Matt’s life and journey in the martial arts and self defence is certainly an interesting one. Starting martial arts at the relatively late age of 30, he was looking for martial arts training that coincided with his previous and sometimes violent experiences. He found that training in Keysi Fighting Method, learning from both Justo Dieguez and Andy Norman, both world renowned experts in realistic self defence training and progressing on to become a Top Team Member and coach for Keysi Fighting Method. Now head coach at Function First Lincoln and published author, Matt is developing his own style of martial arts and training through his Renegade Street Tactics Programme, and his teaming up with Tony Davis from Total Dojo Milton Keynes to develop the Combat Resource Centre. In this series of interviews, Matt talks about his personal experiences of extreme violence, his time training in Keysi Fighting Method and how martial arts changed his life forever as well as his development of satellite schools and coaching courses running for the public next year. Keep reading for part 1 of the interview and please continue to like, share, and support the site 🙂
Q. Hey Matt, thanks for taking the time for the interview, really appreciate it! Shall we start with how you got involved in the martial arts and self defence to begin with?
Same as a lot of people I believe, for building confidence. I’d gone through some real bad experiences and tried different therapies, sunk into depression, nothing was working for me, DR’s were trying to put me on drugs like anti-depressants and I just wasn’t interested in anything like that. I’d tried all sorts, hypnotherapists etc. and I just wasn’t in a good place. I remember walking past a church hall in Horncastle and there was a sign on the door saying Kickboxing, build confidence, so I thought I’ll try that. Next day I went in, tried it, loved it and that was the start of it. I just loved it from the first class and never looked back. I started quite late, I was 30 so quite a late starter. I did kickboxing for about 4 years and there was a crossover with other martial arts systems. I was looking at other stuff. I got to a place in that particular club where I was sparring heavily with all the black belts, but at a low level, I was just up for it and loved it, holding my own with the higher level guys. I then started reading about and starting other martial arts, and the world opened up to me, realising there was so much more out there than I realised, I thought it was just kickboxing or karate! I was reading stuff in Martial Arts Illustrated about centreline angles of attack and Dim Mak pressure points, so started investigating. I did some traditional Jiu-Jitsu, and some Kempo and a few pressure point seminars and just experimented with different things. I got my confidence and fitness levels up, but my skill level wasn’t very great, and I realised I wasn’t going to get that where I was training, no offence to them but the skill level I wanted I wasn’t going to get there. I started looking for other stuff. I wanted stuff that answered the questions in relation to the experiences I’d suffered, why I had the mental breakdown and depression and why I started looking for help to build confidence. Those questions weren’t being answered in the classes that claimed to teach self-defence and realistic this and that. That’s when the journey for the truth started. I felt good and got my confidence, but thought actually this doesn’t make sense and it isn’t what I’m looking for. That’s when my journey for realistic self-defence started and that’s when I found Andy Norman in Hull, and that was a big turning point in my life.
Q. Did you then travel to see Andy and learn self defence from him?
Yeah. Well at that point, I’d tried a few other things, and sort of gave up and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t working out. I thought maybe martial arts were just for the movies and choreographed, and I wasn’t finding the answers that related to my experiences. The people that were talking weren’t really talking from a place which I knew was truth and I was thinking, this isn’t how things happen in real life from my experience, so I sort of gave up on it. I remember I lived in a vehicle at the time, I was a traveller and got all my old martial arts illustrated pile out, and I just scattered them across the floor, I was reading and reading articles and certain names kept popping up such as Andy Norman’s. I saw he was being spoken about by other people, so it wasn’t self-promotion, so rather than looking for an advert I was looking for who was talking about who and Andy’s name kept popping up.
Hull was the nearest place for me. I’d never heard of it, it said it was JKD and KFM, I didn’t know what that was really, I’d read a little bit, but went and tried it out. They wouldn’t let me train more than twice a week to start with. I remember walking in absolutely terrified. Everyone was all in black uniform, all bald heads, tattoos, really intimidating, and I was really nervous. I now appreciate people walking into function first now, gives me a different perspective. I went and trained twice a week until 3 months had gone by then I could train more and step it up to 5 nights a week and by that point I was on the instructor course as I just wanted more information. At that point, I still didn’t really know what I was training. I didn’t know if it was rubbish, crap, amazing. I didn’t make my mind up straight away; it needs to resonate in certain ways with me. To begin with I just really enjoyed it which was enough, then I made a decision based upon my experiences to stick with it.
Then one day, about 4 months in, Andy Norman starting speaking about violence and the predatory instinct, redefining predator and prey and the way he spoke I knew it was real. He understood violence and that’s what I wanted to understand and learn. I wanted to understand the self-defence better, but it became crystal clear I wanted to understand violence and violent people. All the old sayings of know your enemy and keep them close came to mind and the penny dropped and I felt that was what I needed to understand as I was so scared of violence. The thought of violence used to terrify me to the point of sickness, and that was it and I just went “that’s it! It’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my life” and that was the start of my journey into Keysi.
Q. You’ve said about the bad experiences you had. Presumably this was pre any self defence training. Are you OK to talk about some of them?
Yeah that’s fine. I left school at a young age and met my girlfriend who I got a flat with on the high street in Lincoln. You know me Dan, I have a look and a style and always have. When I was 16-17 it was a 2ft Mohican and leather jackets with studs. I’ve always been a peaceful person, never into violence, and I still am, I just want to understand violence. That look didn’t go down too well in Lincoln in the early 80’s and I used to get attacked quite a lot even in broad daylight, like a Saturday afternoon, I’d get quite a bad kicking and sometimes wake up in the hospital. One time I got quite a serious kicking and ended up with some memory loss, found my way home, people thought I was drunk; I just have flashbacks from it but not a lot. I ended up going to A&E and stayed there a few days with memory loss and a nervous disorder after that from it. It was all just based on my appearance. It then escalated more so to distance myself from society further bought a bus and went travelling when I was 18!
I stepped out of society’s norm, not only did I look like this punk people were threatened by but now I was travelling round in a giant pink 40ft bus. Again, people didn’t like this, and this caused aggression. We had people unloading shotguns into the side of the bus while I was asleep at night and bricks through the window and we’d get attacked a lot. We moved abroad it then escalated in Spain where there was a big knife culture in Seville. We were attacked by a gang there. A guy ran up to me and friend, screamed in my face while he stabbed my friend in the stomach several times. I bundled my girlfriend to the floor then into a car and then went back picked a fire extinguisher up and fought with these people with knives. We saw the CCTV in the police station later on and these guys were passing the knife around, deciding who was going to be the one to stab us like it was a game. These were some serious wakeup calls. In Seville while we were there, I don’t know if it’s still like this but it was like anarchists, punks, Nazi’s and fragmented groups in the early 90’s. Masked gangs would shout at us “Viva Española” and beat us up, chasing us into bars where we had to fight to protect ourselves, using beer barrels as protection. In the end I was like, let’s get out, it’s not working, Seville’s not nice, I wanna get out! We went to Portugal and parked in the mountains. We were there about a week and there was a knock on the door. My girlfriend answered the door, and then closed it again. I asked what was going on and she said the guy that walks the goats just knocked on the door and just smiled at me. There was then another knock on the door, I answered and the same guy was there putting a gun to my head. I’ve been in various situations with guns before. Not to take it lightly but I knew it was all a bit of show for most people from body language. This one though, I knew it was real and he was going to kill me…..
PART TWO OF THE INTERVIEW NEXT WEEK!