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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.

I interviewed Bernard Kerik, the NYC Police Commissioner in 2002 when the 9/11 attack on America was still an open wound.

In addition to describing he and Mayor Giuliani scrambling for their lives, he discusses the role martial arts schools can play in the fight against terrorism.

Transcript Questions
Here are the questions he answers.

Graden: At our convention, one of our instructors talked about how one of the terrorists actually trained to her school and his goal was to learn knife fighting, but he only wanted on the offensive techniques not the defense of techniques. They basically ran him off. How can a school owner prevent what they teach from being abused like that?

Graden: There’s a tremendous amount of responsibility with information. A couple more things, because we wrap up. You were involved in anti-terrorism in the Middle East. Was there anything that gave you a hint that an attack of such magnitude could be pulled off as we saw on 911?

Graden: You and the mayor were scrambling to find a safe haven to set up a headquarters.

What was going through your head?

Graden: What was the most difficult part of that day for you?

Graden: In your time in Rikers and as an undercover cop, you must have thought, prior to 911, that you had seen the most “depraved, violent people on this earth.

Was there anything in your career that would have prepared you for what you saw that day?

Graden: What is the last year taught you about the American people?

Graden: With your background leading up to that day, in what ways has 911 changed you?

Graden: Were there times during that day, you felt in fear for your own life?

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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1 Comment

  1. CrinosKarate

    Hi John,
    Former Commissioner Kerik is a 100% correct, Martial Arts School have a Duty and Responsibility to question something that doesn’t seem right.

    5 to 6 years ago two Middle Eastern gentleman approx: ages 20 to 30, signed up for classes. One was laid back (lets call him One) and the other (lets call him Two) had these crazy eyes and anxious to start and also paid for a month of lessons. First class was basics: Punches / Kicks / Blocks.

    One – had a pretty good handle on the basics, which showed he’d trained before.

    Two – was totally clues – we worked on punches the entire class. When he was punching his eyes were popping and he had this physco look on his face.

    They both came back for the next class and we continued what was covered in the 1st. Two was a little calmer that day.

    The following week.

    One – Dropped out

    Two continued – we moved up to kicks and the week after blocks. At the end of the last class that week. Two’s gi top opened and he had a large Red Circle tattooed covering his stomach and chest.

    I inquired about it and he denied he had one. Bing Bing Bing the bell’s are going off.. So that night I called a parent of a student whose is NYPD and had some Terrorist exposure. I explained to him what I saw and he said he’d call me back the next day. The next day he pointed me to a site and I found the same tat or similar.

    I then texted another parent, whose in the FBI and I filled him in. He put me in contact with another FBI agent, who came with a second agent to the dojo to talk to me. I described the tat and provided them with names, addresses and contact info and they left.

    About a month or two later I found out I was right, they were investigated and picked up. I never heard anything about it again.

    Sil Crino
    Crino’s Martial Arts a Family Run School