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.

Anyone working with the public, especially kids, must be careful when it comes to personal interactions. Children’s classes, fitness kickboxing, and self-defense all have their own potential liabilities. Here are three primary types of liability exposure common to all Martial Arts studios.

First up is premises liability. Premises liability relates to the facility itself and is primarily the responsibility of the studio owner. Real life occurrences of premises liability that can lead to claims include a slip and fall on the sidewalk or over electrical cords.

One of the most common insurance claims in any brick and mortar business is a wet floor. If someone slips and falls and claims the owner knew the floor was wet or didn’t take proper precautions to create a safe environment, it could lead to legal action.

The second liability is professional liability. This is where the vast majority of exposure exists for Martial Arts professionals. All of the school’s staff, instructors and assistant instructors are held accountable for the things that they say and do OR fail to say or do. This includes performing the actual teaching and instructing in a class or session, as well as the advice that they provide such as nutritional counseling. The most common form of professional liability claims occurs when a member or client is injured and alleges that the instructor failed to keep a safe environment or taught something that resulted in injury.

Board breaking poorly taught takedowns, and uncontrolled sparring are just a few of the potential circumstances for a professional liability action.

Finally, Martial Arts professionals have exposure for sexual abuse and molestation claims. Since the majority of students are minors, schools are open to claims of improper touching, overly familiar language or inappropriate comments. Dressing rooms where adults and children change clothes, sleepovers, and tournament trips are just the obvious examples of the potential for a claim.

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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