Truth About the Martial Arts Business Podcast

Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins

Master Motivator

A black belt under the late Jhoon Rhee, Tony Robbins views martial arts as an excellent way to improve your life.

Brian Tracy

Brian Tracy

Master Teacher

A mentor of John Graden’s. Brian Tracy credits much of his success to his martial arts training.

Bernard Kerik

Bernard Kerik

Master Leadership

The police commissioner during the 9/11 attacks, 5th-degree black belt Bernard Kerik has traveled the world to improve his skills.

Click to open Show Notes for Episode 23

Show 23 Notes

The Truth About the Martial Arts Business book

Black Belt Management book

Who Killed Walt Bone? book

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The Truth About the Martial Arts Business Podcast

Episode 23 

Why I Replaced Taekwondo with Empower Kickboxing

Geno Guevara

Alamo Ranch Martial Arts

San Antonio, TX

Show 23 Notes

8:30 Empower Kickboxing is ahead of its time. PREVIEW

9:20 I was hooked deep gets FKA 

11:50 smoke and mirrors

12:05 What prompted the decision to join Empower Kickboxing? 

12:40 My black belt student could not defend himself

13:13 I was being hypocritical 

14:32 What was your strategy to transition the students

15:20 traditional martial arts reminds me of the renaissance festivals

15:50 What are the reaction to removing uniforms

16:20 I started with the self-defense module

16:20 The parents loved it.The kids loved it. Because it makes sense.

16:40 I could see the parents heads nodding “YES!”

17:00 Self defense was first, what was next? The Warm up.

18:20 If Mike Tyson taught class he would….

18:30 what have done with testing and rank?

18:40 Graduation is fight night

19:50 How close do you follow the Empower Kickboxing lesson plans?

21:40 What would you say to a school owner thinking about upgrading to Empower Kickboxing?

21:00 Perfect for a small school

21:45 How many classes are you teaching now vs prior to Empower Kickboxing?

23:00 New sales process

23:58 The keyword today is simplicity

24:30 Does your curriculum match what is out there and what the public wants?


Martial Arts Instructor Certification Course

Module One-The Principles of an Authoritative Instructor

Lesson 4: No Rescues!

Previous Episodes and Show Notes

22. Martial Arts and Hip Hop: The Story of Willie “The Bam” Johnson part 2.

21. Martial Arts and Hip Hop: The Story of Willie “The Bam” Johnson part 1.

20. How to Avoid the Smoke and Mirrors of Traditional Martial Arts

19. Mark Moore: How to Grow Your School to 425 Students While Teaching Just 2 Classes a Night

18: Andrew Branca: What Every Martial Arts Instructor MUST Know About the Law of Self-Defense

17. Joe Robaina: How to Build a Six-Figure Self-Defense Business

16. Sam Horn: The Art of Tongue Fu, Martial Arts for the Mouth

15. John Graden: 7 Biggest Tax Deductions for Martial Arts Schools

14. John Graden: Ten Important Questions About Your Curriculum

13. Bernard Kerik: 5th Dan, Former NYC Police Commissioner on 9/11

12. Chris Sutton: How to Teach Martial Arts Professionally

11. John Graden: A Plan for Reopening Your Martial Arts School 

10. Chris Sutton: Do Martial Arts Really Work for Law Enforcement?

9. Mike Anderson Part 1

8. Jim King: How to Run a Successful Martial Arts Summer Camp

7. Chris Sutton: What Qualifies You to Teach Self-Defense?

6. Dale Willerton: Rent Assistance During the Pandemic

5. Brian Tracy: Why Curriculum is Critical to Your Martial Arts School Success

4. Brian Tracy: What Adults Want in a Martial Arts School

3. Tony Robbins: The Five Strategies to Create a Happy and Successful Life

2. Tony Robbins: How Martial Arts Can Be Used To Combat Procrastination

1. Tony Robbins: How to Use Martial Arts to Create a More Successful Life


teacher in martial arts curriculum class

“I am an old school “tae kwon do” instructor. Everything Mr. Graden described about the complexity of multiple classes learning different kata’s was true.

I struggled for years trying to come up with a solution. 

I tried a rotating curriculum with kata’s, but some students would still fall behind, and the truth is, kata’s did not help with real-world self-defense. My students would get in a traditional stance or point-fighting stance to defend themselves.

 I knew deep down I wasn’t providing what I promised. I decided to switch over when COVID hit.

Teaching the basic skills in Empower Kickboxing helped me retain students over COVID and teach online. 

I didn’t lose one student because of the transition. They all loved the new curriculum. 

Plus, I didn’t need as much space since Kata’s required space. I cut my teaching hours in half since classes were all combined. 

Not to mention I no longer have to do all the introductory lessons which make the sales process less reliant on me. 

His methodology has allowed me to create a unique brand to separate against other schools.

Most of my competitors are all traditional schools and we have positioned our brand against what everyone else is doing.  Differentiation.”

Mr. Geno Guevara
Alamo Ranch Martial Arts

Hosts & Guests

John Graden

Tony Robbins

The Truth About the Martial Arts Business Podcast

Learn the hard truth about the martial arts business from the man who led the industry into the modern era.

Join the martial arts Teacher of Teachers, John Graden as he explores important and controversial questions about martial arts instructors, schools and the business.

In this hard hitting podcast, he pulls back the curtain to reveal The Truth About the Martial Arts Business.

John Graden challenges conventional tradition and the mindless acceptance of some of the outlandish theories associated with the martial arts.

The Martial Arts Teachers Association (MATA)

MATA is a professional association for martial arts school owners and instructors. It offers the leading course on martial arts instructor certification (MATACertification) and rank advancement (MATARank).

Members have access to a massive library of professionally designed marketing materials in the Marketing Downloads section.

Other sections include:

  • Martial Arts Summer Camp
  • Martial Arts After School
  • Planning Your Martial Arts School
  • Staffing Your Martial Arts School
  • Financial Control 
  • Interviews & Courses
  • Facebook Marketing for Your Martial Arts School
  • Online Marketing for Your Martial Arts School
  • Pro-shop Sales for Your Martial Arts School
  • Curriculum Concepts Your Martial Arts School
john graden hosting podcast

John Graden

Widely credited with leading the martial arts school business into the modern age, John Graden was first called a visionary by MASuccess editor, John Corcoran. Also a world champion kickboxer, John was dubbed the martial arts Teacher of Teachers by Martial Arts World magazine.

John is also the author of many of the best selling books on martial arts business and personal development.

Now the Executive Director of the Martial Arts Teachers’ Association (MATA), John’s bold leadership has landed him on the Dr. Oz Show, the Wall Street Journal, the A&E Network and many more international media platforms along with many small podcasts that only his wife listened to.

A Tampa Bay, FL resident, John Graden is married with two children.

Want to Be a Guest?

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How to Target Market for New Students in 2019

How to Target Market for New Students in 2019

The Stairway to New Students

When you are marketing your martial arts school, it’s important to understand that each person who visits your website or watches your videos will have a different level of awareness relating to your school.

The best way to understand these different levels of awareness is to think of them as a stairway to new students. 

At the bottom, you have people who are unaware of you or the benefits of your school.

Need/Desire Aware
They realize that they need the benefits of your school, but they have taken no action.

Solution Aware
They understand their need/desire and are aware there are several ways for them to satisfy that need.

Your Solution Aware
They have seen or heard about your school and how it compares to your competitors.

Ready to Join
These people are aware of your school and ready to join if you have a good new student system.

When you think about marketing as this staircase, it helps you calibrate your marketing to what stage of the staircase the prospect is on. The goal of your marketing is to move people up the staircase and increase their level of awareness of your school.

Take them on a journey from being unaware or your school to recognizing their need/desire of a martial arts school, to realizing that there are many schools available. Then realizing that your school is the best choice and finally joining your school. 

At each level of the stairway, match your messaging to speak to the people at that level and help them transition up to the next level. 

One of the best ways to deliver your message at every level of this stairway to new students is to use video.

Father Sues Karate School

Father Sues Karate School

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – A father alleges his son’s leg was broken in a karate class in Feb. 2018 is suing the school.

A father sued the school and his son’s training partner, alleging they “negligently” caused his son’s injury.

The suit, filed in state Supreme Court, St. George, seeks unspecified monetary damages.

According to a civil complaint, the plaintiff, a resident listed as “K.B.,” was practicing with another student identified only as “D.D.”

The complaint contends the plaintiff asked the other boy to “stop using a karate move,” but D.D. failed to listen to or hear him.

As a result, D.D. fractured the plaintiff’s leg, even though it should have been apparent he was hurting his partner, said the complaint.

The complaint alleges loud music inside the school distracted the defendant, and instructors didn’t supervise the boys properly.

The suit names the corporate name of the school, as a defendant, along with the workout partner through his mother.

The plaintiff seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Related articles

Read What May and May NOT be Covered by Insurance.

Can Insurance Save You From This?

What Your Must Know About Insurance for a Martial Arts School

How to Reduce Damages in a Lawsuit Defense

The Easiest Way to Generate Media Coverage in 2019

The media is blitzed all day long with people seeking exposure on their platform. One method that will jump you to the top, or at least near it, is to get out in your community and help with a local fundraising effort.

Whether it’s a need of a member’s family or a local charity, your school can contribute funds or hands-on help.

Take photos, write a paragraph or two about the event and fundraising efforts and send it in to your local media list (You do have a list right?).

Send media releases via email to your list prior to the event. Follow up with a phone call. You may even offer to take video and images to send if the reporter can’t make it.

Most of the time, the media will publish the event information, photo, school name, and charity as a part of a local news snippet. These are often used as a way for the media to share a ‘feel-good’ story or fill a slow news day.

See also:

The New Rules for Pitching the Media

How to Become the Martial Arts Star in Your Town

How To Get Media Coverage

2018 Martial Arts Instructor of the Year

Former Concrete Company Manager Grateful for COBRA and MATA

It’s a classic American success story. Sidney Burns of Bedford, VA, has grown from a karate crazed 8-year old to a master instructor with a well-established school and a year-old COBRA-Defense location that has rocketed out of the starting box.

Like many martial arts professionals, Master Burns started out teaching in a YMCA until 2012 when he opened Blue Ridge Martial Arts in Bedford, VA.

Sidney says that the best thing about his business is that he feels as though he hasn’t worked a day at it.

When he compares his current position to his days as General Manager of a concrete company, he can’t help but smile. But, he knows he didn’t get to where he’s at alone. Standing right beside him in full support is his wife of 29-years, Lisa and chief instructor, Lorna Coyle.

martial arts instructor certification

Sidney Burns and Lorna Coyle

Master Burns joined MATA in 2016 and quickly completed the MATA Certification course along with his staff. He says, “MATA is a quality, professional organization. I wanted my instructors and myself to be certified by the best. It’s just easier to follow the MATA program than to jump around chasing fads.”

He also discovered COBRA through MATA and quickly saw an opportunity to lock in the territory. According to Burns, “As with most martial arts schools, we struggled to enroll adult students. COBRA is an awesome program that fills that gap.”

His focused efforts with his COBRA school are already paying high dividends with group and high-end private classes.

Many MATA member schools teach COBRA as part of their school’s programs, but Sidney chose to open a separate location for COBRA. He said, “COBRA is so attractive to adults, that we wanted to expand to a larger town to reach more people. COBRA was surprisingly easy to implement. It gives you all the tools and support from headquarters for us to make that transition.”

As he looks back to his humble beginnings at the Y, he has learned some important lessons. He says to, “Be careful who you listen to and surround yourself with high achievers. Helping others see their potential is a tremendous honor. There is no better profession than teaching martial arts and self-defense.”

Sidney and Lisa Burns have made it a point to be a positive source of support for the community as well. From working with a suicide prevention group to sitting on the board of Bedford Christian Services, they are committed to leveraging their unique skills and talents to help make Bedford, VA a better place for all. It seems to be paying off.

Congratulations to Master Sidney Burns and the entire Blue Ridge Martial Arts team.