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.

Martial arts school owners often give very little attention to their liability waivers or hold harmless agreements because they feel they are not going to protect them from claims and they don’t want to pay for legal advice. The truth is, state laws determine how effective a waiver may be in court, but it is important to always have a well-written waiver in every state.

A liability waiver is intended to release the school from liability for injury resulting from ordinary negligence. To ensure protection, it is important to work with a lawyer in your state with experience in the state liability waiver laws. Although good cost-saving resources are available to help fitness center owners write their own waivers, it is imperative that an experienced attorney review and edit the waiver before it is put into use in your fitness school.

A well-written liability waiver is the best tool a martial arts school owner has to manage risk.

A waiver does not protect a martial arts school from negligence or reckless conduct. When we see big headlines for large claim settlements, there is usually a claim of gross negligence that resulted in serious injury.

So, don’t rely just on a liability waiver to protect your fitness business from claims even if you live in a state with favorable waiver laws. You must take other steps, too, such as carrying an appropriate level of liability insurance, taking all possible steps to protect your members, and documenting all upkeep and maintenance throughout the year.

What Makes a Well-Written Liability Waiver?

As stated above, obtain the assistance of an attorney with experience in the liability waiver laws of your state and preferably one who is also familiar with the fitness industry and your school. In addition, consider these things:

Use a stand-alone waiver document separate from your participation agreement. Write the waiver document so it is specific to activities the participant will engage in at your school.

You can explain to your members and guests how their safety is of the utmost importance to your martial arts school, explain the inherent risks of participation and close by requiring their signature on the release of liability.

A parent must sign the waiver for a minor. Although waivers for minors rarely hold up in court in most states, it still is imperative to obtain one for minor participants in fitness activities and in the childcare facilities at fitness centers. Again, get expert assistance when creating waivers for minors.

Waivers are more than worth the money you spend to write them if they save your fitness business from even one claim – now or in the future. State laws determine how effective a waiver may be in court, but it is important to always have a well-written waiver in every state.

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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