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.

Martial Arts School Owners:
Are You the Right Person for This Job?

One thing I know about professional martial arts instructors is that we tend to be control freaks. 

We love how we can control our classes by micro-managing students down to the position of their pinky finger, depth of breathing, and what they focus on mentally.

As we wrap up 2021, now is a great time to turn that focus inward to answer a simple question, knowing what you know now…are you the right person for this job?

You might be thinking, “What job?” 

Let’s touch on this now and then I’ll go deep next Tuesday in a webinar at 2pm EST.

This starts with, “How are you preparing to make the next year more profitable and satisfying than 2021?”

Here are some questions to stimulate your thinking on that and get a preview of what I will drill down on during the webinar.

  1. What is going to be different next year?
  2. What does your organizational chart look like?
  3. How much of what needs to be done do you do?
  4. How much of that do you enjoy doing?
  5. How much of that are you any good at doing?
  6. Are you spending hours a week creating green belt level results when you really need a black belt in that area?
  7. Are you going to continue to teach the same curriculum without any improvements?

Rather than me trying to sell you on what the best answers are to these questions, let me assure you that there are no “best answers” to these questions.

Everyone is different and some business strategies may align with your personality more than others. 

Mind you, this is not about feelings. Bills don’t care about your feelings. 

However, once you know your natural tendencies, it’s easier to formulate a plan that matches your personal motivations and preferences.

On Tuesday, I’ll help you with that process.


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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