Info for Martial Arts School Owners and Instructors

The Martial Arts Teachers’ Association (MATA) is a professional organization that helps martial arts school owners and instructors improve their teaching skills and grow their schools with proven marketing, management, and curriculum design.

Click JOIN MATA to learn more.

martial arts instructor association and curriculum

How To Pose For Martial Arts Images


white belt child kicks with instructor watching

Get Certified as a Martial Arts Instructor Online

MATA Martial Arts Instructor Certification Course

Module 21-The Proper Use of Student Instructors

by Scot Conway, Esquire

The $25,000 Volunteers

Excerpt from the Martial Arts Instructor Certification Course:

Using upper ranks to teach classes has been a long-standing martial arts tradition. But, is it legal?

A California instructor had his black belts teaching under-rank classes at his studio. In exchange, he no longer charged them tuition.

This continued until one fateful day when the owner and a black belt student had a disagreement.

The vindictive student contacted the California Labor Board and reported that his instructor had been employing assistants by requiring that they teach classes each week.

This can constitute an Employer – Worker relationship. The only thing missing was payment for the workers and the taxes the government would collect if they were being paid.

The State of California investigators concluded that the owner, over the years, had a total of 25 black belts teach classes.

They defined them as uncompensated employees, which is illegal under the laws of California, and fined the instructor $1,000 per incident.

The final bill: $25,000 for the volunteers.

Lesson: Know your state laws regarding utilizing assistant instructors.

How To Get The Best Images For Your Martial Arts School

I was in Munich at the WAKO World Championships in 1987 as a coach and official. I had a slide from a photoshoot I just did. I showed it to the publisher of Banzai magazine from Italy. He said, “If you let me use this image, I will put you on the cover of the next issue. He didn’t write a word about me in the issue, but I scored the cover.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Step one is to get a pro-photographer. Use Groupon, Thumbtack or some deal site because photographers need business right now because everyone has a high-grade camera on their phone.

You will get much better results with a professional, so spend the extra money. You’ll be glad you did.

Step two is to pose your students. Joe Lewis learned this when he was a model and actor in Hollywood and he taught it to me for dozens of photoshoots we did together.

Look at the BW high block shot of Joe Lewis above. This was shot by a local newspaper photographer at my school in 1984. To this day, it’s one of my favorite shots.

Why this is a great shot:

  1. He drops his chin down and locks eyes on the viewer with intensity.
  2. Pooched lips draw his cheeks into peaks.
  3. His face elicits energy and intensity. That’s not by accident.
  4. The high block frames his face.
  5. Turning his shoulders slims his body.
  6. Key point. In the Joe Lewis punch, the fist is out of focus. That is a HUGE factor. Depth of field controls where the focus starts and ends. If the punch was in focus, it would be huge and distracting. Ask the photographer where the focus is and isn’t. 

Contrast that shot with this. Totally different effect due to depth of field and focus.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

This depth of focus is the opposite of the Joe Lewis shot at the top of the page.

martial arts curriculum comparison illustration
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Both of these images are shot at extension, but what a difference. The lines of the cat stance woman are artistic while the combination of the eye contact and half-smile from my student on the left is engaging.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

This is one of my favorite shots with Joe Lewis. This was in Pat Purdue’s photo studio in Largo, FL in 1985. I was reminded that his flooring was cement for several dozen shots like this. Joe elicits rage. I show terror.

karate champions Joe Lewis and John Graden
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Energy, fake pain, contrasting uniform colors and blurred effect all add up to a great shot of me being killed by Joe Lewis…again. Credit again to Pat Purdue.

Below is a link to 7 images of my son Alexander in our backyard. We shot these in less than 3-minutes with my phone. On each image, you’ll see my instruction to him for each pose.

  1. Think of the lines of the technique. Typically, the best shots are on full extension like Joe’s punch above.
  2. Eye contact. Where are you looking?
  3. Emotion.
  4. Expression. John Corcoran used to call the extreme expressions, “Fake pain posing.” Look at the cover of any martial arts magazine to see an example.

I could spend an hour at least demonstrating all of this for images and video. Let me know if you’d like to learn more about this.

Link to Images with Instructions