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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.

Do you think in the post COVID world, people are going to have the patience to spend 3 – 4 years to get competent at your martial arts style?

Pre-COVID, we were already in an “everything I want is just 1-click away” world.

This is a typically outdated and overly complicated presentation of an important skill. Most instructors who are still teaching this way are simply doing what they were taught. I am not trying to embarrass anyone. I did the same for decades.

But the truth is that these kinds of traditional skill presentations are full of smoke and mirrors and founded in folly.

1. It’s the black belt in a gi with stripes.
2. It’s the bowing in just to demo a skill that creates an “aura of authority.”
3. It’s the silly fake punch attack that a regular person would buy into, but we SHOULD know better.

That is all smoke and mirrors.

I don’t blame anyone. I’m just trying to open your eyes to see what is REALLY going on.

These skills were developed in a vacuum in a small village in an Asian country nearly 100 years ago. They did the best they could do at the time.

1. No collaboration with international experts.
2. No video to share and study.
3. Many skills are based on animal movements rather than real experience. Monkey kung fu?

It’s fine if this was a historical demo of, “How they used to do this in the 1930s in Japan…” But, it’s not. It’s presented as being valuable for self-defense in 2020. That puts us all in a sideshow.

I used to teach the same stuff, so I get it. I just want to help instructors move into the present and release the baggage of our collective traditional past.

This could be anyone teaching the same stuff, so I’m not faulting anyone. I’d like to help move us out of the mystery and mysticism that clouds our reality and perpetuates bad info.

There is an alternative. EmpowerKickboxing.com

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There is a better way

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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