Martial Arts Business Blog

Hollywood is Calling!

Hollywood is Calling!

I received an email last week that will be of great interest to you and/or your students. The casting agent at Sarah Finn Casting in Los Angeles is looking to cast a young male in a martial arts oriented role. Their past castings include, Black Panther, Avengers:...

2019 Time Magazine Takes COBRA Active Shooter Class

“We’re going to have some loud noises,” Sidney Burns, the owner of COBRA Self Defense Virginia, warns the attendees two minutes into the class. A moment later, an instructor behind the wall in the back of the training room simulates the sound of an assault rifle with an Airsoft gun. Another instructor lets out a loud shriek. Several of the students sink lower into their metal folding chairs.

Four Parts to Teaching Any Skill

MATA Instructor Certification Mission Statement

To present a universal language and understanding of how to be most effective when teaching martial arts regardless of style.

Four Parts to Teaching any Skills

One of the biggest voids in all martial arts is a lack of defensive training.

Sure, we teach basics and kata that have a bunch of blocks, they are practiced in a vacuum. 

How can you learn how to effectively block without a partner firing techniques on you?

This is why the MATA Instructor Certification program teaches a four-part system for teaching almost every skill.

1. Describe the skill.

Ideally, this description includes a story or application that creates anticipation and excitement for learning the technique.

Here is a short video of the late, great Joe Lewis telling such a story before teaching sidekick.

This is a clip from Joe Lewis 10 Favorite Self-Defense Techniques.
See Lesson One: The Best Finishing Hold
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2. Demonstrate the skill.

First, show the application of the skill in real-time. 

For instance, if you’re teaching sidekick.

    • Show the power of the kick by skip side kicking a bag or shield. 
    • Demo different applications and potential targets. For example, sidekick the knee, the body, etc…
    • Using the sidekick defensively to stop an attack.

3. Lead the class step-by-step through the mechanics of the kick. 

    • Start your description with a connector phrase such as, “Sidekick is a straight kick. It’s just like stomping a can on the ground. You pull your knee in and stomp straight out instead of down.” 

“It’s just like” is the connector phrase. It connects the new skill to something we are familiar with.

    • Repeat the same anchor words with each step so that the student can recall them later when practicing. 
    • Emphasize the important points for each step. For instance, on sidekick, “Pull your knee in tight and aim your heel at the target. Think Knee-Heel-Human.

4. Teach the defense against the technique.

This is BY FAR the most neglected area. That is what is missing from the drill in the video. The kid is just standing there and blocking with his ear! He should be practicing his defense. Ideally, he would work on three defenses.

  • Block and counter. He may take a small step back, but he is essentially engaging the kick and counter-attacking.
  • Jam the kick. A jam is a tactical way to quickly step into a window of opportunity. I this case, when the girl starts to spin, that opens the window for a jam.
  • Distance. Using distance to avoid the kick. Make sure the student keeps his/her legs underneath them and changes their alignment during or after the retreat.

Bernard Kerik Interview by John Graden months after the 9/11 attacks on America.

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 Giguliani scrambbling 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?

Father Sues Karate School

Father Sues Karate School

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – A father alleges his son’s leg was broken in a karate class in Feb. 2018 is suing the school.

A father sued the school and his son’s training partner, alleging they “negligently” caused his son’s injury.

The suit, filed in state Supreme Court, St. George, seeks unspecified monetary damages.

According to a civil complaint, the plaintiff, a resident listed as “K.B.,” was practicing with another student identified only as “D.D.”

The complaint contends the plaintiff asked the other boy to “stop using a karate move,” but D.D. failed to listen to or hear him.

As a result, D.D. fractured the plaintiff’s leg, even though it should have been apparent he was hurting his partner, said the complaint.

The complaint alleges loud music inside the school distracted the defendant, and instructors didn’t supervise the boys properly.

The suit names the corporate name of the school, as a defendant, along with the workout partner through his mother.

The plaintiff seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Related articles

Read What May and May NOT be Covered by Insurance.

Can Insurance Save You From This?

What Your Must Know About Insurance for a Martial Arts School

How to Reduce Damages in a Lawsuit Defense

How to Teach Sparring

How to Teach Sparring

This is a sample lesson from our MATA Certification Program.
By John Graden

From 1984 until about 1989, I was training three times a week in a dark, dirty boxing gym with retired world heavyweight kickboxing champion Joe Lewis.

The only reason we would miss the workouts was the scheduling challenges his seminars sometimes presented. The fighting was hard contact and as intense as you can imagine it could be climbing into a 12-foot-square ring with the man cited as “the greatest fighter in the history of karate.”

Joe taught me that fighting should be as real as possible. He also confirmed my opinion that point karate had little value in instilling the tenacity or attitudinal conditioning necessary to go three rounds with anybody, which we agreed should be a minimum standard for a professional black belt.

My motivation has always been as a teacher, not a fighter or champion. Even though at the same time I was traveling to Europe regularly to compete with the United States Karate Team, I’ve never had a compelling drive to be a world champion or trophy collector. I’ve always competed for education and experience. 

Whenever I’m in a learning environment, such as working with a great teacher or taking a personal development seminar, I am always asking myself, “How can I teach this to my students?” In the case of fighting with Joe Lewis, the question changed to, “How do I teach this to my students without driving them out the door or to the hospital?” 

In most schools, sparring is one of the leading causes of drop out among students. Even when the school sticks to the relative stop-and-go safety of point karate, students still drop out. How, then, could I motivate these students to engage in sparring without hurting them or scaring them off?

I learned that the key is in the perspective you keep in working with your students. If your goal is to get your students to black belt, then you that you have three to five years to accomplish that.

It’s important, then, that you structure your curriculum to gradually introduce the student to sparring. There’s no rush. 

A student that drops out of the martial arts because of sparring is a student we have failed. 

White – Orange Belts

In the sparring program I developed, white and gold belts are required to learn simple block and counters while wearing pads on their hands and feet. These techniques are executed against the jab and reverse punch — but without any contact. 

In addition, we will have them work slipping drills, target drills, defensive footwork drills, and set-point movement drills to get them moving and firing techniques.

Understand that this represents the first six to eight months of their training. Often, instructors have their students sparring within the first three months. Our students don’t even make contact for eight months. 

Green – Blue Belts

When the students graduate into the green and blue belt class, they begin to actually spar following the rules of light-contact continuous karate. That is like point fighting without stopping to decide who scored a point.

However, there is still no head contact, but body contact is permitted. Of course, the students wear headgear, hand-and-foot protective pads, shin pads, a mouthpiece, rib guards, and a groin cup for the guys.

Limited Sparring Drills 

Limited sparring drills are a great way to help students get comfortable and build skills while sparring. A limited sparring drill is a sparring match with a strategy other than winning as the goal.

For instance, one student might be limited to executing only a jab to the forehead. For these drills, we always target the forehead instead of the face, as a safety measure. The student’s partner could then be limited to using only positional movement (footwork) and head movement as a defense. 

So, in this example, the jabber is working on stepping in and snapping his jab to the forehead, while the defensive fighter is learning to slip and move against an attack.

In the following round, we may have the defensive fighter add hand traps to his defensive choices. For round three, we may slow things down slightly and place the defensive fighter with his back against a wall to prevent him from running from his opponent.

The final round could allow a counter technique to be thrown. 

So, through this structure, we’re preventing the fighters from being overwhelmed by trying to figure out on their own what to do. At the same time, they are actively, enjoyably and safely engaged in a sparring-like exercise.

The end result is, the defensive fighter gains confidence in avoiding contact. 

You can see within this scenario that there is no winner or loser. Instead, the students are taught to judge the match by how well they stuck to the strategies of the drill. 

While the majority of the class time devoted to sparring is spent on limited sparring drills, we will allow the students to go a round or two of free-sparring under strict black belt supervision.

The matches always begin with the students introducing themselves and shaking hands with their partner and a verbal review of the sparring attitude towards each other, which is, “I’ll make sure you don’t get hurt.” 

Also, explain to the students that while control is required and demanded, they are going to get accidentally whacked on occasion just as they are going to whack someone else. Teach them exactly how to inform their partner if the contact is too hard.

You can even talk to them about the tone in which they make the request to lighten up. An angry demand may elicit a different response than a respectful but firm request. 

Respect and courtesy are key attitudes. Make sure that the person being requested to lighten up is taught that “Yes ma’am or “Yes sir” is the only acceptable response. Only the person getting hit can determine the contact level and he cannot be questioned. 

Graduating to Head Contact 

After an additional eight months in that class, the students graduate into the blue and red belt level. At this point, they are allowed to make light head contact in addition to moderate body contact to the rib-guard area. Students are taught to strike the headgear and not the face. 

You may think that twelve to sixteen months is a long time to wait to spar with head contact. I think many of your students might disagree with you. I would also argue that your students have a lifetime to spar from that point on. 

Students must be mentally conditioned and have their confidence and tenacity built to prepare them for actual sparring, which is part of the Phase One Training explained in Chapter 2 in the Pedagogy section of the book.

At that point, mentally they are ready to face the challenges sparring will present. But now, after a year of training, they’re ready to meet it head-on with excitement and anticipation instead of anxiety and trepidation. 

Eight months later, they graduate into the brown and black belt class, where the intensity and contact level is somewhat more “realistic.” But after close to two years of training and preparation, these students are ready for the challenge mentally and physically. 

Take good care of your students and nurture them along to ensure they are going to be part of your school and part of our martial arts family for a very long time. When they enroll, they are investing a lot of trust in your leadership and guidance.

Few areas of the martial arts can be as confusing or intimidating as sparring. Keep a long-term black belt-oriented perspective on training your students and you will have a much better chance of having them stick around to successfully achieve that goal — and more. 

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