What Cats and McDojos Have In Common

By Cats I don’t mean the furballs that yowl at three am and then barf up a hairball exactly where I put my naked foot first thing in the morning. Or drop a live mouse on my bare chest in the middle the night because she is trying to teach me how to hunt. No, I am referring to Cats the musical.

Film Theorists does an excellent job on pealing back the furry mask that conceals the Jellicle Cult.

Actually he’s right, this is how a cult does operate. And it’s pretty much what the character of Victoria went through.

1. Invitation to a non-threatening event.

2. Love Bombing.

3. Dangling “the Prize” in front of you

4. Extracting an Agreement that you want “the Prize”.

5. Shutting down dissent by threatening to remove the prize.

6. Establishment of Guilt

7. Carrot/Stick

8. Control of Identity

Of course, most organizations that are recruiting do something similar to one degree or another. But most aren’t trying to create a delusion bubble and keep people locked inside of it.

Part of what makes a cult work is the recruit himself.

First, find an Omega. Omegas are by their nature extremely isolated. They are the kid who no one sits next to at the cafeteria. They are the one who has no friends or his few friends have abandoned him once it was clear that he is the designated Untouchable. An Omega is the chicken at the bottom of the pecking order.

And a cult offers the Omega a way out of that pecking order. I admit, I shudder to think how vulnerable I was in my Omega days. However, I didn’t end up in the Moonies or the Hari Krishnas. Nope, I ended up in a McDojo.

The evil sensei from Karate Kid was a reasonably accurate portrayal of the cult McDojo Sensei…with one or two exceptions. First of all, a McDojo Sensei isn’t a buff, blonde beach god showing off his guns in a sleeveless ghee. He has a biker’s gut, a huge Ron Jeremy style pornstache and probably a ponytail. If he is bald he absolutely has a ponytail.

The other thing that identifies a McDojo Sensei, is that they don’t let their “students,” go to any kind of competition. “It is not honorable.” That is very important because if their students get ever get hit their delusion bubble will shatter.

He lectures a LOT more than he spars, assuming he spars at all. And when he does it’s only with his instructors, in class “demonstrations.” Chances are good he has invented his own martial art style with a ludicrous name.

I got sucked into a McDojo cult by attending a demonstration. It was the usual silly bullshit of breaking thin boards by kicking them along the grain. Followed by a few gymnastics and a charismatic speech by Sensei Wachowski, whose competition record was 100 wins and zero loses. I was young enough that the even ( and ludicrous) number of matches didn’t set off a warning bell in my head. At that event I got free pass for one month of lessons, (clever that).

Turns out the lessons weren’t quite free. I was required to buy a ghee but I wasn’t allowed to wear the white belt that came with it. I was also told quite emphatically that I was only a candidate student and at the end of month I would be assessed and told if I could continue my path.

I was showered with attention and praise for my minimal efforts during the trial period.

It will come as surprise to none of you that at the end of that month I was told by Sensei Bikergut that I indeed had the “spirit of a tiger.” And that he would indeed accept me as a student but I had to state emphatically at that point how hard I was going to try and win the Blackbelt from him. Which, I did as naturally as a duckling follows it’s mother into pond.

I feel I should mention that my father had died when I was very young. I really didn’t have a male role model.

About two years into this cult, where we would start the class by bowing to a gigantic picture of our thirty year, old 7th degree Grand Master who never taught classes and who looked liked like a fat, bald version of Robert Z’Dar with (yes) a ponytail, my grandfather saved my life.

This seventy-two year old man did it by punching me in the face.

I had been bragging about my Sensei and how super powerful he was. Grandpa had heard me go on about this before and was bored by my antics but nodded occasionally during commercials while he was watching the Cubs lose. Then I told Grandpa about Sensei’s elite, secret technique. The one touch KO. Sensei only practiced it on the junior instructors, never the students because it was just too powerful.

At that point Grandpa wanted to spar with me.

After telling me to, “try not to hurt me, I’m an old man.” Grandpa got into a creaky boxer’s stance. After a few gentle jabs he spotted my mile wide opening and delivered a feet-planted-on-the-floor-whole-hip-is-behind-it full power punch to my face.

When YouTube first set up shop, there was a video going around. This one in fact.

To this day, I still remember how my paradigm shifted without a clutch when Grandpa pasted thirteen year old me. This wasn’t a school yard haymaker and it sure as hell wasn’t the bullshit “sparing” we did at the Super-Elite-Tiger-Ninja-Ameri-Tae-do Dojo. This was the real thing.

When you look at the video above it’s obvious that that “grandmaster” is going through the same kind of belief system shock I had gone though. But at the age of sixty-five. How could anyone be so delusional as to forget he was just waving his hands around?

Simple, he was in a cult. True it was a cult that he created for himself but that is exactly what happened to him. He had been brainwashing people for so many decades that he actually managed to brainwash himself.

I would like to say that I quit immediately but it took me the better part of the rest of the weekend.

3 thoughts on “What Cats and McDojos Have In Common

  1. Why were the students pretending the old guy waving his hands was knocking them over? Had they talked themselves into belief or were they humoring the “master”….

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    1. It’s part and parcel of the delusion bubble AND more importantly the fear of being ostracized, othered and cast out. These are Omegas and their entire social existence does not extend beyond the walls of that dojo. The magical powers of the sensei have to keep being built up for everyone’s sake, not just the sensei’s.

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