Having moments of dread is something I'm getting used to, being a new business and dojo co-owner. It doesn't matter if it's an exploding toilet or a surprise class full of brand new students: Sudden moments of fear seem to pop up on a semi-regular basis. One of those moments happened to me Sunday evening after watching an episode of Star Trek.
I suddenly found myself wondering if the only way to be successful as a business owner was to compromise and become a McDojo. One of those schools that hand out black belts like candy, that breed overconfidence and sloppy technique, one of those schools that gives Karate a bad name. I started picturing classes that resembled a Saturday afternoon at Chuck E Cheese. What if that was the only way we could make it?
Things have a way of working themselves out. We had our first kids BJJ testing and decided to test our kids the same way adults were tested. The students had to get out of a difficult position. Pass or fail, they would either succeed and break free of the hold or they would give up and fail. I was nervous about it. This was a difficult test and parents would be watching. However, the students were phenomenal. They worked incredibly hard and refused to give up, even when class technically ended. Brennan and I were incredibly proud.
It was then I realized that I didn't need to worry about becoming a McDojo. While some students may want to be placated with advanced belts without the time or work, I believe most do not. Parents and students alike are not dumb. They know quality. Deep down they know if a rank was truly earned or just handed out. While it may seem difficult at times, most students want the work that comes before an accomplishment. They recognize when a rank is truly earned and when they are being patronized. I struggle sometimes trying to find ways to make the hundred thousandth time a student has done Seisan Kata interesting and engaging. But students like the journey. They enjoy putting in the work and then seeing the end result.
There will be some students who just want the belt. They will train for a few months and inevitably leave and find a dojo that will provide them with a pat on the head and a belt around their waist. There will also be students like our kids who recently tested in BJJ. We don't need to compromise our standards, in fact we refuse to do so and it isn't even necessary.
When Sensei Leigh and Sensei Brennan aren't training, we're keeping you updated on the happenings here at Rochester Phoenix Martial Arts!