Martial Arts Instructor News and Articles

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 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: Endgame, The Lion King, Jungle Book, Crash, Dora the Explorer, and Fast & Furious.

Here is the letter:

“Hi Mr. Graden,
I am writing to you because we are currently in the casting process for one of our upcoming big budget feature films and would love your help.

We are seeking young (age 7-12) males of Chinese descent who are trained in Martial Arts and have, if possible (though not necessary), some acting experience. Do you know of any talented martial artists who would be interested in this opportunity?”

To submit, please email written responses to the information below, along with a current photo of your child, with the subject “STUDIO FEATURE FILM” to


1) Name, height, and age
2) Your availability & location (just city/state – you don’t need to tell us your address!)
3) Any information you’d like to share about your background
4) Level of Mandarin fluency, both speaking and understanding (i.e. fluent, conversational, basic, etc..)
5) Details of your martial arts experience (i.e. how many years, what type of training/areas of expertise)
6) Do you have any acting experience? (School plays, local theater, commercials, etc)
7) Anything else about yourself you’d like to share

Please feel free to also send us any reference video footage that you have (martial arts/acting) – we would like to see as much as you’re willing to share!

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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