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.

A good master instructor leads students into the future by discarding the smoke and mirrors of the traditional curriculum.  A good master instructor avoids teaching contradictions. 

A bad master instructor treats traditional martial arts as “the gospel” that should never be changed or refuted. 

They spend the first half of class making sure students have “good form” by pulling their hands to their hips instead of their faces. He teaches students to aim a punch when, in reality, that never happens. He teaches stances like front stance or horse stance that expose the centerline to an opponent. He tells students to keep their chin up for good form instead of tucking it down.

In the second half of class during sparring, he tells them to move around. Get your hands up! Turn your body to the side. Don’t telegraph your punches.

It’s a complete contradiction to the first half of the class.

Bad master instructors know that the more complex a style is, the longer the student will pay and bow to them. 

Bad master instructors talk about “hidden techniques” in kata. Good master instructors ditch the kata and just teach the practical skills. 

Bad instructors know that teaching out-dated, stylized representations of self-defense creates a false sense of mysticism and mystery that will keep them in a superior position in the eyes of their unfortunate students.

Traditional techniques are overly complex and ineffective for self-defense. 

The traditional martial arts were designed by people in remote Asian locations decades, if not centuries ago. They did not have any technology to study learn and collaborate videos of self-defense. They had little if any self-defense experience and many had to hide what they were creating from the authorities. 

A good master instructor is not afraid to discard the technical baggage of the past and always seeks to improve the content of his/her curriculum for the good of his students.

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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