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.

1. Create a long-term perspective on this as your career.

In 20-years, if you reunite with the 8-year old in your class today he is not going to say, “Thank you for BJJ.” He’s going to say, “Thank you for teaching me discipline and self-control.”

Make sure your classes clearly define and teach these important life skills. Build a business that will take care of your family for decades.

2. The student is more important than the style.

Some people learn Russian Ballet or chess, and it improves their life. Billions of perfectly happy people have lived their life without BJJ just like you have lived without Russian Ballet.

Focus on the life-changing benefits of BJJ to truly have an impact on your student’s lives. Avoid the “My kung-fu is better than your kung-fu” mentality. It is short-sighted and irrelevant. No one cares except your BJJ buddies. They will not pay your bills.

3. If BJJ has helped you, You have a moral obligation to learn how to sell BJJ.

How much money would it take for someone to pay you to erase BJJ from your life? I don’t mean quit, I mean you never, ever took a lesson. Would you erase it for $10,000? $50,000? Most of you wouldn’t.

Most instructors want their students to get the same value. That only happens if you learn how to enroll students and keep them so they can have the same experience that you value so much.

When you mis-handle a call or don’t even call back, that person could desperately need what you sell, but you failed them. You also failed BJJ.

4. Every potential student you fail to enroll is a negative mark against BJJ.

If BJJ was so helpful to you, it’s your obligation to learn how to answer the phone, talk about your classes, and introduce people to BJJ in a manner that attracts more people to your school.

The BJJ school owner who feels it is beneath them to make that effort FAILS BJJ and their family. The truth is often that, like most small business owners, the BJJ school owner is simply afraid of rejection. Get over it.

5. Your can be a champion for a decade at the most.

If you are focused on winning trophies, you have about about a decade of your prime athletic years to do so. Just remember that there is a new champion every year and will be for decades. Your wins will only mean something to you. Other than your mommy and daddy, no one cares.

Build your business not your trophy case.

6. You can be a teacher for decades.

The sooner you commit to being the best BJJ teacher possible, the sooner you will start helping BJJ to grow. The world doesn’t need another BJJ champion. We need teachers. Focus on becoming an excellent communicator, motivator, and leader of men. Become a student of teaching not just BJJ.

7. Misery Loves Company.

When a crab tries to escape a boiling pot of boiling water, the other crabs pull him back down. Misery loves company. If you make the effort to learn how to answer the phone, set lesson appointments, and ask for a tuition check, you will catch heat from BJJ school owners who are not making that effort.

Your success makes them look bad. They don’t want that so they will discourage you. 

Ignoring them and taking control of your success may be the most difficult escape you’ve ever had to master. But, if you are as tough as you think you are, you can make that shift and start creating the BJJ school of your dreams.

Unless these guys want to pay your rent, build your home, and send your children to university, stay focused on your own path to success. Leave the crabs in the pot.

As you can tell, I have some pretty strong ideas on this subject. I’d like very much to help those of you who want to succeed. I’ve produced world champions while earning a six-figure income teaching martial arts as a full time career. Most hard core martial artists are SCARED to try to succeed.

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. Shaughn

    Boom! Truth bombs. Thank you for this.