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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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When it comes to getting martial arts into public schools, many martial arts school owners complain that they can’t get into the schools. In most cases, the owner is making the mistake of trying to get in through the principle’s office. A much easier and direct path is to contact teacher’s directly to come in and teach their class or do a demo.

With as many families as you work with, it shouldn’t be difficult at all to find a teacher who would welcome you into the class. Just keep the hype to a minimum and the value to a maximum.

May offers a great opportunity for you to create relationships with your local school teacher during National Teachers’ Month.

1. Host a self-defense seminar for teachers only. 

This is a great chance to offer a free seminar and sell some My Defense Tools in the back of the room afterwards.

2. Host an active shooter response seminar. 

Schools have fire drills and lockdown drills, but they don’t have active shooter drills. Run, Hide, Fight is not a plan. It’s a sound bite.


3. Offer to teach a class for a teacher. 

Sure, we’ve all taught PE classes, but what about a class on the Black Belt Attitude? Rather than show off your skills, instill some self-control and respect skills in the students. When a teacher sees that instant transformation from the kids in class, they will have a much higher appreciation for what you teach and that helps create that direct relationship teacher by teacher.

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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