McDojangs Create An Entitlement Culture

        Jimmy, 6 years old, is going to test for his black belt and you better dang well expect him to pass…or else (angry parents)! He has never failed one promotion test ever, even that one time he completely forgot his form, and that one time he never broke a board and the instructor had to pretend he broke it by snapping it for him…he is after all PAYING money and DESERVES to test for his black belt! After all we are all about encouraging kids and giving them tons of self esteem and want to reassure them that they are CHAMPIONS even if they still cannot do a proper back stance or kick past their waist.

I’m testing for black belt and I already got my cool black belt style dobok in advance! My mom paid tons of money!

        Much like the current government welfare state, mcdojang’s worldwide have created an entitlement culture within martial arts. A gimme, gimme culture of belt ranks and affirmations for people who believe they absolutely deserve to be the next belt rank up, even to black belt, or just assume they deserve to be a black belt. After all they paid money for it and the instructors want that money so they encourage everyone to test, even those who are clearly not ready to test. And everyone passes! No one fails. The greed of so many instructors and martial arts organizations, especially those masquerading as Taekwondo but actually are a completely made up system marketed solely for profit and not a martial art, has been disguised as “self esteem building” or “confidence” instilling programs. This is nothing more than spoiling the already spoiled brats who sign up at your average mcdojang because of their rich parents who have no problem paying an extreme amount of money to get their kid a black belt (within 1 year of course! Not that extremely long 3 years crap you hear at that other gym where they waste your time training hard).

        This current Taekwondo climate has made it very difficult for true instructors of the Taekwondo martial art to keep students. Both because people assume Taekwondo sucks and your gym is a belt factory and daycare center, and also the students who actually still want to take Taekwondo refuse to stick with you because they are not automatically given belt ranks unless they have the skill to match.

        Being a Taekwondo instructor in this day and age and wanting to be legitimate and given the proper respect any other serious combat gym is given is very tough. This entitlement culture has many school aged kids as well as young adults competing with each other about who and who is not a black belt. Kids go to school and talk to other kids who go to other various dojangs or dojos and kids who go to the mcdojangs will say “I am a black belt!” and boast about it to other kids who might only be a green belt at a legitimate martial arts gym which passes students based on skill. Kids often are belittled by the spoiled mcdojang brats or influenced to quit a legitimate school to go to another school where their friends are for a fast pass to black belt. Other times kids who previously went to those mcdojangs realize it is too expensive then come to your gym to try it out. They are very turned off once they realize they cannot wear their brown belt in your gym and are going to have to start over since your style is completely different with different forms, self defense techniques, and overall standards especially in the technique and skill department. Of course some of these kids have enough experience to learn your curriculum fast and promote faster than a student who is completely new to martial arts training, but they become impatient even at that thought, and quit your program and go back to their mcdojang or find another one who will let them keep their rank, or even test into a higher rank right away.

        There is some hope though, some parents do see the marketing gimmick and money making schemes mcdojangs use to trap parents into coughing up cash every month. If you market your martial arts teaching to the enlightened parents, even though there seem to be few, you have a high probability of keeping your students. If you also look for a particular quality of student and parents where you know they want their kid to learn a real martial arts style and learn skills, you will do better than just allowing anyone to enter your gym and train. Once you do keep students make sure you emphasize fighting ability over belt colors. If right away you encourage kids about learning to fight over belt colors, you have instilled in them martial arts values that will last a long time, and none of the mcdojang madness outside of your gym that tries to entice them will influence them.

        Steps to take:

1. Advertise realistic fighting, be able to prove it and have full confidence that your abilities are decent and worthy. You better make sure your students get good too.

2. Look for the enlightened parents who want their kids to actually be good at something and know self defense.

3. Only allow high quality students to join your gym with good parents. Make them audition to join your gym by interviews and testing their behavior in a couple of free classes.

4. Instill in students their first day of class that learning to fight is the purpose and valuable self defense techniques are why they are joining. Not to wear pretty colored belts until they get a cool black one.

*One way to do this is take off your black belt, tie it onto one of the students and talk about how awesome the kid is as a black belt to the other students. Ask them if they think he can kick your butt in a fight. When they say, “NO WAY!” Then say, “But dude he is a black belt!  And try to make them question their logic. Then say, “Ok let’s see! Fight me! beat me up hit me!” But do it playfully in a fun way. Not a serious or scary way. The kid should laugh and attack you with whatever he can make up, then you should grab him and do a sweep or some fun silly move or throw fake strikes that show you would obviously destroy him. The other kids will get the point. Then talk about how a belt color has absolutely nothing to do with skill. Anyone can buy one, tie one on, or go to another gym and be given one. It does not mean they can fight. A piece of cloth is not magical power. Then go on to talk about how belt ranks are given only to those deserving and are not paid for with cash. They are also not a status symbol to show off, but simply given by an instructor to know who is more advanced then other students. If the kids enjoy it, tie the belt on a couple more kids and fake fight them. This drill will show that belts do not matter but skill matters. From that point on instead of belt chasing they will be skill chasing and will practice hard to learn how to fight and master the martial arts. 

        It is sad that Taekwondo and many martial arts are full of an entitlement culture, and the vast majority of people only want to show off and have things over another person and status than actually sweating hard, getting in shape and obtaining fighting skill. But don’t give in! And have encouragement. Market yourself for skills, not superficial things backed by a silly pyramid scheme “taekwondo” organization. Get legitimate certification in the true martial art and base it on your skill and proper qualifications.


White Dragon is a 3rd dan Taekwondo Black Belt with over 19 years experience in the Martial Arts and head instructor of the White Dragon Dojang Martial Arts Training Program. 

  1. MesYang88 says:

    A recent test in my style probably would have made you sick to your stomach… Eight people promoted to black belt all under the age of 10. *sigh* And having trained with and taught these kids I’d say none of them were black belt material. Reminds me of when I was a sucky student as a kid, trained for 3 years from the time I was 7 till when I was 10, and was denied the opportunity to test for my green belt. Makes me frustrated and upset when I think of how far the standards have dropped.

    Though with this particular case I don’t think it’s about greed towards testing fees.

    I do agree with you that sometimes instructors push students along simply so the student doesn’t quit (my parents forced me to quit after being denied to opportunity to promote). As someone who’s headed several schools I understand that sometimes you have to retain and teach children that don’t really “Get It” just so you can afford to keep the doors open for the adults and children that are dedicated and hard working. Its sad but out of every 100 students that walk through the dojang door you might only have 1 or 2 that have what it takes to be a legit black belt.

    • White Dragon says:

      Thats why I think if you instill a culture of skill and self defense training and make it known to parents that is the point, the whole belt thing won’t be that important. And if you do not treat higher ranks as anyone special like a status symbol people wont see it as something they only care about.

      If you can somehow make them know they are progressing even if there is no belt rank promotion they will feel great about their training. You can make them progress and help them understand what they need to do to have the skills to get the next rank. Thats how i do it with my students.

      Also on the other hand its also wrong to deny someone promotion with really ridicules standards.

  2. MesYang88 says:

    Just curious the italissized part, where’d you get it from? Or was that you’re own thoughts? I think its an interesting and good idea (though I probably wouldn’t use my belt, lol.)

    • White Dragon says:

      Those are my thoughts. I wrote that. And I do it with any kid student because of all the local mcdojangs in the area which are belt factories.

      • MesYang88 says:

        Nice! It definately gets across a powerful point that many practitioners don’t realize till usually after they recieve that “coveted” black belt. 🙂

      • White Dragon says:

        It does and makes them want to learn the martial art and be good and not care about promotion testing. I dont have set testing dates just whenever i think you are good enough to promote thats when I test you. If you arnt then I dont test you. I want people to not think the belt is sacred or magical and that learning the techniques is what makes you awesome.

      • White Dragon says:

        I dont charge anything for testing either except you buy the belt and pay for a board etc. like 5-10 bucks total. belt board and paper printed.

      • MesYang88 says:

        I like that you don’t charge extra for testing. I had a Hapkido instructor similar to that. His testings were $20 regardless of rank and that included the belt and certificates which were awarded at each belt level.

        Testing money, and who it should go to, causes a lot of drama and animosity in some associations.

      • White Dragon says:

        Some people use it to rip people off. I have a goal if making a living and as much money as possible off of my training itself and the high quality I want to present to all of my students. I dont want to make money off of testing fees and whore myself out by signing papers for everyone when they suck.
        Another way to make money is of course selling gear etc…I wont demand people buy uniforms from me or even belts from me. But I do have a specific style and uniform code you have to follow, but you have to buy your own from anywhere you want. If I do open a large gym I will suggest they can also buy from me.

        What I do for testing is make them buy the belt, $5. Buy the board $2, and buy the certificate printed paper I signed $2. It is about $9 but some people just give me $10 anyway.

        Black belt ranks I do plan to charge a larger feee as well as they have to pay for Kukkiwon certification (which does not go to me but goes to Kukkiwon). Everything else will be about 9-10 bucks. I do this bc I want people to know without a doubt they did not BUY their rank but earned it.

        Why do I charge? because I dont make alot of money, belts cost me money to order, having home depot cut me boards costs me money as well as time to go do it and the certification paper is printed at Fed Ex on nice paper and a dsign I made which costs about $1.38 so I just say $2 to make it easy and make a few cents profit. Also, gas to go travel to do these things. I probably make a couple of bucks profit, enough to get a coffee at the gas station or something. lol.

  3. dobokdude says:

    Hey white Dragon dojang. So remember when I mentioned I want to be a cartoonist. Well my cartoon is going to be a martial arts based one. However in alot of cartoons when martial arts are shown it’s just a bunch of fancy looking “karate chops” and kicks that look cool. What I want to do is animate the fight scenes so that martial artists who watch it will sit there and say “Hey I remember that punch,kick,throw,etc.” Basically I want the fights to contain real life techniques instead of all that fancy looking ballet. Also I really want to include non Asian martial arts so that people will see that the whole “Only Asians have martial arts” crap will be irrelevant. Some examples are Savate a french form of kickboxing. Capoeira a Brazilian martial art created by African slaves who were taken to Brazil and disguised the arts fighting techniques to avoid punishment. Sambo, a Russian martial art combining Judo influence with Russian folk wrestling styles and striking. Pankration a Greek martial art that contains boxing and wrestling techniques with additional elements such as kicks locks etc. And I would like to have an overall moral for the series with “mini morals” tying into the big one. Also I must ask something else. An old friend of mine said something that still kinda eats at me. When I called Taekwondo the Korean art of self defense he said that since I’m black I should already know how to fight and that Koreans need taekwondo since they are too weak to defend themselves. He was straight from Africa I’m African American. Now I not sure if I feel as connected to Taekwondo since I’m not Korean and Taekwondo is a significant part of Korean culture. I know I am probably being ridiculous but I don’t know. So anyway let me know what you think about my ideas and how was Easter your YouTube channel said you were Christian like me:)

    • White Dragon says:

      Yes I am a Christian. Happy Easter to you too.

      Well I dont know what your African friend is saying about being black and automatically knowing how to fight. I mean stereotypically yeah but reality not always the case. Depends where you grew up.

      Sure make a cartoon. have fun.

  4. dobokdude says:

    Sorry I forgot to mention capoeira was disguised as a dance. But take the moves out of the dance format and you have a killing art. I’m reading that book by the way. A killing art the untold history of taekwondo says that the kicks were inspired by taekkyon but they did not come from taekkyon itself. It also said the reason taekwondo was so effective in Vietnam wasn’t just the techniques but also it gave them the confidence to win showing the perseverance and indomitable spirit the soldiers had from their training.

  5. Jerricha says:

    Very interesting article…as a parent of Tiger Rock kid (not your typical spoiled one), I knew it was commercialized, only trained/tested among other Tiger Rock students, & figured it had a pyramid scheme set up for owners to make money, but I had no idea that it was commercialized to the point that your ranking meant nothing anywhere else. I recall taking REAL classes for a year or so & I remember the intensity was insane. I remember one time I was so lightheaded I thought I was going to pass out. In fear of having to do more & only make matters worse, I was afraid to tell my instructor. So, I could see the obvious differences. My 10 year old has been participating since he was 4, @$120 a month (testing figured in that $120, but not equipment, uniforms, camps, or competitions). They don’t pass everyone at his school. He is VERY athletic, so he’s fairly decent at anything he applies himself to & really enjoyed learning the different things he was learning in his taekwondo classes.

    He’s never been that concerned with his belt colors, but as he began to draw closer to his black belt I began to question his future at Tiger Rock & what role taekwondo in general may or may not have. He has quite a few teen instructors at his school (teaching classes & 10 min. private lessons for $10). I thought it’d be pretty awesome for him to work as a taekwondo instructor while he was a teen & get paid a few dollars to do something he enjoyed (as opposed to some restaurant teens normally work in). Then, my mind unintentionally continued to go on (as it often does) with these thoughts & I thought he could be like some of his adult instructors one day. Instead of him paying for taekwondo so he could stay involved in this hobby/sport, he could make a few extra dollars to teach it & help others. I assumed he’d go into their instructor program once he got his black belt. After discussing “instructor status” to an instructor I’m fairly close with….TO MY AMAZEMENT, I was informed the adults there get paid NOTHING! They are simply working their minimum hours to maintain their Tiger Rock “Instructor Status.”

    I realized that they do try to send everyone to competition, even those that shouldn’t or don’t have a chance. What really baffled me (& contributed to the commercialized realization) was how unprepared I felt my child was. No one at his school critiqued him(or any student) to extent he should’ve been in order to fairly compete. It was a lesson learned. I’d have to work with him to prepare him to compete. As if it should be different in class, they also only did competition sparring (for points & with strikes) the week before testing. So they had no way to work on specific skills or strategies, much less know all the technical rules.

    I love his instructors & his school. They teach many lessons that are too often not taught at home (as they should). Their classes go far beyond taekwondo skills. They aren’t particularly the taekwondo tenants, but they’re more along the lines of manners (that lots of kids appear to lack these days) byrequiring students to show respectfulness to everyone(greet anyone you see when u walk in & anytime someone speaks, you speak back or acknowledge you heard them), encourage responsibility (you will clean/fix anything you break or contributed to mess up & u better ALWAYS be prepared), consideration for others (u better run & look like your late, then ask permission to see if you can attend the clase), acknowledging & recognizing others.

    I appreciate the insight in your article. If I’d known this & there was someone else in our area, I’d definitely look into them. One way to recognize kids progress without moving up in rank/belt color is by setting written (student specific/targeted or even generalized) small, tiered, goals that are tied in & leading to the rather big goals & somehow recognizing when they’ve reached certain so many small goals or atttained a certain tier towards their larger goal. Thanks again for your insight!!

    • White Dragon says:

      You can learn all of those lessons at a legitimate martial arts gym that is not a multi level pyramid scheme. Yes his ranks mean absolutely nothing anywhere else. The “Taekwondo” your son is learning at TR is not real taekwondo and its noting any Koreans do. Go to Korea and you wont see anyone doing anything related to what TR does.
      Also their tournaments are private and dont allow outsiders so it proves nothing. Everyone who is not prepared to fight wins against others who are not prepared proving they are the champions of the low quality point touch competitors.
      Real Taekwondo is full contact and an olympic sport.

      Also true taekwondo is real self efense. Fin a gym certified by kukkiwon who follows the Kukkiwon an WTF standards. Ignore anyone else.

      Also TR is all about $$$. Which is why adults dont get paid and are actually paying to work for “instructor certification status.” Its a joke. Plus the uniforms look stupid.

      Also if you are paying for classes it shouldnt matter one bit if you are late. Its YOUR money an YOU PAID. TR is simply using cult tactics to control the minds of people emotionally and have psychological advantages. Saying “You better look like you are late and ask permission etc etc” its just dumb. Making a person fake a positive attitude to stay acceptable to the in group etc.

      A REAL gym much like Korea of course you have discipline but most often you can quietly enter class in the back and join in. Unless you are on the olympic team or in the military. Obviously.

  6. Meyer says:

    You would love how my dojang does testing.
    1. You can’t be a black belt until you are 13, and even then you are referred to as a junior black belt and not allowed to go higher until you are… it’s been a while since I’ve been home. I want to say 16.
    2. Testings were free, except for paying for the belt. Boards were free, as one of the instructors ran a mill or something and supplied us with so much free wood.
    3. You could actually fail. Because of the large number of instructors (and consequential large amount of individual attention) fails were rare with anyone above 12, but kids had to know their stuff.
    4. Sparring. Light contact since it was mouth guard only, but that changed with your black belt testing. Any instructor who wanted could take a shot at you and the head was the only light contact area(again, bare knuckles and feet).
    5. Testings occurred every 8 weeks. you wouldn’t necessarily get to test, but a regular cycle meant you were never that lonely 1st degree waiting for an opportunity to move up
    If you knew your stuff you could test within the next month or so.

    • White Dragon says:

      Interesting. I like the low cost of testing.

      For me I make them buy boards, the belt, and certification paper I print. I probably charge 15 right now. And yes people can fail.
      Also for adults I do full contact sparring but of course safety gear is worn. I have not tested any adults much.

      Low belts we do very light contact sparring. Also I do both kickboxing sparring and olympic TKD sparring to cover it all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s