Know Your Voice

I was the guy who created Cardio Karate in 1996, two years before the Tae Bo craze. I told the industry this was coming and that it was going to be big. But I never hid the fact that I would never teach a Cardio Karate class. I am a kickboxer, not a kick dancer. I have zero interest in kicking to an eight-beat. I created the Little Ninjas program characters with a Marvel Comics® artist. Great program, but I would never teach a Little Ninjas class or have the program in my school. I know who I am, and that is not for me.

When choosing from all the available programs, even mine, you have to be sure they reflect who you are and what you stand for. I still don’t understand what an afterschool program has to do with martial arts. Not that it’s a bad program. I see guys making lots of money with it, and that’s great, but there is no way on earth I would do that.

I can’t imagine a black belt dreaming about the perfect school: yeah, and then, after school, we’ll have study hall and learn Spanish and tae kwon do. You may love teaching kids and helping them with their homework. That’s great for you and for the kids. I just would never get excited about offering that program. Because I know my voice.

If you want to launch a program that reflects what you stand for, do it sooner than later.

You are going to make mistakes, so get them behind you quickly. This is a big step in dealing with the Control Factor. Double your failure rate by getting things going fast. Double your failure rate doesn’t mean open and close twice as many schools. It means if you are not making mistakes you are not trying hard enough. If your heart is not in your throat at least once a day, you are taking it too safe. You have to try, trip, and get back up continually to get ahead.

Too many guys put off launching a Black Belt Club or Leadership Team because they are afraid it may not go well. Often it doesn’t at first, but you get feedback and adjust it and keep going until you get it right. If you are in analysis paralysis, you will never launch the program. The adage about writing is that there is no writing, just rewriting. You will never get it perfect the first try, so make a mess and clean it up later. Just get on with it.

When a program doesn’t go well, don’t let the negative feedback define you. Know who you are, deeply and authentically. If I had let Century and their lawsuits define me, I wouldn’t have launched MATA or be writing this book. Century has brought three personal lawsuits against me now in addition to an earlier suit that drove NAPMA into bankruptcy. The owner of Century says that he sues me to keep me out of mischief. Still, losing NAPMA to Century doesn’t make me a loser, because his actions don’t define me. I know who I am and what I am capable of. I’m an honest person, and I have confidence in my abilities. Sometimes the combination rubs people the wrong way, and I regret that. I never mean to offend anyone, but at least people can’t say they don’t know where they stand with me. They know.

Through this process I’ve learned that the only person I can control is myself. I have learned that I will conduct myself ethically, but I no longer have the expectation that anyone else will. Not to imply I’m the only ethical person in the industry – I deal with honest, upstanding people every day. But I agree with Donald Trump, a guy who has been through some messes. He said that if you expect the worst from someone, you won’t get surprised. Although I’m not a negative person, the lawsuits and fallout from Century’s assaults have taught me much about this industry and myself.

Widely recognized as the man who revolutionized the martial arts industry, John Graden launched organizations such as NAPMA (National Association of Professional Martial Artists), ACMA (American Council on Martial Arts), and MATA (Martial Arts Teachers Association). Graden also introduced the first trade magazine for the martial arts business, Martial Arts Professional.

John Graden’s latest book, The Truth about the Martial Arts Business looks into key strategies involved in launching a martial arts business and includes Graden’s own experience as a student, a leader and a business owner.

Graden is the author of six books including The Truth about the Martial Arts Business, The Impostor Syndrome: How to Replace Self-Doubt with Self-Confidence and Train Your Brain for Success, Mr. Graden has been profiled by hundreds of international publications including over 20 magazine cover stories and a comprehensive profile in the Wall Street Journal.

Presentations include: The Impostor Syndrome, Black Belt Leadership, The Secret to Self Confidence, and How to Create a Life Instead of Making a Living, John has taught his proven and unique principles of success to thousands of people on three continents since 1987.

From keynote presentations for thousands to one-on-one coaching sessions, John Graden is a dynamic speaker, teacher, and media personality who brings passion and entertainment to his presentations.

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