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.

Click to See All Leadership Team and Staff Articles and Files.

Here is the copy from our Leadership Team Handbook.

“Welcome to the Best of the Best”!

Your selection to our Leadership Team is the result of numerous meetings, discussions and ”spirited lobbying” by your instructors to narrow the choices down to you; the best of the best. Your acceptance of a Leadership Team position is a big responsibility and should not be taken lightly.

We are totally dependent on our Leadership Team to help us maintain our, “Tradition of Excellence.” Our goal remains to provide the very best training for our students. This requires a motivated and talented leadership team.

As part of the tradition and heritage of the martial arts, students have always assisted the instructor to maintain the quality and integrity of the school. While we didn’t always have a title for the team, we had the desire to teach and the pride in our school to go the extra mile to insure our reputation as the best!

You too must have tremendous pride in your school and the desire to help others enjoy the benefits and excitement we offer. For this to happen, you must be very open minded and teachable. Teaching students our way requires very special qualities.

As a Leadership Team member, you will be trained in the art of communication. Much more than the technical skill of your sidekick, your skill as a successful communicator and motivator will determine your success as a teacher.


As a Leadership Team member, you will be “taken into the kitchen.” You will understand more about the actual operation and management of this school. While there is nothing to hide from anyone, we prefer that this information stay in our Leadership Team classroom and not find its way into the locker room.

Most people prefer not to know what goes on in the kitchen of a restaurant. All they want to see is the beautiful meal served. We are no different.

Leadership Team Responsibilities

Leadership Team members must accept fully the following responsibilities in order to maintain their Leadership Team status. Failure to perform in these areas must result in the stepping down of a Leadership Team member (and returning of this manual) in order to allow another student a chance.

1. Leadership Team members teach a minimum of two -one hour classes per week.

2. Leadership Team members teach at least one 20-minute private lesson per week.

3. Leadership Team members must attend Leadership Team seminars, classes and workshops.

Our Commitment To You

The very best tool for learning about yourself and your martial arts is to teach. We will provide you with the guidance to develop your martial arts teaching skills and the opportunity to apply that knowledge consistently. As you well know, our instructors are some of the very best teachers many of us have ever encountered. The teaching system that we have developed works and works well.

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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