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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.

Below is a sample lesson plan of a martial arts class that moves like an action film.

How does every James Bond film start? With a bang! Typically, a Bond film starts with some insanely dangerous situation or car chase that reaches out from the screen and grabs you by the throat.

You’re sitting slack-jawed in your seat as you watch the frantic chase or wonder, “How on earth can he escape?”

After about 10-minutes, he prevails and you fall back into your seat totally exhilarated and ready for the rest of the movie.

Contrast that with the opening of the highly acclaimed Stanley Kubrick film, 2001 a Space Odyssey.

All you see for the first 12-minutes of the film are landscapes and monkeys. There is no action and no music.

It is as boring as a martial arts class that starts our

with 10-15 minutes of stretching. (That wouldn’t be you, would it?)

Good action films start with action to immediately reward and engage the audience.

Right away, the viewer is thinking, “Wow! This is great!” After 10-15 minutes of action, the viewer is ready for a break.

That’s when the film introduces the good guy, the conflict, and the bad guys he’s going to have to deal with. 

Design your classes like that. Start off with a fast pace for about 12-15 minutes and then slow things down to deliver the technical teaching for the class. 

Here are two sample lesson plans. One is like a Bond film, the other is 2001 a Space Boredom.

The James Bond Lesson Plan Structure

History or Life Skill Lesson (Under 1-minute)

Warm Up (30-seconds each with a 10-second break for you to show the next exercise)

1. Jumping Jacks

2. Banana Twisters

3. Coordination Jumping Jacks

4. Clappers

5. Bear Walk-Up

6. Crab Walk Back

7. L-Crunches

8. Crossovers

9. Ankle Grabbers

10. Banana Rolls (10 Seconds Jack Knife, Roll Over

and Back)

11. Bouncing Knees

12. Crescent Kicks

13. One Legged Mountain Climbers

14. Ditch Hoppers

15. Review Blocks

16. 5-Count Ab Routine

17. 1-2-3-4 Review (1-Minute)

18. 1-2-3-4 Drill In Air (Mix up the combos and call them our for 1-Minute)

19. 5 Part Stretch Routine (Stretching comes at the end of the warm up, not the start)

Learning Skills

20. Front Kick (10-Each Side)

21. Back Kick  (10-Each Side)

22. Front Kick – Back Kick without setting leg down  (10-Each Side)

23. Touch Drill  (1-Minute)

24. Plank

25. Target Movement Drill (1-Minute)

26. Mountain Climbers – 2 Count

27. Position Movement

28. Jab vs Front Leg Round Kick

29. Plank Knee Strike

30. Skip Front Leg Round Kick (1-Minute)

31. Skip Front Leg Round Kick Vs 7 Block (1-Minute)

32. Sucker Punch Drill (Use open hand with wide hook)

33. Skip Side Kick  (1-Minute)

34. Skip Side Kick vs Distance  (1-Minute)

35. Splits (1-Minute)

36. Learn Cutting Kick

37. Cutting Kick Slow With A Partner Vs Leg Check

38. Cutting Kick Slow With A Partner Leg Check Counter Right Hand

Cool Down

39. 5 Part Stretch Routine

40. Crunches

41. Back Stretch

42. Table

2001 A Space Boredom Lesson Plan

1. Opening announcements (3 minutes)

2. Bow in.

3. Stretch for 10-minutes

4. Walkthrough new kata for 10-minutes

5. Do a kick in the mirror for 1-minute

6. Do a traditional blocking series for 5-minutes

7. Line kids up 10 deep to wait in line to throw one kick on a pad held by the instructor and then go back in line until it’s their turn again. (This is just stupid)

8. Split up for a game.

9. Play game.

10. Bow out.

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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