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.

Ask 100 people who are interested in joining a martial arts school this question.

“Would you prefer a martial arts curriculum that is more complex and difficult or would you prefer a curriculum that is easy to learn?”

How do you think our instant gratification population would respond?

Yes. I love complexity. Or, No. I love simplicity.

This question is more important than ever because the pandemic has taught us that our world can change overnight. People do not have the patience for complex kata and skills that are only remotely related to self-defense.

We all live in an instant gratification world where almost anything we want is a click away. More than ever before, people want it now. They don’t like to wait. Especially since we’ve all seen how fast our world can be turned upside down.

Post-COVID, schools that are deep into the complexity of traditional martial arts will be less attractive than schools where the program is easier to learn.

Do you think people are attracted to an elaborate martial arts curriculum centered around kata, blocks, and stances to remember?

Have you ever had a person join your school because they wanted to learn kata? I’ve had a potential student say that he will not join because he thought kata was ridiculous looking.

Which one of these two statements do you think people will find more attractive?

1. Empower Kickboxing is a martial art that you can master faster!

2. Traditional Martial Arts will take you years to fully understand and decades to master.

teacher in martial arts curriculum class
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Geno GuevaraAlamo Ranch Martial ArtsSan Antonio, TX

“I am an old school “tae kwon do” instructor. Everything Mr. Graden described about the complexity of multiple classes learning different kata’s was true. I struggled for years trying to come up with a solution.

I tried a rotating curriculum with kata’s, students would fall behind, and the truth is kata’s did not help with real world self-defense. My students would get in a traditional stance or point fighting stance to defend themselves.

I knew deep down I wasn’t providing what I promised. I decided to switch over when COVID hit.. Teaching the basic skills in Empower Kickboxing helped me retain students over COVID and teach online.

I didn’t lose one student because of the transition. They all loved the new curriculum.

Plus, I didn’t need as much space since Kata’s required space. I cut my teaching hours in half since classes were all combined.

Even though the school took a hit in student count with COVID we are climbing back up pretty quickly. By the end we should be back to our normal student count.

Not to mention I no longer have to do all the introductory lessons which makes the sales process less reliant on me.

His methodology has allowed me to create a unique brand to separate against other schools. Most of my competitors are all traditional schools and we have positioned our brand against what everyone else is doing.  Differentiation.”

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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