A few identifiers.
You instructor has a Grandmasters Certificate. .and all the regional reps are MASTERS and/or GRAND MASTERS The Senior Assistant Instructor is a 12 to 15 year old black belt. The sign in the window says the school trains in more than 10 martial arts and charges extra to learn each one. The "master" claims black belt rank in multiple methods(more than 4) and a master in most of them .That might be true if he was 160 or so years old.
Your instructor tries to sell you products constantly and you can only buy them from him.While examining the schools tournament trophies,they are all from the same association the school belongs to.
. No one sweats or is pushed to try and exceed their limits While at a tournament, your opponent finds out who your teacher is and giggles.When paying for your belt examinations, the instructor says "get ready for you next grading next month" When you ask for the name of the instructors teacher he says"you wouldn't know him it was secret teaching"their teaching is a secret known only to them and is the true way and must never be revealed or shown to outsiders.The truth is that if shown and compared against other methods their secret method turns out to be a lot of bullshido.Professes to teach the only "true" way of any method.
Denys any authentic documentation that denys their claims as jealous lies.Sparring is avoided and contact sparring is a big NO NO Has made up belt levels like camo belts The instructor never teaches but delegates others to .The instructor never spars.All technique is performed against a compliant non resisting stationary partner there is no pressure testing of technique or theorys.Constantly bad mouths all other methods as inferior Teaches kata that use the name of known kata but the movements bear little or no resemblance to those kata.There is variation among different methods but very little .
Does not teach kata or if they do offers nonsense explanations or explanations that fail when pressure tested with a non compliant partner for the movements or avoids it by saying "if you practice hard for many years the secrets will be revealed to you"
The "master" is given god like qualitys including not looking at him directly .Not even the emperor of japan requires that practice anymore.
If a dojo has 2 or 3 of the above attributes it may not be a cult or mcdojo but reflects the desire of the owner to attract and retain students but some of them are obviously cult like practices and mcdojo easy training easy advancement practices.
I think it was Machiavelli in his *Art of War* that said "The greatest reward for a fighting man is simply to trust him." That resonated. I'd worked for a ...