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Thug Dojo

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"Strike first! Strike hard! No mercy!"

"I'm not positive, but I think Bas Rutten has made the first self-defense instructional video for the bad guy. Which is troubling news because it's much, much better than the ones for the good guy. So I guess the only thing I've learned is that when a bar fight ever breaks out, you're going to die. And if Bas Rutten ever breaks out, we're all going to die."

Where the Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy learns martial arts, possibly through a Sensei for Scoundrels and very likely an Evil Mentor.

"Welcome to Poison Snake Way, where we practice real martial arts! None of that sissy stuff like questing for enlightenment or martial pacifism here. What we teach you is how to brutally destroy anyone and everyone who stands in your way. Inner peace? That's for losers. Here, you'll learn how to rip anyone who pisses you off apart, until they're able only to scream for mercy through their broken teeth and bloodied lips, while they stare in horror at your foot coming down on their face over and over again."

While the Thug Dojo may be effective in producing proficient martial artists, it also produces (as, perhaps, an inevitable side-effect) thugs and bullies who mercilessly pummel anyone weaker than them. Unlike most Real Life Eastern martial-arts schools, which discourage the use of martial arts in anything other than self-defense or fair competition, and expect their students to never raise their fists in anger, a Thug Dojo enthusiastically endorses the use of extreme physical violence on anyone, anywhere, for any reason. While in a competition, expect them to use prohibited moves including Groin Attacks, and training methods that would fit in nicely with Training from Hell, The Spartan Way and Teach Him Anger to get results.

In Real Life, such conduct can get the dojo in trouble with the cops... except in the worst-case scenario, where the Thug Dojo is for the cops.note 

In works with Rival Dojos, the one that is the heroes' most serious enemy will usually be one of these. See also Deceptive Disciple, who may open one of these after leaving a more-upstanding mentor. The Defector from Decadence may be a dropout from here. Compare Opposing Sports Team and Academy of Evil.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple
    • YOMI espouses using martial arts for killing and has become a powerhouse in the world's criminal underground via lots and lots of killing.
    • One minor dojo teaches low down dirty fighting techniques and follows the very typical McDojo stereotype.
  • The Crane Hermit from Dragon Ball has this kind of dojo. His top students defect from the Crane School after Tien Shinhan realized that he's on the wrong path, and Chiaotzu simply followed him.
  • The Shiryu-kai Karate organization in Karate Shoukoushi Kohinata Minoru (which, as the head of the organization acknowledges, is not so much a karate school as a school of MMA,) fits this to a T. Their training is stripped down to almost nothing but working out and fighting, all the time, and a practitioner receives their black belt when they can beat at least six black belts out of ten in consecutive fights. In the words of the head teacher, "If you want to train your spirit, you're better off becoming a monk." He has no reservations about describing his school as "a factory" to produce strong fighters. The teacher also encourages students to commit fouls in competition if they can get away with it, and he won't hesitate to protest about the rules of competition the moment they become inconvenient for his fighters, even if he devised those rules himself.
  • Most of the Dojo from Gamaran are seemingly more about actual fighting and killing than enlightenment and growth, especially such as the Tamagakushi Ryuu (which teaches Ninjutsu), Souen Ryuu (An Oddly Small Organization lead by a murderous Ronin killing people for fame) and Jinsuke's Muhou Ryuu (Which is actually a military organization composed of multiple Ryuus which aims at overthrowing the Shogunate).
  • The Itto-Ryuu sword school from Blade of the Immortal is this trope to the extreme. It has only one rule- no ganging up, you have to win your battles one-on-one, because that's the only way to guarantee that you win because you are stronger than your opponent, and strength is the only thing that matters. Other than that, nothing is forbidden in the name of victory. As a result, Itto-Ryuu is basically a gang of thugs, psychopaths and freaks. Its leader, Anotsu Kagehisa, intends to take over and tear down every other sword school in Japan, which he sees as Paper Tigers more concerned with "form" and "etiquette" than training actual warriors. It generally does not "train" students, just accepts strong warriors into its ranks like a gang, but later in the series as casualties mount they accept promising and dedicated young swordsmen impressed by their philosophy to train as a new generation, which takes the form of Training from Hell to make them strong rather than any formalised instruction.

    Comic Books 

  • Usagi Yojimbo featured sword combat schools like this on occasion. Being set in medieval Japan, a sword school willing to act this dishonorably is a glaring sign that they're either a second-rate school who only care about their reputation as fighters, or outright villains; often both. One story had a group of students set up road blocks into their town because a great ronin swordsman (not Usagi) was in the area, and they wanted to make sure he couldn't challenge their master and risk disgracing the school. Of course, all this did was ensure that the ronin would go out of his way to challenge the school, because to do otherwise now would be cowardice. Furthermore, the head of the rival school was profoundly insulted himself at his students implying he was afraid of the ronin and thus had to meet that challenge to prove everyone wrong.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Enter the Dragon: The students of Han's secluded island dojo are also the foot soldiers of his secret drug operation. Ironically, Han sees cheating in his tournament (even by his own bodyguard) as dishonorable.
  • The Karate Kid movies:
    • Cobra Kai from the first The Karate Kid (1984) is probably the most famous example of this trope to Western viewers (almost to the point that it was discussed about making it this Trope's Trope Namer). John Kreese runs the dojo like a boot camp. Among other things, we see him punish a student who falls out of sync with the others by making him do 60 pushups on his knuckles, and has Bobby Brown (black belt) spar Robertson (green belt), which anyone will tell you is a pretty unfair fight. In the All-Valley Tournament, he orders Bobby to put Daniel out of commission (which Bobby only reluctantly agrees to do so), and has Johnny Lawrence sweep the leg.
    • The Karate Kid Part III shows that after Johnny's loss to Daniel in the tournament, Kreese proves himself a VERY Sore Loser and loses all of his students in the aftermath. He goes to Terry Silver, who gladly offers to help Kreese get revenge on Miyagi and Daniel by manipulating Daniel into coming to train under him, all while setting Daniel up so he'll lose badly in the All-Valley to Mike Barnes. When Daniel wins anyways, Cobra Kai are subsequently blacklisted from tournament competition for Kreese, Silver and Barnes's shenanigans.
    • In The Karate Kid Part II Miyagi's rival Sato Toguchi — the movie's primary villain — owns a series of dojos with heavy market branding, which contrasted the Miyagi family dojo. Daniel and Kumiko briefly witness Sato's protege and nephew Chozen, training other students there (including his toadies, one can safely assume). Unlike other examples, the dojo itself was not given much focus and the conflict was more of a personal one-on-one with both Miyagi/Sato and Daniel/Chozen.
    • The Next Karate Kid had Julie deal with the Alpha Elite, a group of kids in a paramilitary program at her school. Ostensibly they were supposed to be more of a ROTC, but Colonel Dugan has a similar Training from Hell intensity as Kreese.
    • The remake has one too, of course, although it would probably be called a "kwoon", since the movie takes place in China. It's run by the ruthless Master Li, who for all practical purposes is a Race Lifted version of John Kreese.
  • A gym/dodgeball version of this trope appears in DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story. The Globo Gym has a Jerk Jock mentality when it comes to fitness training and this extends to their ultra-aggressive form of dodgeball, contrasted against the Average Joes' genuinely nice guy personas.
  • The 3 Ninjas movie has the children kidnapped and dragged to a dojo like this, in order to hold them ransom to blackmail their grandfather into teaching the ninjas. Considering the 'ninjas' at this school are not only highly visible ninjas but also beaten up by 3 little kids with only a summer of training one can understand why their leader would be going out of his way to find a better sensei.
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies depict Shredder's training of Foot soldiers in this manner.
  • In the Star Wars universe, the Sith fit this role. While there are usually only two Sith at any given time due to the Rule Of Two (there used to be Sith academies like the Jedi but Sith philosophy meant that they usually degenerated into bloody internal feuding) the master-apprentice relationship works the same way. The Sith philosophy means that a successful Apprentice must surpass his Master and then kill him to take his place, if he doesn't, it means he has failed.
  • Beerfest shows the German team training in a sophisticated gym with modern equipment, with the patriarch of the family urging them on.
  • In The Art of Self-Defense, Casey joins a karate dojo after he gets beaten up and mugged in hopes of becoming more self-confident. However, it's soon made apparent that this dojo is more about promoting toxic masculinity through karate instead of anything positive. Not only does Sensei hold a "night class" that's much more brutal than the day classes, it turns out that he and the other members of the dojo were the ones who mugged Casey to begin with, and they're also not above killing people.
  • In the Billy Blanks movie Showdown 1993, Lee (Patrick Kilpatrick) runs a dojo that not only encourages its teenage students to use their fighting skills to become bullies at their local school, but trains them for illegal fighting tournaments run at the same building. Lee brutally punishes failure to win. When Billy, the janitor at the local high school who teaches new student Ken to stand up for himself, finally confronts Lee, the evil sensei has alienated even his own disciples.
  • A Dangerous Place (1995, starring Corey Feldman): The Scorpions dojo sensei not only teaches his students to be ruthless and use dirty tactics ("mercy is a fatal mistake!") but also has his top disciples operate as a robbery ring. When a new student is accidentally killed during a robbery, the sensei has no sympathy and insists the teenagers "clean up" their own mess. When the Corey Feldman character reveals that he knows the Scorpions killed his brother, the sensei orders his murder during a competition match—and the disciple only hesitates because there will be witnesses.
  • When Taekwondo Strikes: The Bansan Karate School is a more extreme example than most - they're a front for the Japanese Secret Service, and they kidnap Korean women for use as comfort women.
  • In The Great Fight, Tantino's rival Carroll encourages his students to fight dirty and beats them for underperforming.

  • There were Dark Jedi academies in the Star Wars Expanded Universe that fit the trope. The Sith themselves, before they adopted the strictly master-apprentice approach, made use of the Korriban Sith Academy, as depicted in Knights of the Old Republic.
  • John Rain encounters one in Hard Rain that's funded by a right-wing Japanese businessman, and it's suggested that he does this so he has a pool of muscle he can draw upon if Japan falls into political turmoil.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Daredevil (2015): The Chaste could be interpreted as one, based on what we see of how Stick trained Elektra and later on, Matt, to be soldiers in the Chaste's war with the Hand.
  • Iron Fist (2017):
    • While Colleen Wing doesn't run the Chikara Dojo as a thug dojo, her sensei Bakuto uses the dojo to recruit fighters for the Hand. Bakuto owns a compound in Staten Island that functions as the true thug dojo, as it's where he indoctrinates Colleen's students with the Hand's philosophies to the point they're willing to kill Colleen when she begins to waver in her loyalty to Bakuto.
    • Davos starts one in season 2, mostly made up of members of Ryhno's gang.
  • On Soap Jodie's search for his infant daughter and Baby Mama leads him to a kung fu fortress in California, where they plan to raise her as a kung fu princess using this method. They put Jodie and Maggie (his PI/girlfriend) in the dungeon and plan to execute them; they meet another prisoner who has been there for 20 years.
  • Kickin' It has the Black Dragon dojo, which in its dealings with the Bobby Wasabi dojo is very much an Expy of Cobra Kai.
  • Cobra Kai provides an interesting look at the titular dojo by making Johnny Lawrence the main protagonist. It also deconstructs it by showing that, while Johnny genuinely means well and wants to help bullied kids stand up for themselves, he is still a student of John Kreese, and his methods make his students become no better than their tormentors. Johnny successfully manages to restore the dojo and get it qualified to participate in tournaments but he unwittingly uses similar tactics to those his own sensei used on him; in turn, almost all of his best students wind up embracing the No Mercy creed, to his horror. In other words, Kreese did it intentionally, while Johnny did it by pure accident.
    • Season 2 has Johnny realizing his dojo is this and tries to reform it into something better, wanting to teach his students that honor and raising your goals are important lessons in an attempt to avoid them living a life of regrets like him. Unfortunately, Kreese returns, undermining his attempts and ultimately stealing the dojo from under Johnny, ensuring that Cobra Kai will continue to be a thug dojo.
    • In the third season, Kreese proceeds to actively weed out students he perceives as weak (or who were loyal to Johnny) and starts recruiting pre-existing thugs like Kyler and Brucks. This starts pushing the Cobra Kai delinquency to new heights as he fosters aggressive behavior and pushes the rivalry with Daniel LaRusso's Miyagi-Do, with Hawk and Tory Nichols degenerating into Ax-Crazy territory. Johnny, after prodding from Miguel, opens his own dojo in Eagle Fang and his first lesson to his students is that they are learning skills and discipline to stand up to their enemies, but they are NOT to bully their classmates, as he learned the hard way that ignoring that lesson will end badly.
    • In season 4, Terry Silver is brought back into Cobra Kai by Kreese and surprisingly tries to reform the dojo somewhat, trying to install a sense of Pragmatic Villainy amongst the students and not start meaningless fights or let their violent impulses get the best of them. This causes Kreese to accuse him of going soft and leads to them clashing over what kind of thug dojo they are supposed to be running, and a frustrated Silver gets nastier in response to Kreese's prodding to the point of actually scaring Kreese with his assault of Johnny Lawrence, frustrating Silver even more and prompting Silver to just oust Kreese and take Cobra Kai for himself.

    Video Games 
  • The Shadow Dragon Cult in Lunar: Eternal Blue kidnaps children and puts them through hellish and abusive training in Shadow Dragon Karate, according to their leader's belief that to forge someone into a great martial artist, you must teach them to be cruel and ruthless. Shadow Dragon Karate is stylistically identical to Blue Dragon Karate, and is only distinguished by encouraging its students to be evil.
  • In EverQuest II, once Lucan D'Lere took over the city of Freeport, he gave the monks of the Ashen Order two choices: Either comply with his will or leave. They packed up and moved out, but a few less honorable students stayed behind to form the Dreadnaughts, a guild of thugs who believe in inflicting pain, fighting dirty, and just embracing street fighting in general. Just like actual thugs, Lucan D'Lere employs them to rough up citizens who fail to pay their rent and protection money, among other things.
  • Jade Empire:
    • The Black Leopard School is host to a martial arts civil war - half the students favour Master Radiant, who stays shut up in his room, while the other favour Master Smiling Hawk, who is suspected of harming Radiant somehow. The twist is that Smiling Hawk did indeed poison Radiant...successfully. Radiant is a ghost, so he waited until someone who wasn't afraid of that (like, say, the Spirit Monk) came along to denounce Smiling Hawk.
    • The Lotus Assassin Fortress is a place for training new Lotus Assassins, though they mostly take already-veteran fighters as students. The students are ruthlessly stripped of their individuality and then treated as expendable pawns in their masters' schemes. Those who survive become living weapons for Death's Hand.
  • The Shadow Warriors from the Double Dragon series are a literal example. Originally a biker gang (at that time, under the name of "Killers"), they gradually expanded into a large organization after a nuclear fallout and their ranks are composed of crooked martial artists. Even The Goomba can occasionally pull-off cartwheels while moving.
  • In the Imperial China chapter of Live A Live, the Arc Villain of the chapter is the Indomitable Fist led by Ou Di Wan Li, a school of martial arts that terrorizes the populace and embraces brutality and cruelty as its creed. After thugs from the Indomitable Fist raze the Earthen Heart Shifu's dojo and kill two of his students, him and the remaining student begin to pay back in kind all the way to Ou Di Wan Lee himself.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The entire Fire Nation is implied to be degrading into a nation-wide version of this. The dragons reveal to Aang and Zuko that the Fire Nation has forgotten the true motivations/focus of fire bending and twisted it to being about anger and rage only.
    • The Earth Kingdom has some less-than upstanding earthbending teachers more concerned with making money from students than teaching proper bending.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had the Slash For Cash Dojo, although the sensei and students were a joke; Shredder called them "clumsy fools", even though they worked for him.
  • Parodied in the American Dad! episode, "Scents and Sensei-bility", when Snot joins the Joe Biden Dojo run by a man named Sensei Tom who trains all his students to embrace their inner rage and get into constant fights outside the dojo. Not only do all his students get into constant trouble for fighting in school (Snot and Steve are directed to the dojo by one of his students, who's been expelled from school so many times he doesn't know the whole alphabet), Sensei Tom is portrayed as a loser who has to live in the dojo and steal Wifi from the Korean restaurant next door. He's so poor Steve managed to bribe him with twelve dollars.


Video Example(s):


Cobra Kai

The original trope-codifier. John Kreese runs the dojo like a boot camp. Among other things, we see him punish a student who falls out of sync with the others by making him do 60 pushups on his knuckles, and has Bobby Brown (black belt) spar Robertson (green belt), which anyone will tell you is a pretty unfair fight. In the All-Valley Tournament, he orders Bobby to put Daniel out of commission (which Bobby only reluctantly agrees to do so), and has Johnny Lawrence sweep the leg.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / ThugDojo

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