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.


“I was at a video shoot here in Tampa recently for a nutrition company. It’s one of our sponsors and it was at a martial arts school gym in a school which was basically an industrial garage with big doors open and heavy bags. The nutritional companies’ posters were on the wall.

There were six or eight people in the class at one o’clock in the afternoon. It was not a professional environment by any stretch, but the students were paying tuition. The instructor said, “Well these are the guys from TEN. That’s the nutritional company. Yeah, I use all this stuff but I never mentioned it because I don’t want to be a salesman.”  

What he was really saying is what many of you feel so let me venture this concept to you. “I don’t want to be a salesman,” it translates to I am a coward when it comes to persuasion. I’m so afraid that I’m gonna be rejected, that I won’t even go there. Instead,  I’ll take the high road and say I’m NOT going to be a salesman.

In reality, every time that a student is at the crossroad where he could join your school or leave and go to another school, you have to know that touch point and you have to know exactly how to communicate the benefits of your program.

But if it’s beneath you, you’re going to lose students consistently. Eventually, you’re going to have to explain that to your family. “I know we wanted to send you to college Heidi but I don’t want to be a salesman.”

The truth is that it’s very simple to learn to sell martial arts. This is not a big program with all kinds of moving parts. You’re not trying to sell a car. You’re not trying to sell a house was all kinds of contingency laws and going back and forth and negotiating. There’s typically no negotiations in a martial arts school enrollment presentation.

You have to know how to make the presentation like a pro and track your results.”


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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