John Graden

New Port Richey, Florida

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From world championships and 8th degree black belts to public speaking training and digital marketing, John Graden, Owner of (GML), author and founder of more martial arts organizations than you knew existed, has and continues to help thousands of individuals and business owners gain more confidence, make more money and improve their lives. Graden shared the story behind his incredible journey and highlighted how several “circumstances” seemed to dictate his path forward.

“I was born in Fort Hood, TX, but spent much of my early years in Germany,” Graden said. “I’m an Army brat, so we moved around quite a bit. After two years in Kentucky, my father was presented with an opportunity to move to either Huntsville, AL or Tampa, FL. Fortunately for me, he chose Florida, which is where I was first introduced to martial arts.”

Graden continued, “I remember visiting a Karate school with my dad and watching the classes. I really wanted to join, but my dad wasn’t willing to spend the money. Two weeks later, the owner’s wife called and said I could clean the school in return for lessons. I was the original ‘wax on wax off kid.’”

Graden’s love for martial arts grew strong as he quickly progressed through the ranks. He dropped out of high school to teach an accredited Karate class at St. Pete Junior College before another teacher convinced him to start teaching on his own.

Graden found his new home at the St. Pete Beach Recreation Center, where he taught for over four years. In 1984, a familiar face came to town and Graden’s life was forever changed.

“I first saw a picture of Joe Lewis on the back of a magazine,” Graden said. “I was on my way to my first Karate class with my dad. He was the greatest black belt ever. When he moved to the Tampa Bay area, I couldn’t believe it when he took me on as his personal training partner. It was a life changing event.”

The opportunity to train with Joe Lewis sparked a new career as a kickboxer. Graden would go on to tour the world, win world championships, start several professional associations, and write books and trade journals to help thousands of Martial Arts schools improve their businesses.

“I helped drag a lot of these guys into the modern area,” Graden said. “I had to convince them to adopt modern marketing techniques and strategies and to reevaluate their business models. Over time, I developed a system that created powerful influence and persuasion. That launched my career into teaching people the art of public speaking and coaching, among many other things such as teaching active shooter response plans.”

Graden continued, “From that came helping owners maximize their returns using marketing and technology. It was life changing for them. That was the genesis for the launch of the program I’m focused on now.”

As a member of the SMARTstart Pasco Incubator, part of Pasco EDC's SMARTstart Small Business Program, Graden launched and is growing his newest venture – GML.

Together with his son, Alexander, Graden plans to continue his speaking, training and coaching, while also providing small businesses with an array of digital marketing services.

“GML is about taking the principles I’ve learned and applying them to other small businesses,” Graden said. “Along those lines, I’ll do seminars on Facebook marketing, SEO and other digital marketing tools. We’re still in the early stages of this business, but my son and I are working hard. Part of our value proposition is that we’ll build our clients a free website up to 64 pages in return for them signing up for our ongoing marketing services. In most cases, that’s a $2,500 value.”

Graden shared that, even though GML has only been operational since late last year, they’ve already developed an impressive list of clients including attorneys, accountants and pest control companies.

GML provides videos that explain marketing processes and techniques and even offer a website auditing tool to determine current SEO effectiveness and optimization.

Looking ahead, Graden is focused on GML, a new podcast and the release of his newest book. He’ll also continue working with various Martial Arts associations, as well as churches, schools and different organizations, such as the Pasco County Human Trafficking Committee, on self-defense classes, active shooter training, anti-abduction training and anti-bullying seminars.

What advice does Graden have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “We live in the greatest country in history for entrepreneurship,” he said. “Where else can you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up? You can do anything you want. You have more choices and opportunities than ever. Don’t waste that!”


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