What is Empower Kickboxing?

What is Empower Kickboxing?

martial arts curriculum

Term One

Click the Button to See Class Structure

Class Structure

You’re welcome to modify this as you wish.

Minutes 1-10: Open / Self Defense

(Short tips and quick escapes for modules 1-3.

This segment may be different for kids than adults.

11 – 21 Warm-Up

12 minutes

30-seconds each exercise

21 – 31 Teach / Review (Yak)

10 minutes

31 – 45 Drills (Smack)

45-50 Cool Down


Cool down / Life skill

1 Year = 3 Terms

1 Term = 4 Modules

Each Module = 8 Classes

1. Martial Arts

3. Weapons

2. Kickboxing

4. Self-Defense

Empower Kickboxing Promo Videos

Click Button to Open. Click Title to Watch Video.

Marketing Video 2
Marketing Video 4

Empower Kickboxing Curriculum

Empower Kickboxing vs Traditional 

Blocks vs Traditional Blocks
The Foundation Skills
Warm-Ups Overview
Warm Up Structure

Find Out More at EmpowerKickboxing.com

2 Ways to Teach Upper Elbow. Which Do You Like?

Do you think in the post COVID world, people are going to have the patience to spend 3 – 4 years to get competent at your martial arts style?

Pre-COVID, we were already in an “everything I want is just 1-click away” world.

This is a typically outdated and overly complicated presentation of an important skill. Most instructors who are still teaching this way are simply doing what they were taught. I am not trying to embarrass anyone. I did the same for decades.

But the truth is that these kinds of traditional skill presentations are full of smoke and mirrors and founded in folly.

1. It’s the black belt in a gi with stripes.
2. It’s the bowing in just to demo a skill that creates an “aura of authority.”
3. It’s the silly fake punch attack that a regular person would buy into, but we SHOULD know better.

That is all smoke and mirrors.

I don’t blame anyone. I’m just trying to open your eyes to see what is REALLY going on.

These skills were developed in a vacuum in a small village in an Asian country nearly 100 years ago. They did the best they could do at the time.

1. No collaboration with international experts.
2. No video to share and study.
3. Many skills are based on animal movements rather than real experience. Monkey kung fu?

It’s fine if this was a historical demo of, “How they used to do this in the 1930s in Japan…” But, it’s not. It’s presented as being valuable for self-defense in 2020. That puts us all in a sideshow.

I used to teach the same stuff, so I get it. I just want to help instructors move into the present and release the baggage of our collective traditional past.

This could be anyone teaching the same stuff, so I’m not faulting anyone. I’d like to help move us out of the mystery and mysticism that clouds our reality and perpetuates bad info.

There is an alternative. EmpowerKickboxing.com

martial arts curriculum log

There is a better way

Martial Arts Student Retention in the COVID-19 Era

Martial Arts Instructors
Have Some Big Decisions to Make

In order to enhance martial arts student retention in the COVID-19 era, smart instructors realize that they have to provide INSTANT VALUE for their students.

Here’s an example:

Some of you may have heard of just in case learning vs just in time learning.

Typically, it’s applied to getting a university degree vs going into business right out of high school, which is what I did.

Just in Time Learning

Just in time learning is the specific-education that focuses on the topics one needs to learn related to a business or hobby.

For instance, marketing, management, and teaching skills are immediately applicable to launching your martial arts school.

You learn them just in time and apply them immediately.

Just in Case Learning

Just in case learning is like the padded academia that helps a student become a well-rounded, educated person.

This is a person who is prepared, just in case, someone asks about the evolution of Western European art.

Traditional martial arts are classic just in case learning. So much of an early student’s experience in class is spent learning all kinds of just in case skills.

They are taught traditional blocks that violates every rule of defense. The centerline is exposed. The chin is up. The hands are on the hip or stuck in a clunky position that is held in a pose to show good form.

The instructor explains that “You’d never really block like this but keep practicing and you’ll understand when you get to black belt.”

That is a disservice to the student.

Students DO NOT want stylized representations of self-defense and fighting. They want real skills they can use TODAY, not three years from now.

That is why I created Empower Kickboxing™ as an easy Student Centric Martial Arts Curriculum.

I took the most effective, applicable, and easy to learn skills from self-defense, martial arts, kickboxing, weapons, and grappling so that students get the INSTANT VALUE that is missing from traditional martial arts.

These are just in time skills. Not just in case.

Each Empower Kickboxing class includes:

1. Bow in / Meditation

2. Quick martial arts history lesson

2. Self-defense

3. Vigorous warm-up

4. Teaching segment (martial arts, kickboxing, weapons, or grappling)

5. Pad or partner drills

6. Cool down with Life Skill lesson

This is why every week, schools are joining Empower Kickboxing to get access to the lesson plans, marketing, and direct support from me.

Take a look at a couple of sample lesson plans. You’ll see a design for fast-paced exciting classes that students enjoy and look forward to.

What are you teaching? Just in time or just in case?

See Sample Empower Kickboxing Lesson Plans


Empower Kickboxing Overview

Easy to Teach with Fewer Classes. Easy to Learn. 

A Simple Comparison

High Block in Forward Walking Stance

Hook Punch in Guarding Stance


1. Which skill do you want to teach?
Front stance high block or fighting stance hook?

2. What skills do you want to teach each day?
Complex skills or simple skills?


1. Which skill makes more sense? Complex or simple?

2. Which skill is easier to learn? Complex or simple?

3. Which skill is easier to understand? Complex or simple?

The Smoke and Mirrors of
Traditional Martial Arts

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with teaching traditional martial arts if that’s your passion. Many people teach Russian ballet, but they don’t call it self-defense.

We are just more focused on the benefits for students than perpetuating out-dated skills.

How Many Stances have to be learned in a Traditional Martial Arts Style?

Traditional Style Stances: 4–31

Click to see all 31 stances

The Minimum

1. Horse Stance

2. Front Stance

3. Back Stance

4. Cat Stance

The Japanese Additions

5. Heisoku-dachi (閉足立, Feet together stance)

6. Musubi-dachi (結び立, Joining stance)
Heels together, toes open at about 45 degrees. 

7. Musubi-dachi-heiko (結び立-平行)
From musubi-dachi, open heels until both outer edges of feet are parallel. 

8. Hachiji-dachi (八字立, natural stance, literally “stand like the character 八”)

9. Uchi hachiji-dachi (内八字立, literally “stand like the upside-down character 八”)
The feet are shoulder width apart, toes facing inwards at 30-45 degrees, knees tense. 

10. Heikō-dachi (平行立, parallel stance)

11. Seisan-dachi (十三立, universal stance)

12. Renoji-dachi (レの字立, stand like the character レ)
Feet are at the shoulder width. 

13. Teiji-dachi (丁字立, stand like the character 丁)
Similar to renojidachi, but if the front foot is brought back, its heel will touch the middle of the rear foot, thus the foot print is shaped like the character 丁 (or letter T).

14. Chokusen-seisan-dachi (直線十三立, straight line universal stance)
15. Sagi-ashi-dachi (鷺足立 Heron-foot stance) also known as Tsuru-ashi-dachi (鶴足立 Crane-foot stance)

16. Naihanchi-dachi (内歩進立)
The feet are wider than the shoulder width, with their outer edges parallel. 

17. Sanchin-dachi (三戦立 Three Battles stance)
The stance is fixed and tensed in the same way as Naihanchin-dachi

18. Hangetsu-dachi (半月立, Halfmoon stance)
A version of sanchin used in some karate styles, particularly Shotokan

19. Moto-dachi (基立, Foundational stance)
The stance is shin length and around two fist widths wide, with both legs slightly bent, the front foot facing straight forward and the back foot pointed outward at about 20-30 degrees.

20. Kosa-dachi (交差立, Crossing stance)
From Moto-dachi, bring the back leg forward so that the back knee is tucked in to the back of the front knee, with only the toes and ball of the back foot on the floor. 

21. Han Zenkutsu-dachi (半前屈立, half zenkutsu), also known as Sho Zenkutsu-dachi (小前屈立, short zenkutsu)
Shortened and raised zenkutsudachi, this stance is slightly lower than moto-dachi

22. Han-Kokutsu-dachi (半後屈立, half kokutsu), also known as Sho Kokutsu-dachi (小後屈立, short kokutsu)
Shortened and raised kokutsudachi.

23. Kiba-dachi (騎馬立, horse stance or rider stance)
This stance is not used in all styles of karate because of strong tension that it requires, instead it is often replaced by Shiko-dachi.

24. Shiko-dachi (四股立, square stance, often called horse stance where kibadachi is not used)
Same as Kiba-dachi but the toes face out at about 45 degrees.

25. Zenkutsu-dachi (前屈立, forward stance)
This is a long frontal stance where the weight is mostly on the front leg.

27. Nekoashi-dachi (猫足立, cat foot stance)
All weight rests on the back leg, which is bent at the knee. 

28. Iaigoshi-dachi (居合腰立, Kneeling stance)

29. Fudō-dachi (不動立, unshakable stance) also called Sōchin-dachi (壯鎭立) after kata Sōchin

30. Kōkutsu-dachi (後屈立, back long stance)
This is a mirror image of zenkutsudachi, where the rear leg is bent strongly at the knee and the front leg is either straight or slightly bent, depending on the style.

31. Sōkutsu-dachi (側屈立, side long stance)
Often conflated with kōkutsu-dachi, this is a variant of kōkutsu where the head faces the direction perpendicular to the line on which the feet stand.

Empower Kickboxing Stance: 1

1. Guarding or Fighting Stance.

Major Martial Arts Contradictions


(First half of a traditional class is spent on basics and kata)

1. Put your hand on your hip.

2. Chin up and still.

3. Keep your head up.

4. Square your shoulders to the front.

5. Leave your punch out.

6. Full step-through to punch.

7. Cross your arms, step, and block.


(Second half of class during drills and sparring)

1. Keep your hands up.

2. Chin down. Move head.

3. Keep your head down.

4. Turn your body to protect your center line.

5. Snap your punch back.

6. Step in to fire your punch. 

7. There is no time to cross arms and step. Block in your fighting stance.

How We Are Different

1. This is NOT fitness kickboxing. Empower Kickboxing is a rank-based martial arts system designed by John Graden.

2. Students may attend any class. Instructors can reduce their teaching load because all students can attend any class.

We do suggest separating classes by age. 4 – 6, 7 – 12, 13+, and family classes.

3. Testing is optional for the school. Some award rank in paid belt exams while others award rank after a certain number of classes have been attended.

4. New students can be oriented into a class within 5 – 7 minutes. No need for separate trial lessons.

5. Because we do NOT teach any traditional stances, basics, or kata we spend more time on the skills that students benefit from the most.

This creates a higher level of skill and student retention.

Super Easy to Teach

1. Most styles are designed to be difficult to learn and teach.

2. Most schools teach more material than necessary.

3. Most schools teach skills that are out-dated and will never be repeated outside of the classroom. 

When is the last time you did kata for a personal workout? 

Providing Students What They Want

1. Would you take your kid to a swimming school that takes longer to teach your child to swim? It’s human nature to want to learn faster not slower.

2. Empower Kickboxing creates excellent black belts in less than half the time of a regular martial arts school. 

3. Rather than teaching complex forms and techniques, we teach students how to master the basics of balance, striking, kicking, self-defense, and sparring. 

4. We have a huge catalog of drills and scenarios with the best of martial arts, kickboxing, self-defense, weapons, and ground defense. 

5. Students train hard and gain a high skill level because they don’t have to learn a lot of awkward material they didn’t sign up for. 

6. All ranks can be in the same class which reduces the number classes that you have to each.

7. Students are more comfortable in black sweat pants or gi pants, their belt, and a school t-shirt rather than a traditional gi.

Become a Licensee

As and Empower Kickboxing™ licensee, you will get access to our proprietary system of marketing, lesson plans, and the support you need to succeed. Plus, MATA-Pro membership and the MATA Life Skills Program are included.

Total Support

In addition to a beautiful branded website, you’ll get proven tools and campaigns to help you grow including email, text, and video marketing, seasonal marketing and social media campaigns.

The Power of Branding

1. A professional brand builds confidence in consumers.

2. Provides the collective support of John Graden and other licensees.

3. While licensees are not required to “follow the system,” Empower Kickboxing is a proven success.

4. Licensees are permitted to use either Empower Boxing logo and/or Empower Kickboxing logo.*

*certain restrictions apply

Two Options for Licensing

Add Empower Kickboxing to your existing facility.
If you already have a school or gym, add Empower Kickboxing to expand your market.
Own and operate an Empower Kickboxing school.
Own and operate your own Empower Kickboxing school in your market.*
*certain restrictions apply

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Empower Kickboxing™?

Empower Kickboxing™ (EKB) is a White to Black Belt based curriculum and business system designed by John Graden.

The real value of EKB will be in the class-by-class lesson plans that will available via a members only web site. Each section of every class will be taught and demonstrated on streaming video much like the video on EKB.

Do I have to use the entire curriculum and replace my current program?

Not at all. Here are the various ways our current Founding Members plan to use EKB:
a. As their main program;
b. As a BBC Curriculum;
c. As a Master’s Club Curriculum or;
d. As a black belt curriculum (depending on your system).
e. Some will simply pick and choose techniques to layer into their current program.
f. Some will use it to streamline the operations of additional locations.
You have total control and flexibility with the program.

Is there a class I have to take to be ready to teach?

You must complete the MATA Certification Program before launching the Empower Kickboxing program. The Certification Fee is waived for Empower Kickboxing licensees.

Do I need to drop my current curriculum to do EKB?

No. You may and most of you will, but you may want to simply insert various elements of EKB into your current program until you get comfortable with the program.

We’re confident most schools will transition over but we’re happy to let them do it on their time. Some schools are using EKB as their Black Belt Club or Masters’ Club Program.

How do I transition existing students so they maintain rank and don’t lose time in rank for the next belt?

While this will vary school to school and system to system, we suggest you look at the EKB ranking system for year one. You then match up the EKB ranks with your students’ ranks.

For instance, if you have an XYZ color student who has been training for six months, that would equate to a EKB High Orange or Green belt. So, rather than having to go through six two-month semesters, this student might only do three semesters and then graduate into the Intermediate Year Two EKB Program.

Should I shut down and prepare, then have a student meeting or something?

No need to shut down. Start introducing the techniques to your students in class to build support and excitement. Create enthusiasm for these combinations before making changes to requirements. We will help you make the transition. In our experience, students really enjoy the combinations and see the Instant Value they bring to the class.

Do I have to change my school name to Empower Kickboxing™?

No. Empower Kickboxing™ is the name of the branded curriculum. Think about a camera store that sells Nikon. They advertise that they sell Nikon, but the store name is not Nikon. Empower Kickboxing™ is like that. You may be USA Karate which offers the Empower Kickboxing™ curriculum.

Do I need to leave my current organization?

That’s entirely up to you. EKB doesn’t require you to be exclusive to EKB. Mr. Graden has always had the philosophy that the freedom to learn and grow shouldn’t be restricted by politics.

The Empower Kickboxing™ License

  1. Use of Empower Kickboxing™ logo & brand
  2. A branded Empower Kickboxing website
  3. Access to curriculum lesson plans
  4. Access to Life Skills Curriculum
  5. 15-mile territory protection
  6. Branded collateral material
  7. Coaching and Support from John Graden
  8. Martial Arts Teachers Association membership for Master Instructor
  9. 100% Discount on MATA Certification and Rank Program for Master Instructor
  10. SEO for your new website*

* Business Directories Listings
* Authority Local Citations Listings
* Press Release Marketing
* Facebook & Instagram ads done for you
* YouTube Channel designed and optimized for you
* Onsite SEO

* (does not include hard costs such as Facebook ad cost.)

Special Stimulus Offer During the Virus

Many schools have experienced a downturn in attendance in the first quarter of 2020 due to the virus.

In order to help schools to attract and engage both current and new students, we are cutting the Empower Kickboxing™ license fee by over 50% until all 50 states are open.

All new member license are subject to a 12-month minimum.


Regular License $197 per month

Stimulus Rate $97 per month ($100 off)


Contact us to set up a phone call to evaluate your situation and see if Empower Kickboxing is a good fit for you. 

(727) 279-0505

2015 Instructor of the Year

2015 Instructor of the Year

Glen Gross tells his story

In 2012 I had been teaching traditional Taekwon-Do (TKD) for 21 years. My training for my 6th degree test had just come to a stop as accumulated injuries, from years of patterns and sparring, had taken their toll.

My son Jeffrey was turning 7 and I had promised to teach him the martial arts. John Graden had just introduced his new curriculum “MATA-MA”, promoting it as “a blend of the best, most basic, easy to learn and effective techniques from many forms of martial arts.” I took an instant interest in the program as I looked at the legacy that I would be passing on to my boy.

For months now, I would slowly hobble down the stairs in pain, preparing for a new day. The repetitive motions of my complicated traditional 24 patterns and sparring style had produced torn hamstrings, strained knee ligaments and worn out hips.

I decided this would not be my son’s inheritance. My wife Katie and I were planning a trip to Disney with Jeffery and my daughter Genna, and I wondered how I would even be able to walk with my children.

During the day I sit at a computer as Brandon University’s Distance Learning Specialist with a Master’s in Education. In the evenings however, I am a part-time martial arts instructor, only teaching three nights a week for two hours.

I also have instructors who teach a children’s program (Ninja Tots) for ages 4 to 6 twice a week, but that is the extent of my program. I was enjoying my teaching less and less, due to the pain, and I knew I had to make a change.

Ultimately the decision to add MATA-MA to my program came from a very persuasive argument.  Mr. Graden pointed out, and I had to agree that I hadn’t started taking my style martial arts for the patterns or style of sparring.  I joined for the benefits I believed I would receive. 

He professed that the new curriculum would provide all of the same benefits without all of the complicated, hard to teach techniques. I realized this was the only thing I needed to hear.

In September of the same year I decided to offer two different belt rank programs for ages 7 and above. In the first hour, I offered the new MATA-MA class, and in the second, the traditional TKD style.

When I explained the difference to the new inquiring students, 19 out of 20 chose the MATA-MA class. The one student was Korean and his family was specifically looking for him to take a Korean martial art.

By December I had finished teaching the one month introductory Jiu Jitsu module to the MATA-MA class. It is a simple module and I openly tell anyone I haven’t earned a single stripe in traditional BJJ.

One night I decided to try an experiment in the TKD class.  As some students were taking both classes, I decided to add grappling to the standup sparring. Within 30 seconds I saw a White Belt in MATA-MA take down a Red Belt in TKD. The Red Belt had no clue what to do.

This happened again and again. Students with relatively little grappling closed the distance and took to the ground senior belts.  After that, I began to phase out the traditional style and focus on the new curriculum.

On May 30, 2013 I would teach my last class of traditional TKD. It was a bitter sweet class based on a decision I made with mixed emotion. My son would have his first martial arts class that June in the MATA-MA class. It was fast paced and kept his attention. Subsequently he has attained his Black Belt in what has become rebranded as Empower Kickboxing. He has suffered no injuries in his training.

On June 3rd I would begin teaching a new cardio class Empower Boxing. I pre-sold “spots” on Facebook and within two weeks had a full class of 20 students (I only had 20 heavy bags). MATA built me a website and I promoted it with Facebook Ads at $15 and $35 a set. 

Within two weeks I had pre-sold all of my spots and found out that women really like to hit a heavy bag to get into shape! My success has attracted the attention of four different imitators have come and gone since I’ve establish my program.

Next Week: How He Gets Hundreds of Leads Per Month!