Calling a gym “a McDojo” is a term that meant the gym is only in it for the money and not the knowledge or does not pay any attention to students’ past fees and sales. Well, that term has changed, and the term BJJ McDojo now applies to some of the biggest affiliations like Gracie Barra, Alliance, Checkmate, and the like. In the words of a former highly-placed instructor “It is just like McDonald’s.”
A decade ago McDojos were the gyms giving belts away for money, compelling students to buy their gear in order to access training, and not paying any real attention to the martial arts portion of training martial arts.
If this sounds familiar, then you might be in a BJJ McDojo yourself, but not in the way you might think. Being a part of a large worldwide organization like Alliance, Gracie Barra, etc has its perks, but it also has drawbacks that look like they e the same ones that define a BJJ McDojo.
Yes, training at these gyms gets you access to huge names in the sport, media exposure, interesting seminars, and an international network. Apart from the media exposure and seeing some BJJ superstars on a daily basis, you get pretty much the same in any other BJJ gym.
These huge affiliations, though, also cost a lot more than memberships to small ones, and they often (if not all the time) compel you to buy gear and products from the gym, looking to take away individuality and any control over what you’re doing. This is a hard pill to swallow for people looking to express their identity in a sport that is mainly individual.
Adam Childs, a Fabio Gurgel black belt, recently spoke on the Beyond Jiu-Jitsu Podcast talking about his experience as an instructor in one of these BJJ McDojo affiliations – Alliance. He was the International Manager for Alliance Worldwide and head coach at the Alliance Academy in Australia.
“They make you sell their Gis and the margins are so small that it’s not even worth it.” said Childs.
“Alliance is more of an affiliate model but Gracie Barra has a real franchise system where they provide you with everything. It’s just like McDonalds.”
He also gave his reason for quitting the Alliance affiliation: “The straw that broke the camel’s back, was when they called me to tell me that they were increasing the prices and then it didn’t make sense.”