Okay everyone! So apologies for letting the blog slide a little as of late! Between running a full time martial arts school, getting in as much training as I can, training people up for instructors and getting the book Martial Masters Vol. 1 up and running at the beginning of the year, it’s been busy!
I am now back on track however and ready for a relaunch of the blog. However….
I need your help! What do you guys and girls want to see more of?
Experiences running a martial arts school?
Let me know and I shall do my best to provide!
We are also expanding the team and looking for some writers! So if you feel you have a knack for writing and have some stuff to say on anything martial arts, fitness or training related. Get in touch through here, or through Facebook! We’ll get you up and running on a successful(ish) blog!!
Look out for the next post and a little relaunch coming very soon!
It’s nearly that time of the year again – The Warriors Assemble Fighting Spirit Awards 2016!
This is the second year for this ground breaking and inspirational Award Ceremony, Warriors Assemble, celebrating the very best of human nature and fighting spirit within the Martial Arts.
The idea for the awards evening came to organizer Anthony Pillage after attending yet another Awards/Hall of Fame Dinner where people who have disabilities seemed to generally get ignored. Anthony put out a request for nominations and all of a sudden we had the making of an amazing evening.
We were inundated with incredible tales of people who have overcome huge obstacles and problems to further their love of their chosen art.
Over 25 Awards were presented with over 300 people in attendance. There were one armed cage fighters, black belts with leukemia, one legged Judoka, kids with Aspergers, kickboxing teachers with cerebral palsy. a blind karate sensei and so many more wonderful people who were just completely inspirational. There was at times hardly a dry eye in the house as one by one these martial artists shared their story’s, maybe many for the first time to people who actually wanted to listen.
“I wouldn’t miss this event for the world, it is both grounding and uplifting and leaves you with a sense of being privileged to have been in the company of these men, women and children who are indeed the very essence and deserving of the title Warriors, having shown and continuing to show great vigor and courage in the face of struggle and conflict within their lives and their martial arts training” Jenni Mills
This year we have a new category called the Cornerstone Award which is for those wonderful people who tirelessly support those in their training both in a support or teaching role.
Last year’s event was phenomenal and I have no doubt that this one will be the same, please support this event and show those people YOU KNOW within your martial arts community, that they matter! If you know of anyone you feel you would like to see nominated for an award or to buy a ticket , please call Tony Pillage on 02476 331239. This event is open to EVERYONE and anyone can nominate.
Myself and Lucci were lucky enough to be interviewed by the awesome Vic from MA Roadshow at this year’s Martial Arts Show for our upcoming book Martial Masters! The book will feature some of the best martial artists from the UK from all realms including sports, traditional and self defence! There are just a couple more interviews to get done, the some editing then it’s off to the publishers and ready for you guys to enjoy!
Writing a post on self defence is bound to open up a massive can of worms with people chipping in from those who have experienced real world violence, all the way to the ever present keyboard warrior calling themselves an expert in self defence. This post won’t focus on the perfect technique to defend against a big haymaker, or the best way to escape being choked. We’ll look at one simple tip – leave if you can. Sounds simple right…
Violence is chaotic and as a result of this it is unpredictable and ever changing meaning:
It can come from nowhere
Things can seem calm until, out of the blue they aren’t any more. You take a second to process and the fear and adrenaline kick in and it could all be over by then. That split second could mean someone is lying down unconscious after being sucker punched and the attacker is maybe being held back by a few people? Sound a familiar situation? I’ve certainly seen this before!
There’s no time limit for self defence
Like the scenario above, fights can be over in a split second, one punch and it’s done. Alternatively, a fight can take one minute, 5 minutes or even 10 minutes or longer. There is no way of knowing.
Violence is not a static thing. You could think you’re out of harms way one second, then BAM, the fight has come to you and you are forced to take action. I’ve seen this happen on numerous dance floors where for a minute you think you’re out of the way then suddenly you’re being pushed into the bar and people are fighting around you! Not nice!
Bystanders aren’t always out of the firing line
As in the situation previously, you may not even be the one fighting, yet before you know it you’re in the middle of a group that are and as a result, taking a few shots yourself. If you’re near a fight, you’re at risk. I remember my housemate at University being sucker punched just due to the fact we were too close to a fight and we got inadvertantly dragged in.
Even if the fight is over, you’re not necessarily safe
A fight can end but then just as quickly start up again with the wrong comment or look, especially if the loser is trying to get even!
This all makes sense right? yet as soon as a fight breaks out, people rush to it like 14 year olds at a Harry Styles sighting, or David Cameron at a pig farm. People take out their phones to record the fight, later uploading it to social media for the world to see. We like watching extreme situations, the Jeremy Kyle Show is testament to that, even if it puts us at risk. We can also learn new behaviours however, and that’s why sometimes the simplest advice can be to simply leave the situation if possible, rather than going in for a cheeky look!
Many of us who have studied martial arts, especially for a reasonable length of time will find that it becomes more than a hobby but rather, a passion. It gets to the point where it becomes a way of life and we eat, sleep and train martial arts. We train and research martial arts, we socialise with other martial artists and we invest both time and money in getting better at the martial arts. There is an endless list of things we all love about the martial arts, but here are my top 5!
This one is pretty obvious right? We all love to train. We love getting on the mats, getting a sweat on and trying to decipher and work out the great big puzzle that is martial arts. It’s a great feeling when we leave a class sweating, smiling and wanting more, hoping that we’ve managed to slot another piece of the puzzle in. No matter what discipline we train in, we sometimes get those eureka moments where a technique just feels right or suddenly it just makes sense. Granted, you can have one, then have to wait for years for the next one, but hey that’s part of the fun right? We get on the mat to train, to get fitter, to learn self defence, or as a form of therapy, but regardless of the reason we train, we do it for one overriding factor – we love it!
As we progress up the grades and delve into the martial arts further, we may start doing a little more research on our chosen martial art, and indeed other martial arts too. There’s a wealth of information out there on a wealth of different martial arts and if we look closely enough we begin to see that many of the martial arts have similarities. Judo will have some similarities to wrestling, boxing to jeet kune do as at the end of the day we have two legs and two arms and there are only so many ways to punch, kick and throw. Body mechanics and the physics of martial arts remain the same regardless of whether the style is Chinese, Japanese or Reality-Based. The more research we do the more we see these similarities.
Research can also mean tracing the history and lineage of the martial arts which can be fascinating it itself. Finding the roots and origins of your martial art and the main pioneers and their histories can take years and give you a great insight into what they wanted their martial arts to become. So get researching, it’s fun!
Had a bad day at the office or your girlfriend/boyfriend/cat is giving you the silent treatment? Martial arts can be a great way of letting out some aggression in a controlled environment, getting a sweat on and basically doing a form of therapy. Getting on the mats, smashing some pads with friends and having a great class where you feel you’ve learnt something can change your mood from shit to great in as little as an hour, such is the power of a great martial arts class!
Let’s face it, we all like to feel we are improving, learning new skills and developing as humans. This is where the martial arts are great and gives you very clear goals through a structured grading system. Some people don’t like grading systems, others do. I like them as it gives a clear goal to work towards and something tangible to attain e.g. a belt or a band. There’s also grading days where you can show you skills off in front of friends, family and of course, the instructor! Martial arts gives a clear progression and path up to black grade then up from there and this is one of the things I like most about it!
The number one thing I like in the martial arts is the people and the friendships I have made. Martial artists seem to fall into one of two categories. Either they’re the most open people ever, willing to give you everything they know and genuinely passionate about the martial arts and developing people. Or they’re dicks. Dicks in that they’re in it for the money, want you to only train with them and have a 15th degree black belt in bullshit-jitsu. I’ve met some truly fantastic martial artists and truly fantastic people on my journey so far such as Eddie Quinn, Andy Norman, Anthony Pillage, Russell Jarmesty & Scott Caldwell among many others. These guys are at the top of their game yet there is no ego, they just want to impart knowledge and get the best from their students. This is what I love most about the martial arts – the friendships you make. It’s a special kind of friendship where you regularly hurt each other and spend worrying amounts of time in compromising positions as you grapple on the floor and I wouldn’t change it!
So tell me….what do you love most about the martial arts?
In order to progress in the martial arts, we have to train and train well. Not every session should feel like you’ve just done 12 rounds with Mike Tyson as you emerge bloody, broken and physically exhausted, but some hard training that puts you under pressure occasionally is a great way to test your skills. Harder training where you get a good sweat on, take a few knocks and really see how you cope with the pressure should be built up to, not started with. New students entering the gym or dojo can be intimidated enough without being repeatedly punched in the face the first class! It’s not character building, it’s mean! So here are 5 steps to get you into the mindset of training harder and upping your skill level.
1) Improve your fitness levels
Regular training will gradually improve your fitness levels, but if you’re really looking to up your training levels you’re going to have to put some hours in outside of the class too! Training harder in terms of sparring or pressure testing can REALLY take it out of you, FAST, and there is a world of difference between repping a technique in class and trying to make it work for real. Preparing your body for this is therefore essential and so it’s time to get fitter! High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is fantastic for martial arts and involves short periods of intense exercise followed by periods of rest. This not only sends your cardiovascular endurance levels through the roof, but also builds lean muscle through employing fast twitch muscle fibres. This means you become a lean, mean, ass-kicking machine, fast!
2) Find a good training partner
I’ve spoken before about the importance of finding a good training partner to progress in the martial arts and this is especially true when it comes to upping the intensity. Having someone you know and trust won’t take your head off immediately is essential to building up your training. A good partner will know your limits and take you just slightly beyond them when you’re ready to be pushed. The same can be said for both sparring and pressure testing in the reality sphere, build it up and find a partner you can push it with!
3) Do your research
Unless you’re seriously committed, you’ll normally be training around 2-3 hours a week. This isn’t a lot over a week long period, but it’s necessary when you start out to avoid burn out and condition your body to get used to martial arts. You can still research and expand you’re knowledge even when you aren’t physically training however. Study the best martial artists out there, the innovators and the specialists and look at their movements, angles, positioning and striking or grappling. There’s a wealth of information on platforms such as YouTube (some good, some bad) all at your disposal if you look for it. I study, train and teach mainly in Defence Lab now, but still watch Aikido, Jeet Kune Do, Ghost, and Boxing among other systems to see power generation, positioning and movement. Learn what you can, regardless of style.
4) Ask your instructor
Your instructor is your instructor for a reason and hopefully they’re open and approachable enough to talk to. If you want to train harder in class let them know and chances are they’ll know the right way to give you that progression and they’ve probably been there and done it themselves. Hopefully they can advise you if you’re looking to step it up to the next level so ask and see what happens!
5) Enjoy the journey
Martial arts are a marathon, not a sprint so don’t rush the journey, enjoy it! There is always more to learn, even when you become a `grandmaster` or some other egotistical title. Let natural progression occur. You’re system should have a syllabus that progresses individuals step by step so that when you reach your black belt level you should have a fairly high degree of competency (note I say should!). Training is meant to be fun and push you both physically and mentally but never forget to enjoy the journey, movement, exercise and friends you build along the way, piecing together the jigsaw puzzle that is martial arts.
Last Sunday I was lucky enough to attend a Martial Arts business seminar with the the fantastic Matthew Chapman. I’ve been lucky enough to know Matt for a couple of years now first training in one of his MMA workshops in 2014. Since then I’ve followed and been impressed by his MittMaster series as well as his books `100 Essential Pad Drill for Kickboxing and MMA`, `How to win your first MMA fight`and `Black Belt Biz`. I was therefore really excited when I saw he was hosting a business seminar not too far away from me at the fantastic `Twin Tigers`facility in Scunthorpe and jumped at the chance to attend both the catch up with Matt for the upcoming `Martial Masters`book & also to get some tips on building my own business here in Lincoln.
People have varying opinions on making money with the martial arts, with the frankly idiotic view some people have that martial arts should just be taught for the love of doing it, not money. I disagree with this wholeheartedly and think that as long as an excellent standard of instruction is maintained, martial arts should be treated the same as any other professional service. I now run a martial arts class under Defence Lab in Lincoln and hope to make this full time as soon as possible. For this I need money, simple as. The more time I have training, teaching and learning martial arts, the more it will benefit my students and so I agree with Matt when he says that the best martial artists he has seen are the ones that have gone full time and can dedicate themselves to it.
Matt’s business seminars aim to grow your school through marketing & retaining your students – an area often neglected by martial artists who hope for students to come into their class yet do nothing to recruit. A very old-school mentality. Matt has a successful school with the Masters Academy, and is a published author and now creator of the MittMaster series popular all over the world. Matt knows his stuff 100%. His workshop was personable, informative and I came away with some fantastic ideas to implement in my school, hopefully to get me to the point of eventually becoming a full time martial arts instructor which is a dream I’ve had for many years now.
Matt provided tailored information specific to what we wanted help with, offered personalised advice and really took the time to get to know where you were with the business and where you wanted to be. This wasn’t a sales drive by Matt, looking to earn a bit of money by teaching a half-arsed seminar, I believe he genuinely wants to help martial artists succeed and spread brilliant martial arts to a wider audience. Through his ideas in terms of business, I also believe he’ll help you do this and get you to where you want to be.
The seminar included handouts that could be taken home, along with a copy of Matt’s book `Black Belt Biz`which in itself if an invaluable book for those looking to build up a martial arts business. We also get 6 months of support from Matt who has always been on hand to answer any questions I have asked him in the past and am sure will in the future. I came away from the workshop enthusiastic and ready to implement the ideas.
This is a review guys and I’m always honest with my reviews on here. Matt is a great guy and isn’t in martial arts to make a quick buck and get out. He has a great pedigree in martial arts and wants to help great martial artists fulfil their potential and have successful martial arts schools where they can dedicate their lives to training and teaching people who will ultimately continue that martial art on.
So would I recommend his course? Yes. If you are struggling to recruit or retain your students I think Matt can definitely help. If you’re looking for new ideas to recruit and get people through the door, again I think Matt can help. It was a great course and one that I’m definitely glad I went on! Worth the early Sunday morning and one I would go on again.
To find out more, check out Matt’s Facebook group here
Today we have a fantastic guest post from a good friend of mine with a rich history in Martial Arts. Declan Lestat runs Aikido Shugyokan in Minnesota as well as holding black belts in Kung Fu & Kickboxing and is a JKD instructor. Here he writes a great article on why exactly we train in martial arts! Hope you enjoy!
Let me ask you a question. It’s a question that, if you’ve been in the martial arts for any period of time, you’ve probably been asked or pondered over countless times.
Why do you train in the martial arts?
You may have more than one answer, maybe it changes over time (Like mine does). Maybe your answer is vague and only you would really get it. Maybe you don’t even know.
Here’s another question, this one a bit tougher but quicker to answer.
Why do I train in the martial arts?
Maybe I train for street fighting. Maybe I want to compete. Maybe I’m of an age and level of experience where I don’t need to train formally in self defense so I attend classes for other reasons like fitness, stress relief, interest in other cultures. Maybe I want to make friends. Maybe I’ve been training so long it’s just a habit now. There’s even a chance I train because *gasp* It’s fun!
I know exactly why I train, but the point is that anybody else – obviously – couldn’t possibly have a clue. And of course, I don’t really know why you train. I could maybe guess, but I don’t know for sure.
The other day, somebody I’d never met and didn’t know and never had any contact with before or since, commented on a video I shared: “Aikido is ineffective. For self defense learn wrestling.”
Like I’d asked him.
But to be fair, he’s far from unique. Post anything on Facebook or click on any clip on YouTube and you’ll find similar comments, though many not as polite. The comments are usually from people who don’t understand what they’re even watching, thinking chi sau or randori are being presented as actual examples of “street effective” technique and not as what they actually are – exercises. They’re no more street effective as push ups or squats, but no less important. And don’t get me started on the morons who rant about a clips obviously filmed for entertainment or demonstration purposes.
Still, my critic made a major mistake in assuming that a: The clip was supposed to represent a self defense technique (It wasn’t), b: That I don’t know what does and doesn’t “work” in the street, and c: That I train for the same reasons as he does.
But from the point of view of a practitioner of, say, MMA, Aikido is indeed ineffective. I know this, because many of their proponents aren’t too shy about telling you this on YouTube. Unfortunately for them, I don’t train Aikido for self defense. I train in Aikido for personal growth reasons. Thanks to Aikido, I have greater respect for all people (Which is why I held back on responding to this guy’s comments), humility, empathy, mindfulness, self control… So when I look at an MMA champion like Conor McGregor, I’d have to say MMA is ineffective.
But then again, what is “Street effective”? 2 minutes on YouTube will reveal thousands of clips to make you think. I found one of a BJJ guy taking down a boxer, but just when I was thinking I should train BJJ for self defense, I found another clip of a boxer defeating a BJJ guy. One of my best friends has had precisely zero martial arts training and I’ve never seen him lose a fight (And I’ve witness many!) so maybe we’re all wasting our time.
Then again, growing up in, at the time one of the most violent cities in Europe, working private security, managing city center pubs, and sheer bad luck had given me the chance to experience a lot of nasty situations close up. And even though I have multiple black belts and decades of training, on the relatively few occasions when I was too unlucky/stupid to control a confrontation enough to prevent it becoming physical, guess which system has kept me safe? Guess which martial art has put down the bad guy for me every time?
Aikido. And here’s me saying I don’t train in Aikido for self defense!
So is Aikido effective then? I wouldn’t say that. I would say that on those occasions when I had to defend myself I did so successfully, and that’s all I could say. If I’d used boxing or Muay Thai or Judo, the same would apply. It’s not the style that was effective. It was the fighter. More accurately, it was the fighter on those specific occasions. Was I just lucky? Don’t care. Could I defend myself successfully again? Possibly. Would I use Aikido again? Couldn’t say. Every situation is different. I could beat Mike Tyson tomorrow, walk around the corner and get mugged by a 14 year old. There’s not many things in the world as random and unpredictable as a street fight, after all.
This doesn’t apply to the obvious charlatans, of course. If someone posts a “Street lethal self defense techniques” comprising of ballroom dancing, then you may be inclined to offer a correction if you have the expertise. That’s a stated promise that fails to deliver.
We may not like what someone trains in but here’s the good news for us: Our approval isn’t required. To criticize an art or practitioner for nothing more than it doesn’t meet your personal training objectives isn’t worthy of a martial artist of any style. Minds are not changed with ridicule or fault finding, nobody has ever said “Wow, I totally thought I was training traditional Karate to be a lethal Jason Bourne style street assassin. The last 15 years have been a complete waste of time, I’m heading straight down to my local Gracie academy to sort my life out!” thanks to some chump on YouTube who probably doesn’t train seriously in any style, let alone a “street effective” one.
But together, with support and a little understanding, we may not change minds but we can maybe broaden minds on both sides of the debate. I think the reality and sport based arts could have a lot to learn from the more traditional arts as well as vice versa.
And a little unity in our community has to be a good thing.
So I’ve just finished watching and training in some of Matt Chapman’s Mittmaster series, looking at MMA, Trapping and Kickboxing and honestly… I’m well impressed! Matt has nearly 30 years of martial arts experience in a variety of styles including Kickboxing, Ninjitsu and Keysi Fighting Method and won a British MMA Welterweight Title in 2006. All this shows in the way he de-constructs and explains some pretty complicated pad work and the reasons behind it so that both pad feeder and the one hitting the pads is getting some great technical knowledge and progression!
Matt’s idea with Mittmaster is to raise the standard of pad feeders around the world as pad feeding can be just as difficult a job as the guy hitting the pads. Good pad feeding takes coordination, memory, timing and great technique yourself and through these series of videos, Matt takes you right from beginner level pad feeding, all the way up to bad-ass pad feeding!
The MMA and Kickboxing level 1 videos are great, going in to enough detail to explain why the drills worked and how they look in a real MMA/Kickboxing scenario, without Matt just rambling on talking for the sake of talking! Fitness and instruction was also looked into such as games where the leg is caught on a leg kick, therefore drop down and give me a burpee! Matt explains a number of different ways of doing a technique and different options available such as the whizzer where a short range whizzer allows follow up strikes, a longer range one allows for the head kick and the whizzer driving the head down allows for takedowns and submissions, meaning the full range of options is outlined.
The trapping video is equally as good with Matt breaking down relatively complex moves so they are easy to understand and develop, drawing on his real life experience on why he does things the way he does. Different angles are looked at and again, the technical knowledge is great, with Matt’s instructors including the JKD legend that is Bob Breen so you know he comes from a great pedigree of martial artists.
Basically guys! I recommend this product pretty highly. Matt really knows what he is talking about from a technical point of view, but he also has a great style of teaching that I know from experience and it’s translated through these videos. If you want to improve your fighting game as well as your pad feeding and technical knowledge I would definitely recommend these videos as well as the other stuff Matt has done such as his books on how to win your first MMA fight, or how to get more students at your dojo!
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