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.

Last week I told an all too familiar story of the benevolent instructor who pretty much raises a kid in his school who seems to turn his life around as a result.

I pointed out that the student wasn’t the only liability. The instructors reluctance to release the student out of concern for his well-being made him as culpable as the student for any damage done to the school.
That message clearly hit home. Here is a sample message I received.

The Benevolent Instructor:
I just want to say how close to home you hit with that last e-mail you sent out the other day.  I have recently found myself being the benevolent instructor and let an employee damage my business, health, stress level, and family conversations for far too long.

This employee was finally released and it marked the first time I have ever had to let someone go.  She was a good person but no longer a good fit for our business.  It was really, really hard and I found myself nearly in tears once it was over.

Thank you for timing the release of that post at a time when it really helped me to finalize those feelings and be able to move on.  Thank you.

Name Withheld

Before we get into story 2 of 3 on this topic, I want to share with you the best phraseology that I’ve learned to use when letting someone go. My multiple schools had at least a half-dozen employees and running NAPMA had as many as 25 employees with some making over $200k per year.

It’s important to document all of your meetings with the employee to make sure you are building your case for termination. However, I will leave that to the HR experts and not play labor attorney.

My only advice is that when you have that final meeting and have protected yourself from lawsuits relating to discrimination, harassment, etc… you be very careful in what you say and how you say it.

In my experience, my best line has been, “Sally, as you know, we’ve been giving this the best chance we could have. You’re a good person, and you will do well, but I think we both know that this job is just not a good fit for you. It’s best we bring this to an end.”

Typically, I’d give them two weeks pay and change the door locks, website passwords, etc…. As part of the process of receiving the two weeks pay, they would have to sign a release of liability that basically says they will not sue the school or any employee from that moment on.

Firing an employee for a martial arts school owner is often more difficult than most businesses because there is often a stronger emotional history / baggage attached with the process than the local 7/11 or health club.

Next week, story two of how an owner can become a liability for his or her school.

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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