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.

Few areas of running a school are as confusing and daunting as deciding how much to charge for lessons and then how to collect that tuition. This series of articles will help you get answers to the questions of how much to charge; what your tuition really means to your school; strategies for balancing paid in fulls with monthly; whether or not to use contracts; and other critical topics related to tuition pricing.

That’s Too Much For This Area

At the start of many of my seminars, I ask the audience of owners if they would be willing to sell me their black belt for $50,000. For $50,000 they erase martial arts from their life.

It would be as though never joined a school. Of course, this is an imaginary bet, but no one has ever said, “I would if I could.” Most people laugh and say they would not do it for a million dollars!

These are often the same owners who claim their area can’t support higher tuition. They’ll say the martial arts is worth more than $50,000 to them, but they are afraid to charge $100 per month for the same experience.

The common excuse is that “That’s too much for this area.” The real message is the owner doesn’t have the confidence to ask for fair tuition. There are a lot of excuses owners will give for why they charge so little, but there is not one good reason.

Most of us are brought up poor or middle class and then left to live the rest of our lives with the belief systems of the poor or the middle class. We’re taught that rich people are bad and that money is the root of all evil.

The truth is that “the love of money” is the root of all evil. To be sure,  there are always evil people, just like there are good people. Money is just a tool. You can build with it or use it to destroy.  

We’re also taught never to ask for money or we’ll appear greedy. This is the first reprogramming you’ll need in order to set fair tuition prices. You have to learn “to ask for the check.” Literally. Practice how to ask for a payment.

Typically, that is something like, “Would you like to use cash or a card?” or, “The total is $149. How would you like to handle that?” Say it over and over in your car as you’re driving around. The first few times, you may be nervous, but it won’t be long before it’s natural to you.

Rule One: If you do not value your martial arts school and its benefits for students, then no else will either.

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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