Important questions for martial arts school owners

I’ve been working with martial arts school owners and instructors since 1993.

Regardless of the decade, there is a predictable pattern for schools that end up like this.

Closed forever.

It’s an easy pattern to fall into.

Why did you choose the school you trained with?

Did you do research to find out what would be the best martial art for you or did you just join the school that was closest and/or cheapest or your friend attended?

I called every school around.

Only one invited me in to watch a class.

That invitation changed my life.

Just the facts

Did you accept, without question, that what your instructor taught was fact?

I certainly did.

As a 14-year white belt I was in a highly receptive mental  state while listening  and accepting everything my instructors said as the gospel of the martial arts.

I suspect we have this in common…

The Influence of Black Belt

My instructors.

What they taught me about karate became my belief system for martial arts.

After all, they were master black belt instructors.

What did I know?

Sound familiar?

An Empty Cup

Me at 15.

I chose my school only because they let me clean the school for lessons.

That was the only way for me to pay for classes.

I was completly immersed from class one.

I bet you were too.

Perpetuating Traditions

Did you feel an obligation to your instructors to teach the same curriculum that they taught you?

I did. That’s all I needed because it was the best. Right?

Besides, imitation is the highest form of flattery.

I was keeping traditions instead of questioning them.


Were you directly or indirectly taught that a school that has a lot of students must be a McDojo?

Unless they did it our way, they must be in it just for the money.

They must be giving belts away!

The market weeds out under-performers.

How do you explain that to your family? 

“I won’t dishonor the ancient traditional ways even if it’s better for my students and for our family’s future.”

I'm confused...

In the first half of class we march up and down the floor doing these traditional blocks and punches that don’t make any sense.

We have to keep our hand on our hip, aim a punch, hold it out, and be rigid as an oak tree. Why?

In the second half, we get yelled at for not keeping our hands UP and snapping our punches back.  “Move around more!”

Which is it? Where’s the value in doing that?

A confused student is soon to be an ex-student.


what is your school's focus?

Is your school style-centric? This means if they can’t remember a kata, a student can’t progress to the next belt.

Or, is your school student-centric?

This means the skills are simple and effective so everyone can learn them so more time is spent on application of skills rather than memorization of skills.

Take 71-seconds and watch this video.

It may change your life.

Where You Are Today

As a martial arts instructor are you treading water while still teaching 3-6 classes each night?

How much longer can you keep this up?

Imagine your school is:

1. Easier to manage with fewer classes.

2. Generating more income.

3. Attracting and keeping students for longer.

Do you want to be on the cutting edge or the dull edge?

the market has changed

Have you noticed that the adult market see martial arts as a kids activity?

Many women will not put on a karate gi top because it makes them look bigger.

How attractive is your school?

Teens see it as dorky

While they may want the benefits of martial arts, many teens today are not going to wear the full karate uniform aka pajamas or have to do the many skills that look weird.

Why do we still do these things?

why go there?

Have you noticed that kids are easily bored with complex kata and traditional blocks, punches, and deep stances?

Why try to teach kids skills that were designed by highly disciplined adults for other highly disciplined adults? 

Why even go there?

What do you think is more appealing?

1. Let me teach you something simple and spend the rest of the class on how to apply it in different drills and scenarios.

2. Let me spend class teaching complex skills with only imaginary real-world applications.

This is not rocket science.

What is the end goal?

Do you want to retire sooner rather than later?

Remember 20-years ago when all your friends hated their  jobs while you loved yours?

Many are retiring with pensions while you’re still teaching preschoolers four nights a week.

The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and hoping for different outcome.

Where Do You Want To Be?

Imagine that you only have  or two classes a night to teach with better student retention and higher income.

What difference would that make in your life?

Thank you for waking me up

“Thank you for waking me up to this concept! Love the material that is included in the Empower Kickboxing curriculum and I am using it daily.”

— Brock Brown Brown’s Karate Studio Angleton, TX

This is Us.

Empower Kickboxing is a full white to black belt curriculum that is easy to teach and easy to learn.

Lesson plans are emailed weekly to members with video demos of what to teach and how to teach it.

This puts all instructors on the same page speaking the same language. So curriculum consistency is no long an issue.

It’s on the video. 

Practical Leadership

“When I want some help with my school, John Graden is the guy I turned to.”

— Frank Shamrock, MMA Legend and MATA Board of Advisors Member

The Martial arts program that is easy to teach, easy to learn, and easy to manage.

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Easy to Teach

Empower Kickboxing only teaches the basic skills of martial arts, kickboxing, and self-defense. You are welcome add more complex skills like spinning kicks and jump kicks.

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Easy to Sell

We believe that it should not take as long to earn a black belt as it does to get a college degree. That’s why we only teach the easiest to learn, most effective skills.

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Easy to Manage

Most every skill or drill in a lesson plan is demonstrated and taught on video. This brings all of the instructors on the same page and speaking the same language.

Member Services Includes

In addition to the curriculum Empower Kickboxing membership includes a suite of marketing, management, consulting services.

The Curriculum

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Add John Graden to Your Team!

Martial Arts Instructor Certification graduate certificate

MATA Certification Course

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MATA-PRo Membership

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COBRA-Defense Integration

Joe Lewis Integration




Martial Arts Life Skill Library


Best Martial Arts Schools Directory


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distinguished Sources

This curriculum was created and designed by Joe Lewis protege’ John Graden so much of the curriculum is based on Joe Lewis Fighting Principles.

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World Caliber Support

Empower Kickboxing licensees have phone call access to founder John Graden for anything related to their business not just Empower Kickboxing.

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Proven Results

Empower Kickboxing started as Pro-Star Martial Arts in 2003 and rebranded as Empower Boxing from 2010-2015 and then Empower Kickboxing in 2016.

MEMBER Reviews

"My students totally love Empower Kickboxing!"

“My students totally love the Empower Kickboxing Curriculum! I love it too! Your simplified business model is really working for me and I look forward to many more years of working with you!”

"I am impressed with Empower Kickboxing"

“You will not find a more knowledgeable person within the martial arts industry than Mr. John Graden.

His Empower Kickboxing program teaches students martial arts and self-defense in a logical, step-by-step progression.

I have been teaching for over 25 years and I am impressed with the depth of knowledge and quality of the Empower Kickboxing curriculum.”

"They all love the new curriculum"

Teaching Empower Kickboxing helped me retain students over COVID and teaching online. I didn’t lose one student because of the transition. They all love the new curriculum.”

"Empower Kickboxing Works"

“I’ve had my school for 26-years and coming into COVID, I realized I needed to simplify what I was teaching. John Graden has a proven record of innovation and leadership for martial arts school owners. Empower Kickboxing works.”

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