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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.

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The most likely lawsuit brought against a martial arts school is for negligence. Negligence is simply having a duty to do something that will help maintain the safety of those present, and failing to fulfill that duty. Depending upon the State and the ideological bent of the Court in any given area, negligence may be easier or harder to prove.

Some areas of the U.S. are pro-business and understand that certain risks are so remote and fixing them so expensive, that the law does not require those measures be taken. Other areas are so pro-employee/consumer that a business owner may be found liable if someone is hurt in his business or during operations even if every conceivable precaution was taken.

Cases have gone to trial over spilled hot coffee in someone’s lap (it was too hot, the jury decided). On someone slipping and falling on a tile floor after he walked in from the rain (no sign was posted advising people walking in from the rain that the tile would be slippery when wet). Even criminals have won lawsuits when they broke into a business and were injured. It doesn’t matter who is hurt or what they were doing, if the danger existed, the owner was responsible. 

At other times, in other places, what appears to be a strong case is lost at trial or overturned on appeal. A worker intentionally defrauded a customer, then injured the customer’s agent when he tried to repossess the customer’s car that the worker was using illegally. The Court refused to award any damages for the use of the car or the injury to the customer’s agent. There are undoubtedly thousands of what might seem like cases with merit that still lose.

Many lawyers are known to openly admit that the outcome of trial is a “crap shoot,” that it’s a roll of the dice and you never know what’s going to happen. To some extent, that’s true. If a case goes to trial, it means that both sides are committed to the fight, that both sides think they can win. When two good lawyers (or teams of lawyers) think enough of their case to fight it out in Court, the outcome is difficult to predict. However, 95% of all cases settle before trial.

Avoiding Accidents

Taking the issue of accidents step-by-step, the first general issue to consider is avoiding accidents. No matter the present situation with documentation or insurance, if no accidents occur, then there will be no claims. There are three key areas to consider: 

1. Safety of the Training Area.

2. Safety of the Training Equipment.

3. Safety of the Training Techniques.

Safety of the Training Area

The first thing to do is evaluate the safety of your training area. Any potential dangers need to be addressed. If there is a tear in the mat that could catch someone’s foot, then it should be taped down or the mat replaced. Look at your school from the standpoint of a nit-picking safety inspector. Do not dismiss things as “good enough,” since, in a court of law, “good enough” often isn’t. Carefully explore both the actual training area and the rest of your premises.

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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