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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.

Most martial arts schools start with front stance down block and aim lunch punch.

So let’s replace this multiple step action with something very simple and that is our block. The Empower Kickboxing downward block.

Notice my shoulder comes up, my chin comes down, my hand opens, it is just as effective. A lot easier to learn, a lot easier to teach. And also, as you can see, my hips are turning. So there’s a kick coming here towards my groin area. I am turning the target away and just

redirecting with an open hand so I can grab plus an open hand covers more, so I’m in good position, bang! To come right back again. So we’re not doing this stuff.

Robot, monster robot it is. There’s your front down block then the same thing on the other side here. I’m sweeping my body lines. The hands stay inside the body lines right there. So that is our downward block. So this goes out the window.

Obviously, you never aim to throw a punch and you never hold a punch out and you never put your hand at your hip in any kind of reality sparring or a street fight.

So let’s just discard that forever.

Next block is our shield block. And this is a defense against the haymaker. Very simply, I’m just going to hide and protect the target. This side of the head is the target.

I turn and always when I do that front action again, I’m turning the groin away a little bit. I’m making my target smaller by turning it away rather than turn it at the opponent, which is what traditional martial arts teaches. So shield, shield, it doesn’t stay there long. I don’t pose. I get there and I’m back. I’m getting there. Bang! I’m countering same thing on the other side. On the other side. Then we have the window wipers.

Just these things.

And I did I use this constantly when I’m sparring because guys to step in and push like that. Well, they dropped her hand and I’ll just, boom. Help it down. And I might make it my mission for my right hand to get to his head faster than his hand can get back to protect it. It’s worked many times in big tournaments and upside and upside Joe Lewis’s head has had a couple times.

Ok, so quick review. Shield. Window wipers. Now rather than boom. This forearm block.

That’s it. That’s it. That’s all there is. Simplicity.

So you’re working with your students in their living room rather than having them step, step and doing all over the place and then going off camera because there is somebody big steps in this form. They’re right there in front of you. And you’re right there in front of them. Leg checks.

If that’s something you want to do, you a little better back here. Like checks?

Not really. My thing. I wasn’t raised because I’m not an expert in that area. But you could use it or not. That’s the beauty of Empower Kickboxing. It’s not a strict style. It is a guideline. It’s lesson plans. It’s a brand. And it makes a lot of sense and makes teaching so much more easier because you have everybody in the same class.

So quick review. Shield blocks.

Window wipers. These are our forearm blocks and then our downward blocks, real simple. I don’t have to move. If I move it just a little pike step back.

Pike is kind of like a cat stance, actually. So I’m going to pike back up on the ball a foot here.

Those are the basic blocks from Empower Kickboxing versus the basic blocks from traditional martial arts. Out with the old.

In with the new.


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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