Attention Martial Arts Instructors! How to Avoid this Common Defensive Gap in Sparring.

It’s crucial to understand what habits you’re teaching your students.

Teaching them complex moves won’t be as helpful if they need to defend themselves in the real world.

What if you could do both? The idea of that is appealing to me, but it’s not realistic.

For years, I thought that the self-defense and sparring knowledge from traditional karate could be useful. I was wrong.

It took me a long time to break some bad habits that came from traditional martial arts. One steps are not self-defense.

If you chose one skill set to focus on, the students would learn that skill faster.

The dojo is a place of learning. And because you’re the teacher, what you teach must be true right?

This makes it your responsibility to evaluate and revise your lesson plans every year.

Sport tae kwon do teaches you not to punch the head, but in the real world, most fights start with a punch to the head. 

Doesn’t this seem contradictory? Wouldn’t you want your student to be prepared against the common attack?

Point fighting is a type of fake fighting that is based on “killer blow” theories.

Students are trained to stop after striking or being struck, rather than continuing the attack until the opponent is defeated. 

Why would you train your students to stop after being hit or hitting?

That creates bad defense habits, as you’ll see in this video.

Another popular theory is that most fights end up on the ground.

Watch 20 street fights on YouTube and you’ll see about as many fights go to the ground as you do groin kicks. Not many.

That doesn’t mean you should not train in grappling.

I think grappling is essential and it is the big gap in my game.

Maybe because my instructor taught us in the first class that,  “Tae kwon do is a kicking art. The leg is a much longer and stronger weapon than the arm so we can kick an opponent before they get close enough to punch or tackle us.”

He really believed that. As a good student, so did I.

Continuous light contact kickboxing is the most practical stand-up sparring system in my experience.

This means you don’t stop to honor a point. Instead, you strike back.



The Most Neglected Move in Martial Arts

The Most Neglected Move in Martial Arts

This Video Exposes One Of The Major Gaps Kata Creates In Striking In The Ring Or In The Street.

When teaching martial arts students sparring, it’s critical to understand the habits you’re creating.

When virtually every technique of traditional kata contradicts self-defense or sparring, you have to make a decision.

Do you want your students to be good at kata or good at protecting themselves?

Some might think, well they can do both. I agree. I did for years.

It also took me years to get rid of the bad habits traditional karate created in my sparring and self-defense knowledge.

I realized I had been fed a bunch of ancient Asian smoke and mirrors. Just like my instructor.

If you chose one to focus on, the students would get better at that skill set faster.

If you chose sparring and self-defense, students would be better prepared to protect themselves than if they spent years uncovering the “secrets of kata.”

Students will follow your lead. To them, what you say must be the truth because they chose you as their teacher. You’re the black belt.

Therefore, it’s incumbent upon you to seriously reevaluate what you are teaching every year.

If you choose sparring and self-defense, you have to be careful of what kind of sparring.

Sport tae kwon do does not permit punches to the head, yet most street fights start with a punch to the head.

Point fighting is fake fighting that is based on the “killer blow” theories that a strike or a block from a martial artist could be deadly.

Another debunked theory is that most fights end up on the ground. Pick out a random selection of street fights on YouTube and you’ll see about as many fights go to the ground as you do groin kicks. Not many.

The most practical stand-up sparring system is continuous kickboxing. This means you don’t stop to honor a point. Instead, you hit the person back.



The Powerful Influence of Authority as a Martial Arts Instructor

The Powerful Influence of Authority as a Martial Arts Instructor

The block that convinced me to stop teaching it.

Please read this objectively as you can. Some martial artists are easily insulted, which is not the purpose of this article. The goal is to stimulate thought and discussion. 

As martial arts professionals, most of us fell in love with the arts from our first class. 

You, like me, were probably hooked from that first class. 

Travel back in your mental time machine to the earliest moments you can recall learning martial arts. 

Here are seven predictions about that class. My experiences are in bold italics.

1. You started by learning the rituals of bowing in and out of class. Yes.

2. You were told to address the instructors as Mr., Mrs, Ms, Master, Sensei, Sifu, or some similar title? Yes.

3. The instructors were in full uniform. Yes.

4. The origin of the style explained to you as coming from the East and developed by martial arts masters. Yes. “Taekwondo was developed in Korea where they develop strong legs from climbing the hills.”

5. You were told the advantage of your martial arts style over others. Yes. “TKD is a kicking style. That’s best because the leg is a much longer and stronger weapon than the arm. 

6. You learned the horse stance from which you were taught to block and punch while squaring off to your opponent and pulling your hand to your hip and holding your punch out in the air. 

Yes, along with front and back stance.

7. Your instructor demonstrated a kata and explained, “This is a fight against multiple opponents.” Yes.

Now, imagine this…

The same exact skills are being taught, but what is the effect of eliminating the East from the class?

1. The class did fist bumps instead of bowing?

2. The instructor said, “Call me Joey.”

3. The instructor was in sweat pants and a t-shirt?

4. The instructor said, “I created this in the Bronx. I had to climb a lot of stairs as a kid, so I developed strong legs.”

5. The instructor explained the advantage of the style is that “It’s a kicking style. That’s best because the leg is a much longer and stronger weapon than the arm.”

6. The instructor taught the same horse stance from which you were taught to execute blocks and punches while squaring off to your imaginary opponent and pulling your hand to your hip, aiming and holding your punch still in the air. 

7. The instructor demonstrated a kata and explained, “This is a fight against multiple opponents.” 

If the skills Instructor Joey taught and the reasoning behind them were the exact same as we experienced in our actual first lessons, would anyone watching have readily accepted what was being taught as we did?


Suspending our Disbelief–East and West

Suspension of disbelief is the voluntary avoidance of critical thought and logic.

When you watch a Superman movie and accept that Superman can fly, that is the suspension of disbelief.

Do we suspend our disbelief about what is presented as self-defense and practical skills because it has Eastern origins?

Two Quick Stories

When I was a new 14-year old orange belt, my dad asked me to show his buddy what I learned. They were drinking beer and smoking at our dining room table.

I did the new orange belt kata, Tan Gun and I explained each step as I had been taught. 

When I got close to the end, I executed a square block while explaining, “This is how you block two guys at once. One overhead and the other to the side.”

At that point, Dad’s friend said, “That sounds like a bunch of bulls*** to me.” 

20-years later, and I’m at the Cooper Institute in Dallas, where I’m going to teach the inaugural ACMA Certification Program (now the MATA Certification). 

I was on a stair master in the gym when an adult karate class started on the basketball court. The instructor started teaching Tan Gun. 

When he got to the square block, he explained it exactly as I learned it. 

I thought, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard! How can those students keep a straight face?” 

Blocking two guys? I can’t believe I teach this stuff.” 

I never taught a kata or basics again. 

Masters Talk A Lot About Kaizen

How have you improved and progressed over the past few decades, or are you perpetuating square blocks?

Have you ever questioned the sheer logic of what you teach your students? 

Have you always been taught that the secrets of fighting and self-defense are hidden in the bunkai?

Now that we have multiple videos of the Asian masters executing bunkai, you can see why the root word is bunk.

Have you ever seen a horse stance, square block, or a lunge punch in a real street fight or self-defense situation?

I have nothing against teaching kata it’s great for cardio and coordination.

But I object when it’s taught in anyway as related to fighting, sparring, and certainly not self-defense.

I was a US Open Kata Champion. I was the first center judge at the WAKO World Champions in Munich when they introduced kata as a division.

I also consider myself a life-long student of the martial arts, not a master. 

Given the choice in a 50-minute class, I personally would not spend any time on basic blocks, lunge punches or kata. There are way too many fun skills and applications are actually rooted in the reality rather than buried in bunkai.


Tony Robbins Martial Arts Interview

Tony Robbins Earns Black Belt

Jhoon Rhee, Tony Robbins, Ernie Reyes, Sr.

From about 1984 – to 1993, I had a cable TV show, USA Karate. In 1992, I drove over to Orlando to interview Tony Robbins, who had recently earned his black belt from Jhoon Rhee.

Tony was conducting his Fear Into Power weekend seminar that concluded with everyone, including me, firewalking on hot coals.

I did the math, and he grossed well over $1-million that weekend. He was gracious and fun as I spoke with him about his martial arts experience on the Monday following the seminar.

He shares some powerful insights as to what he observed while training to make black belt in nine months.

He also sparked an interest in hypnosis and Neuro Lingustic Programming. About a decade later a good friend of mine who trained with Richard Kim told me that Kim had studied hypnosis as well.

I started to research both and have over 100 hours of professional hypnosis and NLP training that has helped to open my eyes to the power of trance and influence.

2021 MATA Lifetime 
Achievement Award-Dr. Judy Flury

2021 MATA Lifetime 
Achievement Award-Dr. Judy Flury


Dr. Judy Flury


Reflecting on the remarkable career of Dr. Judy Flury of Grand Prairie, Texas, it quickly becomes clear that she is fearless and does not waste time. 

She was hooked on tae kwon do from her first class as a 12-year old, and within five years, she opened her own school at the ripe age of 17! 

She also recognized early that she had a passion for working with children, maybe because she was one.

While running her school full-time as a teenager, she started college and then graduate school, where she earned a doctorate in personality psychology from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Her dissertation in 2004 focused on developing a method to accurately measure indicators of borderline personality disorder. 

That personality scaling instrument, the “Sense of Self Scale,” has since been validated and is in use today by researchers and practitioners in the mental health field

Dr. Flury is the author of, Raising a Real Winner: How to Teach Your Child the Qualities of Success and has authored and co-authored many manuals, book chapters, and articles in various peer-reviewed journals of the American Psychological Association.

In the 1990s, Dr. Flury was named “Instructor of the Year” by the USA-Korean Karate Association for three years until the association decided to limit the number of times a single instructor could win the award. 

She is currently on the Martial Arts Teachers Association’s Certification Board of Advisors and a member of Game Changers International.

After running a successful martial arts school for 34-years, as if she had nothing else to do, she earned her certification as a special education teacher and got certified to teach pre-k–6th-grade general education.

She is currently teaching general education and may have redefined the idea of educational breakthroughs because her 3rd-grade class gets to break boards when they earn high grades!

Dr. Flury is married and has one son and three Chihuahuas. In addition to martial arts and psychology, she enjoys reading, shooting, spending time with her family, and practicing her Christian faith. 

She has been a member of the Martial Arts Teachers’ Association (MATA) since its founding in 1993 and is an Empower Kickboxing™ school.

MATA is proud to recognize Dr. Judy Flury, Ph.D. as a stellar model of courage, drive, and execution.

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