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John Graden

John Graden

Executive Director

John Graden led the martial arts into the modern era by creating the first professional association, trade journal & instructors certification program.

how to teach self-defense
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12. How to Teach Self-Defense like a Professional

This week the truth about the martial arts business is that if you advertise and teach self-defense, you better know what you’re talking about. 

One steps, basics, and kata are NOT self-defense. They are stylized, formal representations, they applicable to fighting as the fight scenes in West Side Story. 

If you are trying to pass off traditional martial arts as self-defense, you are deceiving the public and yourself.

People are NOT seeking  “secret techniques” buried in the bunkai of kata. Bunkai is bunk.

People need real self-defense from a credible source, not some traditional style that was created in a hut on a mountainside decades ago has never changed. In fact, to change the style is martial arts blasphemy. 

According to Google Trends, because of the pandemic and violent riots, searches for self-defense and self-defense training have skyrocketed just like gun sales have soared. That means people are scared and seeking self-defense training.

The single most important skillsets you teach are the self-defense skills that may save a student’s life. That’s why it is so important for you to be able to verify the source and efficacy of the self-defense training that you advertise and teach.

The best source is law enforcement based. Not martial arts. Not military. Law enforcement engage in street fights and confront violent criminals every day. Most military members never engage in a physical fight.

Most martial arts teach outdated skills that were created decades ago without the advantage of video or networking. They had to hide their training, which severely limited any opportunity to collaborate, review, and update the skills. 

In fact, most traditional martial arts take pride in NEVER CHANGING. That is brainwashing pure and simple. To resist upgrading your self-defense skills to honor a style or style creator is a self-imposed ceiling to growth and improvement. You just get better at useless skills.

Self-defense can save students’ lives. To teach anything but the most current law enforcement skills is professional neglect that could cost your students’ life. 

In this special episode, you’re going to listen in on COBRA-Defense founder Chris Sutton teaching adult students in the COBRA ten-week academy, and then you’ll hear him teaching COBRA licensees how to teach Cobra to their students.

I’ll pop in on occasion to set the scene. These clips come from a variety of sources, so the audio can be a bit spotty at times, but the content is pure gold.

The audience for the first 15-minutes is a class of adults who paid $399 for a Cobra-Defense academy that meets twice a week for 10 weeks.

Show Notes and Links

:00 Preview. Shooting the baby.

:55 Intro and show overview

4:43 Defining self-defense for a group of adults in their first class of a ten-week academy.

6:22 The secret formula that gives all bad guys the advantage over their victims.

9:10 “What do you think the bad guy has thought past?

12:08 Why waste a battery charge? How police determine the role of bad guy vs victim.

15:00 Awareness in your vehicle

18:10 Instructor Training: What it takes to survive.

19:45 Instructor Training: Why you have to teach like a drivers’ education teacher.

21:00 Instructor Training: How to explain self-defense.

26:20 Instructor Training: Chris shares real-life use of force encounters he’s had as a law enforcement officer.

Notice Tyson’s hand is by his face, not his hip.

His chin is down instead of up.

His shoulder is up instead of pulled back.

His body is sideways to his opponent instead of squared off.

His legs are under his body not spread apart like he was riding a horse.

With this kind of form, he would fail his orange belt exam in most schools. 

How does that make any sense?

Sensei Tyson?

If Mike Tyson or a world champion kickboxer came to your school to teach your black belts. What do you think he would work on? Double punches, square blocks, and keeping your chin up?

I’m pretty sure he would emphasize head movement, how to snap your punches and a defense that does NOT include pulling your punch back to your hip.

I’m sure the students would learn advanced applications to adjust for different fighters. Notice I said advanced applications, not advanced strikes.

When you focus on application, you can apply that to almost any technique.

For instance, if the drill is about how to fight a taller fighter, the answer is more about footwork to stay on the outside until you can secure quick access. My brothers are 6′ 3″ and 6′ 4″ so I know something about fighting a taller opponent.

Drills that teach that application do not require complexity. They require simplicity.

The more complex a skill becomes, the less chance it can be used. Have you ever seen a double punch? Only in kata and here:

If you eliminated all kata and traditional skills, you could devote that time to drills and conditioning that would give your students a true advantage in sparring or self-defense.

Imagine teaching fewer skills that are easy to teach and learn than traditional skills and kata.

You could spend more time on the application of those skills rather than stepping up and down the classroom and holding blocks and punches out in the air, which leaves you wide open for a counterattack.

Rather than spending student’s time with the complexity and frustration of spending years perfecting the bad habits of pulling their hand back to their hip, keeping their chin up, aiming and holding a punch in the air, and blocking with power while stepping forward, your retention will improve. Your student quality will improve. Your curriculum consistency will improve.

This is the core of our white to black belt curriculum Empower Kickboxing.

It’s an old saying, but true. “Less is best.”

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