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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.

A good martial arts teacher had an educated understanding of self-confidence and what is required to nurture it.

If a teacher treats students with respect, avoids ridicule and other belittling remarks deals with everyone fairly and justly, and projects a strong, benevolent conviction about every student’s potential, then that teacher is supporting both self-esteem and the process of learning and mastering challenges. For such a teacher, self-confidence is tied to reality, not to faking reality.

In contrast, however, if a teacher tries to nurture self-confidence by empty praise that bears no relationship to the students’ actual accomplishments – dropping all objective standards – allowing young people to believe that the only passport to self-confidence they need is the recognition that they are “unique” – then self-confidence is undermined and so is achievement.

We help people to grow by holding rational expectations up to them, not by expecting nothing of them; the latter is a message of contempt.

Self-confidence demands a high reality-orientation; it is grounded in reverent respect for facts and truth. Excessive and inappropriate self-absorption is symptomatic of poor self-confidence, not high self-confidence. If there is something we are confident about, we do not obsess about it – we get on with living.

ISN’T SELF-CONFIDENCE  THE CONSEQUENCE OF APPROVAL FROM SIGNIFICANT OTHERS?

No. If we live semi-consciously, non-self-responsibly, and without integrity, it will not matter who loves us – we will not love ourselves. When people betray their mind and judgment (“sell their souls”) to win the approval of their “significant others,” they may win that approval but their self-esteem suffers.

What shall it profit us to win the approval of the whole world and lose our own?

It is commonly held that among young people the approval of “significant others” does profoundly affect self-confidence, and to some extent, this is doubtless true – but one has to wonder about the reality of self-esteem that is so precarious that it crashes easily if that approval is withdrawn.

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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