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.

One of the best pieces of business advice I’ve ever received turned into one of the worst. Around 1990, a wealthy dad of a student took me golfing. We talked business for most of the afternoon. It was the best way I knew how to take his mind off my awful golf play.

He enjoyed pontificating and teaching me his world of high finance. One point he made stuck with me. He said to focus on one business,  build it and avoid anything else. Single-minded growth was his mantra.

That was great advice at the time. I was coming on strong as a local business owner and as many of you know, the more successful you become, the larger the target on your chest grows. People come to you from all angles trying to get you to invest here, buy there, build this with me, etc… 

Thanks to his advice, I was able to say “No” to many offers that would have distracted from single-minded growth. 

Eventually, I “outgrew” my two schools. They were not as large of a platform as I thought I needed so I sold the schools and created NAPMA and Martial Arts Professional magazine. They were the first widely respected professional association and trade journal for the martial arts school business. 

Over the course of the next decade, I grew NAPMA into a multi-million dollar business and helped thousands of schools. My influence grew and, as many of you know, I’m not shy in my assessments of the martial arts business. 

My vision for the martial arts flew directly in the face of some people with much deeper pockets and far more experience in litigation than I. 

Through a long series of expensive lawsuits over three years, I lost my company, my car, my marriage, and my platform. Little Ninjas, MAPro magazine, Fast Defense, Cardio-Karate and many other programs were assets I created that were removed from life. I still have five figures in legal fees due.

Part of the reason I was wiped out was that the guys’ advice backfired on me. I was single-mindedly focused on one revenue stream; NAPMA. When that was decimated, so was my income. 

I use that story because it’s a great illustration of the importance of creating multiple streams of income. Like legs supporting a table, your income streams are supporting your life.

The danger in creating multiple streams of income is if you start chasing every shiny object that comes your way. You have to be picky. You still have to say “No!” to most every offer, especially those in the MLM, network marketing arena. Yet, it makes sense to create supportive streams of income that are independent of each other but related in theme so that you are still within your area of expertise.

I am forever grateful to my Martial Arts Teachers’ Association (MATA) members for their valuable support. Many have been with me from day one.

It’s with that support I’ve been able to expand, so I’m not in that same situation again. Empower Boxing™, MartialArtsWebsites / Marketing360, and Cobra-Defense have all been profitable, parallel projects each with their own stream of income. 

While they share a common thread of the martial arts and MATA, they are radically different. Teaching a Real Estate Self Defense seminar is completely removed from an Empower Boxing™ class, though they complement each other like a hand in glove.

Today I fly to Santa Clara, CA to speak as a featured panelist for the Evolution Sports and Fitness Expo. This event will also be the launch of our new partnership with the Ten Institute. 

Ten is an excellent fit for MATA and promises to be a significant source of income for any martial arts or fitness professional. If an additional stream of income with a minimal investment of time and money would be a good move, I invite you to check out the Ten page at MartialArtsTeachers.com/.

As an instructor, when you make a recommendation for a nutritional supplement from Ten, you get paid 40% of the revenue that sale creates. You get paid every 30-days. 

Even if your student quits training with you, you’ll continue to receive those monthly checks for as long as the person purchases the product.

I love the idea of a revenue stream that keeps on paying you long after the student stops paying tuition. It’s a great way to create additional, secure streams of income to avoid having your legs chopped off in one fell swoop.

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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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