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.

Some parents enroll their children in martial arts training because they want help. The child may have a problem managing his/her behavior when angry. Other concerns which parents express regarding their child are low grades in school, problems focusing his/her attention, or lack of appropriate respect for authority figures. Regardless of the problem, there may be a certain expectation that you, as his/her instructor in the martial arts, will play a major role in “the cure.” These expectations may be supported by what parents see advertised by various martial arts schools.

Such expectations by parents must be appropriately managed. These parents need to know that martial arts training is not martial arts therapy. Also, your time with, and influence over the child is limited. Although training in the martial arts can be an excellent adjunct to other efforts which are being made to help the child, promising that martial arts training alone can solve personal and academic problems is risky.

When talking with parents, explain to them the role which training in the martial arts can play in helping the child with specific problem behaviors. Show an interest in how martial arts training will be used in coordination with other efforts to assist the child. Questions and conversation about the ways in which this problem behavior is being addressed at home, school and other areas allow you to understand their current efforts and needs. Do not allow the parents to expect that training at your school alone will be the miracle cure to all that ails the child. This is an expectation which can result in disappointment for all concerned, and a strained relationship between instructors and parents.

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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