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.

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MATA Instructor Certification Mission Statement

To present a universal language and understanding of how to be most effective when teaching martial arts regardless of style.

Four Parts to Teaching any Skills

One of the biggest voids in all martial arts is a lack of defensive training.

Sure, we teach basics and kata that have a bunch of blocks, they are practiced in a vacuum. 

How can you learn how to effectively block without a partner firing techniques on you?

This is why the MATA Instructor Certification program teaches a four-part system for teaching almost every skill.

1. Describe the skill.

Ideally, this description includes a story or application that creates anticipation and excitement for learning the technique.

Here is a short video of the late, great Joe Lewis telling such a story before teaching sidekick.

This is a clip from Joe Lewis 10 Favorite Self-Defense Techniques.
See Lesson One: The Best Finishing Hold
.

2. Demonstrate the skill.

First, show the application of the skill in real-time. 

For instance, if you’re teaching sidekick.

    • Show the power of the kick by skip side kicking a bag or shield. 
    • Demo different applications and potential targets. For example, sidekick the knee, the body, etc…
    • Using the sidekick defensively to stop an attack.

3. Lead the class step-by-step through the mechanics of the kick. 

    • Start your description with a connector phrase such as, “Sidekick is a straight kick. It’s just like stomping a can on the ground. You pull your knee in and stomp straight out instead of down.” 

“It’s just like” is the connector phrase. It connects the new skill to something we are familiar with.

    • Repeat the same anchor words with each step so that the student can recall them later when practicing. 
    • Emphasize the important points for each step. For instance, on sidekick, “Pull your knee in tight and aim your heel at the target. Think Knee-Heel-Human.

4. Teach the defense against the technique.

This is BY FAR the most neglected area. That is what is missing from the drill in the video. The kid is just standing there and blocking with his ear! He should be practicing his defense. Ideally, he would work on three defenses.

  • Block and counter. He may take a small step back, but he is essentially engaging the kick and counter-attacking.
  • Jam the kick. A jam is a tactical way to quickly step into a window of opportunity. I this case, when the girl starts to spin, that opens the window for a jam.
  • Distance. Using distance to avoid the kick. Make sure the student keeps his/her legs underneath them and changes their alignment during or after the retreat.

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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2 Comments

  1. Dan

    I have always thought the defender’s guard should be a realistic one so that the attacker gets used to not throwing techniques with nothing in the way.

  2. Dwight

    I agree totally… Learn the technique; practise the technique; add the counter!