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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.

Break the Habit of Tagging

This is a 2-minute video lesson from the Martial Arts Teacher’s Association Instructors’ Certification course. MATACertification.com

Have you ever spoken to someone or listen to a speaker that has a habit, a language pattern of finishing their sentences or statements or lessons off with the same phrase?

For instance, you’re talking to somebody and he’s explaining something and then asks, “You got me?” “You got me?” “You got me?”

Or,
“You know what I’m saying?”

“You hear me?”
“You hear me?”

That’s called a tag. A tag weakens your delivery because you’re asking for permission.

“OK” is another classic tag.

The instructor says “Fighting stance, OK? We’re going to do this, this, and this. OK?”

I’m not asking permission from the students to teach them fighting stance. They bowed into my class. Line up!

Joe Lewis had a tag. “Make sense?”

He would explain something…”Makes sense?”

He was a highly analytical technical teacher.

Contrast that with someone like Bruce Lee, who was far less about technique
and more about the spirit behind it.

The merging of both those teaching
styles, I think is ideal.

But because Joe was so analytical, he
wanted to make sure it made sense to you.

And in many cases, as a teacher it’s a trap that you fall into and you don’t really mean it.

What I mean by that is this. The worst tag right now that we’re hearing more than any other is, “Good job!”

“Everybody sit down. Good job.”

I watched an instructor just recently promoting his children’s program,
He was going to give a mat chat. He said, come on over here, kids.

He sat down and as a kid sat down, he turned to each kid and said,
“Excellent”

“Excellent”

“Excellent”

What the heck is excellent about sitting down?

It’s following instructions.

If that’s excellent, why would a child
walk any harder to earn your praise?

If it’s already awesome, what could be better?

How about making them work to earn those compliments?

We are living in the most narcissistic society possible, and as a martial art instructor, that is not something
you want to contribute to.

So pay attention to your tags.

“Got it?”

 

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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2 Comments

  1. Bill Spivey

    EXCELLENT! And, I mean that. Thank you so much for that. I try to use the word “better.” Then follow up with something like “now, next time try for more speed or power or better stance.” About teaching kids, just got into “debate” on a MA facebook thing they have. About teaching “fun & games” to kids. It got a little nasty when I said that we do not teach games, I teach karate. Maybe they are so desparate to stay open that they teach that kind of stuff. I look at it as stealing for the parents. Telling them that their kids are learning martial arts when all they are doing is learn “recess.”

    • John Graden

      So true. Some instructors are more afraid of a mom than a mugger. :0)