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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.

Your potential ratio is the percentage of the population that has a realistic potential of joining your school. The number used for decades has been 1.5%. Due to the explosion of exposure and credibility the martial arts gained from the fitness kickboxing boom in the mid-1990s, I personally feel the number is larger than that. But, to be safe, let’s say two percent of the population may join your school. This applies mostly to medium and larger cities and metro areas. Smaller cities and towns can draw a much higher percentage of the population, depending on the demographics and the type of program being offered. 

Let’s say you are in a 100,000-population area, which means you have a potential ratio of 2,000 students. Sounds great, right? Well, slow down. First, those 2,000 are the potential for all of the martial arts classes combined. Your job, of course, is to get more than your competitors. Second, what if they live on the other side of town? 

Your pull radius is the area surrounding your school, from which your students will come. Typically, a student will not drive more than 10-15 minutes to your school. Yes, yes, yes, I know you have students who drive an hour and walk uphill both ways to get to your classes, but unless you are going to charge those three people $1,000 per class, you can’t build a school around them. 

The real question is, how much of my potential ratio is within my pull radius? Here is just a sample of the factors that will influence the answer: 

1. Regardless of the population of your area, what is the population within your pull radius? Multiply that by .02 to get your potential ratio. 

2. Is your school near a natural barrier? Where I live, there is a subtle bridge north of us. While there is nothing stopping us from crossing it, we rarely do. We turn south on the main roads to travel to shops, restaurants, and parks. I’m sure there are good restaurants and shops across the bridge, but we don’t go there, and I’m sure people on the other side don’t come south to our area. Other barriers include railroad tracks, rivers, bridges, busy highways, and tunnels. 

3. What are the real demographics of your pull radius? Do you have the area’s largest trailer park or retired person’s community inside your pull radius? You’re not going to get two percent of those markets. 

The demographics within your pull radius will make you or break you. Your job is to match your pull-radius demographic with your school. 

For our purposes, we will narrow your demographic focus to those people within your pull radius. Imagine setting a ring with the radius of a 15-minute drive on a map of your area and then moving it around. Wherever you move the ring the demographics will change. Our goal is to find the best demographics within that ring. Keep in mind that a 15-minute drive ring will be much smaller for a densely populated area with lots of traffic than a more rural area. A 15 minute drive in Orlando or London could be two miles, while it could be 15 miles or more in smaller, less congested areas, so be realistic in your ring size. You have to know the size of your pull radius. 

Once you zero in on a location, drive from the location at different times that your students would be going to class, so you can experience and time the drive, to see how far you get in 15-minutes. 

If two percent of your ring is your potential ratio, a population of 15,000 within the ring equates to a potential market of 300 students. Keep in mind that a good school in a smaller market can pull much more than two percent. Still, that is a sobering thought. 

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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