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.

This is a follow up response to Instructors Shocking Response To Student’s Injury

John Graden’s Response

For over 20-years I have advocated for self-policing to avoid any kind of government regulation. That’s why I create the MATA Certification program. It’s a universal instructor certification program that helps to complete the education process for professional instructors. In short, it’s the kind of education that could prevent these kinds of events.

Analysis from Jennifer Urmston of SFIC

There are a number of teaching points from an insurance coverage perspective that I will note below from this story. I believe, however, that the bigger issue is for this school to embrace the ideals and beliefs of their teaching and live by them, having the same honor and compassion with their student that they taught. There was definitely a way to embrace this student without putting the school in any legal jeopardy for a claim.

Regarding the social media post, this may have been what upset the instructor and manager but they could have prevented it by being more proactive in helping the student come back to class successfully.

From the perspective of liability insurance coverage, the following points are important for this story:

1) The instructor should have been actively supervising the grappling during which the student was physically injured. Period. There should always be supervision for grappling. There is too much risk of injury for the instructor to walk away.

2) After any incident when there is possible injury, a written incident report should be prepared and copies kept on file. All parties should sign the statement if possible.

3) Either the instructor or manager should reach out to the injured party to follow up via whatever method is best for the student until the student is able to return. Ask if they prefer a phone call or an email.

4) If a student injures another student by either being too aggressive or horsing around or different skill levels, etc, then that student should have a documented reprimand to try to prevent a similar injury happening. It is ok to reassure the injured student that the questionable behavior was addressed and they don’t need to fear it upon their return.

5) This injured student should have been able to have an open conversation about the incident upon returning to the school and their feelings should have been acknowledged compassionately.

The instructor or manager or both could have acknowledged the student’s feelings without admitting to fault on behalf of the school. Example, “We understand that this has been difficult for you and we are sorry. We want to help you feel safe and comfortable coming back to class. What can we do to help you?” Ask then reassure them that the behavior has been addressed, there will be supervision, and that they are welcome.

6) Medical Expenses – When general liability coverage is written with No-Fault coverage for medical payments, students can turn in medical bills for reimbursement without the school admitting to fault as a “goodwill” gesture. We include $10K of coverage for these types of medical payments in our policy.

This story is an example of the situations where we feel that goodwill is important both to prevent lawsuits and for the school to thrive. This could have helped turn a negative incident into a positive for the school.

Thank you very much for bringing this real-world story to me. Although I am always saddened to hear of injuries, real-world situations teach us and, hopefully, can help the martial arts community grow.

What Do You Think?

What are your thoughts? Please share them below and send this article to your colleagues in the martial arts.


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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