Does Teaching Martial Arts Like This Make Any Sense?

Does Teaching Martial Arts Like This Make Any Sense?


Martial arts does not encourage free-thinking, but the pursuit of success requires it.

Most classes contradict everything they taught in the first half of class.

Which half of a martial arts class makes sense?

First Half of Class During Kata 

Pull your hands to your hip!

Lock your legs in a deep stance!

Aim your punch!

Hold your punch out for form!

Chin up!

Square your body.

Shoulders back for good form.

Double punch to the head & groin.

Square block to stop two attacks.

Second Half of Class During Sparring

Get your hands up!

Get your legs under you so you can move!

Don’t telegraph your punches!

Snap your punch back to guard ASAP!

Tuck your chin!

Turn sideways to protect your center line!

Pull your shoulders up to shield your jaw!

You’re kidding me, right?

That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

How can a school advertise that they teach self-defense yet not allow head contact when sparring? That’s the most common attack in a street fight!

The reason is that most schools lack a system to teach students how to defend their heads.

Most schools spend the first half of class teaching, drilling, and instilling theoretical traditional karate defensive skills. 

Then the second half of the class contradicts the first half.

In real life or sparring, who crosses their arms and then steps forward to block a front kick to the groin with a front stance-down block?

I taught just like that for years until I started to question these skills.

This lesson from this chapter of the MATA Certification Program is on How To Teach Sparring So Your Students Don’t Drop Out.

Here is an easy-to-teach and easy-to-learn curriculum that applies everything I’m talking about in one white to black belt program. Just click the logo.


Empower Kickboxing logo
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Using Text to Increase Enrollments in Your Martial Arts School

Using Text to Increase Enrollments in Your Martial Arts School

Introducing our new All-in-One Membership including Empower Kickboxing, MATA, MATA Certification, memberships all included.

See our newest website at:

See the All-in-One Membership

The Martial Arts School Trial Lesson Process

Here is how SMS marketing can help you grow your school.

MATA/Empower Kickboxing members have a free dedicated SMS marketing platform in their account that allows them to text up to 100 people a month for free.

This is a good strategy for converting your trial lessons into students.

IMPORTANT: Respond to information calls immediately. There’s a good chance the prospect is doing some research and will call other schools as well. This will also help make sure that you have a lot of knowledge about the prospect and their needs.

Once they’ve enrolled into your trial program, send the parents a text like this about an hour before the first class.

“Hi, Lisa! It’s Sensei Grant from USA Karate. I just wanted to let you know that we’re looking forward to Joey’s trial lesson at 5. I’ve already told his class that they will have a new friend. We‘re looking forward to seeing him.”

The mention of friendship helps to alleviate concerns about taking the class. Now, parents and kids will be welcomed as friends rather than strangers or prospects.

Post a “Welcome, Joey” on a whiteboard that is by the front door so it’s the first thing they see when they arrive. This lets the parent know that, their child is welcome in the school and that you’ve been preparing for his first class.

After class, be sure to get a picture of the child with the instructor. Both should be smiling with thumbs up.

Also, get a shot of the entire class with Joey in it. Everyone should be smiling and energized.

Photo Tip: If you take the shot while the students are laughing it creates far more energy than just saying, “Say cheese!” So have a joke or quip ready.

NOTE: All trial students/parents should sign an injury waiver and a waiver that grants permission to use images.

Send the parents the shot with Joey and the instructor that same evening with a message, “Just a quick note to let you know that we really enjoyed having Joey in our class. We know he’s going to be a great fit for our program.”

Use the group shot in a text that you send an hour or so before the second trial class. This one reads something like this, “Hey, Lisa, big night tonight because Joey is going to take his white belt test at the end of class. That should be exciting. See you soon, big smiley face.”

Even if Joey enrolls after the first trial class, still send the follow-up group shot the day of his second class.

Texting is instant and is opened 97% of the time, so it’s a real-time communication that helps to confirm to the parents that they made the right decision to choose your program.

If you enroll him on that first night and then they don’t hear anything else from you, then it looks like all the excitement was fake just to get Joey to enroll.

If you have their permission, post the photos on social media and tag the parents.

Texts work great and MATA/Empower Kickboxing members have a free dedicated SMS marketing platform in their account that allows them to text up to 100 people a month for free.

Self-Defense Lessons from Will Smith’s Slap Heard ‘Round the World

Self-Defense Lessons from Will Smith’s Slap Heard ‘Round the World

From my upcoming book, Choose Your Battles Wisely

Will Smith’s slap heard ‘round the world was a clear lesson in not choosing your battles wisely.

On the 27th of March, 2022, during the live television broadcast of the 94th Academy Awards, show co-host Chris Rock joked about Will Smith’s wife, Jada, who had a hair loss affliction known as alopecia areata. 

Though her husband laughed at the joke, Jada bristled and didn’t seem amused at all. Smith then walked on stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock across his face.

Will Smith’s name will forever be associated with that decision. 

When you react to an insult, you are allowing the insulter to control you. 

It’s interesting to remember that comedy is built around insults and comebacks and Will Smith has made millions of dollars in comedy films and TV shows. Some people can dish it out but can’t take it.

You can see in the video above that Will Smith was laughing at the joke. He didn’t seem to be offended. 

However, when he saw his wife was disturbed, he made a choice. What were some of his options? Here are seven. I’m sure there are more.

Seven Options Will Smith Had to Respond to Chris Rock

  1. He could have said nothing
  2. He could have complained to the show’s producers then or later.
  3. He could have hugged his wife for support and told her he loves her. 
  4. He could have taken his wife’s hand and left the event. 
  5. He could have stood up and asked Chris Rock to apologize.
  6. He could have stood up and walked to Chris Rock and told him what he thought
  7. He could have stood up, walked to Chris Rock, and physically assault him.

Which of these decisions was the most problematic? 

If he did anything other than walk up and slap Chris Rock, the spotlight would probably be on Chris Rock for a tasteless joke. But, that’s comedy, at least it used to be.

The only decision that could damage Will Smith’s own brand and risk being thrown into jail was the decision he chose. 

Slap Chris Rock.

Even though this is a world stage, the Three Fights Rule still applies and that is that there are potentially three fights to every confrontation.

Fight 1 is the verbal insult or attack.

In this case, Fight 1 started with Chris Rock’s joke.

Sometimes when you are insulted, you have to fight to restrain yourself and stay safe. 

The goal is always to end the confrontation in Fight 1. 

This is where it pays to develop a Teflon ego so that whatever someone says to you just slides off. That is a sign of strength. Sure, words have power. So does fortitude. 

There is a huge difference between a verbal insult and a physical attack. Had Chris Rock slapped Smith’s wife or just threaten to slap her, we would expect and applaud Will Smith for at least slapping Rock. That didn’t happen. 

Slapping someone for insulting your wife doesn’t remove the insult and it doesn’t improve the situation. 

It’s a dangerous habit to let people control your emotions. Who wants that? Especially, if it’s someone you don’t know or whose opinion you don’t care about. Who cares what they say?

How could you let someone you think very little of or will never see again goad you into escalating the situation into Fight 2?

Fight 2 is the Physical Fight.

Despite at least six other options listed at the start of this article, Will Smith chose his battle. He escalated the situation by walking across the stage and slapping Chris Rock. 

While a slap is usually not as harmful as a punch, in the eyes of the law it’s still a battery.

There are tons of Fight 2 examples where a guy insults another guy who punches the insulter. The insulter is knocked out, falls and his head bounces off the floor and he is seriously injured, paralyzed, or dies from the impact of his head bouncing off the floor. 

That one-second decision can change your life forever because it moves you to Fight 3.

One Punch Deaths 

Fight 3 is the legal battle to keep you from going to prison.

This battle will usually be fought by you in a jail cell for the next year or two while you’re mortgaging your home and selling your positions to pay the legal bills. Not to mention any medical bills or personal lawsuits filed by the guy you punched.

When it comes to choosing your battles wisely, this kind of scenario is extremely acute. It’s happening right now. The whole event could start and run through Fights 1, 2, and 3 in the blink of an eye.

The entire Will Smith incident from insult to slap was 20-seconds that will be talked about as a tarnish on his career for at least 20-years.

Choose your battles wisely by making a decision to protect yourself in the moment instead of exposing yourself to liability that may last a lifetime.


MATA Certification Reviews

I thoroughly enjoyed this course. I’ve been in business now 10 years and I WISH I would have known about this when I started. As an instructor, I am always looking for ways to become a better version of myself and this course really helped. Very informative and everything that the course covers is absolutely needed if you plan on running a successful martial arts school. Way to go team!

John Henderson

Guardians Circle Elite Defense Institute

Empower Kickboxing Reviews

I am actively engaging my change-over from a style based school to an Empower Kickboxing school. I love your quote above, “We’re more focused on skill improvement rather than skill memorization.”

To me it embodies more about the martial arts…it is more like coaching my wrestlers over their high school careers and seeing them improve their skill sets over time – just makes more sense!

Again – thank you (for waking me up to this concept)! Love the material that is included in the Empower Kickboxing curriculum and I am using it daily.

Brock Brown

Brown's Karate Studio Angleton, TX

How To Pose For Martial Arts Images

How To Pose For Martial Arts Images

How To Get The Best Images For Your Martial Arts School

I was in Munich at the WAKO World Championships in 1987 as a coach and official. I had a slide from a photoshoot I just did. I showed it to the publisher of Banzai magazine from Italy. He said, “If you let me use this image, I will put you on the cover of the next issue. He didn’t write a word about me in the issue, but I scored the cover.



Step one is to get a pro-photographer. Use Groupon, Thumbtack or some deal site because photographers need business right now because everyone has a high-grade camera on their phone.

You will get much better results with a professional, so spend the extra money. You’ll be glad you did.

Step two is to pose your students. Joe Lewis learned this when he was a model and actor in Hollywood and he taught it to me for dozens of photoshoots we did together.

Look at the BW high block shot of Joe Lewis above. This was shot by a local newspaper photographer at my school in 1984. To this day, it’s one of my favorite shots.

Why this is a great shot:

  1. He drops his chin down and locks eyes on the viewer with intensity.
  2. Pooched lips draw his cheeks into peaks.
  3. His face elicits energy and intensity. That’s not by accident.
  4. The high block frames his face.
  5. Turning his shoulders slims his body.
  6. Key point. In the Joe Lewis punch, the fist is out of focus. That is a HUGE factor. Depth of field controls where the focus starts and ends. If the punch was in focus, it would be huge and distracting. Ask the photographer where the focus is and isn’t. 

Contrast that shot with this. Totally different effect due to depth of field and focus.


This depth of focus is the opposite of the Joe Lewis shot at the top of the page.

martial arts curriculum comparison illustration

Both of these images are shot at extension, but what a difference. The lines of the cat stance woman are artistic while the combination of the eye contact and half-smile from my student on the left is engaging.

This is one of my favorite shots with Joe Lewis. This was in Pat Purdue’s photo studio in Largo, FL in 1985. I was reminded that his flooring was cement for several dozen shots like this. Joe elicits rage. I show terror.

karate champions Joe Lewis and John Graden

Energy, fake pain, contrasting uniform colors and blurred effect all add up to a great shot of me being killed by Joe Lewis…again. Credit again to Pat Purdue.

Below is a link to 7 images of my son Alexander in our backyard. We shot these in less than 3-minutes with my phone. On each image, you’ll see my instruction to him for each pose.

  1. Think of the lines of the technique. Typically, the best shots are on full extension like Joe’s punch above.
  2. Eye contact. Where are you looking?
  3. Emotion.
  4. Expression. John Corcoran used to call the extreme expressions, “Fake pain posing.” Look at the cover of any martial arts magazine to see an example.

I could spend an hour at least demonstrating all of this for images and video. Let me know if you’d like to learn more about this.

Link to Images with Instructions