April 29, 2022

Tenacity Tales #04: World Kickboxing Champion Now High-kicking Crime

By Leslie Youngblood

It's Tenacity Tales time once more! And we're stoked—and a little intimidated—by our next owner.

John Graden is a world champion kickboxer, certified self-defense coordinator, esteemed author, and founder of USA Self Defense.

In other words: John's totally hardcore.

But John also has an incredible work ethic and heart for helping people stay out of harm's way.

USA Self Defense provides programming around vital topics including active shooter situations, real estate safety, and college preparedness.

Here's a little from John on his experience with the mighty battle that is entrepreneurship.



John teaching self-defense to USF Sorority for National Women's Self-Defense Day 2017.

What’s the obstacle that you’ve overcome that you’re most proud of?

Most people do not experience violence personally. That creates a dangerous, “It will never happen to me” mentality.

There is a point in our demonstrations or classes where attendees “get it.” They realize that what they’ve assumed about personal protection or self-defense is more myth than reality.

This is especially true when parents witness their child take part in our anti-abduction workshop. Abduction is the ultimate nightmare for parents. When they see real, actionable ways to prevent their child from being abducted, they finally get it.

That makes me proud of my work.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known then?

It’s common for owners to get so wrapped up in their business and the information they spend all day and night discussing and thinking that they start to make assumptions about how lay people think and act.

It’s important to look at your business through the eyes of your clients, not the eyes of a veteran.


John, his wife Janet, and Dr. Oz after a promotional appearance on the Dr. Oz Show for John's book,
The Imposter Syndrome, in 2016.

What’s your best advice to other small business owners?

Stay humble and treat people like you would like them to treat you.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I start most mornings reviewing and prioritizing emails and communications that need a response. I then spend an hour writing before any distractions. Typically, then I go for a 25-minute run about high noon here in Florida. Why? Because it’s hot and sweaty, so it feels more effective. :)

Lunch while watching a video that will teach me something. I then spend the afternoon, “Prospecting, Presenting, and Following Up” if I am not shooting video or teaching a seminar.

Graden cars2

John takes teaching self-defense very seriously, but knows how important it is to have other outside hobbies.

What’s next for USA Self Defense?

I am a teacher by nature, so I’m happy that I am spending more time teaching active shooter response, anti-bully, real estate agent safety, and general self-defense and safety to people who really appreciate it.


Want more from John and USA Self Defense?

Download John's eBook, How to Stop a Bully Without Violence or Confrontation.


Visit the USA Self Defense website.


Follow USA Self Defense on Facebook.


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