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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.

While you have to have martial arts insurance, your mission is to never have to use it. The word “mitigate” means “to make less harsh or hostile.” The principle of mitigating damages involves making sure that you take steps to reduce the level of harm. It is normally applied to “plaintiffs” (people who file the lawsuit). An injured student has a responsibility to try to limit the severity of his own harm. 

In a martial arts context, that means that he should stop training when injured. He should not purposely expose himself to greater risk of harm. He should not execute kicks at full speed with a bad knee, and he should not throw and be thrown with a bad back. Instructors must make certain that their school policies allow and encourage injured students to mitigate their injury, or the instructor and school could be held liable for pushing an injured student and causing even more harm.

Also, instructors should be able to treat minor injuries. 

Four students were injured at a tournament, as frequently happens. Two were injured while breaking. They struck the bricks improperly. The other two were injured during sparring, one with a bloodied nose. Despite the presence of many instructors from a variety of schools, there did not seem to be any ready care available for the injured students. 

One of the instructors recommended that the competitor with the bloody nose lean his head back, which is exactly opposite from modern first-aid practices. It causes the blood to flow into the throat and can cause choking and illness (a person’s stomach tends to throw up his own blood). Fortunately for the competitors, one instructor was on the floor with CPR and First Aid certification and advanced martial arts healing techniques. She made herself available to treat the injuries of the competitors. 

Had there been no care available, or had the care been counterproductive (such as causing blood to drain into body cavities), then the injuries could have been much worse than they were.

There should be someone who can tend injuries available at all times. A First Aid kit should be handy. Red Cross certification in First Aid and CPR is recommended. 

One big caution about martial arts-type healing techniques: they had better work. If an esoteric technique is used and makes matters worse, then instructors and schools could get in even more trouble. In fact, the compounding of the injury due to amateur healing techniques may not be covered by your martial arts insurance policy.

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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