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.

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1. New Leadership Team members assisting in a class should not wander and help. Instead, they would be most helpful as role models. By positioning next to the students having the most difficult time, they can execute with the class at a pace suitable for the target students.

2. More experienced Leadership Team members, with the instructor’s permission, may wander and correct.

3. Wandering corrections should be brief and led with a smile.

4. It’s very important to keep moving. Try and make contact (a gentle, guiding hand) with each student twice during a class. Avoid hovering over one person. This tends to make them all the more nervous and error prone.

5. If you make a verbal correction, make it quickly and move on. Do not over-explain or allude to the obvious. Examples would be phrases such as, “this is a fist,” or “this is your belt.” Being a student doesn’t translate to total ignorance.

6.  Correct and Praise – Try to find something good to say along with a correction. An example might be, “Joey, your sidekick is straight as an arrow, now let’s get that foot to blade and you’ll have a black belt kick!”

Do not praise if it is not for real. If it is not a good job, don’t say, “good job!” It’s phony and everyone knows it. However, you will usually be able to find something about the technique worthy of note. Maybe it’s the snap or the knee positioning or just the effort. Be sincere, your students will respect it.

7. Never speak to a student while an instructor is speaking to the class.

8. Always support the school and its efforts. If we have a change or a challenge, never get caught up in a negative conversation about it. If you hear a student nay-saying something, back the school up and help them to understand why it’s in their best interest to ride the horse in the direction it’s going.

9. If you are leading a group or single student, do not make more than one correction per step. Resist the urge to correct every student in the group after only one step. By the time you get to the last person, the first one is already bored and forgotten what you told them.

When working with one student, do not correct every element of their balance, posture, shoulders, weight distribution, angles. power and so on. Keep the pace moving with. For example: “Step. Eyes straight. Step. Square those shoulders. Step. Good power, now punch down the center. Step. slide those feet like a cat. Step. there! Now point your feet straight!”

10. Use your voice, face and body! What is the opposite of love? Is it hate? No, it’s indifference! When you lead a group with a stone face, and a monotone voice, you are conveying a message of indifference and boredom!

If you want enthusiasm from a group you have to give enthusiasm to the group! When you want power, you turn the volume up and put power into your words. When you want slow technique for form, you speak a little slower and softer.

In any case you must project loud enough for everyone not to just hear your voice but to feel your energy. Too many of us have a blast teaching but never get around to telling our face about it! Loosen up and have some fun. Karate shouldn’t mask emotions rather it should allow you the confidence to be more expressive.

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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