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.

You can ask questions which show an interest in understanding the personal needs of the child and expectations of the parents related to martial arts training. Spend time getting to know the parent as well as the child. Your questions and conversation with the parent and child will, at minimum, help you assess the individual training needs of the child. They also allow you to talk with parents on a more personal level regarding these needs, and their expectations.

You will gain an awareness of the mental, social and emotional development of the child, and begin to formulate in your own mind a “training plan” based upon the child’s abilities. For example, issues related to how well the child can attend to instruction in a group setting, process this information, and respond accordingly, will certainly have an impact on the child’s training.

In your assessment of the child’s needs, and the related expectations of the parents, you will gain insight as to how this child interacts with peers, particularly if problem behaviors exist which can have an impact on the functioning of the class as a whole. Will the child be demanding of the instructor’s time, possibly behaving in a manner which requires you to continually shift your attention to him/her?

Training in the martial arts places demands on the child to perform according to specified standards. It is important to assess the child’s ability to cope with the frustration which may accompany these demands. At the same time, you must assess how the parent expects that you will deal with any of these potentially problematic issues, should they exist.

Your assessment of the child, and parents’ expectations, can take the tone of a friendly conversation. Some questions for the parent may be:

– “How did your son/daughter get interested in the martial arts?”

– “Has your son/daughter trained before?”

– (If the answer is yes:) “What did you think about that training? What did you like? Was there anything you didn’t like?”

– (If the answer is yes:) “Tell me about that.”

– “Different people want to learn different things in the martial arts. What kinds of things might you want for your son/daughter to learn here?”

– “Are there some things which you would like to see emphasized in your son’s/daughter’s training?”

– (If the answer is yes:) “What are they?”

– “What kinds of things does he/she like to do for fun?”

– “How is school going for him/her?”

The responses to these questions can engage the parents in a conversation which helps you understand the training needs of the child, and the expectations of the parent. If the parents tell you that they are interested in enrolling their child in the martial arts because, “The kid needs to learn some self-control,” you had best gain insight into what they mean by this statement. Do certain problem behaviors exist which you should know about? If so, what are they? A simple “How so?” is a nice follow-up when parents make this type of comment.

Another scenario is that parents want their child to become more self-confident. Self-confidence can mean different things to different people. Are they bullied at school? Are they overly shy, or hesitant to speak up in class?

If you say to the parent, “Tell me more about that,” not only do you show an interest, but you can more specifically define what it is they expect for their child to get from training at your school. The key is not to assume that you know what the child needs from general statements. If you really are interested in helping the child and parent, find out specifically what it is they need help with first.

As you gain insight into the needs and expectations of the parents and child, you can begin to relate how some of what you offer at your school can benefit them. This is an important element in establishing your relationship with parents. If you simply deliver a standard speech that you give to parents when they visit your school for the first time, they may feel that you are not interested in their individual needs and expectations, but only in “making a sale.”

Regardless of what your school has to offer, unless you make a connection with what the parents want for their child, these nice features may be irrelevant in their mind, and so will the relationship which you are attempting to establish.

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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