The MBC Instructor Certification Process

One of the most common questions I get regarding Martial Blade Concepts is “What do I have to do to become an instructor?” The answer, in simple terms, is to first learn how to “do” MBC and then learn how to “teach” MBC. In reality, however, it’s not that simple. It’s also not for everybody.

If you’ve been around the traditional martial arts for any length of time, you’ve probably seen your share of black belts—both good and bad. In most systems, earning a black belt is validation of your mastery of the basics, as well as a transitional point from student to instructor. Unfortunately, having the physical skill to do something doesn’t mean you have the ability to teach those skills to someone else.

Teaching, by itself, is a skill set. Doing it effectively requires the ability to communicate, to organize and present information, to answer questions, and to be sensitive to the learning abilities (and disabilities) of different students. When it comes to teaching physical skills to others, it should also include the ability to adapt techniques and methods to the physical attributes of different students to enable them to achieve the specified goal.

One of the unfortunate by-products of traditional martial arts training methods are the structures of discipline and respect associated with another culture. Respect and discipline are good things and should definitely be part of the martial arts. However, the cultural traditions and rank hierarchy of a martial arts system can be easily manipulated to fuel an instructor’s ego and as an excuse for lousy teaching. If you ask “Why should I punch this way?” the instructor’s answer should provide some insight into the logic and mechanics of the movement that helps you learn more effectively. If instead you get “I’m the sensei (sifu, guro, pendekar, master, etc.). You do like I say,” the instructor either doesn’t really care about teaching or is unable to teach effectively. Either way, you, as the student, lose. Fortunately, it’s a free country and part of the reason you’re training in the first place is to learn to deal with abusive people appropriately. Walk away and find an instructor who knows how to teach. 

Because these problems are so pervasive in the martial arts, for many years I purposely chose not to have MBC instructors. Over time, however, I realized that by keeping MBC’s standards high and emphasizing the “why” of what we do, I attracted like-minded people who shared the same commitment that I do to teaching well. With their heads already in the right place, implementing an instructor program made sense.

To try to share MBC as broadly as possible without diluting its meaning, I’ve created a number of levels of “instructor” and clearly defined each to avoid misunderstandings. I also tried to establish a system that allowed potential students to easily identify legitimate, authorized sources of MBC instruction. As an author, I understand copyrights and intellectual property pretty well and know that once I share something with someone, it’s very difficult to control what he/she does with it. However, as founder of the system, I CAN control who I choose to recognize as an authorized source if information on the system. As such, the first rule is that if someone is not included on the contact page of my web site, he/she is not a recognized or authorized MBC resource.

Those I do choose to recognize fall into one of several categories:

The most basic level of MBC “instructor” is a Study Group Leader. A Study Group Leader is someone who has actually trained with me at some point and has expressed a strong interest in learning and sharing MBC faithfully. He may be an instructor of another discipline, but more importantly, he has convinced me that he has the character to continue his study of MBC faithfully and is willing to guide and work with others in the process. Study Group Leaders typically organize training groups and work MBC/CBC material from my instructional DVDs.

The next step up is an Affiliate Instructor. Affiliate Instructors are people who already have extensive teaching experience on their own and have convinced me that they do it well. They have also convinced me that they want to faithfully represent MBC to their students. Even if they teach other knife disciplines, they are willing to share “pure” MBC with their students when the students ask for it. I don’t mind if these instructors show two different approaches to knife tactics, as long as the student knows which one is MBC and the instructor represents the MBC method as faithfully and accurately as possible.

Associate Instructors have trained extensively with me and have fully mastered all the required skills of MBC and CBC (Counter-Blade Concepts), even if those skills are not well suited to their physical attributes. They have also successfully passed the MBC Proficiency Test—a comprehensive skills evaluation that is given at the annual Martial Blade Camp event in Colorado. This test requires that the student demonstrate the ability to perform all the skills in the MBC/CBC systems on demand and demonstrate in-depth intellectual knowledge of the material as well. If the student passes and I feel that he has the ability, knowledge, and basic skill to teach and represent MBC well, I award him Associate Instructor status. If he successfully displays the physical skills of the systems, but does not demonstrate either the proper intellectual knowledge of the system or the attitude necessary to represent the system, he received a Certificate of Proficiency, but not Associate Instructor status.

Once someone is recognized as an Associate Instructor, I focus on providing him with the knowledge, information, and insight necessary for him to become a true teacher of MBC. Typically, this involves having the Associate Instructor work with me at seminars or in small-group sessions during which I explain the details of MBC’s teaching methodology and how to apply it to different student groups and types of learners. This instruction also addresses teaching left-handed students and students with physical limitations.

When an Associate Instructor has progressed successfully in this process and has gained adequate experience by teaching his own students, he may test to become a Certified Instructor. This test requires that he repeat the physical testing process that he went through to become an Associate Instructor, and that he successfully teach one or more blocks of instruction at Martial Blade Camp. Very few MBC practitioners make it to this level.

MBC does not require formal recertification, as all instructor certificates clearly state that I, at my sole discretion, may revoke their certification at any time if they fail to faithfully represent the spirit, intent, ethics, and skill level that define the MBC system. If that were to happen, the instructor’s status would be revoked and that revocation would be documented on the MBC web site. Unlike some arts and instructors, I will not indulge in revisionist history and will not pretend that I never taught or certified someone when I did. However, if an instructor misrepresents MBC or fails to uphold the standards I’ve established, I will no longer recognize him as an authorized representative or a qualified instructor of the system.

If you’ve read this far, you may have already guessed that MBC does not certify people by mail, nor do I operate three-day certification workshops that trade dollars for diplomas. While I’m certain that I could make money by doing so, my conscience, my pride in my curriculum, and my commitment to the MBC instructors who have worked so hard to excel in the current system won’t allow it.

I understand that MBC’s structure does not make it as accessible as many commercial martial arts. I regularly receive e-mails from people asking when I will be teaching a seminar in their home town. The honest answer is probably never. Thankfully, I also receive many e-mails from people asking where I will be teaching and where my instructors are located so they can plan their trip to visit us to train. In most cases, those are the individuals who have already done their homework and know what MBC has to offer. They are also the ones who ultimately progress through the system to become instructors.

MBC is what it is because of the high standards I’ve set for it. I’m proud of it and I’m honored to have a cadre of talented, dedicated instructors that share it faithfully and without compromise.

Thank you for your interest and understanding.

Stay safe,


A list of MBC instructors and study group leaders is available on my web site at:

Michael Janich