81 – McDojo: A Word That Actually Might Get You Killed

Calling out ‘fake’ martial artists has built Rob the brand McDojoLife with over 300k social followers, but sometimes it comes with a threat to his life.


  • What is a McDojo really
  • How McDojoLife came into existence
  • Rob’s 5 rules in considering if a martial arts school is a McDojo
  • How to run an effective paid trial offer
  • And more

*Need help growing your martial arts school? Learn More Here.

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But sometimes people misunderstand what I'm trying to do and if I call out an instructor or I call out somebody that I think is doing something wrong, which I would never do without really doing my research, then sometimes their students, some of their students may have some type of a slight mental handicap, not making fun of them, but that has happened where I had a student who was on the spectrum somewhere and he threatened to kill me.

GEORGE: Hey, this is George and welcome to the Martial Arts Media Business Podcast. So today, I have a different guest with me. And when I say different, but we are going to explore a whole different topic. So one thing that comes up every time I speak to a martial arts school and the last couple of shows, I've explored the conversation of what is a McDojo? 

What is a McDojo really? It's a term thrown around, it's thrown around quite loosely. A lot of people are quick to label a school a McDojo or they're not, and then there's obviously people that are really fake martial artists out there that need to be called out.

And somebody that does really successfully and has a huge following on Instagram is Rob from McDojo Life. Now welcome to the call Rob.

ROB: Hey, thanks for having me, man. I appreciate you having me on.

GEORGE: Awesome. So now, here's an interesting little twist. I can only introduce Rob as Rob and I can't actually share what his last name is. Why is that, Rob?

ROB: Well, I… you can't really get my last name because I actually get death threats often, so I don't like people looking me up that way. So you can't have that. But that's the only reason. It's not that I'm not trying to be cordial or anything like that. I just don't want people finding out any information about me because that always goes bad, especially with my job, I pretty much call people out all the time, so I try to keep my personal and my business separate as much as I can.

GEORGE: All right, that's really interesting. So you've got, well let's talk about, right, because you've got a huge following on social media, yeah?

ROB: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Roughly right now currently about 300,000 between the different social medias, between Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and now I've started up a Twitch and YouTube, so it's been growing.

GEORGE: Okay, so what's the whole drive behind this? What's the purpose behind McDojo Life?

ROB: Well, the idea is that our job as martial arts instructors is to teach people how to defend themselves. And we would hope that if we do our jobs correctly, we can actually protect people in their times where they might have to protect their lives or a loved one's lives or anything like that. The problem when you have a shyster or a charlatan or someone who's out there lying to their students is that those students are basically taking that person, those students… those instructors are taking advantage of those students. 

And what's going to happen is we as martial artists are already aware that those people are being ripped off. We already know because we can look at this from our perspective, people who have been doing it for years and go, “Yo, that's wrong. That's incorrect.”

But from a student's perspective, they've put in a lot of time, effort, and years and years of dedication into an art or into a person, like the instructor, who might be teaching them something that can get them seriously, seriously injured. And I would imagine that there would be more of an uproar about this kind of thing, especially when it comes to things like pedophiles in the martial arts, people who rip people off financially in the martial arts, people who lie about their belt rank and their fight record when it comes to martial arts.

So it just blows my mind how many people are indifferent and the old saying goes, “Real evil is not like evil. It's indifference.” And so all these great martial artists are like, “Hey, if we just let them be, then what will happen is our art will grow and they'll eventually dissipate.” And that's not the case. I've been posting every day, pretty much a new video, sometimes I post some of my old favourites just because I like to, but every day for five years and I have yet to run out of material. And I realized that these folks are growing exponentially because they're getting really good at business and there's a stigma about great martial artists or good martial artists being called McDojos.

So what's eventually happening is all the frauds that are learning these business systems on how to grow their studios are growing, because that's what those systems are for. And all of these fantastic martial artists are failing horribly because they're worried they're going to be labelled a McDojo if they're financially successful, not understanding that if you're not financially successful, your business will fail and no one will follow you because you aren't teaching anymore. You're going to be working at a Winn-Dixie or whatever the hell else you do.

And so the idea of what I'm doing is to open up people's minds to what the real issues are and that usually isn't monetary. Usually. There are usually much bigger issues than a studio being successful. Usually people who hate on that kind of stuff are just that, they're hating on because they're not that successful, and that's a shame. Hopefully, the idea is to create a conversation between different martial artists, between different arts, that we can all come together to an agreement on what is and what is not legit.

GEORGE: All right, interesting. Because I work with a group of schools owners we call Partners, and one of the biggest filters that we put in place, and to me, it's almost kind of like, I wouldn't say a joke, but it's like you've got to be teaching a legitimate martial arts and you've got to be helping students actually achieve the results. For me, from what I see just obviously around where we are based in Australia, I don't really, it's not a common thing that I see a martial arts practice that is really, really shady.

But then I watch all these videos come about and I always question, “Is this current or is it just things that have come from a long time?” Or is that, your knowledge from sharing all this stuff all the time, is it something that's current?

ROB: Of course.

GEORGE: And you mentioned it's a growing cult?

ROB: Yeah, again, like I said, what typically people who are illegitimate do is they try to hang out and then try to study and learn from things that are legitimate. And what happens is we kind of get wrapped up into our own little bubble and our own little world, and become a little bit more selfish. And we forget that no one in the… no one, you can feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, no one actually cares about the consumer, period, in the martial arts community. No one, no one cares.

There's no one looking out for the person who's about to become a student. We only look after the people who are already paying us money. We only look after the studios and how to help them grow, how to help retention. But no one has ever touched on the fact that there's no one actually helping out people who are getting into the martial arts.

For instance, when somebody walks into our studio for the very first time, any studio, your goal is to sign them up. That's the goal, right? To meet the sales quota, to get the person from point A to point B, because we as martial artists truly believe that our art will help them. And that's the goal. Our facility is awesome. Us, us, us.

What we forget is that might not necessarily be true. What the consumer was looking for might not be our studio. But that's not a great way to look at it from a business perspective. So from a business perspective, we're going to try to sell that person any damn way. We would never have somebody walk in and potentially go, “You know what, we're really not a good fit for you.” We would never do that, because we want to help you and we feel like our studio is the best studio for A, B, and C.

No one actually cares to help educate that person before they walk in the door. Guide them to the studio that's going to be the best fit for them, not the best fit for the owner, but the best fit for them. No one really seems to care on educating the general public on what martial arts is, the difference between karate, TaeKwonDo, and stuff like that. As a matter of fact, there are plenty of sales scripts out there to where if somebody calls and they say, “Oh this is so and so's TaeKwonDo.” “Oh TaeKwonDo, I was looking for karate.” And then flipping that on the person to get them sold on TaeKwonDo as opposed to karate.

And so I think what happens is that that's where you get a lot of that McDojo mentality is the fact that it is a little bit shady and the idea is to educate. And that's all I care about. I want to educate them. Somebody is looking to get their grandson into karate because their grandson said karate. And the grandson was really looking for jiu jitsu and explained jiu jitsu, but accidentally said the word karate. Well the grandparent might not understand the difference, and so takes it at face value.

Where I think that that's where a lot of the pitfalls fall is people not necessarily getting to where they're supposed to really be. And I think that that's where the shadiness kind of comes into play. “Well, I'm looking for karate.” Well if I stumble across to get back to your point, if it’s current or not, if I stumble across Kyūsho Jitsu as opposed to jiu jitsu, well Kyūsho Jitsu, that's George Dillman's client and they believe that they can knock people out with their mind. Well, that's ridiculous. That's, you cannot knock someone out with your mind, right. It's ridiculous, right. It's a fraud. But there are thousands of people who believe this.

Or Indonesian Silat – if you look at Indonesia today, someone sent me a video of only a year ago where there was a martial arts demonstration of kids, eight year olds, laying down in front of a truck and the truck runs them over, and the idea was their qi was supposed to protect them from this truck. Two kids died. I've never shared that video because I can't because it will get taken down, but two kids died because they believed in this mysticism.

So is current? Yeah, it's very much current. And the problem is that most of us as martial artists are so busy worried about us, us, us, we're forgetting that they are other people out there getting taken advantage of.

GEORGE: Okay, cool. And I'm going to play devil's advocate with this just because it's going to make an interesting conversation, right.

ROB: Yeah, definitely. I would love it. I would love it.

GEORGE: So one thing that came up, Indonesian Silat, because I actually have a client that does Indonesian Silat and I know they're pretty legit. So I guess I just want to give some context on there could be people, obviously in a style that does a shady practice, which obviously is then detrimental to the guys that are being legitimate.

So from educating, the perspective of educating students, I guess what I'm going to ask, let's say this is the scenario, right, that kid wants to do jiu jitsu and grandparent or parent understands karate or vice versa. How much do you think that would matter if the end result for the child that wants to gain confidence, discipline, and be a better human being, how much do you think that makes a difference?

ROB: Well, why not do football or baseball or basketball or soccer then? If that's all you're into it for, right? But if the devil's in the details and the details happen to be a range of combat that's physically effective to helping you, then I would imagine that whenever somebody looks at something, like for instance, a father in jail, which is another area that can come up, and the father in jail talks to the mom and goes, “I'd really like you to get our son in jiu jitsu.” For specifically, because let's say that he was a black belt in jiu jitsu for some reason. Obviously, this is a hypothetical conversation, but just painting a picture, right.

Let's say he understands that jiu jitsu is effective. It's been proven physically to help you defend yourself on the street. It's been proven in sport. It's a proven art when it comes to self-defense. There are shady people who teach jiu jitsu who don't know what they're doing, right. And so, not all jiu jitsu is going to be created equal and as a matter of fact, if I just take the I out of the first jiu jitsu and it is J-U jitsu, it becomes a different art or if I take the I out of the second one and it's jiu jutsu, now it's a different art as well. And so that can be very confusing as a consumer, as a parent, right.

So, but when you walk into the door and you talk to those people and you first start taking the art, it'd be like the difference between saying, “My child says he wants to play baseball,” and I put him in football. Well why? He wanted to play baseball. And will he still get confidence? Sure. Will he still be in an activity where there's other people? Sure. But you can get all of that in different, pretty much any activity that involved team sports or groups.

So when it comes to your art and your style, it kind of boils down to the details and what you're looking for as a consumer. Am I looking to work closely, especially with women, am I looking to be so close to somebody else that their sweat is pouring on my face? Well if that's not for you and you accidentally sign up for jiu jitsu, you're going to be miserable, especially if you get stuck with a contract for over a year. You're going to have people sweating on you for a year when you didn't want that at all.

So I think that it's very important that you decide what style that you want to do because they are quite different and they all do ask of you different things. Like for instance, if you did a traditional karate, like an Okinawan karate, you're going to be asked to do kata. That's going to be a pretty standard thing. Where if you say, “I don't want to do kata,” and then all of a sudden again, you signed up for this karate, well shit, I'm stuck here for a year and I have to do kata and I hate it. Or it could be the opposite. You don't want to wrestle, and yet you signed up for sambo. Well, that sucks, but now you're stuck in a contract for a year.

So I do think that it matters. But you can also get those exact same stimulus, like confidence, being physically active, having a good social environment, you can get that pretty much anywhere. You just have to trust and trust that that's still helping you with those things.

GEORGE: Yeah, totally. One thing we're really big on in our group is content creation that actually educates the right prospect. And I take this just from the more bullying the authority type of concept. There's nothing more frustrating when you're doing marketing and you, I think you're chasing offers month to month, and month to month, you're just trying to get numbers in.

But from an education standpoint, one thing we always go through how do you position yourself as the authority, and you don't play in the same field of everybody that's trying to just nail the offers down. But how do you start playing that higher field of the people that are, maybe they've got a problem that martial art solves, but they're not prospects for martial arts yet. And how do you start talking to those people on a higher level? But then start an education process with content.

But on a flip note, so you did get a lot of backlash with what you do. Now, what do you say to the legitimate martial artists that say to you, “Well, you just spreading the bad vibes. You're just spreading the negative.” What's your response to that?

ROB: Well, it depends on how they address it. I think every case is a little different, very similar to every customer is going to be different, every student is going to be different. It just kind of depends on how they approach it.

I like an open dialogue. I love it, because I learn stuff too. It's great. I don't know everything about every art in existence. It will take me a lifetime to learn everything about one art. So trying to be able to get a good handle on most arts is a fairly difficult job. Trying to, I'm not trying to be an authority on it, but I've kind of been put in that position where people assume that I am. And then I have to take that and go, “Okay, well I guess I am at this moment, so I might as well learn as much as I can.”

But when it comes to a verbal discourse and when it comes to having somebody who addresses the negative, I always try to talk with them in the grand scheme of things about what I'm trying to do, which is to open a dialogue more than anything else. I want people to be as educated as they can, and I try to do that through humor, because I feel like that's usually the best way to break the ice with any subject, especially if it's uncomfortable. Just a crack joke, man. So I usually start off with usually one liner jokes.

But I also have an analogy, and I want you to kind of think about this and maybe this will help shed light on it. Let's say we're all in a pool and I'm hanging out, and we'll say I'm karate, right. And we'll say you're jiu jitsu and TaeKwonDo is hanging out. Hell, even aikido guy is over there, right, and we're all hanging out and we're all swimming in the pool and we're all enjoying ourselves, right.

And then all of a sudden, here comes the Bujinkan ninjutsu guys and they walk up to the side of the pool and they start peeing in it. Not actually in the pool peeing, but standing out by the pool peeing into the pool. Now, if this was a public swimming pool, no one would be quiet about it. We would look at the person and say, “Stop.”

But since this is a martial arts school, no one says anything. They go, “You know what, we're just going to keep swimming over here and we're going to ignore that guy and he'll go away.” But that's not how it really works. That's not how life works. So what can happen is somebody else is going to walk by and see that that's okay behavior and they're going to walk up to the pool and oh, here comes the George Dillman guys with the no touch knockout stuff and they start doing it too. And then, the next thing you know, here comes the Silat guys who try to put the qi around their arms and try to stab themselves. Oh it doesn't work, they cut their arm, ah. That happens quite often by the way. I've got plenty of video of it. But then they start peeing in the pool.

Eventually, if we don't say anything, there's going to be more people peeing in the pool than people in the pool. And what's going to happen is we can make a decision, either we talk to them now but it's too late and they've taken all of our students and they've ruined that taste and they put a bad taste in their mouth. Those people are never going to join another martial arts studio. Nine times out of 10, once they go into that first studio and they have a bad taste in their mouth, they may, may try one more. But if they get a second bad taste in their mouth, they're never going to do martial arts again.

And so what's happening is those legitimate martial arts studios are losing not just profit, but potential students who will help carry their art over to the next generation, simply because they were too busy worrying about themselves to actually say something about something that's wrong.

And so, I understand that not everybody is going to agree with how I do what I do. But I don't do it with violence. I never encourage anybody to dojo storm anybody. I am vocally against people speaking out at people during their seminars. I think that our goal is to spread information, very similar to a smoking campaign that we had years ago. 

If I want people to stop smoking, I don't punch the president of Marlboro in the face. That doesn't help anything. It makes me an asshole, right. But if I want them to stop smoking, I'll spread information, and then the more people who get that information, before they walk into their first class, before they talk to their first instructor, they'll have a better handle on how to make their own decisions, first. And that's kind of the goal.

And so, I'm not trying to make anybody's decisions for them. What I am trying to do is get them to have a more open dialogue, so they can make their own decisions and research better on their own.

GEORGE: Awesome, cool. Okay, Rob, so now you've got this huge social following. It's got a lot of traction. Obviously, that polarizes a lot of people and it creates love, humor, and hate, right. Now tell me about the hate, because you were saying, this was out of context, I was about to introduce Rob and I was like, “Hang on, what's your last name?” And he said, “Well, I'm not telling you that.” And then the conversation led to, “Well, I get death threats.” Tell me about that.

ROB: Well, with anything that grows big, the bigger it gets, the more people are going to follow you just simply to watch you fail. There's always going to be those people and the term for it is haters. There's always going to be your haters.

But it's funny, because they're like some of your biggest cheerleaders, because they're the ones who are commenting, helping your algorithms, showing more people about your stuff. Even if they… what do they say, bad press is still good press; any press is good press.

But sometimes, people do take it too far. I do get death threats from time to time, which is why I don't give out my last name and I try to avoid that as much as possible. I don't have anything to hide in terms of my particular martial arts stuff. I try to post up stuff of me from time to time. That way, people can see like, “I'm a goofball, man. I still swing nunchucks whether that's good for the streets or not, I don't care, I still enjoy it. And I don't think every martial art that you do has to be about getting into a cage and fighting someone or a life or death situation. I don't think that every martial art has to be that way.

But sometimes, people misunderstand what I'm trying to do and if I call out an instructor or I call out somebody that I think is doing something wrong, which I would never do without really doing my research, then sometimes their students, some of their students may have some type of a slight mental handicap, not making fun of them, but that has happened where I had a student who was on the spectrum somewhere and he threatened to kill me.

Now, when you get a death threat from somebody who obviously has some type of a social disorder, I take that seriously. I really think that this dude has the possibility of doing that, because it's not like I hide where I am. I tell people, “Yo, I'm going to go in to the US Open or I'm going to this tournament or I'm going to the Martial Arts Super Show in Vegas.” So I tell people where I'm going to go.

But I don't want them to know where my house is. I don't want them to know my neighborhood. If they see me in public, chance you're going to be much safer there. But yeah, I get death threats and I think that what I've really touched on was something I didn't expect, which is that martial arts and religion draw such a fine line, such a fine line.

To some people, martial arts is their religion, and just like any religion, if you yank that rug out from under somebody, you yank their belief structure out from under them all of a sudden and you prove to them that something is wrong. They're going to double down or they're going to agree with you. And most people double down. Even with proof in their face, they go, “You know what, you're still wrong. My instructor is not a pedophile.” 

And I can show them the court transcript and they'll be like, “Nah, I don't believe you.” I'm like, “Dude, what other proof do you need?” But they still don't believe it, even if you shove the proof in their face, because they still want to believe that their instructor that they spent 20 years of their life with is still a good human being, because what does it say about them that they followed a pedophile for 20 years and still think that, knowing he's a bad guy, they have to believe he's good.

And so taking that rug out from under people sometimes is really dangerous because it is a belief structure and that really shatters people. And so, they get violent sometimes. It's fair enough. It comes with the job.

GEORGE: Yeah, I've come to realize, especially the martial arts space, if you want to see where the trolls hang out on social, just like running ads or just telling people or ads is the best, especially because I work with martial arts school owners and sometimes that will attract the martial arts crowd and the context will just be, I just laugh, it just means I'm like, “All right. I'm moving forward. The hate's coming in. I'm doing something right.”

ROB: Yeah. And I do feel bad, I feel bad for legit… for instance, so people send me stuff a lot from Wing Chun kung fu and that art, if you're not familiar with it, has a lot of flow drills. It has a lot of sensitivity drills. When you're looking at it, it looks odd. But without context, if you're just looking at it, which is a big problem, which is why I try to explain that there's so many martial artists, if you're going to post a video of your technique, post context. Context is huge.

If I'm looking at a jiu jitsu drill, a solo drill, and somebody is just shrimping on the floor and that's your ad. That is the dumbest ad ever. Because me as a martial artist, if I'm in TaeKwonDo and I've never done jiu jitsu, still I could've done let's say 15 years of TaeKwonDo and I look at jiu jitsu for the first time, and I go, “What is he doing? That's stupid. I've never learned that in my 15 years of martial arts, and I'm going to make fun of it.” Well, that's because the guy didn't put in context.

This is a hip mistake. This is what this is for. Let me show you the times that it's been applied. Let me show you how it works and why it works. And then, now we're explaining our art and helping it grow rather than making it a detriment. I had a long conversation with someone on systema. Are you familiar with systema?

GEORGE: A little bit.

ROB: Yeah, so it's a Russian art and their big claim to fame is that they say that they taught it to the Spetsnaz. And so, fair enough, maybe you did. But I don't know if people are really familiar with how that stuff works, but they don't just teach one art to the military. Those are self-contracted, those are deals that you make with your government to get paid.

And so, for instance in the United States, we've had almost every art taught to our military. So to say, “Yeah, TaeKwonDo, you know the special forces uses it.” No, duh. But they use jiu jitsu and judo and samba and all these other arts. So to say that that's the claim to fame is ridiculous to me. But also, on a side note, have you ever, the movie ‘Men Who Stare at Goats'?


ROB: So, there's a movie based on a true story that happened in the United States where a gentleman was given a whole bunch of LSD and used his mind to knock a goat out who was in another room. And because that incident happened and the goat actually passed out for some reason, they actually gave him his own platoon and allowed him to start teaching what they called the Jedi program and fed these officers, these military people, LSD and tried to teach them superpowers. Our government really did this. And so, whenever I hear people say, “Yeah, I taught the military.” I always think about ‘The Men Who Stare at Goats'. I'm like, “Yeah, but that crazy dude also taught him too.'

So in any case, but I had a conversation with the gentleman from systema about that same thing, about him posting videos or systema in general posting videos with no context. And we had an hour conversation about it, and he tried to explain it as if it was a drill, which I have no problem with. If I'm explaining a technique to a student or to a classroom, it's going to be done maybe at half speed or slower, so people can understand it, but you're still explaining what it's for.

Where in this art, people are waving their hand and people are falling down with no explanation. And so when you have that kind of stuff pumped through the airwaves with advertisements, it's not helping you, because you've got to remember that the person who's looking at your advertisement is looking at it from a student's perspective if they're going to buy anything from you.

And so they're getting a lot of information about how you teach your class, the tonality that you use, what type of person you are. And if I look at that and I go, “Man, I really like the way that guy teaches.” I would go to your class. I would go check that out. But if I look at it and I go, “I don't know what the hell that is.” Well, that's you as an instructor teaching a poor class, but you're teaching a poor class to thousands of people who are potential students.

So it's important that if you're going to show your stuff, you need to show context. It's so important from a consumer's perspective. They need to know what the hell they're looking at. And I think that that's where a lot of martial artists fail and that's why get a lot of that hate. I think that helps.

GEORGE: Yeah, you've hit the nail on the head. I talk about the context a lot. I've got a video surfing around somewhere, The Three Biggest Mistakes Martial Arts School Owners Make, and the big thing on it was context, because the go to thing is just pick up the phone and let's just do a line of everybody punching and kicking. And I'm like, “That can mean so many things.”

If I'm the prospect and I'm like, “I want to hit this class,” and I see an intense class, is that really the thing that I want to see? So just taking that first 15, 20 seconds of, “Hey, this is me from school this and this, and this is kind of what we're doing.” You could have the same content and just change the context around it, and speak to a different person.

So I think it really comes down to the context, but then also, for clarifying on the context is who are you trying to talk to. Let's start with the who and then you can develop the context, and then the content can just kind of follow.

ROB: I agree. That was something that I learned years ago when it came to, because I used to go to Bill Clark seminars. I don't know if you're familiar with Bill Clark, but he was one of the founders or he's one of the heads of ATA, American TaeKwonDo Association. But he was the gentleman who started a lot of the phone scripts and a lot of the business stuff in the United States on how to grow your business and treating martial arts studios like a business.

And I'll never forget him saying, “You don't want every client. Not every client is right for you. For instance, if I have a client who walks through the door, who's already haggling me for prices and stuff like that, who are already trying to get my price down, they're going to cause me the biggest bit of grief later on down the road.”

It's the ones who are willing to pay the price that you're asking for right away, those are going to be your best clients. The people who are willing to pay what it is you're asking for are going to be the ones who are going to break their backs for you because they're paying for it. They're not trying to look for some deal or try to shade you over right off the bat.

And so, you're right, you don't want… you've got to figure out who you're trying to get your prospects from, and that in itself could be tricky, but that also has so much to do with your advertising and how you do it. Are you doing a free trial? Are you doing a paid trial? I prefer paid trials. I'm real big about that. I don't think doing a paid trial, which a lot of people have a stigma, they think that paid trials automatically make you a McDojo, but then I ask them, I was like, “Is there any job you have ever done for free? Any job where you were working and you did it free?” You're like, “No.” Your mechanic's not going to look at you and go, “You know what, I'm going to look at your car for free. It's cool.” No, he's going to charge you for the time. He's going to give you a consulting fee or an assessment vehicle of your vehicle.

So I think it's, and also it helps you weed out bad clientele. If they're not willing to pay you the $5, $10, $20 bucks for your trial, they're not going to pay you monthly dues. They're not going to pay you a dime. You might as well just weed them out quick. So I really love paid trials. I'm a fan.

GEORGE: Yeah, totally. Free trial, from my experience, free trial can work only if you have a super advanced funnel of fulcrum people with your content and you've gone through that process and then work with a free trial.

But if you, free trial and that's your cold offer, especially on things like Facebook, that's hard work, because that's going to take a lot of work and a lot of energy. Then again, on something like Google where somebody has some intent. Yep, they could be a better prospect. But, yeah, the paid trial is where all our clients get the best results, definitely.

ROB: And the cool thing is it could become a free trial, which is usually how the game is played. You pay me, let's say, $20 bucks for three classes and you get a free uniform or a free pair of gloves depending on what your margin is. If it's a karate uniform from Century, I think they're $8 bucks wholesale. I'll give you a free uniform. You paid for it already. You paid me $20.

So then you're in my class and then after you decide either the first day or you want to do one trial, one class, however you want to do it, they already have a uniform that they can't wear literally anywhere else, it's a useless piece of thing unless they actually sign up. And then, on top of that, I can give you that money back and put it right towards the down payment.

There are so many different ways to get people in, and to me, it's not a shady thing, because it's a choice. It's an offer. It's nothing… I think the biggest thing is as long as you're upfront with the people. Just don't lie to them. Don't patronize the student. Don't try to pull the wool over their eyes with what I would consider shady sales tactics.

Now I will say this, I don't think handling objections is a shady business practice. People are going to object. That's just human nature. For instance, in one of the, what do they call, one of the five objections. Let's see if I can remember them off the top of my head. I can't afford it. I don't have the time. It's too far away, the location. Oh, what was it? I have to talk to my spouse. And I have to think about it. There we go. Boom, I still remember them. Not bad, huh?

And so, but yeah, so these objections are always going to come up. Always. They're going to come up every time you try to sell somebody on something. But that's why you do a good job of what I would consider a business tactic called giving a damn. If you actually care about your client, all of those objections are done before we have a conversation. Usually, if you really care about them, you're going to talk to them. “Hey man, what made you want to start martial arts?” “Man, you know, my doctor told me that if I don't lose 100 pounds, I'm going to have serious medical issues and I'm already having them.” “That's a big problem. I care about you. I want you not to die.”

So when you hit me with the objection of, “You know man, I just really don't have the time.” “Bullshit. Yes, you do. You had the time to walk in this door today. You had made the time to not die today. And what you're going to tell me is you're going to walk out the door with a doctor's order that says you have to lose this weight. There's a reason you came to this facility. There's a reason you walked in this door. Let me help you get from point A to point B, because I know for a fact I can.”

That's called caring. That's not like lying to them. All right, if it's the other way around. Let's say it's a fake martial arts studio and they go, “Hey, man, I really wanted to be here for self-defense.” And then you hit them with that old saying, “You know what, most people started for that reason.” And then you just use that to plug and play with whatever problem they have. That's shady. Most people started because they wanted to lose weight. And then the next guy walks in. Most people started because it's self-defense. That's a lie. You're lying to them, right.

But if you're hitting them with the truth, like, “You know what, we had Steven lose 50 pounds here. We've had Susan, she lost 15 pounds here.” Cases that I know personally, we had a guy come into the studio, at one of the studios I taught at who wanted to lose 30 pounds because he had a girl in his office that he was terrified to talk to. He lost 30 pounds with jiu jitsu, that class that I was teaching. Not only did he lose the 30 pounds, he asked her out and they became married and have kids now.

So those are real. That's real caring, right. But when you have the plug and play, like phone script script, where you're going, “Yeah, you know what, everybody started at this studio because of the reason you're saying you want to start.” That's a lie. That's shady. That's where I think most people get upset is when they're being lied to. I think that they respect the truth and I think that when you really care about your client and your student, they'll see the real you. They'll see that you really care, and they'll be more likely to sign up and stick with you because you care.

GEORGE: Love it. So I've got a string of questions because this conversation started from just wanting to talk McDojos and there's some great value coming from this, so thanks for that, Rob. I've got about, we've got about another five minutes or so, so I don't think I've got time for all the questions I want to ask. But let's start with this. Something that we really didn't clarify, I mean if we really look at the term McDojo, in your words, how do you define it as in, “This is a McDojo.”

ROB: I get that question a lot and I have a very definitive answer. So I have five rules. I call them rules. People said that they're signals, but I call them rules, because those are the rules that keep me in check. I don't go after studios unless they break these rules. It's very important to me, and that allows me to keep myself in check with balances.

So rule number one, no pedophiles. I think that if somebody's been a convicted child sex offender, they shouldn't be teaching martial arts and they also should not be legally around children. I know that that sounds like a no brainer and that law should already take place and intervene there, but it's not. There's actually a guy who owns a martial arts studio here in the United States, and the studio's called Warrior's Code. He has three martial arts studio. He was convicted of molesting a 15 year old girl, and for some reason, because of the plea deal that he took in court, he's still allowed to be around children. So I think that that's a huge one, and it happens a lot. There's a lot of pedophiles who do take refuge in opening up a small business, trying to hide the fact that they have ever molested somebody, and I think that that should be weeded out immediately. That's got to stop.

These kids are putting their livelihoods, they're putting their trust in somebody who's supposed to be there for them to help mentor them. And these people are taking advantage of them and that's unacceptable. I don't give a damn what the reason is or what the situation is. Once you've broken that child's trust, you should be done with the arts. Done, period.

GEORGE: Got it.

ROB: So that's number one. Number two is people lying about their belt rank or fight record. If you're going to lie about your belt record and fight records, your chances are good you're lying about pretty much anything else that you can get your hands on. People sweated, they spent years of their life to get their black belt. If you're not one, that's okay. It's okay to open up a martial arts studio as a brown belt. Do it, if that's your passion and you want to do that, you still know more than the new guy. Teach them, but don't lie about it. Don't be like a Charlie Zelenoff who says he's 200 and something and 0 boxer, when all he does is go into gyms, hand people gloves, and hit them as soon as they get gloves on, and calls that a victory. That's lying and that's not healthy for anybody.

Rule number three, shady business practices. There are plenty of gyms that do this. Please never do this if you're listening. But what they'll do is they'll be quite aware that they're about to close. They know they're about to close, and so what they'll do is they'll wait to close until they get that last month's payment and then shut their doors as soon as the payment comes in. And so they'll rip people off of a whole month's worth of payment, when they already knew, they were well aware they were going to close.

Or they'll open up a studio, take the first month's payment, close down, go to another town, and do the same thing. There's been a lot of cases of that as well. Or strong arming your students. Going to their door, when they don't make their payment on time, banging on the door and saying, “You need to give me my money or I'll hurt you.” That happens often as well, and so, that's shady business practices.

Or one that I'm not, I'm on the fence about, but having your students sign up for long-term contracts. Everybody knows damn good and well that the average martial arts student roughly drops out at about a year. So if you're having your students sign contracts for over two, three years, sometimes five years in one case that I saw, and then you're holding them to the full amount after they cancel, that's fairly shady, when you knew statistically that they were going to drop after a year. They didn't know that, but you did. And so that's an ethics thing. So that's rule number three.

Rule number four is no touch knockouts. You can't knock people out with your mind. I'm sorry. You can't do it. 

GEORGE: Unless you take LSD and you attack the goats, of course, yeah.

ROB: You know, I touch you here, you fall over. I hit your hand here and you have a seizure. That's a lie. It's a fallacy. It's not real. But plenty of people fall for it. It's ridiculous.

And then the last one is unsafe training practices and cult like behavior. You're their instructor and their mentor. You're not their spiritual and religious leader. That is not your job. I would never go to my barber and go, “You know man, I'm having this existential crisis. I really am glad that you're here to give me the spiritual advice.” No, I might ask the advice of another friend or a human being, but I'm not going to treat him like he's on such a high pedestal.

You're just a human being. If anybody out there is listening, if you make your students refer to you as sifu absolutely everywhere you go and that's your handle, ehh, a little ego going on there, right. That's just a little weird. But I'll let that slide.

But the unsafe training practices. There's no excuse for that. There's no reason for your students to be sparring full contact out on concrete with shoes and no head gear. That's how people get hurt and die. You accidentally knock somebody out. They fall if their six feet tall. That's six feet down for their head to land. They hit the back of their head on concrete. Now, they're dead.

Or the old school training method where you're hitting your students with sticks every time they get something wrong. You're abusing your students. They're paying you. Remember that. They can leave whenever they want. But that's where the cult like behavior comes in, because sometimes you can brainwash them and make them forget that they can just leave. And so that's one of those things that I think is kind of shady.

So those are my five and those are the ones I stick to. That, to me, is a real McDojo. I could care less how long it takes you to get your black belt. B.J. Penn, for instance, got his black belt, what, two and a half years, three years in jiu jitsu. And then people will turn around on the other hand and say, “Oh, you've got black belt in TaeKwonDo in two years. That's not real.” Well, what is it? Is it okay for just one person? Well, then it's not a rule. It's a guideline. And so that's why I stick to those five rules, because they apply all the time.

GEORGE: Awesome. Rob, this has been a great chat. Loved it. It was awesome, and you shed a lot of great value and a lot of context on the whole McDojo thing and yeah, so what I want to ask you is for anybody that doesn't know how to find you or if anybody wants to know more about what you do and the things that you share, where can they find you online if they haven't already?

ROB: Pretty much anything that is social media, you just type in McDojo life and I'll pop up. You can find, all of my original content is on YouTube. I try to make each social media a little different from the other. I usually do my live interviews, I usually do those on Facebook. So you can find me on Facebook at McDojo Life. Twitter, I'll randomly spew out information on Twitter, but I also share the videos on Instagram, on all of those as well. So look up any of those and you can find me at McDojo Life.

GEORGE: Awesome. Rob, thanks a lot for being on. Thanks for sharing, and I'll connect with you in the social hemisphere.

ROB: Sounds good, brother. Thank you.

GEORGE: Cheers, thanks.

Awesome. Thanks for listening. If you want to connect with another top, smart martial arts school owners, and have a chat about marketing, lead generation, what's working now, or just have a gentle rant about things that are happening in the industry, then I want to invite you to join our Facebook group.

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Thanks – I'll speak to you on the next episode – cheers!

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George Fourie

Hi I'm George Fourie, the founder of When I'm not doing dad duties or training on the mats (which I manage to combine when my son is willing! :), I'm helping Martial Arts Gym owners grow their business through the power of online media.