probably about 17 dressed up in mostly Muay Thai gear, and a very large old man that reminded me a bit of Santa.
I don’t generally judge older masters that have fallen out of shape, but this one had a very distinct I’ve-never-been-fit-in-my-entire-life look to him. He greeted me kindly enough and I mentioned I was interested in studying martial arts and that I had previously obtained a black belt in Taekwondo.
His demeanor changed when I mentioned prior training in which he began touting his style as the best, that Taekwondo couldn’t touch it. That was the first red flag. He talked about his style for a while, saying nothing really. So I asked what style it was. “An ancient style” was his answer.
It just got better from there, and by better I mean far worse, but it was a good laugh.
He went on to say that Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, and several other famous and notable masters throughout history were students of his style. That it was a long and noble line of the greatest secrets of mankind.
I couldn’t hold my laughter in when he told me that his style was in America before Columbus, before European colonization and that it lead to immortality. He also told me that usually any prospective student that comes in has to fight one of his best students, the student before me performing very poorly executed drills and kicks. I’m assuming it was his only student. He also told me that, because of my experience, I didn’t have to prove myself in the ring to be taken on as a student. I bid him a good day and walked out.
These places actually exist. These kinds of schools of derangement and cult-like beliefs actually exist and it saddens me that these and even more mundane McDojos draw students away from serious, experienced, and dedicated martial arts schools.
When you go to a school to consider training, make sure you know EXACTLY what style it is they’re teaching. Make sure you can actually see a lineage of martial arts teaching, that the training seems fit for the style. Otherwise, don’t believe the pretenders that are claiming to teach traditional martial arts.