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.

“I can’t get into the schools around here…” If I’ve heard that once, I’ve heard that a thousand times. I’ve also seen owners build great relationships with their local public and private schools.

In virtually every case, the reason the owner was able to partner with the school was that he or she simply approached the principle and said, “I’ve been in this community for XX years and have been teaching martial arts, self-defense and life-skills for XX years as well. What can I do to help you to help these kids?” That’s it.

I’m prompted to send this because I had a nice conversation with MATA member Aaron Wayne-Duke in Galesburg, IL. (MartialArtsGalesburg.com) Last month, he approached a local alternative school for 12-18 year olds that are dropout risks. Some have parents who incarcerated and all of them need caring leadership and discipline.

Aaron approached the principle with pretty much the same script outline above. Not only did they jump on the offer, they carved out $900 for a six-week contract and are already placing him in the budget for next fall. Did I mention he teaches just one class a week? Did I mention he doesn’t have a Masters in Education? He’s a veteran black belt just like you.

You will never succeed sitting behind your desk and checking Facebook. You have to get out and shake some hands. Make it your goal to get in front of an audience for a speech or demo at least once a month. Set appointments to meet principles and administration of the local school. Approach a real estate office with a safety seminar idea. Promote and teach a self-defense class for teachers.

You advertise that you teach confidence. Now is the time to tap into that confidence and make this year a year of action.

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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1 Comment

  1. Robert Hazlewood

    A good idea but I know in our school district there is a school board regulation that forbids principals from allowing any for profit enterprise from participating in any in school activities. Might be able to form a 501c division and get in that way.