MMA Gym Uses Sympathy Card to Take Your Money

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.[1] tweet

The term is an example of McWords applied to Japanese martial arts dojo.[citation needed] Where a McDojo’s practices may border on fraud, this can be referred to as bullshido.[2] While the practice of exploiting the showmanship over substance to market martial arts is not new,[3] 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”.[4] 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.

evolve-academy-maryland

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.

Sympathy Card

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

Eric Vu Tran

Eric Vu Tran

Principal at RONIN
Eric started training martial arts at the age of 9 year old. He's the cofounder at RONIN and continues his study to seek deeper understanding of its applications in all things. “The true science of martial arts means practicing them in such a way that they will be useful at any time, and to teach them in such a way that they will be useful in all things.” ― Miyamoto Musashi
Eric Vu Tran
Eric Vu Tran

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28 comments
LeeTh0mpson
LeeTh0mpson

I've seen many unethical business practices in my lifetime.  This MMA school is out right profit orientated and unethical at the sake of their students.  If people can't see this based on the observations of the author than it's their own fault for not educating themselves.  This Mike Moses is a dirty business man.  

Martin Clarke
Martin Clarke

I am a paying client at Evolve. Mr. Moses runs a good business. The money he raises from those programs does buy gear. HE GIVES THAT GEAR TO PEOPLE WHO CAN NOT AFFORD IT. gi's are expensive. He slashes prices modifies payment for less fortunate who want to train. his faculty is clean and aesthetically pleasing to attract as many people as possible. He has to pay overhead and salaries. Once you open a business you combine being a practitioner and SMALL BUISINESS OWNER.

Get the facts befor you go on an Internet rant.

BrandonGroce
BrandonGroce

@Martin Clarke how about you learn what Martial Arts actually is... then look at what he teaches... its NOT Martial Arts. Its fighting. So please, crack a book open sir.

Martin Clarke
Martin Clarke

@BrandonGroce @Martin Clarke

Martial arts are just combat practices used for a variety of reasons. Boxing, wrestling, JJ, karate, TWD, Ninjitsu, JKD (created by bruce Lee as combo of multiple arts), gaidojutsu (created by greg Jackson).  Gracie BJJ arguably the most influential name in martial arts is a combo of traditional JJ and catch wresting.  The greatest warriors in history, Spartans,  used to take children from their families and start their military training at the age of seven.  The training was harsh and frequenlty resulted in death.  They were banned from some of the Olympic game because the often enjoyed killing their grappling opponents.  Ninja's were spies and assasins, hiding in shadows and killing people when their backs were turned or in their sleep.    The term martial  is derived from latin from Mars the Roman god of war. The breadth or scope of martial arts is wide and varied.

BrandonGroce
BrandonGroce

@Martin Clarke @BrandonGroce listen to what Bruce Lee says, and many other martial artists. Without philosophy Martial Arts is just Violence. You've stated only the combatant aspect. Shows that you have been brain washed to thinking Martial Arts is only that. That is partly why many Martial Arts school are McDojos because they do not teach this. 


Meaning they teach fighting, not Martial Arts. 

Martin Clarke
Martin Clarke

@BrandonGroce @Martin Clarke  you

you missed my point.  Wrestling is not violence.  The point I was making is that the scope of martial arts is wide and your view does not encompass all of it. Some is violence, some is sport, some has a deeper philosophy some is simply to defend ones self if unfortunately put in a position to do so. 

Your attacking style of conversation is off putting. 

BrandonGroce
BrandonGroce

@Martin Clarke @BrandonGroce Martial Arts without philosophy is not martial arts. Wrestling is a form of martial arts. Its how you carry the techniques you learn. A Martial Art is not a style.  You are dividing shit into styles, that is not what Martial Arts is. You only know what has been presented to you at these so called "martial arts schools". Martial Arts is Execution with a philosophy. The way of no way. 


And again your interpreting what I'm saying as off putting because its opposite to what you believe. So if you would like to perceive what i say in that way, instead of just taking the information I am putting out there, you are agreeing to be off put. That's not my problem how you take my words. 


There is no such thing as a style in real Martial Arts. 

Martin Clarke
Martin Clarke

After speaking with people at Evolve who hav known you since you were a child I have come to the conclusion that any conversation on this matter is pointless. I will not read or respond to any more posts from this site. I hope you seek some professional help before you ruin any more relationships with people who care about you. everyone I spoke with are just sad that this has happened to you. Please soul search and try to become the happy, friendly person you used to be.

BrandonGroce
BrandonGroce

@Martin Clarke and you just dis regard any information that is given to you just because your "family" lol. A true sheep mind you are. 

Martin Clarke
Martin Clarke

Evolve academy has very experienced instructors. Kenneth Brown and Rachel Demara have world class experince in BJJ, Rick Tavares is a full instructor under Eric Paulson, wrestled D1 and was captain of George Mason Wrestling team and is black belt under JJ Machado. Zack Davis was a competitor in the UFC just to name a few. Let's not forget Mike Moses who is a Pan Am champion in BJJ and actually competed in Muay Thai and has trained with Rickson Gracie, Pedro sauer, Leo Dalla, Ryan Hall, Brandon Vera, Wilson Reis and there are many, many more if I asked him the list would expand but mr Moses does not banter these names around because he is not a boastful person. I learned all this from other people and was easily confirmed by the powers of the Internet.

If you want facts about Evolve and Mike Moses do some research, visit the academy and compare to others. Make your decision based on facts not on the Randy's of a keyboard warrior.

AR15Roby
AR15Roby

Visiting here was one of the most bizarre and surreal experiences I've had in martial arts.  Master Mike seemed like a genuinely nice guy but the place reminded me of a Karate Mcdojo.  I had trained at several other BJJ academies back home, at college, on vacations etc and this was so unlike any of them.  I couldn't get out of there fast enough.  


HendAlweeshy
HendAlweeshy

I am saddened by this. You really are a coward for bashing such a great place like evolve academey.

Master mike taught me and my hsuband so much and for you to accuse him just shows of how of a weak person you really are. All of your allegations are pathetic . My husband earned every belt he got along with my niece and nephew. Anywhere I go I promote evolve because mr mike doesn't just teach martial arts he teaches life too. If you are doing this to get famous or to have people read your pathetic article , good job you got something in life.

JordanTabor
JordanTabor

I'm not sure your information is correct. Evolve Academy legitimately does great things. I went there and learned a a martial art, a trade, and a new way of life. They also do a lot for veterans, and for the local police, and for the community in general. The martial arts training is top notch, and I found myself able to take on some of the worlds top experts, after the training I received there. I don't currently work there, nor do I derive any benefit from stating these facts. It's just that they are who they say they are, and deliver what they say they'll deliver. Evolve is the real deal.

JulianGabbard
JulianGabbard

Eric, why are you so certain that your friend that gave you this information is correct? This post not only offends those that run the program, but insults every person that has ever been promoted at Evolve saying our belts are bought not earned. This is what calling Evolve a McDojo implies. I have represented my rank well in the few tournaments I've competed in and when I travel and visit other schools. If my belt was bought I think a good indicator would me be outclassed at tournaments and smoked at other schools. That has not happened at all.


When I instructed classes I always promoted learning the art and character development. Master Mike never asked that I push products or anything of the sort. His expectation of me always were, make sure students are training safely, push character development through the art, and make sure they are learning functional self defense. I wanted to pass along my personal experience as an instructor.


Julian Gabbard

brand0ngr0ce
brand0ngr0ce

@JulianGabbard  Evolve is good technically in regards to other mcdojo schools. But the thing is the other side of the coin which is the philosophy of martial arts which Evolve is lacking in, it is not taught. You cannot have a coin with just heads, you must have heads and tails to have a coin. And MOST the higher belts, among you yourself have had conversations with me about how Evolve has changed through the past years, and how Its been watered down, but with all this talk behind the curtains no one has ever come out and said anything about it. Selling out. You can't call yourself a martial artist just by knowing technique. Martial arts is a philosophy, a mindset,"the way". 


People don't know what they don't know, that is why people think that what they are learning at other said mcdojos is "martial arts", when in reality what they are learning is just how to kick and punch, and being sold achievements. 

BrandonGroce
BrandonGroce

@Martin Clarke @brand0ngr0ce @JulianGabbard You do realize those are the only 2 people that travel and train at other places besides Evolve? They train with more that just evolve that is what makes them good. And again... what makes a McDojo a McDojo is not just the physicality but the lack of philosophy. You think of Martial Arts as only variations of technique, which it is not. 

Martin Clarke
Martin Clarke

@BrandonGroce @Martin Clarke @brand0ngr0ce @JulianGabbard 

You made and incorrect assumption.. More people went to worlds and 1 other person medaled.


I know they train at multiple places.  the point I was making was that there are quality people that instruct and train there and you can learn a lot from all kinds of people   

MelissaSnider
MelissaSnider

Eric, your allegations are completely false....you should have done your homework before ever posting such lies and slander. The Youth Sponsorship is something that I created out of the request of one of our students. She urged me to help a child in her community that had lost his parents and was living with his underprivileged grandmother. He had begun hurting himself and our student hoped that martial arts might offset some of the stress he was feeling.

At that same time, I had a former student contact me from Child Welfare Services, asking me if we would consider taking in a child that had always desired to train in martial arts. Without hesitation, Master Mike and I agreed to allow this child to train and began putting together a program that would help to pay for children in need's training, equipment and uniforms.

While we have had several students offer monetary donations and have (3) children whom have benefited from Master Mike's generosity, to date I have not accepted one dime towards this program. Our school is a family that helps one another and we have no other agenda.

The cost of training, uniforms and gear is substantial. Some children might need everything paid for, while others may only need gloves or a Gi. Our goal is to be able to provide for those less privileged and to keep them off the streets and out of trouble.

Everybody who knows Master Mike, knows what a big heart he has....he has donated his time and money to animal shelters, to wounded veterans and military training programs, he has run free self defense seminars and is actively involved Habitat For Humanity. I am trying to follow his lead my reaching out myself.

Please feel free to drop by Evolve and I will happily let you speak to those who have offered to donate.....or to show you the materials I have created for this program. I am proud to be a part of such a fantastic community service project and will be more than happy to share with you!

DanMiddleton
DanMiddleton

Not commenting on the content, or saying anything either way (as I don't know Evolve). But it looks kind of bad that their groupies have shown up, like a cult,to hurl insults

brand0ngr0ce
brand0ngr0ce

@DanMiddleton lol you thoughts are headed in the right direction ... "Martial Artists" throwing insults at someones opinions & observations... its a shame what Martial Arts has come to man. You should see my facebook wall and inbox of me and my cofounder @ericvutran. Shit be cray. 

Martin Clarke
Martin Clarke

I am not a groupie. I am a customer who gets a sevice for the fee I pay. The only insults I see are the ones by the individuals critical of evolve.

It is funny that you created a web site just to criticize one establishment

BrandonGroce
BrandonGroce

@Martin Clarke yes you are a groupie... because you take what that school offers and call it martial arts.. if you had a mind of your own (not a groupie) you'd see what is right in front of your face and be able to tell that what is being taught there is not Martial Arts. Sorry to say your a sheep and cannot see these things. 


But I'm happy you can feel apart of something Martin. 

Cheers to you on that. 


Also... If you saw the other articles on this website, you could clearly see that this is the only one talking about Martial Arts academies in general. WIth a personal experience at a place we have trained. So bravo again Martin on you intellect. 

Martin Clarke
Martin Clarke

@BrandonGroce @Martin Clarke

A gropie is an admirer of celebrity who attends a persons public appearances,  I go to classes with my kids, they are in the adult classes now and doing well.  They still have fond memories of you.  If they don't go due to school or other resposibilities I don't go.  I do go to all  their  band concerts so maybe I am a Luke and Noah  groupie.  So yes I am part of a family.

I did not see the otherr artilcles. I have now .  they are good.

Attemptingm to insult my intelligence is very martial artist of you.

BrandonGroce
BrandonGroce

@Martin Clarke @BrandonGroce if you know anything about the laws of war, you posed yourself as a person with a distaste of this article therefore positioning yourself as an opponent/ opposer. No different that someone coming up to you and asserting themselves. In that situation its necessary to react. So if you dont think my reaction is that of a martial artist, I recommend you continue to read up on these things. 


Part of a martial artist job is to point these things out so that others can reflect. Seeing as my comment actually made you go back and think, it was more help than an insult. 


You have to agree to be upset, you have to agree that whatever is said is an insult. I'm just saying take a closer look at what is in front of you. In no way did I insult you, that is how you interpreted it. 


Martial arts is both combatant and a philosophy, many do not understand the philosophy. Seeing as you wrote was mainly about combatants that shows exactly what you are learning in your academy. Martial Arts without Philosophy is unbalanced and is violence. 


I'd like to hear what you think about that. 

Martin Clarke
Martin Clarke

@BrandonGroce @Martin Clarke 

I did not put that much thought into it.  I have other things that I devote my attention to. I don't get any deeper meaning from trainin.  Just having fun and staying fit. 

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