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.

If you’d like to learn more about getting rank through MATA, send us an email with your questions and background.

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How to Advance in Rank as a Black Belt without an Instructor or Style Organization

I was orphaned as a black belt when my instructor died in a plane crash in 1982. I was a 3rd dan. I was lucky though. I was adopted by the great Joe Lewis who promoted me to 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th degree before his untimely death in 2012.

Most orphaned black belts are not so lucky. Their instructors either leave the arts or they have a falling out. Some get disenchanted with the organization they came up in and strike out on their own only to find it can be tough being a solo act.

One of the more frequent questions I get is, “How can I advance in rank with MATA?”

There are two ways to accomplish this and more if you’re creative. I’ll break down the details later, but essentially there are two options. Long-distance or in person. Long-distance means that you video yourself and submit the videos for my review. What you video will depend on a number of factors, but the point is that upon successful completion, we’ll mail you a certificate of rank.

The other option is to bring me in to test and promote you personally. This presents the opportunity to host seminars and build excitement around your promotion. For instance, you could promote a bully seminar, a kickboxing seminar, a self-defense seminar, and have me as a guest at your school belt exam where a portion of the day will be spent on your promotion/exam.

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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