Why is it so difficult to find a good place to train martial arts these days? Recently, I left a gym called Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg, MD. The reason is that I didn’t like their business practices. The head instructor, Mike Moses, marketed his gym that made me think he had ulterior motives. I felt his motives were geared more for making money, and he wasn’t at all interested in the growth of his students.
I prefer schools where the people and teacher are truly interested in learning and teaching the martial arts. However, in my recent experiences I keep finding MMA gyms that are founded with the pure motivation of turning a profit. One thing that I observe in these type of MMA schools is their unsavory business and marketing practices.
Even though Evolve Academy was really convenient for me to workout at; I couldn’t allow myself to support a school such as this. It is against my values. Essentially, the MMA gym I left was a McDojo.
McDojo is a pejorative term used by some Western martial artists to describe a martial arts school where image or profit is of a higher importance than technical standards, and in the related use of martial arts franchising. tweet
The term is an example of McWords applied to Japanese martial arts dojo. Where a McDojo’s practices may border on fraud, this can be referred to as bullshido. While the practice of exploiting the showmanship over substance to market martial arts is not new, it is perceived as having become more prevalent in modern times. tweet
McDojos often charge much higher fees or fees that escalate with rank. This is frequently combined with creating additional levels of rank within a school, making a school known as a “Belt Factory”. tweet
I naturally observe a business’s marketing execution since I work in the tech startup industry. In Evolve Academy’s case, I’d ask myself, “are they truly trying to help people and teach the art?”
Below is an advertisement that Evolve Academy posted on Facebook. At first glance it looked like it’s for a good cause. But, then I noticed the cheesy stock image they used and the title. The design elements of the flyer reminded me of a Sally Struther’s Sponsor a Child commercial from the 1980’s. My reaction was like…”Are they for serious!” LOL. Clearly, the design execution is to cover up the underlying motive which is to tug at people’s sympathy with the goal to make a monetary transaction.
I asked a friend of mine that still trains at Evolve and she informed me that the donations goes towards buying Evolve Academy’s Branded Uniforms and Equipment. I don’t know if that true, and have no interest to verify it.
Marketing is about value
I just believe that the purpose of marketing is to communicate what value a company or person can provide. Value is defined as something that improves the lives of people. Hence, the motivation of ethical marketing is the desire to let people know you can create positive impact with your service or skill. Everyone in this world has at least one specialized skill-set which can provide value.
The hypocrisy is evident to me when I read how the GOP used George Bush’s sympathy card to raise money. This is referred to as a sympathy-for-fundraising tactic. It is considered a disgracefully insensitive marketing tactic. It offended many when it was used by the Democratic National Committee during the Boston Marathon bombing to boost their fundraiser list.
The marketing campaign of Evolve Academy was one their unethical behaviors that made leave the gym. This and many other things that made me see that they have no interest in their students.
A person that truly cares for the education of children have a history of teaching for charity. I’m not saying that instructors shouldn’t get paid. I believe that all good teachers should get paid well. My father was a teacher. However, you can detect a sincere charitable effort in their character to help humanity. An example is Salmen Khan, who created the The Khan Academy which provides free education to the world. Another is Anderson Silva’s first taekwondo teacher who taught him for free, because his family didn’t have enough money.
For a future write up, I’ll be writing on how martial art schools and MMA gyms should execute fundraising properly. I will be discussing fundraising best practices both technically and ethically.
“Doesn’t look like she’s having any problems finding food.” – Southpark tweet
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