Joe Lewis promoted John Graden to 4th, 5th ,6th 7th and 8th degree black

The MATA Rank Advancement Program

Orphaned instructors can advance in rank under John Graden.

Join the family tree of Bruce Lee > Joe Lewis > John Graden > You

How it Works

Joe Lewis 8th Degree Black Belt Certificate for John Graden

  1. Are you an orphaned black belt?
  2. Would you like to advance in rank without the politics of a rank association?
  3. Would you like to join this family tree? Bruce Lee>Joe Lewis>John Graden>You

In 1982, John Graden was “orphaned” at 3rd degree when his instructor died in a plane crash. (That story is at

Joe Lewis moved to town in 1984 and the two started training together for the next decade. In that time, Joe Lewis promoted Mr. Graden to 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th degree black belt before his untimely passing in 2012.

Mr. Lewis inducted John Graden into his prestigious Honor Roll in 2009. He also nominated Mr. Graden for the Martial Arts History Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame, Passing the Torch, and John Graden bio sections are included to help you get a sense of the history, prestige, and recognition this rank promotion represents.

The Obvious Questions

Who is this for?

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Why should I advance in rank?

There are a number of good reasons to advance.

Students love it when they see their instructor working hard to advance and getting the prestigious recognition MATA brings.

How does this work?

The MATA Rank Advancement program is based upon video review of the requirements. Mr. Graden will review the videos and provide feedback. In some cases, he will require a “Do Overs” to improve a skill. There is no additional charge for “Do Overs.”

What style is the rank for?

There is no style attached to the MATA Rank Advancement program. The rank will be from The Martial Arts Teachers’ Association. Odds are, your students will understand and appreciate that more than an Asian name they can’t pronounce.

What are the requirements?

  1. You must provide proof of your current rank in your application.
  2. You must successfully complete the MATA Certification Course.
  3. Black Belt exam requirements can be found here.

What rank(s) can I test for?

Since Mr. Graden was promoted to 8th degree by Joe Lewis, he can promote as high as 7th degree.

Can I get a rank confirmation instead of advancement?

Yes though the process is the same.

Can I skip a rank?

In rare occasions, this can be done. Contact Mr. Graden to explore your situation.

What if I fail?

Mr. Graden will provide you with ongoing feedback on any area of evaluation that is not up to his standard until you get it right.

How soon can I test again?

It depends on the rank.

Is everything done via video? Can I have a live exam in my school?

Yes. You can bring Mr. Graden to your school for a full test or just the graduation. This presents the opportunity for him to teach seminars, train staff, and present your rank certificate at a big event in your school.


Click to send an email to Mr. Graden with your questions and/or to set up a phone call to explore your situation.

Joe Lewis Nominates John Graden into the Martial Arts History Museum Hall of Fame.

This section, the Passing the Torch, and John Graden bio are included to help you get a sense of the history, prestige, and recognition this rank promotion represents.

MATA Black Belt Rank Advancement Areas of Evaluation

The exam is video based. You MUST have clear audio and video.

You shoot the segments and we will send you instructions on how to deliver them to us.


  1. The rank would be from the Martial Arts Teachers’ Association, not a style.
  2. If you do not spar, that’s OK. Just let me know and I’ll adjust.

Areas of Evaluation

  1. Teaching
  2. Sparring (2nd and 3rd degrees only)
  3. Form not kata (Skills instead of routines)

Long Distance Exam–Video Submission (Audio is critical. I have to hear you clearly.)


  1. 2-minutes punching and kicking the heavy bag
  2. Target kicking – Round kicks, Side kick shield etc… Five different kicks, 10 – each side
  3. Target punching – 1-2-3-4 drill 2-minutes


  1. 4 2-minute rounds of 2 students sparring and you monitor and coach them. This should be in class with fellow students watching.
  2. Three examples of you teaching intermediate skills to class.
  3. Three examples of you teaching advanced skills to class.
  4. Explain to a beginners class how to create power in a strike.
  5. Deliver a Life Lesson to a class in your words.
  6. In front of class, explain, “How to assess your sparring opponent.”
  7. In front of class, explain, “What should you focus on each sparring session?”
  8. 3 examples of you watching different students hitting the heavy bag and coaching in one-minute rounds.


(Testing for 2nd or 3rd degree and only if it’s part of your training. Many schools no longer spar, which is not a problem.)

  1. Five examples of you watching different students spar while you coach. Sit class down and bring up two fighters at a time for a one-minute round. The class is watching as well.
  2. You sparring your toughest guys. Five 2-minute rounds with 30-second rest. Rotate the fighters so each is fresh.

MATA Black Belt Testing Fees

MATA-Pro membership is included for year one. Value $297

Joe Lewis signed print included. Value $20

After payment is processed, you will be taken to an application form to complete.