Sadly the "legitimacy" you described is apparent in most dojo's around my area. Usually most of the dojo's have "striped belt systems", are mainly focused around their "little dragons" ages 3-5 program, and teach the actual art in a very limited way. I do aikido because there is no "sideline" programs that I have to deal with, just learning the pure art without screaming 4 year old black belts. The problem is most of the karate and TKD schools are focused around the whole "mcdojo" economic logic,not to say that that discredits the owner's knowledge of his own art, it just dulls the feel that you are actually learning something when 90% of the dojo is focused around teaching little kids as a form of babysitting. I almost cried when I saw a nat geo documentary of a japanese karate dojo, and their training and conditioning methods. Fact is you would get nothing close to that in America because the general martial art business has shifted from pleasing the customer instead of actually teaching them something
Yes, well. If you're talking about what "most of the karate and TKD schools" in your area
are "focused around", I'll take your word for it; otherwise, I'd caution against making sweeping statements about styles you haven't studied.
Here's the thing, Nikolay: you're trying to do what almost all newbies do: that is, make a decision based on abstract information and generalizations. While this information has some use, it all has to be taken with a grain of salt, and liberally supplemented with facts in order to be helpful in making a decision about where to train. Also, sometimes when we generalize, we're choosing the wrong thing to generalize around. Thus, when you say that most karate and TKD schools are based around kids' programs, I think you're missing the point: it's not karate and it's not TKD, it's what most martial arts schools of any style in the US are doing (with exceptions for a few styles that are completely inappropriate for children). Sometimes it's obviously a bit of a travesty; on the other hand, there are good martial arts schools that have children's programs, without the Crayola Big Box belt colors and tests every two weeks. You will find plenty of aikido dojos that have children's programs, which can be critical to a dojo's ability to stay open.
Finding a good dojo is a bit like finding a good restaurant, only harder. For every good restaurant, there are a few dozen fast food joints. It's worse with martial arts, because while a lot of people enjoy a good meal in a good restaurant, not many people enjoy martial arts training. In the United States, parents mostly regard it as just another activity for their kids, like afterschool soccer or piano lessons -- it's something for the kids to do, with no expectation that it will turn into anything. It's not seen as an activity for adults. Adults go to work, go home, get dinner together, watch TV, put the kids to bed...maybe get a babysitter and go out on the weekend. If they're young and single, maybe they go out every night. But they don't go to a dojo -- that's seen as very odd. So it's very hard for a dojo to survive exclusively on dues-paying adults unless it's somehow subsidized (like a university club) or is located in a large population center, ideally both. The percentage of adults who want to study martial arts is low, so you need a large population to get enough to students to keep a dojo going. If you're not located in a large population center, most of the time you're just plain out of luck. If you can find a single good school in any style, you're lucky. Hoping for two or three is probably unrealistic.