Martial Arts Instructor News and Articles

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.

Glen Gross tells his story

In 2012 I had been teaching traditional Taekwon-Do (TKD) for 21 years. My training for my 6th degree test had just come to a stop as accumulated injuries, from years of patterns and sparring, had taken their toll.

My son Jeffrey was turning 7 and I had promised to teach him the martial arts. John Graden had just introduced his new curriculum “MATA-MA”, promoting it as “a blend of the best, most basic, easy to learn and effective techniques from many forms of martial arts.” I took an instant interest in the program as I looked at the legacy that I would be passing on to my boy.

For months now, I would slowly hobble down the stairs in pain, preparing for a new day. The repetitive motions of my complicated traditional 24 patterns and sparring style had produced torn hamstrings, strained knee ligaments and worn out hips.

I decided this would not be my son’s inheritance. My wife Katie and I were planning a trip to Disney with Jeffery and my daughter Genna, and I wondered how I would even be able to walk with my children.

During the day I sit at a computer as Brandon University’s Distance Learning Specialist with a Master’s in Education. In the evenings however, I am a part-time martial arts instructor, only teaching three nights a week for two hours.

I also have instructors who teach a children’s program (Ninja Tots) for ages 4 to 6 twice a week, but that is the extent of my program. I was enjoying my teaching less and less, due to the pain, and I knew I had to make a change.

Ultimately the decision to add MATA-MA to my program came from a very persuasive argument.  Mr. Graden pointed out, and I had to agree that I hadn’t started taking my style martial arts for the patterns or style of sparring.  I joined for the benefits I believed I would receive. 

He professed that the new curriculum would provide all of the same benefits without all of the complicated, hard to teach techniques. I realized this was the only thing I needed to hear.

In September of the same year I decided to offer two different belt rank programs for ages 7 and above. In the first hour, I offered the new MATA-MA class, and in the second, the traditional TKD style.

When I explained the difference to the new inquiring students, 19 out of 20 chose the MATA-MA class. The one student was Korean and his family was specifically looking for him to take a Korean martial art.

By December I had finished teaching the one month introductory Jiu Jitsu module to the MATA-MA class. It is a simple module and I openly tell anyone I haven’t earned a single stripe in traditional BJJ.

One night I decided to try an experiment in the TKD class.  As some students were taking both classes, I decided to add grappling to the standup sparring. Within 30 seconds I saw a White Belt in MATA-MA take down a Red Belt in TKD. The Red Belt had no clue what to do.

This happened again and again. Students with relatively little grappling closed the distance and took to the ground senior belts.  After that, I began to phase out the traditional style and focus on the new curriculum.

On May 30, 2013 I would teach my last class of traditional TKD. It was a bitter sweet class based on a decision I made with mixed emotion. My son would have his first martial arts class that June in the MATA-MA class. It was fast paced and kept his attention. Subsequently he has attained his Black Belt in what has become rebranded as Empower Kickboxing. He has suffered no injuries in his training.

On June 3rd I would begin teaching a new cardio class Empower Boxing. I pre-sold “spots” on Facebook and within two weeks had a full class of 20 students (I only had 20 heavy bags). MATA built me a website and I promoted it with Facebook Ads at $15 and $35 a set. 

Within two weeks I had pre-sold all of my spots and found out that women really like to hit a heavy bag to get into shape! My success has attracted the attention of four different imitators have come and gone since I’ve establish my program.

Next Week: How He Gets Hundreds of Leads Per Month!


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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