There’s a lot of negativity in martial arts. Something new is being tried, it gets a torrent of abuse as it goes against the grain as someone tries to change the way of traditional thinking. Evolution is natural to human instinct, we want the latest thing. iPhone 5 is fine, but as soon as the iPhone 6 is out, the old one becomes useless. Martial Arts are different, we cling to tradition and shun a new way of thinking. Tradition is good and should be kept in the martial arts to preserve lineage, culture and respect, but equally things need to change with the times occasionally with a new way of thinking. This is often met with harsh criticism by the martial arts world however.
In fairness, I’ve been guilty of this myself in the past, posting videos of techniques labelled as effective self defence, yet lacking a realistic framework to off of or highlighting the fact an individual has a 12th degree black belt in every martial art in the planet yet is 25 years old with no traceable lineage. Is this criticizing unjustly or simply drawing attention to the fact that in many cases these people are teaching potentially dangerous techniques or principles to their unknowing students? It’s a fine line between being an armchair warrior and genuinely wanting to show the sometimes awful martial arts out there.
The past few weeks have only emphasized the fantastic martial arts out there on display at the moment though. We have the Martial Artists Supporting Children with Cancer seminars that have now raised over £4000 in under a year, with top level instructors giving up their time to travel and teach for free. We have the UK Martial Arts show, where genuinely passionate people came to experience the best of martial arts under one roof. People laughing, training, teaching and showcasing their styles in a friendly environment. We have the Warriors Assemble Awards put on by the awesome Mr Anthony Pillage, showcasing those in the martial arts world who have persevered through things in their life when many of us would totally give up on everything, let alone keep training.
Honestly, these are the things that should be focused on. Posting a video of a shite technique or a knife demo where the assailant slowly and respectfully tickles the “victim” with the knife always raises great discussion points, but a post showing something someone has done that has been really positive rarely generates the same amount of interest, which is understandable, yet wrong?
The charlatans and the guys who never train, or promote themselves to Soke Master, Grandmaster Shihan Dogs Bollocks 15th Dan will do their thing, but they will never amount to anything. Never be part of a great network of great martial artists and self defence instructors who are passionate about what they do and committed to genuinely empowering people to live better lives. Got loads of students but the stuff will never work in the street? Does it matter? Are they having fun? Getting fitter? Gaining confidence? Do they stand a little taller and shake that hand a little firmer in the job interview as a result of going to a martial arts class? Yes? Awesome! Who cares if it’s practical. As long as you don’t label it as something that will 100% work in the streets as the deadliest martial art on the planet. This isn’t empowering people, its indoctrinating them into a cult of martial arts where people simply follow the norm.
Focus on the good people. The bad will just sink into nothingness and people will wise up to it (I hope)! So thanks for being part of the group, discussing, sharing ideas, asking questions and connecting with people who you otherwise wouldn’t have connected with. If I hadn’t have started the blog nearly two years ago, I doubt I would be involved in such things as Martial Artists Supporting Children with Cancer, met so many wonderful people, and learnt so much from so many! So I’m grateful! The haters will hate about martial arts and the blog, let them. Keep your blinkers on and do what you do safe in the knowledge you’re learning and progressing!
As people who are on my Facebook group know, I’m fairly active on social media. It can be a great way to connect with people in your field of interest, get chatting and build connections. It can also be a great way to get your content out there such as the articles I write on this blog. However, more and more frequently I’m seeing videos and posts taken on mobile phones of people being attacked, beaten up and even sometimes stabbed and so the questions have to be asked of why is it being filmed and why aren’t people helping?
I think most of us would like to think that if we saw someone getting beaten up or mugged, our first instict wouldn’t be to pull out our mobile phones and film it, but either to inject ourselves or signal for help either in the form of finding police, shouting to attract more attention, or firing up the bat signal. However, psychology suggests that this is not always the case and human beings will not always help another human in trouble, it’s all dependent on the circumstances they are placed under. Basically studies have shown that even the most apparently norman human being can become capable of this if presented with the right triggers.
So let’s look at the `bystander effect`. Ask yourself, if you were walking through town late at night, heard a scream and some struggling and saw a teenage girl in distress, would you help? Now ask yourself the same question but instead of being on your own, you’re with a group of 10 friends. Would you be more or less willing to help?
In 1964 a woman was murdered and newspapers reported that 38 people had heard or seen the attack and done nothing. 38. Two psychologists, Darley and Latane wanted to know if the face these people were in a group played a role in their unwillingness to help. The psychologists invited people to take part in a discussion over intercom. During the conversation, one of the discussion participants would fake a seizure which could be heard through the speakers. When the partipant believed they were the only ones speaking to the individual who had the fake seizure, they rushed to get help. However, when the participant believed there were four others involved in the conversation, only 31% went to help, the rest assuming someone else would. This study has been recreated numerous times leading to the term `The Bystander Effect` whereby
Individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present
We take our cues from others not acting or tell ourselves someone else will do it. So how does this apply in terms of martial arts or self defence? Do we have a higher moral duty to interject if we see or hear something? Would we interject? Martial arts schools offer self defence training as a marketing tool – no-one wants to feel less safe and there is an instinct for us to survive and protect ourselves. We’ve spoken before about how often, dojo martial arts do not translate well into real world violence, but what about the discipline, etiquette, courage and general decency we are also taught in the martial arts? Would these traits help someone stand out from the crowd and have the confidence to speak up and act?
It certainly wouldnt hurt in my opinion.
It’s been said that knowledge is power and even being aware of the bystander effect can make people think twice and act when perhaps before they would have sat back and waited for someone else. As martial artists and self defence enthusiasts, we seek knowledge on keeping ourselves safe, but how many of us think about keeping others safe as well? Would we be the one to stand up and take action rather than sit back and let the bystander effect take place?
Martial Arts, no matter which one you do be it Jiu-Jitsu, Aikido, Karate or MMA should be a lifelong pursuit, simple as that. The day you think you’ve learnt everything is the day you should hang up your belt/gi/boxing gloves. It never stops and never stops being interesting. Having said this, it’s usual to have down periods, periods where you dont want to train, have things going on in your life that make it hard, or simply can’t be arsed! So I present to you 10 tips to reignite your passion and get you back to your usual ass-kicking self!
10 – Watch your favorite Martial Arts film!
This may sound like a bit of a dumb one, but if you look at any of the interviews I’ve done on here, in nearly every single one they quote a film that initially kick-started their interest. Normally a Bruce Lee film, going back and watching your favorite flick can help you remember why exactly you’re doing your chosen martial art. Is it for the culture, discipline, respect, fitness? Is it just that you want to look damn cool flipping people round and smashing tiles? Whatever your reason for choosing martial arts, going back to the source could easily reignite that passion within and make you realize that training feels good!
9 – Speak to others you train with
Ask anyone anything that they are passionate about and you’ll realize that passion is infectious. Anyone who makes a success in life is due to the fact they are passionate about something. You can be the most learned and accomplished individual in a particular field, but without passion it’s impossible to impart that knowledge and infectious enthusiasm that makes charismatic people a success. People you usually train with are there for a reason; they love what they do. They feel that enthusiasm, that passion, that drive to learn more and just being around this kind of energy can lift you up and shoot you back in to your training before you know it. Just as some find inspiration through watching their favorite martial arts movie, others find inspiration from the people they train with.
8 – Speak to your instructor
Part of an instructor’s job is to maintain your interest. This is a bit of a give and take as it’s not entirely an instructor’s job to make you come to classes, but they should ensure you are progressing, learning and having fun. Explaining what the problem is to your instructor may be able to help them reignite your passion and get you back to your fighting fit self. Little theme emerging here….speak to people…. instructors, other students. Lacking the motivation? Chances are the instructor did at some point too, maybe other students did. What did they do to get out of it?
7 – Write down an achievable goal for your training
Lack of passion can sometimes be the result of having no goal or development in your training. Small, achievable goals help us to push harder, increase our interest and make us feel damn good when we achieve these goals. Struggling with the warm up during class? Next month you won’t be, you’ll be at the front of the pack leading the way! Struggling with a certain technique? Get advice, research, practice practice practice! This time next month, you’ll have nailed it. Small achievable goals help us to reach the main goal, progression in the martial arts, so set yourself little ones and chip away!
6 – Improve your lifestyle/fitness
Martial arts should be physical and improve your lifestyle and health. This comes as a result of training. If you train once a week for an hour however, you won’t be seeing improvements fast. Combining training with day to day changes in your life like diet, exercise, lifestyle etc can all add little differences that in the long run will improve your overall training. You’ll be faster, more flexible, have more stamina and be able to understand more and more of the techniques and principles you are learning about. Little consistent changes eventually equal a bit change.
5 – Look for similarities in things, not differences
Lots of people cross-train and this is awesome. However, when it gets tricky is when you take on too much and feel that what you cross-train works against each other. Last week I was speaking to someone who does Aikido and Parkour and feels that sometimes these work against each other for his training. I advised don’t look for the differences, look for the similarities. What do both have in common? Both work to develop the body in a number of ways such as strength, stamina and flexibility. Both require patience, technique and self control. Both require being in the moment when you do it, not thinking about other things, but being immersed in that moment. Even if you don’t cross train, this can also be the case in your day to day life. Find the similarities in your training and your day to day routine. How many are there? What translates across? Do this and your art and your life start merging in to one.
4 – Write down what’s going on!
Physically writing something down lets us see it clearly and puts it clearly on paper, sometimes bringing clarity to an uncertain situation. So go ahead write down whatever is pissing you off and then try and find some clarity in it! All eventually leading to getting you back doing what you love!
3 – Get a private lesson
Group lessons are great, they’re sociable and you get the group feel with everyone working together! Private lessons are also great however! You get some individual feedback, some one on one training, a great workout and a great little boost that you can then take to future lessons. A private lesson with the instructor can be exactly what is needed to give you that kick up the arse and get you back to having fun and progressing!
2 – Do some research
This links to what I’ve said above. Knowledge is power. Finding something difficult? Can’t get a move, technique, principle? Research it! Ask people, look on the internet (a source of some great, and some truly awful knowledge), ask your instructor, go to DVDs, books… any resource to find the answer. Research and exploring martial arts outside of class is half of the fun for me but I’m a bit weird! Give it a go and see what happens!
1 – Just train!
Honestly, sometimes no-one feels like going training. Best remedy for it. Go to training. Once you get there, you’ll have a great time, be surrounding by good people, and be buzzing at the end of the class. Don’t feel like going training but you go and still feel crap after? Find a new club. Simply as that. The minute you stop enjoying martial arts training and can’t get it back through training there’s something wrong so at that point, it’s time to find a new club!
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.
It can be argued that martial artists are egotistical and there’s plenty of examples where this is just the case. Think of other sports or hobbies such as football or basketball and we realise that these are team games. You succeed, the team succeeds, the team succeed, you succeed. This is not the case for martial arts however, and in many cases, martial arts are a completely solo journey where you focus on developing yourself and no-one else. Is this a bad thing? Potentially not, but it does beg the question as to whether professional, or high ranking martial artists aren’t just a little selfish and egotistical?
Let’s take a traditional art such as Aikido or Karate, the focus is on you. You develop yourself physically and mentally and compete in some instances to further your knowledge and skill. Martial arts are not a team sport, they do not rely on a team mindset or environment, they rely on you as an individual having the strength and determination to succeed and this in many ways can be a great thing – it can teach self sufficiency. Many draw their inspiration or energy from a team, feeding off the group dynamic and using that to achieve athletic performance or zone in on their task. Martial artists in many aspects don’t have this team environment. Sure you belong to a club, may have friends and family supporting you, but when you get up to fight, or compete, or grade, it’s you and only you in front of the judge or inside the cage. Only you can rely on you in martial arts. As said, this can be a great thing, but can it also lead to egotism? There are countless examples of egotistical instructors, teachers, sifus, grandmasters, shihans etc who think their style is the best style, or even worse, get their students believing what they teach is the one and only way and that no touch knockouts are a legitimate thing and something that can be achieved if enough time (and money) is invested.
There’s also plenty of fantastic high ranking instructors and teachers out there who give all their time to their students and are open and honest about their style, their limitations and other styles. Martial arts are what you make of it but the journey, especially at the start, is a very personal one in many instances. Is a certain level of egotism or narcissism okay in the martial arts – I think so! After all, it’s your training and your progression whether that be competitive martial arts, traditional martial arts or self defence training, either way its your development that comes first.
Here it is guys and girls! The Bob Breen interview part 1! A legend in the martial arts, and go to guy for self defence, here Bob talks about his early days in martial arts, his own philosophy of self defence, and his cross branding with Andy Norman and Defence Lab, Phil Norman and Ghost, and Eddie Quinn with The Approach. Enjoy and as ever please feel free to comment, subscribe, share and like 🙂
How did you begin your training in the martial arts?
I started Karate at the end of 1966, getting my black belt in 1970. Roundabout then I opened my own school one of the first schools in the UK to be run by a non-Japanese. I fought for England and captained the England team and things like that. Then in 1971-72 we started doing a bit of grappling, so we were cross training even then really, predominantly Judo stuff. I was always interested in the cross-training approach, it resonated with my personal experience. There was a comic strip in the Evening Standard called `Modesty Blaise`, books too, and that had the idea of cross training and fighting in it. It was JKD before JKD had even happened! So I was enthralled by this idea of combat as I’d had quite a few fights on the street growing up so knew it didn’t quite go as it did in the dojo! In many ways I was primed up for JKD and Kali. I got into Eskrima in 1978 and met Dan Inosanto when I invited him over the UK in 1979! I became a huge advocate of JKD and Kali after that, and have followed Guru Dan from that time onwards.
Would you say that your previous experience having fights on the street etc led you into the martial arts?
Not especially, I was just intrigued by it. I’d had fights and I remember having a fight with a guy called Andy who was an amateur boxer. I had loads of spirit but no technique, I was just scrappy! So for me it was just a journey of enquiry, it looked beautiful and it wasn’t just about the fighting it was the discipline and speed. I remember my first teacher Tatsuo Suzuki, just being unbelievably fast! It was of the age as well, there was `Odd Job` around and things were opening up changing, people were getting interested in the martial arts. Nowadays I don’t think people understand how closed everything was then, but times were changing.
In terms of the JKD, what was it that originally drew you to it and made you think this is for me?
Initially I don’t think it was the art of JKD specifically, I was into Bruce Lee before that had been publicised , I used to go to China Town and watch the films in Chinese and be the only English person in the audience! I was intrigued by the idea of Bruce, Definitely the best and most realistic on the screen. When JKD articles came out showing pictures of his approach I thought ‘Well we do that anyway’ but what set Lee apart was the level of his integration and thinking. He was on a much higher level. What intrigued me about Dan Inosanto was the Filipino arts and what he did with that. His visit with Jeff Imada was amazing. It showed how they could go from empty hand, to knife, to stick, to battle axe, to grappling, back to empty hand. They wouldn’t have a plan; they would just flow and could handle everything. It was amazing and in truth I still think that evening in 79 was one of the best demos of the art I’ve ever seen.
What do you think JKD can offer today?
JKD was the original cross training or MMA as Bruce was into everything. Done well I think it’s what many of the top fighters are using today, at least conceptually. Lee’s influence has been immense. However I think a lot of it has been lost as people are caught up in technique, they know everything but can they do everything? This for me is why I developed 4D. It’s a sort of reference back to the original principles of JKD. 4D is functional, you have to be able to use it practically and apply it. 4D is nearly 50 years of sparring and fighting in every format and thinking how do you take all that knowledge and make it really easy to learn. prioritise it, adding a strategic structure to it, so that whatever happens you’re in charge. All the guys doing 4D now say they feel less fear, are more confident, and get more things to happen due to the simplicity of it. The choices are small, but because of that you get everything. If I’m punching you in the head you can’t have 20 thoughts in your head, its fight or flight. All the decision making is binary like this and natural so it’s quick.
Then we work on the what would be traditional JKD concepts like non telegraphic striking so when we hit you can’t stop it! However in 4D it’s not acceptable just to know it, you have to be able to make it work. It’s almost like a computer game; if you want the next level you need a certain score. If I want to progress I need to land 8 out of10 jabs against a defended target, then I understand and really know the jab and can move on. We do this on everything; everything is tested. It’s an evolution of the JKD idea, Bruce’s ideas were fabulous but it’s been evolved. You’ve interviewed Phil Norman, and I think you’re interviewing Andy Norman too, and all these guys have done the same thing, they’ve evolved and simplified. 4D have taken practicality first and built from there. People seem to like it, I’ve been hitting world champions in the head and they all say it’s like WOW! Mind blown!
Nearly a New Year! What are your goals for 2015? I have a few and to train more is one of them. Due to injuries and work commitments, training time has been tricky the past few months, but 2015 I’m back on it! Here’s 5 ways that I personally am going to increase my training time!
#5 – Surround yourself with like minded people!
Find training partners and people around you that have the same goals! I want to find a gym buddy in the new year to push me to go more, as well as just making it more fun when you’re with someone, pushing each other to push the extra rep, or increase the cardio time! The same with martial arts training, find people who want to train more and really progress in 2015, people looking for the next grading, or people wanting to instruct or attend more seminars. Surround yourself with people who want to get more involved and feed off that!
#4 – Train in AND out of the dojo!
Training at the dojo is easy. Once you’re there you train, then you leave and wait until the next class. Why? Why not go home and research the techniques, watch some YouTube videos of techniques, or demonstrations by your favorite martial artists! Watch an awesome movie like The Big Boss and get your martial arts fix that way! Buy books on the subject and read up, or read online articles and share and contribute to the discussion! Don’t just go train and leave, do your homework and a little bit extra!
#3 – Get yourself a decent training partner!
I’ve said before that a great training partner can make the world of difference when training and this is true! Grab yourself a great training partner in the New Year and push each other to do better, improve and work harder! You’ll be more dedicated to going to training, and your training time while you are there will improve dramatically!
#2 – Get inspired!
We all work better and train harder when we have something to train towards. Find someone that inspires you in your training, whether it be someone more experienced that you at your school, or a Sensei or teacher, and try and become more like them in your martial arts training! Get inspired and get training 🙂
Training is fun! Martial arts are fun! Yes they serve a purpose, can be hard, and can make you hate the art you do, but in the end if you aren’t enjoying yourself whats the point? This isn’t a job, you don’t have to do it, you dictate the training. Training you enjoy will make you more receptive to learning, as well as leaving you wanting more and eagerly awaiting the next class. So find a decent art, a decent school and ENJOY!!
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