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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.

Strategies for getting video testimonials

Part 1

In most martial arts schools, there are predictable events that you can time your review requests with.

  1. When a new student joins. 
  2. When a student advances in rank.
  3. When a student or family member praises the school.
  4. When a student wins a tournament.
  5. When a student or family member describes defending him or herself.
  6. During or after a special event.

Quick Capture

It’s a good idea to train your staff to “whip out their phones” when a student or family members praise the school. 

For instance: 

  1. A student or parent says, “That was a great class.” 
  2. The staff member politely asks, would you mind telling our Facebook followers about it? It’ll just take a second.” 

Staff member pulls out the phone and shoots a waist up clip. If the student flubs it, just say, “No problem. Ready for take 2?” Keep it light and fun. 

  1. It’s also okay to ask the student questions to answer. For instance, “What were you looking for in a martial arts school?” If you don’t like the answer, just ask for a “take 2” and coach on what you’d like to hear.

Here are some examples from our COBRA-Defense Conference in Miami in June.

While the event was happening, I was pulling instructors aside, placing them next to the COBRA banner and doing short interviews that I edited into bite-sized testimonials.


Even the best testimonial is useless if you can’t hear what the person is saying. I attached a lavalier collar microphone so that their voice would be captured above the event background noise. 

This COBRA-Defense testimonial is from Sidney Burns, the MATA 2018 Instructor of the Year. He didn’t just add COBRA-Defense to his school, he opened a new location that only teaches COBRA-Defense. He explained why in his testimonial. 

Rather than stop there, I asked him, “What is the difference in value that parents see in a COBRA-Defense class versus a martial arts class?” His answer was spot on. This is how you can lead a student down the path of saying what you want them to say in their own words. Stay curious.

Martin Lopez is another good example. He made his first statement and I followed up with questions to pull more out of him and he delivered. 

Keep in mind, both Sidney and Martin are good speakers. It’s much harder to get through a bunch of “ums, ahs, and um…” zzzzzzzzz

Take 2

Most people will not get it right on the first try. Here is one example of many different people that simply needed a “take 2.” Ask them to hold up 2 fingers, so it’s easier for you to find the edit spot later. Sometimes, you go on to 3 fingers, but if you get that far, it may be time for a different question or excuse them from the process. 

When people get stuck, ask this, “What would you tell your friends if they were considering joining our school?”


You may want to edit out some words or change the order of the comments using one of a ton of video editors. is a treasure chest of great tools and information that covers all of your post-production tasks such as:

  1. Caption the video. Most social media video is watched in mute, so make sure your message gets delivered by captioning the video.
  2. Transcribe the video. Take the captions and turn them into a couple of paragraphs under the video. Lot’s of people, like me, will not take the time to watch a captioned video and would prefer to read it. However, because the speaker is on the video saying nice things about your school, it still has more impact than if it was just a written review.
  3. Title the video with the student’s name and topic. Here I used a lower thirds from iMovie.

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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