Interview with Self Defence expert Matt Frost Part 2!

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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.

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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.

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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

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Keysi Training with Justo Dieguez

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Keysi with Justo Dieguez

Keysi is incredible, its as simple as that. My experience of Keysi before training with the founder, Justo Dieguez was relatively little and so I was eager to learn all I could in the two hour seminar hosted by Keysi Lincoln. Keysi is a martial arts method developed in the 1980s through life experience and study. It aims to develop personal defence through instinct and personal growth and has now grown international recognition as an effective form of self defence, as well as through its use in Hollywood movies such as Batman, Jack Reacher and Mission Impossible III.

The seminar focused on principles such as trapping, and before long we were working in groups practising the Pensador or Thinking Man technique that is synonymous with Keysi, followed by strikes such as elbows and hammerfists that are again, part and parcel to the Keysi way. Throughout the training, we were encouraged to think about what was happening around us, not just focusing on our partner and the technique, but also thinking who was around us and what was going on. If someone’s back was turned while training, we were to tap it and that person then had to complete two press-ups. Before long the press-ups mounted up in to the hundreds! As Justo explained, that tap on the back where you were not aware of the people around you could quite easily be a knife in a real situation and that split second where concentration and awareness is lost could cost you your life.

“Training is training, the situation is the situation. You have to separate training from reality. In training, you miss what happens around you, you don’t hear, you don’t see anything, and you don’t move your body the way it needs to be moved. 90% of the people in the gyms go for sweat and feel happy but they don’t learn anything. In Keysi, the intention is to enter into the situation, with the physical, mental and emotional all coming together.”

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The class ended with some two on one drills that again got us thinking about what was happening around us, hoping to develop a 360 degree awareness that is necessary for self protection, especially when there is more than one assailant. As Justo says:

“I don’t sell security, that is impossible. I sell the fact that we are vulnerable, I don’t have a magic formula for anyone, its attitude and training that matters.”

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I found the seminar incredible, the techniques Justo demonstrated were simple enough to be effective, and Justo explained the principles of Keysi with a mixture of real life examples, valuable insights and humour, taking complex ideas and simplifying them for us. Keysi is seen by many as one of the most effective forms of self defence available today, yet Justo acknowledges that no system is perfect and that he does not have all the answers.

“The important thing about Keysi is who you are – your value. Through training you feel better and learn more about the street, but we can’t sell security. We sell good training and development to understand and recognise situations. In a real situation, in one moment you need to have the answer. If you’re thinking about how many techniques you know, you die, if you think about what you are going to do, you die, what do you do?

One time in Spain on TV, a guy showed a knife defence technique from the throat, playing to the camera. When the knife is put against the throat, the guy says show the camera you are scared. You really have to show that?! Of course its a scary situation. Then he says when this happens you catch the arm and the knife and apply this technique. Not possible. If someone put a knife against my throat from behind, guaranteed I would shit my pants. It’s ok to train like this, but don’t believe you can do it in real life. The attacker is angry, crazy, maybe on drugs and you try to disarm the knife? It’s impossible. How these people have the bollocks to stand in front of the camera and say in 10 minutes I will show you how to defend against a knife attack I don’t know. These people need to go to jail, they are selling lies. Maybe you believe it, and then if you ever try it, you are dead.”

Keysi is by far one of the most developed and intelligent forms of self protection around today. The seminar taught by Justo was incredible and thought provoking and it will be interesting to see Keysi develop further in the future, reaching wider audiences and spreading it’s message of self development and self protection.

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Good habits, good martial arts

good habits bad habits Good habits, good martial arts

Good habits, good martial arts

Success or failure in everything we do in life relies on our habits and this is especially true in the martial arts or self defence. A common problem with people studying the martial arts is consistency in their training, and staying on track with their development. You may join a martial arts school full of enthusiasm and eager to learn new skills, improve fitness or make new friends, yet as weeks, months or even years go by, that initial enthusiasm begins to subside and you find yourself making excuse after excuse about why you can’t train that day. Maybe you’ve had a busy day and are too tired, maybe you ate too late and don’t want to make yourself ill training. A whole wealth of excuses are at your disposal. Yet this is a very slippery slope.

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To begin with we have formed a good habit in making the step to join a martial arts school as well as forming a habit to attend 2 or 3 times a week maybe. Then something happens out of your control and you miss a class due to perhaps illness. Suddenly, the habit has been broken and you say to yourself “well I missed this class so ill miss the next one and start again fresh next week”, sound familiar? Problem is, when the next week comes around, another excuse is found and you are out of the habit of going training.

Big corporate gyms rely on this with many tying you in to year long contracts, safe in the knowledge that the vast majority of us will sign up to a gym in January, determined to work off the excessive alcohol and food consumed, only to have lost interest by February after an initial surge of determination and enjoyment with working out.

With martial arts this is slightly different. To become even slightly reasonable at the martial arts, severe dedication is required, and a lot of hours on the mat are needed to build up muscle, fitness, technique and to teach your body to move in the correct way, according to style of martial art. Those wanting to learn self defence or martial arts cannot do so in a couple of months or even years, its a lifelong pursuit where we aim to adopt consistent behaviours and actions to improve ourselves. We aim to develop good habits that last a lifetime.

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Its impossible to change all our bad habits, and this will only lead to failure, yet what we can do is select one behaviour we wish to adopt or change, and stick to it. Maybe it will be “I will train twice a week, every week” or “I will do an hour of my own research after my martial arts class”. This of course takes willpower, but research has suggested that willpower can be seen as similar to a muscle, in that the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. Then, the stronger it becomes and the more engrained the habit is, the easier it is to maintain until you are suddenly not even thinking about the habit, it has just become autopilot.

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Those in the martial arts and self defence world need to try and make training an autopilot habit where by we just go and train. What motivates you? For some it might be the next grading, for others the people they train with, some just love learning self defence or martial arts and want to delve as deeply as they can into it. Regardless of motivation, we should aim to turn this motivation into habit so that we can internalise techniques or principles learned in the martial arts and ensure we are constantly developing.


The Cult of Martial Arts?

yoda force The Cult of Martial Arts?

The Cult of Martial Arts

So you join a martial arts school. Fantastic! Regardless of style, whether it be MMA, traditional martial arts, or pure self defence you could be there for any number of reasons. You could want to develop yourself further, in terms of knowledge, fitness, flexibility or being out of your comfort zone. You could simply want to add another social circle to your life. It doesn’t matter, you’ve taken the step to reach out and try martial arts, and as a result of this, your life will be improved in some way I’m sure.

Where we encounter difficulties however, is when we fail to question what we do, and why we do it. Questioning techniques, principles and the way we do the things we do it central to both the understanding of the student, and the instructor. The student learns more than simply the movements of techniques, but the depth behind them and why they are effective. The instructor then constantly needs to develop in order to be able to answer the student’s questions and improve their own understanding. This questioning of techniques and their effectiveness and use is what keeps everyone developing, as well as keeping the martial art true to form. If this questioning does not occur however, the unfortunate situation where a so called Master of the martial arts, who may well have many students and a successful school, gets asked to demonstrate on someone other than his students and fails to have any effect on them whatsoever.

Above we have an example of this. The `Shihan` demonstrates throwing a number of his students from a distance with just a wave of his hand? The force is certainly strong with this one, but some of the moves I think even Yoda would be scratching his little green head at. How does this occur? I counted at least 8 people in that demonstration falling over for the `martial artist`. They all look reasonably young, fit and healthy by their acrobatic falls so why on earth are they falling over when this guy waves his hand from a meter away?!

yoda confuse The Cult of Martial Arts?

Is it hypnotism? The power of mass suggestion? Or is it simply conformity? You find one student that is willing to fall over without you even touching them, as they are so eager to learn the secrets of the martial arts and unlock the mysteries within! Another student then comes with no previous martial arts training, sees guy number one falling over, and thinks this is just the way you train, it must be Ki, or Chi (or the force)!! Before you know it you have 8 or 9 people willing to fall over for you when you sneeze and you look amazing!! You market this as a martial art, and go around with your group of trusty rag dolls (who admittedly are really good at falling over stylishly), showing off your skills around the world, and generally being bad-ass. This is great, until someone who has training in a real martial art, and doesn’t believe in the power of sneeze throws asks to challenge you. That’s when this happens…..

hypnocar The Cult of Martial Arts?

This is unpleasant to watch as no-one wants to see someone get beat up, but it serves a point. What the hell was he thinking? And more than this, what were his students thinking? This is where we need to constantly question what we do in the martial arts. In traditional martial arts especially, there is a very high emphasis on respect for the instructor. Respect is great and one of the many things that can be learnt from the martial arts as I’ve previously highlighted here. Subservience and blind obedience to your instructor is not a good trait however as it allows the martial arts to become something else. What is being seen here is not martial arts, but a cult, where one all powerful and charismatic leader manipulates the minds of others.

The martial arts, and especially the traditional ones need to be kept alive in their intensity, effectiveness and ability to improve people’s lives. With the rise of MMA, softer, more traditional arts are constantly being questioned in terms of their effectiveness in today’s world, and videos and instructors like this tarnish the name of all martial arts. Blame also needs to be placed on the students who allow this ridiculousness to be continued and called martial arts. We constantly need to develop and evolve as martial artists, getting stronger, fitter, more technical and most importantly, questioning what we do! Martial arts are great and offer many benefits, but the above examples in my opinion cannot be called martial arts as they do not improve or develop anyone’s life, nor teach anyone anything other than how to be a fantastic, nimble, but powerless guinea pig!

Disclaimer – These guys could actually have special powers….If I trip up tomorrow I’ll know everything I have said was wrong and that somewhere, Shihan Sneezey throws just waived his hand……

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Not cool if this happens….


Speed, Distance and Timing. The essence of Martial Arts

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Speed, Distance and Timing – The Essence of Martial Arts

Timing

An interesting article was published by the Daily Mail last year, looking at the Bruce Lee’s one inch punch and how it was possible for him to catapult grown men across the room from only an inch away. At first, people believed it was Lee’s superhuman fitness and conditioning, as well as correct technique that allowed him to produce such power in so short a distance, but new studies reveal it may actually have be his brain structure that accounts for it.

The study found black belts are able to punch incredibly hard, but this is not necessarily due to muscular strength, but more timing of the muscle movements produced by the brain. Effective punching came from the synchronization of the wrists and shoulders more than muscular strength alone, and this was determined by the brain structure. As Dr Ed Roberts, who ran the study states:

“We think that ability might be related to fine-tuning of neural connections in the cerebellum, allowing them to synchronise their arm and trunk movements very accurately.”

Martial arts novices were not able to synchronise their punching power through the whole body, with punches being based on muscular arm strength. As a result, the punches were not as quick, hard or effective, arguably showing that timing and coordination is essential to any martial artists training. Without correct timing, strikes or blocks will not be half as effective, relying simply on muscular strength. The full article can be found here.

speed JKD Speed, Distance and Timing. The essence of Martial Arts

Distance

In addition to timing, I would argue that distance is a major factor in relation to effective martial arts training. Traditional martial arts use the concept of ma-ai (distance) in all their techniques to effectively employ technique, whether this is striking such as in Karate, or locks and throws as in Judo or Aikido. In MMA, distance is judged through sparring and being able to judge whether to strike from standing or on the ground, or go for the takedown, closing the gap to allow the match to be taken to the ground. In terms of self defence, Geoff Thompson’s idea of The Fence shows the effective manipulation of distance before an altercation occurs, as well as Tony Davis and Matt Frost from the Combat Resource Centre explaining how going toe to toe with someone in terms of distance is not always a great idea, especially when dealing with multiple attackers. Links to their Home Study Self Defence course can be found on my homepage, as well as on my post on the Combat Resource Centre here

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Tony Davis from the Combat Resource Centre

Speed

Speed is obviously essential to effective martial arts training, whether this be traditional martial arts, MMA or self defence. The opponent who is slower, sometimes regardless of technique, is always at a disadvantage as movements can be read and predicted, allowing the faster martial artist to effectively control distance. They can then close the gap when needed to deliver strikes or a takedown, or move out of range to avoid attacks. This concept is best shown by the Ghost method of fighting, developed by Phil Norman which emphasises being elusive through speed, and controlling distance through constant movement, delivering fast, effective striking and avoiding being hit.

ghost Speed, Distance and Timing. The essence of Martial Arts

Ghost Fighting with Phil Norman

Speed, distance and timing and essential skills for the martial artist to learn, whether aims are self defence, fitness, traditional martial arts or sport fighting such as MMA. They all interlink as well, with speed allowing you to control the distance and timing of your opponent, shown in Ghost training. The correct distance allows you to be fast, moving in and out of the pocket, delivering strikes or takedowns with good timing for effectiveness, and the correct timing allows speed, power and control of distance.


Geoff Thompson’s The Fence

fence Geoff Thompsons The Fence

The Fence

The Fence concept

The Fence concept, developed by Geoff Thompson can arguably be seen as one of the most effective, yet overlooked real self defence principles around. The Fence controls the distance between you and your attacker in the run up to an altercation, and allows you to control the situation as your first line of defence.

Geoff Thompson states that it is all very well having a catalog of incredibly powerful techniques or strikes at your disposal, only they are useless without the element of control. The Fence aims to dictate distance and timing, while being relaxed and natural. In many cases, altercations occur, and people immediately throw their hands up in a boxing style, assuming their position to fight. This may work, yet it screams aggression and may simply escalate the situation further, taking the element of control out of your hands. The Fence is unassuming and passive in a way, and aims to diffuse the violence, not increase it which taking up a boxing stance may well do. Subliminally the fence aims to take control of the situation and let the attacker know in some way that you know what you are doing in the hope they will back down due to this deterrent, allowing you to get out of the situation without fighting which can lead to trouble with the law, as well as putting you at serious risk or injury or even death.

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The Fence in action

The Fence keeps the arms outstretched, keeping the distance of around 18 inches between the attacker and yourself. It blocks the path of the attackers arms so punches are difficult to throw, as well as the path of the headbutt. Geoff equates this idea of The Fence in terms of building a fence around a factory. The bigger the fence, the more of a deterrent to people who want to break in there is. The smaller, weaker fence will be more susceptible to attack, while the larger stronger fence may not keep people out forever, but will certainly be more effective than a small fence, or no fence at all.

This simple concept is overlooked so often in self defence training, where people become too focused on responding to the attacks, rather than looking at the events leading up to the attack. If we simply respond to attacks, we are already on the back foot and the defensive. You could be very skillful at defending yourself and be winning the fight once it occurs, until the attackers friends decide to jump in and you are suddenly being beaten up by four people at once. The Fence aims to take control of the situation before the physical attacks happen, allowing control of the distance as well as the psychological aspects of the fight. The Fence and its principles should be taught in all forms of martial arts in my opinion due to its simplicity, yet extreme effectiveness.

More information on Geoff Thompson and his ideas on self defence can be found here

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Geoff Thompson

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Geoff’s book on The Fence

 


What does it mean to achieve black belt?

 What does it mean to achieve black belt?

 

What does it mean to achieve black belt?

For many studying the martial arts, black belt is the goal to work towards, and even those who have little interest or knowledge of martial arts have some idea of what black belt means. If I am speaking to someone new and the topic of my training comes up, inevitably the first question that is asked is whether I have a black belt or not. What does it really mean to be a black belt however?

When people learn you have the rank of black belt in one form of martial art or another, there is the general thinking that you can handle yourself well in a fight, and are in fairly good physical condition. This may well be the case, yet the idea of the black belt is more than this. The black belt means simply that you have not given up, you have worked hard and acquired a certain level of skill in the chosen art. I remember being told once that a high percentage of people stop doing martial arts after achieving black belt, as for them, the goal has been reached. They have the certificate, they have the black belt, and they have the right to say they are black belt. For them the goal has been reached. This is the wrong way to look at it in my opinion however. Black belt is simply the second step on a very large flight of stairs! The first step is making the decision to study a particular martial art, choosing to go up the grades and progress which in itself can take any number of years. Black belt is simply the second step, recognizing some technical ability, but recognizing more than you continue to come to class, work hard and seek to improve yourself. Black belt is not the destination, it is just one pit stop on the very long journey…

With the rank of black belt comes responsibility as well. You are there to set an example to other students who may well wish to achieve their black belt one day. You may start instructing and imparting the knowledge that has been acquired over the years studying your martial art. All this comes with responsibility to represent your art, and to set the tone for other lower graded students.

The black belt itself means very little, but it signifies that perhaps you are ready to study the art in more detail, and acknowledges the hard work and effort put into your training. As already said, it is just one stop on a very long journey :). An interesting discussion with more detail on this can be found here

As always thanks for reading and feel free to get in touch with any topics you’d like to see discussed via the comment section below or at dan@themartialview.com

Thanks 🙂

 


The Role of Traditional Martial Arts Today

 The Role of Traditional Martial Arts Today

Traditional Martial Arts today?

Its been a much debated topic with numerous posts online being centered around the effectiveness of the traditional martial arts today, and what they can offer to society. As someone who has both trained and taught traditional martial arts for a number of years, it is an interesting topic for me to address and a number of factors need to be considered in terms of the `role` of martial arts today.

Combat effectiveness in the Martial Arts?

Firstly, and most obviously, there is the factor of combat effectiveness. The early UFC hoped to pit fighter against fighter, asking the age old question of which style was most effective when it came down to a `no holds barred` contest. Would the bigger man dominate over the quicker, more agile opponent? Was karate better than boxing? From the first UFC’s, and the dominance of Royce Gracie and his style of Brazilin Jiu-Jitsu, it was clear that a new type of fighter had emerged, one that was not only comfortable on the ground, but advantaged in this way. Martial arts then took on a whole new format in the following years, and the idea of mixed martial arts was born, focusing on arts like kickboxing and muay thai for standup game, wrestling for taking down the opponent, and BJJ for ground game. Many now think of MMA as being the pinnacle of combat effectiveness as it tests the fighter’s skill, and fitness against a non-compliant opponent, something that the traditional martial arts can lack. I contest this belief but on to that at a later date.

Martial Arts Principles

I have trained and taught Yoshinkan Aikido for many years now, and a constant criticism I find from people looking at aikido is that the techniques seem ineffective, unrealistic, and dependent on the compliance of the partner. It is true that in the beginning we rely on our partner working with us to help us understand the technique we are trying to do, but what people fail to grasp is the principles underlying the techniques learnt. Aikido looks a lot at wrist grabs due to its being based on samurai unarmed combat. Samurai armor was weak at the wrists and so it was common to attack here. A wrist grab attack in today’s world is unrealistic, yet the principles we learn from this simple attack helps us to build the foundations for more realistic attacks. Aikido looks at connecting with the partner/opponent and keeping this connection throughout the technique. An easy way for this principle to be understood is through the wrist, as the elbow and shoulder can then easily be controlled. If we looked straight at a hook punch, headbutt, or other such `realistic attacks`, this simple principle could be overlooked and so, in my opinion and in terms of aikido, simpler attacks are necessary until you understand the basics. All martial arts, regardless of style work on the principles of unbalancing the attacker while maintaining your balance, employing power through the hips and lower body, and neutralizing the attack, either through a block or movement. This can be seen in the boxer slipping the punch, unbalancing the opponent and allowing an opening to counter punch. It is often not the most powerful punches that cause the knockouts in these cases, but the punches timed perfectly where the opponent is off balance and left open. This principle in my opinion, is true of all martial arts, regardless of styles.

So in terms of combat effectiveness, I believe that all martial arts, traditional and new, have their place and these all teach the same fundamental principles, all be it with a sometimes different slant. What is crucial, is to remember what is being studied. A `Martial` art, martial meaning war. The effectiveness of the traditional martial arts still hold true today, in my opinion, but it is dependent on the patience of the individual learning, as well as the instructor teaching. There is a tendency in the traditional martial arts to sometimes forget the applicability of techniques, focusing too much on the `art` and not enough on the `martial` aspect and so to keep its role in terms of combat effectiveness in today’s society, traditional martial arts should address this.

Combat effectiveness is just one role the martial arts can play today, and in my opinion is not the most important. Next blog I will discuss the role it can have on the development of children through the instilling of respect, discipline, fitness and a don’t give up attitude.