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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.

I can recall failing students on belt exams and moms literally yelling at me in the school front of students. Can you imagine the posts and reviews those moms would have unleashed?

Protecting your reputation is more important than ever. The leverage that a student’s family has to post a negative review because or a real or perceived slight against them is huge.

Because reviews are now one of the most important factors in local search results, it is your job to know how to keep them positive and deal with the negative.

Responding to reviews is a delicate art. You must calibrate your response to each of the six types of reviewer you are dealing with.

The First Time Reviewer

First-time reviewers place a lot of weight in their review. If something was so good at your school, it prompted them to post a great review, good for you! Conversely, if the experience was so bad it prompted their first review, it is like an open wound.

You should take a first-time reviewer seriously. Thank them for their positive review. However, negative reviews must be handled delicately with considerable thought given to the response.

Since it’s their first review, you probably will not get a response, but it’s still important that you acknowledge their post.

For negative reviews, the first question is, “How much of this is true?” Truth is a matter of perspective. When I fail a child, I’m upholding my standards. However, a parent may see it as my not preparing the child or being unreasonable in my expectations.

If there is truth to the review, acknowledge that and outline the steps you will take to avoid the issue happening again. For instance, if you do not teach a child a belt requirement and then he/she fails a belt exam, that’s a serious issue. Maybe the child was on vacation or missed class the day you taught that. That’s not entirely your fault. But, what if you never taught the skill? That’s all on you.

If you disagree with the reviewer’s claims, politely and professionally provide your side of the story. Resist the urge to play “Master” of all. Thank them for their feedback and resist the urge to use all CAPS or!!!!!! Just answer like an attorney would. Just that facts.

Next week, The Constant Complainer

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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