1. When and how did you start training in the self-defense / Martial Arts industry/ fitness industry? Tell us your story

I have been training in the martial arts for 41 years and teaching martial arts and martial arts fitness for 36 years. I am a prodigy of the late, great Joe Lewis. Training directly with him for over 25 years and winning a World Kickboxing title under his guidance. I am a 7th degree master in the Joe Lewis fighting system (JLFS). The JLFS is at the core of the martial arts that I teach along with the COBRA self defense system.


I am also considered a pioneer in the integration of martial arts and fitness training. I developed Cardio Karate in the 90”s, along with the National Association professional Martial Artist (NAPMA). I certified over 6000 instructors to teach Cardio Karate in the US, Canada and UK over a five-year period.

Then I developed the Ultimate Body Challenge (UBC) in 2000. UBC was the first, start to finish, martial arts fitness program, in martial arts industry history. In fact, Chris Sutton, the creator of COBRA has said he was inspired by the UBC to develop COBRA. Chris made Black Belt with me and was training at my school when the UBC was created.

2.  How has COBRA impacted you as a professional?

COBRA has had a Huge impact on my school since Vikki Klidis started running it about two years ago. I think it is a real advantage having a female running a COBRA Program. Most people who join COBRA are female, and Vikki, with her huge smile and friendliness, just makes them relax and feel comfortable.

She commands respect from her students and people who train  with her.

Vikki is the real deal! She recently made 2nd degree Black Belt with me at my school focusing Predominantly on the Joe Lewis Fighting System (JLFS).

She also was one of the first Black Belts in COBRA Defense Fighting System and was trained by Chris Sutton himself.  She has been training and teaching COBRA from the beginning.


Because of Vikki’s influence, COBRA has become the perfect fit for my school!

Having trained with Joe Lewis and fought at a world-class level, I feel I have a pretty good idea on what works and what does not.

COBRA is the real deal!  It’s also a great feeder program for our adult Martial arts classes. When someone comes into your school already looking for knowledge it is much easier to convert him or her into a martial arts student than if they came looking for just fitness. Especially if you can present your martial arts program as just a continuation of what they have already been learning in COBRA.

I also believe in sparring and sparring drills to teach people how to fight. Sparring is not fighting, but you can’t learn to fight without it. The challenge is you can’t spar with a gun, knife or a bat. The COBRA drills and scenarios get you as close as you can to real street fighting.

The Majority of my Martial Arts Students are adults and must complete the COBRA Course to receive their Black Belt. I really believe the combination of JLFS and COBRA Self-defense is a great way to teach Adult martial artist.

So COBRA has had a big impact on me professionally!

3. What are your training/business goals for the next 3 years?

My next three years is a continuation of a 5-year goal I set a little over 2 years ago when I started teaching Adult martial arts classes again. For many years I taught adults only on a one on one bases.

The ongoing goal is a thriving adult martial arts program made up of smart professional students that are looking to achieve something special, real and empowering.

I believe there is a real need and market for a well-structured modern martial arts program for people 35 and older. A program designed for people that are looking to get more out of the time and effort they already have to put into fitness training if they want to stay in shape.

People that have already had success in life, be it college degree or success in business, know what it means to have a long-term vision on a goal. They are willing to commit to a long- term goal in the martial arts if the system is safe, and is designed for them, and not for a child or MMA fighter.

This is where my heart and passion is, to empower men and women through the JLFS and COBRA Self-Defense System.

4.What do you enjoy most about being a Self-Defense/Fitness Instructor?

I love creating something unique that really challenges people and has a positive impact on their lives, like the UBC, or what Chris has done with COBRA. To have an original idea and to be able to get a large group of smart people to follow you is amazing.

Before Joe Lewis passed away he asked me to create the white to Black curriculum for JLFS. I have not given up on that pledge and for the last two and a half years I have been working on an adult fighting system that is very modern in technique, but traditional in structure.

I promise you, soon we will be putting out some exceptional adult Black Belts, like Vikki Klidis, of all ages and COBRA Self Defense will play a big role in their skill set.

I also love to teach more than any other time in my life! Joe Lewis gave to me so much and asked so little in return. I feel l owe it to him to teach and expose as many people as possible to the brilliant martial arts that he taught me.

5. IF you only had 5 minutes to train someone what would be the most valuable survival skills you would teach them?

If you are talking about before any violence, than awareness is, by far, the most important survival skill and self-defense strategy there is. Being aware of your surrounding and the people around you, will keep you out of trouble more than any self-defense technique or strategy. That goes for men and women.

When it comes to confrontation, the first thing I teach is balance and distancing. Balance, because you cannot create any real power or be able to put up a strong defense without it. Distancing, because there is a huge difference between defending yourself with no reaction time, and having at least a step or more to react. Balance and distancing is at the core of the JLFS.

When teaching male student the first technique I teach is to defend against the most common attack on men, a right-handed punch to the left side of the face, also known as the sucker punch.

This punch has ended more fights, in the ring and in the street, than any other technique and has done it for centuries. So the first thing I teach all my male students, young or old, is how to shield and defend against that strike and balance and distancing play a huge roll.

Women are more complicated because of the wide range of reasons women are attacked, but most males, at some time in their life, is going to have defend against that punch, that is why it’s the first thing I teach, even to my juniors.

This common since approach is what makes JLFS and COBRA such s great match.

Describe your school, it’s location and all the programs you/your staff teach.

 My  school  has  been  in  the  making  for  over  35  years,  since  I  first  started  teaching   professionally  at  a  YMCA  in  Clearwater,  FL  at  age  17,  and  then  opening  my  first   freestanding  martial  arts  school  at  19.    I  have  gone  through  many  transformations   over  the  years.


From  teaching  traditional  Taekwondo  and  focusing  on  competing  to   having  one  of  the  largest  schools  in  Florida  with  over  90%  kids  throughout  the  late   80’s  and  early  90’s.     After  15  years  of  teaching  children  I  took  another  turn  and  made  my  school  more   like  a  gym.  Creating  a  student  body  of  90%  adult  women  and  teaching  mainly  fitness   kickboxing  and  focusing  on  my  Ultimate  Body  Challenge  (UBC)  from  the  late   nineties  to  just  a  few  years  ago.     My  school  now  reflects  all  of  those  experiences  and  more.


I  have  a  5000 sf  school  in   Seminole  FL.  I  have  been  at  this  location  for  over  20  years.  My  school  is  now  roughly   1/3  Fitness  kickboxing,  1/3  junior  martial  arts  and  1/3  adult  martial  arts.  We  also   teach  a  wide  variety  of  specialty  courses  like;  anti-­‐bullying,  COBRA  Self  defense,   Ultimate  body  Challenge  (UBC)  and  now  our  new  Personal  Empowerment  Program   (PEP)  8-­‐week  course.  PEP  combines  the  fitness  and  nutritional  training  of  the  UBC   with  the  real  life  street  defense  of  COBRA.  Making  it  one  very  empowering  course.


When  you  are  younger  I  think  we  all  have  a  tendency  to  compromise  on  what  we   want  to  do  with  our  school  and  go  after  what  we  think  is  going  to  make  us  the  most   money.  There  is  nothing  wrong  with  that,  but  at  this  time  in  my  life  I  wanted  to   create  a  school  that  I  really  want  to  be  at,  and  have  students  I  really  wanted  to  teach.     I  have  only  one  kids  class  a  night  and  I  really  enjoy  teaching  just  one  kids  class.  Same   with  fitness  kickboxing,  we  have  three  class  structures,  Kickboxing,  Fighter  fit  and   KickBata.  I  really  enjoy  a  motivating  fitness  class,  but  my  true  passion  is  my  adult   martial  arts  program.  I  believe  martial arts is the closest thing to the fountain of youth, and my goal is to improve peoples lives through training in my version of the Joe Lewis Fighting System (JLFS).

7.  If someone interested in joining as a Cobra Instructor / School what would you tell them?

If a traditional martial arts school owner, that is teaching only tradition martial arts techniques, asked me about COBRA, I would tell them that


COBRA can make them more modern and relevant, in the shortest period of time, than any other program you can put into your school.

If I am talking to someone that is already teaching a more modern and effective martial arts system, I would tell them that COBRA is a great feeder program for there martial arts school.

I would also say that the organization that is COBRA is top notch. I have been very impressed over the years on how well Chris, and his staff, keep creating new elements of COBRA like Active Shooter. This keeps COBRA relevant and marketable because it’s responding to the most modern threats.


For Information or to Schedule Training at COBRA-Defense Seminole / Jim Gradens Martial Arts & Fitness:

9104 Seminole Blvd

Seminole, Fl 33772   727-798-5269   Google Maps

Join Us On Face Book



COBRA Has Allowed Me to Make a Great Living Doing What I Love

The Best Business Opportunity in the Self-Defense Industry  I…

Keeping People Safe on the Mat and in the Streets

Police Officer & COBRA Instructor Dave Frank  …

Julie Keller : Rocking All Things COBRA from Students to COBRA Instructor

When and how did you start training…
Own your own

Make A Great Living. Empower Real People.

Own your own "Police Academy For Civilians" helping real people learn real-world self-defense.

Get the COBRA Self Defense App