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.

The dominant attendance tracking system, even in today’s computer driven world, remains student cards. You have two boxes. One box is labeled 1st Class of the week. The second box is labeled 2nd & 3rd Class.

Students always look for their card in the 1st Class of the week box when the come to their 1st class. Later in the week, they know to look in the 2nd & 3rd Class box for all remaining classes.

Each night the cards are pulled from the 1st Class of the week box and any cards left are from students who missed class and must be called. For instance, Wednesday night after the last class, a quick review of the box reveals that there are 12 Monday / Wednesday night students still in the box. Had they been in class, they would have pulled their card. These students need to get a call that night.

You may want to color code by rank or by nights. For example, you may use a yellow card for Monday / Wednesday students and a white card for Tuesday/ Thursday. You can code by rank with colored stickers.

The system works best when you have assigned class nights for students like any private school. Allowing students to come and go at their whim leads to confusion and lack of control.

First, students burn out too easily in the white/gold belt stages because they’re enthused and excited for about six weeks. Then they can crash and burn. Second, limiting students on your one year entry-level New Student program to two classes positions you to allow a third class when they join the Black Belt Club. Third, you have to know who is coming to class and when, in order to manage your school like a pro.

All schools have assigned classes. In high school you couldn’t skip biology one period and show up the next no more than you could take exams when you wanted. In college, you pick a class and attend at the scheduled times. Your school should be no different.

When a student misses one class it becomes easier for them to miss the second and then they feel behind and maybe anxious about returning. The very best schools call the student before the class is over. The less effective schools call the following week. 24 hours should be the rule of thumb for absence calls.

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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