Endorsed by Liam Neeson, used in films such as Jack Reacher and Batman Begins and hailed by many top martial artists as the future, Andy Norman’s Defence Lab is taking the world by storm and for good reason as I’ve recently been finding out. Anyone who follows The Martial View on Facebook knows that I fairly regularly post videos and articles sent out by the Defence Lab team. I do this for a number of reasons; I think the material is fantastic, both in terms of the content as well as the production and I think Defence Lab is paving the way for professional martial arts in terms of business, content and image. Last Saturday I attended the Defence Lab `Defence in Action` workshop in Andy Norman’s home town Hull, held by Paul `Demolition Man` Strauther which focussed on close quarter combat craziness and my verdict? Absolutely mind blowing…
What makes the workshop and classes I’ve been attending recently so incredible? The techniques?The instruction?The application? Yes, all of the above, but it’s also more than that, it’s the family atmosphere Defence Lab have managed to create which I’ve seen lacking in some schools. Having trained at both the Nottingham school under Charles Hartnett and also the workshop under Paul, from the moment I arrived at the venues I was welcomed by the team and the students who took the time to ask how I was, see my background and generally have a chat. It’s a great thing seeing a room full of people decked out in the Defence Lab black and green, laughing and joking but also learning an incredibly practical, dynamic combat system developed from real life situations. Everything that was taught in the classes and the workshop was practical and had an application with a special focus on Defence Lab’s speciality, multiple assailants. Techniques were shown and explained by Paul then put into a real life context through drills such as the `Temple of Chaos` which includes working and escaping from a multiple attack situation.
The pure practicality of Defence Lab, combined with the image, branding, endorsements and family feel truly is making Defence Lab the future in martial arts in my opinion. With Andy Norman’s Defence Lab being cross-branded with Phil Norman’s `Ghost` system and Bob Breen’s `4D Combat` as well as Eddie Quinn’s `The Approach`, these all combine to form one hell of a lot of martial experience. This also shows a refreshingly collaborative approach in the world of martial arts where many bicker over whose style is best and Defence Lab has the feel of people just wanting to make friends, train in a great environment and learn an incredibly practical form of self-defence. With Defence Lab schools now active around the world, there has never been a better time to join the Defence Lab team and I would highly recommend experiencing training with them both from a martial arts perspective as well as being a part of something that is taking the world by storm and revolutionising the martial arts forever.
Film Star and Bodyguard – Interview with Richard Norton p.3!
Here’s the third and final part of the awesome interview with Richard Norton! Enjoy, and share the awesomeness!
Let’s go back to the martial arts side then. What do you think martial arts, both traditional and reality based can offer to the 21st century? Do they still hold relevance?
Yes and no. I think they do if the style and instructor has the wisdom to integrate it into today’s world. You’re right; a lot of the traditional kata or weapons work doesn’t really have much relevance in today’s combat arena, but then it doesn’t always have to. I mean you’re not going to be walking around the street with a Katana or Sai in your hand, so that side of it, for me, is about the art part of ‘martial art’. I think we can often focus too much on the ‘Martial’ and not enough on the ‘Art’ side of what we do. The mental and spiritual side of the arts, I think, has a tremendous amount of benefit and relevance in today’s world due to the stresses and everything we go through in day to day life, purely just to make a living and have ends meet. To have something in your daily life that’s about spiritual balance is, to me, very important. The battlefield of today isn’t about samurai style on horseback; it’s a couple of guys outside a nightclub with a blade trying to cut you up, or your boss in your day job piling endless files on your desk with a deadline to get done. I love the traditional arts and the way it is just about me and the perfecting of my art with the mind, body and spirit in unison and I truly believe having that togetherness will help you in many a real situation. But I of course also think you need the stress tested reality based techniques as well as the traditional as these are what will really help you in a physical life or death situation. You see, in most traditional dojo’s, everything we do is structured; we bow, step up and fight to specific protocols and rules, its what I call, consensual sparring. We know we are going to fight; there are rules and a referee. In the street there are no rules and you have no way of knowing what’s going to happen. A lot of traditional clubs will not or cannot teach you what that aspect of combat is really like, and that’s where we need to address the balance. As an example, I was once teaching a class of MMA students and I decided to ask them just why they were all there. In this case, the MMA style I was asked to teach was more UFC style; backs against the cage etc. As it turned out, 90% of those in attendance said they were interested primarily in real life self-defence. So I said well then that cuts out about 70% of what I would in a ‘sport’ MMA class .I mean in the street, if I happen to take you down in a fight with a version of a double or single leg, I absolutely no longer want to go down to the ground with you, as I primarily then have to worry about the possibility of other ‘bad’ people around kicking my head in whilst I’m tied up with you. How many times in the street will you have your back up against a cage? In street MMA, I would teach a hybrid takedown, then be immediately scanning to see if there are opponents 2, 3 or 4 that I may have to deal with. So you can have the traditional and the reality. The reverse punch comes from the hip which is probably the way I’d launch a pre-emptive strike. In the end a punch is a punch, a kick is a kick, it’s the delivery systems that matter and the stimulus for delivery of that punch or kick i.e. getting shoved and screamed at, dealing with the stress factors, then launching into the physical side. This is why I like arts like BJJ as a sport, because for the most part, there is no theory. When we tap out, it’s for a good reason; your arm’s getting tweaked or you’re going to sleep for a bit. It’s the same with boxing or kickboxing. You are usually either hitting or getting hit. You can theorise all you like, but it is what it is from a combat point of view. Yes, there are still rules, but even the UFC has strict rules. At least though it’s as close as you can get to a real fight, hopefully without sustaining life-threatening injuries.
So, finally your plans for the future? You’ve alluded to a big project next year that you can’t speak too much about but anything you can tell us?
For me really its business as usual. I’m really excited about the project next year, it’s huge! I’m 65 in a month and in this business you can get into the mind-set of, ‘wow, maybe is this the last job? Then you get a call out of the blue for a gig and off we go again! As I have already said, my passion for the martial arts is what has brought about all the great opportunities like bodyguard work, film work and whatever in my life. Again, I truly believe that the great through line for me to continue to have is to just continue striving to be the best martial artist I can be, and then the universe will look after me with jobs in security, movies, etc. That’s certainly how it’s been up until now and how I expect it to be for quite some time to come. I love doing what I do. Now how many people can honestly say that? Most get up every morning hating what they do, day in and day out and are just waiting until they can retire and actually start ‘living’. Fortunately for me, since 11 years of age, I’ve been ‘living’ my passion nonstop. Have there been ups and downs? Of course, but overall, it’s been pretty damn great and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Film Star and Bodyguard – Richard Norton Interview P.1!
He’s worked with names such as Chuck Norris and Jackie Chan, and was the bodyguard to The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor and many others! He’s also a fantastic martial artist and someone that those interested in the martial arts can hope to aspire to be like in our own training.
Also a really nice guy who took the time out of his massively hectic schedule to give me the interview! Here’s part one of my interview with Richard Norton for The Martial View!
Thanks for taking the interview Richard! Your career in the martial arts has been a shining example to those involved in martial arts. You’ve worked with some famous names such as Jackie Chan and Chuck Norris, and protected the likes of The Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac! Can you remember what initially led you into starting martial arts, and how you felt walking into your first class?
Yeah, I’ve often been asked this, and looking back it certainly wasn’t due to the fact I was being beaten up or that it was a rough neighbourhood that I lived in. I was certainly attracted to martial arts from a young age, but who knows why! I remember seeing ads on the back of comic books talking about Judo, and there was just something quite mystical about it and I was intrigued by this oriental art. Then, as it happened, there was a kid who moved into a house opposite ours where I lived in Croydon, which is a suburb of Melbourne, and as it turned out, he was disappearing 2-3 times a week. So one day I said, “Oh Morris where are you going”? So he told me he was learning Judo and I was like, “Wow I want to come too”! So I went along the next night and was absolutely awe struck and loved the idea of it! Now one initial problem I had was that I was quite skinny and small as an 11 year old and started of being a bit like cannon fodder for the older kids in the class! The Sensei, John Burge, was wonderful and very caring though and kept inspiring me to keep at it. I used to practice in the back yard with my mates as I was always very physical as a kid, wrestling and boxing, as most kids do I’d imagine, and now we added Judo into the mix. Then one day, another school friend, John Rowe, who was also in our Judo class and who was learning Karate out of the book, `This Is Karate` by Masutatsu Oyama, excitedly told me that there was a karate school opening up near where we lived. So off I went for the opening night. The style of Karate was Goju Kai and was being taught by Sensei Tino Ceberano. I remember the class did a demonstration of basic H pattern Kata, or forms and a bit of Jiyu Kumite, which was light contact sparring. Well, I remember that being an incredible light-bulb moment for me and I decided right then and there, that Karate was what I wanted to do with my life. So that was when the whole journey of immersion and passion for the Martial Arts started started. I still think back to those early days and truly believe that martial arts were what I was meant to do with my life, esoteric as it sounds. Pretty much everything good I’ve experienced in my life, from travelling the world as a personal Body Guard and working on movie sets for over 35 years, has come as a result of just wanting to be the best Martial Artist I could be. My entire life has revolved around the martial arts; I mean where a lot of other people get jobs and set patterns in their life and then discover and try and fit their respective training in, the opposite was true for me; I made my life fit around the dojo and training and that’s how it all started and continues to this day.
So from there I presume you just developed your Karate further and then this led to the Zen Do Kai system? Can you talk me through this?
Yes, Zen Do Kai started through an association one of my oldest friends and mentors, Bob Jones, who was also a student of Tino Ceberano and Goju Kai Karate Do. At the time we met, Bob owned a security company and was involved with providing security personnel for most of the clubs and bars of Melbourne was already incredibly skilled in reality based fighting and the ways of ‘street’ combat. It was Bob who wanted to initiate his own style of ‘Combat effective’ Martial Arts and wanted me to partner up with him. So that led to the formation of the Zen Do Kai Karate schools which started in 1970. It was still based in the Goju system, but our motto was ‘The Best of Everything in Progression’, so I would say it was one of the first eclectic type of schools in Australia where aspects of different styles of Martial Arts were incorporated, rather than being purely based on one system. If we thought a technique from another style had some combat effectiveness, we integrated it into our Zen Do Kai system. We had boxing, Judo and wrestling along with the Goju karate, so it was in fact a very early version of MMA. Remember, MMA means ‘mixing Martial Arts, not just the sport version we know of as ‘The UFC’. A lot of the early students in our school were professional bouncers and incredibly tough and seasoned street fighters, so it suited us to pressure test different MA techniques and try to discover what was real or what was just theoretical. Not taking it away from the esoteric or theoretical aspect of some of our martial arts, but it was important for us and our students to know what combat techniques would work in the real world and not just in the safe confines of the Dojo. So it was obviously through Bob and Zen Do Kai that that I got involved in doing security work on doors, which led to personal bodyguard work.
Obviously self-defence is a tricky concept and lots of school claim to teach self-defence but are criticised for teaching unrealistic techniques that only work in a dojo setting, or criticised for having no real life experience to draw upon. What are your thoughts on the principles of effective self-defence training and the teaching of self-defence?
I understand the dilemma of a martial arts instructor with no reality based experience trying to teach actual reality based street techniques when they’ve never had a real fight in their lives and I would of course never encourage anyone to go out and involve themselves in street violence, just to get that experience. But having said that, I think that if you are really learning reality based self-defence, it’s important to learn from someone that really been on the front lines and has life experience, as it is different from the Dojo environment. In the dojo, you’re in a cotton wool sort of environment; there are rules and protocols that protect you, whereas in the street there are no such parameters. The fear that a life or death street encounter brings is obviously quite confronting, and as a result, I think it is essential to learn such street techniques from someone that understands the effects of fear and adrenaline, accelerated pulse rates and how all of those factors affect you physiologically and dramatically change your bodies ability to deliver complex moves learnt in the Dojo. So you need someone that can talk the students through these pre fight feelings, so at the very least, if, God forbid, the student is involved in a street altercation or whatever, he can maybe can maybe recall these lessons from a street experienced instructor and realise what’s going on, physiologically in his body, before the actual physical part even kicks off. I mean anyone that’s experienced real combat knows that quite often the legs start shaking, the heart rate goes up and you at best lose cognitive ability and fine and complex motor skills and go straight to gross motor skills. All of that is important to understand when you teach as so many of the complex moves we learn in traditional arts are okay in traditional and safe sport environments, but won’t necessarily work when you are really confronted with violence and basically scared shitless. You need to get to the fundamentals, the one or two strikes you can use in a pre-emptive situation that will hopefully allow you to survive a street fight. A friend of mine, Sensei Paul Cale, who has incidentally come under Team Norton and who is one of our most decorated military vets, having had multiple tours of Afghanistan etc and developed his own combat system, called Kinetic Combat System, says it drives him nuts seeing the amount of ‘Combat Instructors’ who advertise themselves as teaching the military, special forces etc. As he says, most of these ‘Reality Based Experts’ have never ever been in the service, let alone eve a real street fight, and yet they’re teaching real world knife and gun weapons defence. So, even for me, if I wanted to further my realistic defence in terms of lethal weapons, I’d go to someone like Paul, as I know he’s been there for real. I mean teach knife defence now, but I’m very honest and say that I believe that these techniques will be effective in reality, but it’s still theory to a huge extent, as how the hell would I know when I’ve never been in a real knife fight. Bit different when the blades are real and not made out of rubber. Lol
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!