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.

While you may not see CrossFit as a direct competitor, you may be surprised by what you can learn from them. And it’s not just CrossFit. There are a number of clubs that are getting $100+ per month including Orange Theory, but let’s just focus on CrossFit.

  1. Much like Empower Kickboxing, CrossFit clubs are affiliates, not franchises. CrossFit offers no territorial protection like COBRA or TASMA.
  2. CrossFit Corporate charges $3,000 a year to own a gym with the name and logo. That’s it. There is very little marketing support, unlike COBRA and TASMA.
  3. CrossFit conducts classes with trainers who pay on average $1,000 per certification to earn the title of CrossFit Coach. It’s required. MATA Certification is a fraction of that.
  4. Crossfit gyms typically charge two to fives times more than typical gyms. In Boston, for example, a typical gym membership costs about $85 while Crossfit gym memberships range from $200 to $300 a-month. Nationwide, CrossFit averages 150 clients paying $150 and up per month which averages out to about $22,500.
  5. Unlike Planet Fitness where 80% of the clients paying $10 per month never show up, CrossFit clients do show up and pay.

What can we learn from this?

  1. People will pay to get results. The martial arts curriculum model of “Keep paying and in 3 years you’ll be glad you did” is getting harder to sell. People want results yesterday, not 1,000 days in the future.
  2. This is not about selling out. It’s about curriculum design and shedding the fat and baggage that most systems have. The style should serve the student not the opposite.
  3. CrossFit clients are serious about fitness so that’s all they want and get. CrossFit doesn’t try to be affordable or accessible to everyone. Every market has a top third that will pay what you ask if you provide what you promise.
  4. CrossFit parents can take a class with their kids so they workout together. That’s great from a bonding and time management standpoint.
  5. CrossFit is now offering after-school programs. It only makes sense. 50%+ of families are paying $232 a week on average for after-school. It would be foolish not to grab some of that market.

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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