It’s no surprise that as Lead Instructor for Defence Lab Lincoln, I’m a pretty big fan of Defence Lab. I like the style, I like the evolution and I like founder Andy Norman’s motto of “work hard, be nice and be honest”. As a result of this I was pretty excited when I heard Defence Lab would soon be releasing their Virtual HQ! Well, that time has now arrived and on Tuesday 18th October, the Virtual HQ will be going live!
What is the Defence Lab Virtual HQ?
Simply put, the Virtual HQ is an online training resource and introduction to Defence Lab from Andy and the crew. The HQ is broken down into various folders and sections including weekly investigations, architectural framework and primal reactions. All of these areas are shown and explained by Andy and his elite team. New videos are added every week, giving you time to rep and drill the previous week’s material and giving you an overall feel and sense of the professional, yet effective system of Defence Lab.
Who is it for?
Honestly – The Virtual HQ is for anyone with even a passing interest in martial arts, self defence or fitness training. No matter what style or background you come from, there is something here for you. The beauty of Defence Lab is that is never stops. It is constantly developing and evolving with the times. 1 on 1, Defence Lab cover it. Multiple attackers? Covered. Sticks, knives, bats? Covered! You name it, Defence Lab cover it and this is why the Virtual HQ is going to be such a fantastic and ever developing resource for the martial arts and wider community.
What makes it different?
Defence Lab are not the first to release online videos or courses, yet they are the first to do it in such a professional and well developed manner. The videos are shot in high definition and thorough explanations are given by Andy as to why Defence Lab do what they do. Andy provokes you into thinking for yourself, questioning the system and therefore opening your mind to new information – something that martial artists are not always too willing to do! The overall look, feel and content of the Virtual HQ is something I have never seen before in terms of professionalism, content and general style and this really will be something that will revolutionise the martial arts world and make people stand up and take notice.
When is it available?
The Virtual HQ from Defence Lab will be going live on Tuesday 18th October and Defence Lab have already started releasing sneak peaks and teasers through their social media channels of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. To register your interest in Defence Lab’s Virtual HQ, please head over to their main site to keep up to date with the latest information and follow them on social media at the links below.
The Virtual HQ is going to be something very special and you do not want to miss out. I cannot put into words how awesome the Virtual HQ is in terms of look, feel and content and this is a must have resource for anyone interested in martial arts or personal safety. So go ahead, follow Defence Lab and sign up for more info on the resource centre that will revolutionise Martial Arts.
Here it is folks! The final part of the awesomely fantastical Bob Breen’s interview. Here he talks about plans for the future and 4D as well as his branding partners in Andy Norman, Phil Norman and Eddie Quinn. Enjoy!
Let’s talk about the collaboration with Andy Norman, Phil Norman and Eddie Quinn then.
I used to teach Andy back in the 80’s. He was an amazing determined guy that would come to see me in London from Hull once or twice a week and so when people say to me they can’t come to training for whatever reason, I always say there are no excuses! I taught Andy for a few years and we got on great, he was one of the best students I’ve had. I’d beat him up then he’d go back on the train thinking how he would beat me up next time in a tit for tat kind of way! We always kept in touch and then I met him in Italy last year and started talking about projects. I talked about 4D and he said why don’t you come and join me with the Defence Lab as we all have the same aim. Then with Phil as well who was an old JKD guy too. They’re all super brains! Phil was gladiators champion twice, Andy’s taught the Hollywood stars etc so why don’t we all work together. Andy has been the inspiration for it and he’s been a huge kick up the arse for us. It will be great fun and since we’ve been doing it I’ve had a great time. Then Eddie is on board too and he’s a great guy, fabulous communicator. We’re all pushing each other, it’s like a new wave happening and a new evolution that will take everything by storm!
So leading on from that what are your plans for the future?
Well we start the online university in the New Year, some of which will link up with Taken 3 as Liam Neeson is a student of Andy’s. We’re all filming crazily as I have 50 years of experience I want to show, lots of techniques too, but also showing how to get them to work practically. We’re all different heights, Phil’s tall and athletic; I’m about medium height but had a double hip replacement in the past so that taught me how to find space within space. Andy is shorter than all of us so his is all inside game. So when we look at everything together it’s like a jigsaw and if you learn all three, you would be an incredibly well rounded guy! Everyone there is so much fun as well. It’s almost like the old days of JKD, everyone has high energy and everything is new and exciting! Who else has done anything like the Defence Lab World Conference last month? There were 300 people there all learning together and everyone was just so revved! That was just the start we’ve got huge plans.
So finally what are your developments? How do you progress in the martial arts?
I’m collaborating with Matt Chapman at the moment with the 4D ground stuff. The 4D has a code, and a map which in essence can be seen as a timeline saying I’m here; I do this, etc so we want to do that with the ground too. I’m just training the 4D stuff hard now, we have a team we train at 7am in the morning with, all the high grade guys just bashing each other and testing the concepts and learning. We want to make sure it’s perfect for the guys we’re going to teach out there. We have discovered link points where you can go into Ghost or DL so my people can go into that so its cross branded, and also cross training. The big thing with 4D is a 4D fighter is never in front of you. We did a GoPro test where European BJJ champion David Onuma and I put a GoPro on our chest and we put it on every half second and attacked each other with blades. There are only 2 pictures with us in front of each other. All you catch is a bit of a shoulder, or a finger in the eye. It’s a great test as it shows, look; this is where you’re at. It’s not just you hit me, I hit you. A core concept is across all our systems is we don’t like or want to get hit. Myself, Andy and Phil and all the guys never want to get hit and that’s what we’re all about! We’re trying to do the martial arts we all dream of, we’re aiming at excellence.
Here’s part number two of the awesome interview with the incredible Bob Breen! Enjoy and as always like, share, comment and get involved in The Martial View Community :).
So what are the main principles of 4D Combat?
So firstly its total stand-up combat. All fights start standing contrary to what people believe. That’s where we want to end it. They all start standing and we do total stand up fighting – striking, clinching, weapons and group attack. You can’t choose the format any fight will be in, or morph into, so you have to be adaptable. Similarly we’re all short of time so you need a simple format that works whatever is happening. We try to have a code that covers 60% of that so we aren’t learning 4 different arts; we’re learning 1 art with 4 different aspects. One of the aims is to be faster by making the opponent slower, so that’s the Kali kind of influence, making you heavy or off balance. You can hit me really hard when you’re stood up straight, but I’m never going to have you standing straight, I’m always manipulating you all the while, mentally and physically. It integrates really well with Phil’s GHOST approach where you need to be fairly athletic. That’s fabulous which is why we have cross-branded as there are obviously times where you do have to be athletic and conditioned, but equally working hard for the sake of it isn’t good. You want them to work hard, and you to work less. Its minimum input, maximum output, keeping it simple and less is more! Amazingly you get all that stuff you dreamed of happening like the fancy arm locks as they give it to you!
You’re obviously a world authority on self-defence and especially knife defence. There are a lot of schools out there at the moment that claim to teach self-defence, but it’s not really that realistic, what are your thoughts on effective self-defence teaching and training?
Real fighting is always a lot faster and more chaotic than you think it will be, that’s part of the 4D thing. I’m either running, or hitting or clinching; I don’t want to be where you are going to hit or stab me. Take knife, the amount of people with experience knife fighting is not a lot, not healthy ones anyway! I had my first knife altercation when I was 11 outside of school and I’ve come up again knife, axe, gun etc. I haven’t been heroic or done incredible things, but we’ve tried to take the traditional stuff, the Filipino stuff mainly as I think it’s the best and use it.
The Filipino stuff is the best, but it’s almost the very best of a bad bunch, so we try to take that, test it, upgrade it and thin it so that the criteria is very rigorous on it. What happens with the majority of dojos is you get the conformist thing. I’ll come at you in a certain conformist attack; it’s all big and slow. There’s no interruption where I poke you in the eye with one hand and stab you with the other, so we embrace all that, but we do it in a classical way where we have the idea of total freedom where you can do anything, but we break it down so it has a traditional structure. That way you can learn and develop. It has to be tested though and have a chaos element or people lose the plot and think everything’s possible. Which of course it is but only when you really know it. Sometimes less workable aspects have their place. Take disarms people say disarms don’t work, but what’s good about them is that you get to be holding the guys arm at a slower pace than him stabbing you repeatedly and fast. So you get to learn things there, body knowledge as well as practicing the disarms which do happen. So everything works, but you need to train it rigorously and not have weird training routines where it’s too collaborative.
What are your thoughts on pressure testing? Is it possible?
It’s alright, but even that can be forced where they come and you one on one. The best pressure testing I can see is Andy’s DL stuff in a group and Phil Normans Ghost. Andy’s is a simple idea done really really well. Often in a group attack where he’s always on the move. Phil likewise but with one on one, My own 4D is replete with pressure testing, it’s built into the training at every level. Take knife for instance you have to try and stab me, not just stab a spot two feet away. You want to get to the cutting edge, but not the bleeding edge as that doesn’t help anyone! There needs to be a balance. My old Chinese Tai Chi teacher used to say to me Mr Breen! How many times you fight?! So I said once, twice a year maybe at the most, then she would say how many times do you trip up?! So I would say everyday then she would say better to practice not tripping up then! And I think that’s where people get into a whole paranoid thing about what could happen, but really life is about having fun. Train hard and functionally, but it has to be fun! I want my 4D guys to be the best they can be, but they have to be a decent person, keep their fitness, keep safe and keep their spirituality too! I want guys training when they’re 85 and be really balanced individuals yet still kicking arse!
Here we are lucky enough to read about the GHOST fighting method developed by Phil Norman that is taking the combat world by storm! Phil talks about the development of GHOST, as well as his plans for the future and his business relationships with Andy Norman of Defence Lab, Bob Breen of 4D Combat, and Eddie Quinn of The Approach! As always, if you enjoyed the article share, like, comment your thoughts, and subscribe to The Martial View!
Thanks for taking the interview Phil! Let’s start with how you began your journey in the martial arts.
I started my martial arts journey with Kung fu at a local club before going to a Dan Inosanto seminar in 1989. I was immediately hooked on his teachings and spent the next decade travelling to the USA and Europe for his seminars. I would then come back to the UK and pick up door work in between trips.
I then became a full instructor under Guro Dan Inosanto in 2000 in Jeet Kune Do/Jun Fan and also in Kali and Silat. I had already become an instructor in Thai Boxing under Ajarn Chai, Savate under Professor Salem Assli, Combat Submission Wrestling under Sensei Erik Paulson and I was ranked in Shoot Wrestling under Sensei Yorinaga Nakamura. Back in the UK I was training with Sensei Dave Kavanagh in Judo and I trained for many years with Trevor Ambrose who at that time was 5x world kickboxing champion and also a professional boxer. The latter two would be a big influence in my day to day training when I started competing. I competed in different styles just for kicks and giggles because it helped me focus in my training and I won a World title and 2 British titles. Towards the end of my days competing I was knocked out and took my first loss in an MMA match. My peers said I would grow from this and become a better martial artist.
Can you talk me through the development of the GHOST system and what makes it different to other training styles?
What actually happened was the start of what has now become the Ghost System. The fight I lost was probably my easiest one. It was pretty much one sided but then I got caught by my opponent who pulled out a last ditch strike. To ensure this would never happen again I looked at what I could have possibly done to avoid this. This brought new shapes and structures which then required new striking angles to make these shapes fit for purpose and effective. The problem was to then to convince fighters to do it. Needless to say they didn’t! It took a young student (5 years later) who just received his black belt and wanted to know what was next to get Ghost going. His name was Jake Clarke and he helped me develop the system by literally competing and trying it out. It wasn’t long before he started beating up the more experienced fighters I was training and the techniques I taught him became an elusive fighting system which needed a name. Initially the system used big evasive movements which are similar to the weapons based system Kali, so thought about calling it competition kali, but when I demonstrated it to some kali instructors they said that it wasn’t kali.
I remembered my first sparring session with my boxing coach Trevor Ambrose and how I couldn’t hit him and that it was like trying to hit a Ghost and then that was it! I realised that I had created a style which systemised the unorthodox evasive movement that was natural to boxers like Muhammad Ali and Prince Nassem and made it so that anyone can do it.
I see that you have developed partnerships with people such as Bob Breen, Andy Norman and Eddie Quinn, how did these relationships come about?
We started to develop it further through fighting and started to get a lot of interest from people who wanted seminars. It was whilst I was doing a seminar hosted by Eddie Quinn (friends of the Approach) that I managed to catch up with Andy Norman from Defence Lab. We had known each other for years on the JKD seminar circuit; he was originally a private student of Guru Bob Breen. I was really impressed with what I saw when he did his set. I had only really seen actors trying to do it and it was nothing like the real thing. I was about to go and speak to him when he stopped the seminar and congratulated me on what I had done on the set before him. We got chatting and he offered me guidance on developing the business side of Ghost. We have been in communication weekly ever since.
Andy was also helping his old instructor Guro Bob Breen and brought us together and created the cross branding of Defence Lab, Breen 4D and Ghost. This has lead onto us joining forces for many events and more recently our involvement with Defence Labs World Conference with our good friend Eddie Quinn. It was the best martial art event I have been involved in. They (DL) are light years ahead as a professional martial art organisation.
So what’s next for you and the future of GHOST?
For training I want to develop the instructor program into the USA (this year we trained instructors in Germany and Spain). I will be working hard to get the online program up next year and my fighters are still making waves so my long term goals are to break into UFC. The other is to get Jake boxing in the Olympics and also to raise the profile of Ghost via Hollywood! I have already been in front of a second director and stunt coordinator courtesy of Andy Norman and it looks like we are going to be involved in a project next year!
Interview with self defence expert Matt Frost, Part 3
This is the 3rd and final part of the interview conducted with head coach at Function First Lincoln, KFM Top Team Member, and developer of the Combat Resource Centre, Matt Frost. Part 1 can be found here and part 2 here. Links to the Combat Resource Centre can be found here. Enjoy! 😀
A big thing about self-defence nowadays is the legal aspect. KFM has been criticised for being quite smash and dash which sometimes wouldn’t be classed as self-defence. Has Renegade Street Tactics built on this in a legal aspect?
It certainly has, the programme has threat levels from stage 1-3. I was talking to Tony about this the other day and maybe you have experienced this where you train and the instructor says, “The guy comes up to you, postures at you and points a finger. You break it off, headbutt him”. And you’re going Woah!!! He’s just pointed at you and you’ve broken his finger and headbutted him! Not just in a legal sense this is wrong but also as a decent human being! Anyone can escalate the situation and there’s not going back from that. Is that the outcome we want? We have our three basic threat levels, there’s posturing and peacocking, then pushing and shoving to a full blown attack. Now obviously if you get blindsided, it goes to threat level 3 and do what you need to do to get out, that’s where KFM is great and you just survive. But the other elements were missing, and it doesn’t fit in with the family, community aspect! Teaching kids head stomps doesn’t really go with my philosophy of family community and development! It’s about redirecting the threat if possible, but if you can’t you go to the next level of force. Today with CCTV camera’s etc., you can’t just grab someone, head-butt them and stamp on them, you’re off to Prison. I’ve been to seminars where this has been taught. We teach stomps but from a defence, learning how to defend against it, not as an attack. We do not teach you how to go to prison but the opposite. It’s not acceptable martial arts behaviour. There’s also a lot of bravado and macho talk in the martial arts which can lead to delusion in people which is dangerous. I’ve had to use violence on people and it was one of the most shocking things I’ve ever done. I went home and broke down. I used violence and kept it to a level that was reasonable, but I didn’t expect the way it would affect me after it had happened. I went home and burst into tears at the thought of doing that to someone, I wasn’t prepared for. I’ve been shot at and beaten up, but this really affected me. It’s great in theory, smash them and get out, but it’s not that simple, and it’s not something people talk about or consider really.
So finally, what’s the future for you, Function First and Renegade Street Tactics?
2015 will see the launch of the new satellite schools and coaching courses with great business backup for us so we can replicate what we have done here in Lincoln and in Louth.
This is not your average franchise, its an exclusive opportunity and model for those who are prepared to put in the work. We are limiting it to maybe 6 new school owners each year, this is quality not quantity.
It’s a little Utopian but why the hell would anyone settle for less eh? To build full time professional schools, and raise the level of martial arts in the UK is a massive goal. Martial arts are still in the past in terms of pricing structure and the way it’s perceived. There’s nothing wrong with church halls etc. that’s where we came from but, people don’t value it as much, it has a stigma. Modern fully equipped full time academies are what your students are paying for so they get the best of everything. We should be on the same playing field as a professional business which is what we’re trying to do here. Build coaches and savvy business people, deliver honest products and keep it really high level martial artists and schools, not the watered down Mcdojo model as you mentioned before.
Function First full time professional academies throughout the UK?
That’s the vision. The martial arts changed my life, saved my life, it’s done that for a lot of people, I’m sure it’s changed yours. I believe that’s what I’m here to do now. To transmit that knowledge and grow it more from a place of experience. I think that can be achieved through the people we have here and it’s an exciting time! I just love the martial arts and want to continue growing as much as I can. I’ve just competed in my first BJJ competition and look forward to progressing more and more in that for a new challenge and something to learn. I’m 45 now, MMA is great but I’m not too keen on a shin in the teeth or a punch in the face with a 4oz glove anymore, I know im getting soft! I love the sparring but it’s much lighter now. All martial arts have something to offer and I want to learn as much as I can from all of them! As long as I, my coaches and students keep progressing I’m happy!
Interview with Self Defence Expert Matt Frost Part 2
This is the second part of the interview conducted with Matt Frost, KFM Top Team Member, Head Coach and Function First Lincoln, published author and, along with Tony Davis, developer of the Combat Resource Centre self defence programme. You can see part one of the interview here.
You’ve said about the bad experiences you had. Presumably this was pre any martial arts training. Are you OK to talk about some of them?
….This one though, I knew it was real and he was going to kill me. It was a rifle to my forehead and I grabbed the barrel, pulled it to one side of my head shouting “he’s got a gun” I then front kicked him in the stomach, falling backwards but firing the gun as he fell. It sounded like an air rifle, and my girlfriend went “he’s shot me”! I thought it was just an air rifle so said it would be ok. The gun ripped through my fingers and my girlfriend pulled me off as he ran away. I slammed the door of the truck we were living in and heard him shooting, I then realised it wasn’t an air rifle. I looked over at my girlfriend and there was blood just squirting everywhere then she just said, and I’ll never forget it “it’s like bloody reservoir dogs in here”! It was so surreal and electric, everything was super enhanced. I said I’ll go for help, luckily the guy had gone but we didn’t know that, so I went and got an ambulance. She lived and all is good now. But those are just some of the experiences I’ve had and how it escalated from some kicking’s in Lincoln High Street to a gun attack in Portugal.
That’s certainly some very intense experiences you have had which I’m sure give you some very unique perspectives on realistic self defence training. After Portugal did you then come back to the UK?
We travelled for a while longer in Czech, Germany, Poland etc and had a really good time. We were a bit cautious after everything that had happened but then came back to the UK in the late 90’s where I started training with Andy in 1999 until last year really. In the beginning it was mainly Andy I was training with, Justo came over for seminars but I still didn’t really understand the Keysi thing at this time. Then I joined the instructor programme to immerse myself more and in my second year training I went to Spain and that’s when I really met Justo and the European Keysi scene. I didn’t have a job at that point, I had money from travelling and I ran sound systems for festivals in Europe, I was still running those businesses but my time was pretty much free so I just absorbed the training in that time. Andy offered me a position coaching and it went on from there. The position was in Spain coaching the coaches. I used to do an obscene amount of time, 50-60 hours training a week, morning till night straight through as it just gripped me so much. Andy offered the job to coach the coaching courses in Spain and I just said Yeah! That’s fine but didn’t think much about it. I didn’t realise until I got out there that I’d never actually taught anyone. I was training hard and meticulously going through lessons plans, teaching people in different languages for 8 hours a day, that’s a bit of a brain melter. That’s why I opened the Priory in Lincoln, it wasn’t for a business, it was to learn more how to teach and develop myself, gaining more experience. The instructor programmes for Keysi were becoming popular, I was teaching in Norway, Spain, Italy, America and Australia and it was growing massively and I knew that it was going to be a big part of my life so I had to know how to coach at a high level. I went on coaching courses with people such as Mark Dawes, NLP coaching courses and National Federation of Personal Safety courses and started getting really interested in the coaching styles. In 2005 I opened the Priory two nights a week, adults only. Andy then shut down his academy in the UK and rewrote the Keysi syllabus in Spain. That’s where the Urban X came from. Keysi at the start was very different to what people know as KFM now, there was a lot of JKD in there and other art forms such as ground work that isn’t in there now. Andy moved to Spain and after about 2 months rang me asking me to come teach the new programme the next day. So I jumped on a plane the next day and spent 4 days looking at the syllabus and working on the first yellow grade. For the next year, I was there every other weekend for 4-5 days where we restructured what the world now knows as Keysi Fighting Method.
When did you make the decision to jump to a full time academy and step it up?
It was actually Paul, one of my coaches that suggested the jump to move to the current location. I was thinking about a full time academy. I’d been at the Priory 4-5 years and was only teaching adults. I was getting a bit bored of flying around doing the KFM seminars. In the beginning it was good fun and I enjoyed it, rock star lifestyle….but on Ryanair….but then it wore off. The coaching and seminars didn’t, but travelling all the time wore off. I was thinking about the transition where I could build a healthier lifestyle when we found a unit, checked it out and the second I saw it, picked up the phone and made an offer.
KFM is now obviously split up with Andy Norman taking the Defence Lab route, and Justo developing Keysi by Justo. What are your thoughts on the split from someone who trained so closely with them for so long?
It’s sad that they split. It was such an amazing experience and group of people that I don’t think will ever be replicated, definitely not in the KFM circles. Andy’s pushing 50 now, Justo is pushing 60. We virtually lived together, Andy has kids as does Justo and things are different now. I’m 46 this year and I’m a different person to what I was. At the time there were a lot of people involved that just taught and developed Keysi travelling around the world. It was intense, but incredible and I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s just really sad that it went wrong. I learnt a lot from it, I learnt a lot of what not to do, and how to do things. I’m sure Andy and Justo are grown up enough to admit the same. There were a lot of things done wrong but a lot of really cool things done too. It’s just a shame that couldn’t be worked out, but the whole split and fighting for public attention and stuff, I just stay out of, I’m not interested. The nonsense questions people ask, Is KEYSI better than DL? I mean you may as well as is Batman better than Spiderman, come on. At this level its pointless to ask that question. No one art is any better than any other. Ask yourself, Do you like it? The people around you? Are you enjoying the journey and development? That’s all that should matter.
So you now have the Renegade Street Tactics programme that is being developed. Tell me all about it!
Oh yeah!! I’ve just been working on it this morning actually. I’ve gone through the whole hard-core thing, you know fighting in car parks, toilets and years of crazy realistic training. Ask anyone about the Priory training days in Lincoln, they are legendary. People that were not there even talk about them. But you cant maintain that level of intensity, you cant run a business like that if you want to help the majority and its only a small % of the bigger picture. As I said my experiences of violence are extreme and I don’t think a lot of people can relate, some people don’t even believe me. I’ve only told you a few, there’s a lot more. But because of that, my self-defence has to be realistic and from a place of truth. I have to sleep at night knowing that what I teach is based upon my experiences.
Everyone has different experiences. At the end of the day, who can say what works and what doesn’t, its dependent on the situation at hand. So The tagline for the new programme Renegade Street Tactics Program is `The Art of Self Defence` so a bit of play on Sun Tzu, but that hard-core mentality is not even 5% of what we do or want to do or transmit to people. That doesn’t mean it’s diluted, I got to a very good level in that, and me getting to an even high level isn’t going to help the general student that trains twice a week. I mean I did over 10,000 hours in the first 10 years. Most students wont do that in a lifetime. Me polishing my skills is great for me, that’s a personal thing, but it’s not going to help most of my students. Then I started looking at the traditional arts and liked what they had to offer in some of them, not all. The Renegade Street Tactics part of the new name stands for the hardcore realistic no nonsense training. The tagline “The art of self defence” represents the ethics, morals and community, nutrition, well being, balanced life and so on. I mean we even do postural assessments on our students as they train to prevent injury in the future. We do all this with simple realistic self-defence.
Well actually we do this with all our program’s, MMA, Kickboxing, Kids classes, Fitness. For example, we have kid’s classes now, with parents coming and saying to us that the kids are asking to eat more vegetables. It’s a simple thing but it’s massive for me that they’re conscious of their nutrition. Others come in with problem children, where they don’t actually like their child, which is a difficult thing to admit as a parent, that you don’t like your own child. But they come back to us in 6 months’ time and comment on how we’ve changed the family and it’s become tighter, they enjoy spending time with the kids, pad feeding for them etc. and this for us is a massive thing. It’s not just the kids either. My coaches, some of them were packing eggs for a living and not enjoying it, but now you see they have responsibility and professionalism and love what they do. Its changed their lives which has changed their families’ lives. Its things like this that are in the new programme, looking at how we coach, mindful training in a world where we are easily distracted.
You’ll go for a drink with a friend in a pub but spend all the time on the mobile phone, it’s almost a disease and perhaps a reason for the misdiagnosis of ADHD, we don’t know the knock on effect of this in the years to come. The programme is designed through education and teaching people how to learn and stay mindful through the drills we do and that’s much more what I’m about now. The hard-core thing needs to be real, but the delivery system is more about the lifestyle and community. The hard-core stuff is very niche, we had 30 students maximum, which was great, it was a great moment in time, but it’s not where I’m at now. We still train hard as you work through the ranks but we don’t scare off new students the second they look through the door, were much more professional now.
You’ve said about the coaching courses and now you have satellite schools running in Newark, Stamford, Retford and Louth. Are you planning on doing more in the future?
Yeah. We started the coaching course last year as an experiment for years 1 and 2. Next year it gets launched to the public. Year 1 was to get feedback and iron out the wrinkles. I wanted to build this place here in Lincoln as the business model has to be built around the main academy, this is what we can achieve for anyone looking to get into the business, it’s a great advert. I wanted to grow it to a place where I had employed staff, dealing with HR issues, legal sides VAT sides etc, it’s a complex beast and it’s been a really interesting journey. We now have a full time business manager on board to take it to the next level. What I wanted to do was build this as a tight ship to build other models around. Im in no rush to do this, its going to be done well, tight and right. It has to be done right for the people who trust us to look after them when we roll it out to the public and we need some successful schools to show people what we can do. But what happened was a couple of people came to me that were having problems with their schools, it just wasn’t working for them. James from Louth came in January 2013 nearly in tears; he was going to lose his business and had little to no back up from the people he was paying to help him run his business. I didn’t want to step on other people’s toes so we introduced kids’ programmes, as they didn’t do that, we built the business up that way. Eventually he just said “Matt the way you do things is much better and that’s the way I want to go’”. He was with another Martial arts Franchise so I rang the owner and said this is what we’re doing and if there’s issues we won’t do it, so it was all above board. He gave me his blessing, I don’t do business any other way. It wasn’t in the plan, but now he’s up to 80 students in less than a year and has moved to a bigger academy and is in a really good place. He’s just had another refit and the place looks incredible, this is what we plan to do with the new Function First Franchise model around the UK.
The model we have works well and so that’s what we plan on doing in Newark and Stamford. The course will be launched to the public next year with business back up, renegade street tactics programmes, fitness, kids leadership programmes etc. so it’s just a really tight package. I believe our business model to be unique in the martial arts industry, What we are offering is taking people to the full time professional academy business. We have encountered many problems growing our main academy but learnt a lot from it. Hitting the 150 students and then employing staff and sales people in the academy pushed us to 300 very quickly which again brought all sorts of problems. Managing that and leading a team is a skill set that we are now very lucky to have covered with our business guru Mark. He ran teams of over 100 people that he built from scratch for huge multi billion dollar (yep billion) dollar companies. The guy is a genius, I love learning from him as much as I love learning my martial arts. Sitting with him is like sitting with the master and he is now responsible for looking after the new franchise schools and business training. You see were training our new school owners to be business people as well as great martial artists.
If this is being filtered down through all the schools, are you at all worried that the level of knowledge will also be diluted? I tentatively use the word “McDojo” and it’s sad to say but a lot of martial arts now have become filtered down from what they were in the beginning through knowledge being passed down inaccurately with the root of the art being lost.
It’s a valid question. The term McDojo is a funny one. I know what people mean by it, but I actually think that if they were McDojo’s I’d be impressed. I understand what they mean, cheap low quality product, but my business head is different now. I see McDojo as systems and procedures which in my opinion help us deliver a product. The McDojo is a low quality product, unethical, large business sort of model, but I am a fan of systems and procedures that make it easier to transmit knowledge. We are going to teach coaching skills to everyone in the new programme as it means we have to sharpen our skills and keep progressing. In terms of the systems and procedures, if you think of it like this. You had to go in and teach an elite team of soldiers, going into high intensity warzone in 6 months. You go in as a paid coach to teach self-defence or whatever. You teach things in a certain language and certain way, but one day you’re ill and have to get someone to cover. They then teach in their language. A takedown could be a double leg to someone, a shoot to someone else. The message is mixed and confused and its not completely clear where the coaches are coming from. Therefore to get the best, the coaches all need to speak the same way. That’s the essence of McDojo to me, the delivery system. Its sleek and a blueprint for teaching. There’s no room for misinterpretation, so its 100% understood by everyone and delivered the same. So if someone ever says to me you’re a McDojo, and no one ever has yet but im sure they will, part of me will say thanks very much! But equally I know what they mean. The systems and procedures we have for our coaches are to get all our coaches to transmit the same way. They have their own personality, they’re not robots, but they work to a system and structure we all understand so that if people come here for a grading, everyone knows where they stand. It’s an efficient way. Did that answer your question?
Partly, if you could just say a little bit more about the quality of the syllabus being kept strong and not being filtered down through satellite school openings?
It’s been a big discussion with the coaches on our course so far. I can’t ever measure someone against my level. That sounds egotistical, but when I’ve trained that much and have a good understanding of coaching and can transfer between arts quite quickly. That takes time, maybe 10 years to develop and I’m still developing. So you have to be realistic but have metrics and standards in place and constant growth for all. We constantly assess our coaches both in business and the arts, we don’t accept anyone. I think that’s what people mean when they call things Mc Dojo, it’s the ones who just accept anyone and let them go out and teach after 3 days training. Were not that model, you have to apply to join us and you have to pass a lot of requiremnets. For coaches we have to see them teach and they have to deliver to a certain standard each year.
They have to understand certain concepts and principles and there has to be a certain movement of body mechanic. If we’re talking straight jab, is their shoulder replacing the fist? Is the chin down? Is it tracking in a straight line? There are variables for each movement, and have they got them right and can they transmit that? It’s self-coaching. We get our students to learn like that it’s great. It happened in class the other day; stick this in the interview, Stu one of my coaches will kill me for it, but I don’t care! We break all movements down to lots of beats, so he was teaching a move in the MMA class, and it was down to 3 beats at a time so people don’t get confused. So moves one, two, three, then four, five, six. Then putting it all together. So he then said we’re going to stitch it all together and missed a beat out. I saw it and someone went, “Stu, you aren’t putting the arm over the head”! The student hadn’t seen the technique before but picked up on it through the use of the beats! Showing our way of teaching is replicable, our students get it, and then our coaches have to get it or our students will be the coach’s case as we cultivate that type of culture. It raises everyone’s game. By the end of an hour class, no matter how complicated something is, it should be able to be broken down and explained. Especially in self-defence where it needs to be simple and effective. You then add your personality and individualism into it and that’s really important!
Let’s talk Combat Resource Centre then!
When KFM split, we were in a bit of limbo stage. What do we do? The Renegade Street Tactics is the result of the Combat Resource Centre that I did with Tony Davis. We said let’s get together and put an online programme together to see feedback with our interpretation. The feedback was amazing, its selling really well all over the world. It was myself and Tony putting our name out there, not just copying KFM but adding our own bits too. KFM is sort of one dimensional, it’s awesome at it and possibly the best self defence method in the world in that range but it didn’t deal with all the ranges of combat and all the natural instinctive reactions to threat, so for us was not complete. Myself and Tony wanted to show a bit more, such as how to use trapping to protect someone else you’re with. We wanted to show we’re not just KFM and the Renegade Street Tactics programme came out of that. It was really enjoyable and we also learnt quite a bit filming, training developing stuff. It was really enjoyable.
Links to the Combat Resource Centre Page can be found here
Matt’s life and journey in the martial arts and self defence is certainly an interesting one. Starting martial arts at the relatively late age of 30, he was looking for martial arts training that coincided with his previous and sometimes violent experiences. He found that training in Keysi Fighting Method, learning from both Justo Dieguez and Andy Norman, both world renowned experts in realistic self defence training and progressing on to become a Top Team Member and coach for Keysi Fighting Method. Now head coach at Function First Lincoln and published author, Matt is developing his own style of martial arts and training through his Renegade Street Tactics Programme, and his teaming up with Tony Davis from Total Dojo Milton Keynes to develop the Combat Resource Centre. In this series of interviews, Matt talks about his personal experiences of extreme violence, his time training in Keysi Fighting Method and how martial arts changed his life forever as well as his development of satellite schools and coaching courses running for the public next year. Keep reading for part 1 of the interview and please continue to like, share, and support the site 🙂
Q. Hey Matt, thanks for taking the time for the interview, really appreciate it! Shall we start with how you got involved in the martial arts and self defence to begin with?
Same as a lot of people I believe, for building confidence. I’d gone through some real bad experiences and tried different therapies, sunk into depression, nothing was working for me, DR’s were trying to put me on drugs like anti-depressants and I just wasn’t interested in anything like that. I’d tried all sorts, hypnotherapists etc. and I just wasn’t in a good place. I remember walking past a church hall in Horncastle and there was a sign on the door saying Kickboxing, build confidence, so I thought I’ll try that. Next day I went in, tried it, loved it and that was the start of it. I just loved it from the first class and never looked back. I started quite late, I was 30 so quite a late starter. I did kickboxing for about 4 years and there was a crossover with other martial arts systems. I was looking at other stuff. I got to a place in that particular club where I was sparring heavily with all the black belts, but at a low level, I was just up for it and loved it, holding my own with the higher level guys. I then started reading about and starting other martial arts, and the world opened up to me, realising there was so much more out there than I realised, I thought it was just kickboxing or karate! I was reading stuff in Martial Arts Illustrated about centreline angles of attack and Dim Mak pressure points, so started investigating. I did some traditional Jiu-Jitsu, and some Kempo and a few pressure point seminars and just experimented with different things. I got my confidence and fitness levels up, but my skill level wasn’t very great, and I realised I wasn’t going to get that where I was training, no offence to them but the skill level I wanted I wasn’t going to get there. I started looking for other stuff. I wanted stuff that answered the questions in relation to the experiences I’d suffered, why I had the mental breakdown and depression and why I started looking for help to build confidence. Those questions weren’t being answered in the classes that claimed to teach self-defence and realistic this and that. That’s when the journey for the truth started. I felt good and got my confidence, but thought actually this doesn’t make sense and it isn’t what I’m looking for. That’s when my journey for realistic self-defence started and that’s when I found Andy Norman in Hull, and that was a big turning point in my life.
Q. Did you then travel to see Andy and learn self defence from him?
Yeah. Well at that point, I’d tried a few other things, and sort of gave up and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t working out. I thought maybe martial arts were just for the movies and choreographed, and I wasn’t finding the answers that related to my experiences. The people that were talking weren’t really talking from a place which I knew was truth and I was thinking, this isn’t how things happen in real life from my experience, so I sort of gave up on it. I remember I lived in a vehicle at the time, I was a traveller and got all my old martial arts illustrated pile out, and I just scattered them across the floor, I was reading and reading articles and certain names kept popping up such as Andy Norman’s. I saw he was being spoken about by other people, so it wasn’t self-promotion, so rather than looking for an advert I was looking for who was talking about who and Andy’s name kept popping up.
Hull was the nearest place for me. I’d never heard of it, it said it was JKD and KFM, I didn’t know what that was really, I’d read a little bit, but went and tried it out. They wouldn’t let me train more than twice a week to start with. I remember walking in absolutely terrified. Everyone was all in black uniform, all bald heads, tattoos, really intimidating, and I was really nervous. I now appreciate people walking into function first now, gives me a different perspective. I went and trained twice a week until 3 months had gone by then I could train more and step it up to 5 nights a week and by that point I was on the instructor course as I just wanted more information. At that point, I still didn’t really know what I was training. I didn’t know if it was rubbish, crap, amazing. I didn’t make my mind up straight away; it needs to resonate in certain ways with me. To begin with I just really enjoyed it which was enough, then I made a decision based upon my experiences to stick with it.
Then one day, about 4 months in, Andy Norman starting speaking about violence and the predatory instinct, redefining predator and prey and the way he spoke I knew it was real. He understood violence and that’s what I wanted to understand and learn. I wanted to understand the self-defence better, but it became crystal clear I wanted to understand violence and violent people. All the old sayings of know your enemy and keep them close came to mind and the penny dropped and I felt that was what I needed to understand as I was so scared of violence. The thought of violence used to terrify me to the point of sickness, and that was it and I just went “that’s it! It’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my life” and that was the start of my journey into Keysi.
Q. You’ve said about the bad experiences you had. Presumably this was pre any self defence training. Are you OK to talk about some of them?
Yeah that’s fine. I left school at a young age and met my girlfriend who I got a flat with on the high street in Lincoln. You know me Dan, I have a look and a style and always have. When I was 16-17 it was a 2ft Mohican and leather jackets with studs. I’ve always been a peaceful person, never into violence, and I still am, I just want to understand violence. That look didn’t go down too well in Lincoln in the early 80’s and I used to get attacked quite a lot even in broad daylight, like a Saturday afternoon, I’d get quite a bad kicking and sometimes wake up in the hospital. One time I got quite a serious kicking and ended up with some memory loss, found my way home, people thought I was drunk; I just have flashbacks from it but not a lot. I ended up going to A&E and stayed there a few days with memory loss and a nervous disorder after that from it. It was all just based on my appearance. It then escalated more so to distance myself from society further bought a bus and went travelling when I was 18!
I stepped out of society’s norm, not only did I look like this punk people were threatened by but now I was travelling round in a giant pink 40ft bus. Again, people didn’t like this, and this caused aggression. We had people unloading shotguns into the side of the bus while I was asleep at night and bricks through the window and we’d get attacked a lot. We moved abroad it then escalated in Spain where there was a big knife culture in Seville. We were attacked by a gang there. A guy ran up to me and friend, screamed in my face while he stabbed my friend in the stomach several times. I bundled my girlfriend to the floor then into a car and then went back picked a fire extinguisher up and fought with these people with knives. We saw the CCTV in the police station later on and these guys were passing the knife around, deciding who was going to be the one to stab us like it was a game. These were some serious wakeup calls. In Seville while we were there, I don’t know if it’s still like this but it was like anarchists, punks, Nazi’s and fragmented groups in the early 90’s. Masked gangs would shout at us “Viva Española” and beat us up, chasing us into bars where we had to fight to protect ourselves, using beer barrels as protection. In the end I was like, let’s get out, it’s not working, Seville’s not nice, I wanna get out! We went to Portugal and parked in the mountains. We were there about a week and there was a knock on the door. My girlfriend answered the door, and then closed it again. I asked what was going on and she said the guy that walks the goats just knocked on the door and just smiled at me. There was then another knock on the door, I answered and the same guy was there putting a gun to my head. I’ve been in various situations with guns before. Not to take it lightly but I knew it was all a bit of show for most people from body language. This one though, I knew it was real and he was going to kill me…..