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.

When I opened my first school, I grossed $5,800 in the first month. I thought I was a martial arts millionaire! Within six months, the gross was so low it was actually less than the bottom line of my wire-bound ledger. I remember drawing an explosion where the graph went off the bottom of the page.

I called a friend of mine who was running a successful school. When I told him I was in trouble, his first question was, “How many calls did you get last month?” I replied, “Probably 10 or 20.” He said, “Probably? Probably doesn’t run a business. Probably kills a business.” I’ll spare you the rest of the verbal spanking, but the lesson was that “What gets measured, gets done.”

If your school was a public company and you were going to sell stock, how would people know if it was a good investment? When I buy stock, I look at debt ratios, positions in the marketplace, earnings and their relationship to the current stock price. Another very big indicator is earnings growth. In other words, is the company growing? Are sales and profits increasing each year? Usually, a 20 percent earnings growth is one sign of a good business to invest in. In fact, once I learned the value of keeping statistics, I made 20% my minimum annual growth goal.

Granted you’re not selling stock in your school. You’ve already bought it all. How’s your investment doing? How was business last month? How did it compare to last year or three years ago? How many phone calls/emails does it take to get a student? How much money does it take to generate that many contacts?

Most schools can’t answer these questions because they are flying blind and not keeping statistics on their school’s performance.

Statistics are the heart monitor of the school. When the heart is beating slower, statistics scream it out at you. When things are cooking along, it is immediately reflected in your statistics.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of schools wouldn’t know the school is dying until it’s too late. Even after they realize the school is ill, they have no way of diagnosing the root cause of the problem and curing it. Consequently, the slowly beating heart has gone to a straight line and another for rent sign goes up in the window of another dead karate school.

MATA Statistics and Financial Control Section

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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