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!
So originally I was going to write a blog post on signs you are, or are becoming a McDojo, the McDojo that never compete, never travel to other clubs, internally promote and have 10th Dan 10 year olds….but then someone made a great point that this has been done to death, and that bad schools dont care they’re bad schools, they just care about making money and churning out Grandmaster Shihan Sensei Ninja Turtle toddlers! So let’s focus on the positives, signs you’re doing it right, signs you’re teaching martial arts/self defence as they’re meant to be taught! In the future I’d love to travel round and see some of your guys schools, do some training with you and a little bio for the blog so let me know if you’d be interested!
5 – You yourself as an instructor develop
Self development in my eyes is key to running a great martial arts school. If you yourself are constantly developing and learning in order to get better in your field, I think you’re on to a winner. This keeps your students up to date with the latest, cements your place within the martial arts community and keeps you on your toes and not getting too complacent. I’m sure we can all agree that none of us will ever reach perfection in our chosen field and that martial arts are a lifelong pursuit! Keep developing!
4 – Competitions
For those that teach arts with a competitive edge, what better way to see how you and your students are doing than by letting them compete if they feel fit and ready? Martial arts are about practice and cooperation, but a great way of testing what you’re doing is with an uncooperative partner such as in a competitive arena. Even if you do an art that isn’t competitive such as Aikido, competitions can still exist between schools to up everyone’s game and to see how you compare to those around you.
3 – You get students with minimal advertising, pushing etc
The best advertisement is word of mouth, if you’re doing a great job with your school, people will hear about it both in the martial arts world and those looking to dip their toe in to it and try new things.
2 – You cross train and bring in visiting instructors
Martial arts are a community. We’ve discussed before the internal politics and general bitchiness that can surround the martial arts, but where you have people, politics will exist. Cross training ups your own game and knowledge, gives your students another angle on their training, and helps you build contacts within the community. The same goes for visiting instructors. A change of pace and instructor for a seminar or weekend can give your students a new outlook and new passion and drive as well as again, networking.
1 – Your students
Your students are probably the best test as to how you are doing. Are they buzzing at the end of every class? Do they get involved in discussions, go home and research, look at YouTube videos etc? Do they travel to seminars with other instructors? These are all great signs that you are really into what you are doing, and a good sign you’re doing the right thing! It’s true that a teacher’s ability is reflected in their students, and if you have a group of passionate, dedicated and skilled students, chances are you’re doing a great job! Pretty simple right?
So in the sporting world we have the FIFAs, the PGAs, the NFLs, the mainstream, massively funded and massively fan based sports. The closest equivalent to this in the martial arts is arguably the UFC and I think its fair to say that MMA is getting bigger and bigger on a global scale, with more and more people becoming interested in both training and spectating mixed martial arts. Should the martial arts be more mainstream however? There are obviously plus and minuses for both sides of the argument and I think it’s an interesting debate topic.
Let’s imagine the martial arts were MASSIVE, I’m talking football, rugby etc massive. Football wouldn’t be the main option in schools for children, you wouldn’t go down to the local park to kick a football around, you’d go down to the local gym and kick a punchbag around. This sounds great yeah, the martial arts as a mainstream skill or sport? I agree it does, and I want martial arts to be a bigger thing within society for the discipline, fitness and confidence that they can instill in people, especially children, however if this were the case would it make the martial arts less special?
Imagine there was a massive governing body for the martial arts, the FIFA of the martial arts world. Again, would this lead to more problems? I’ve discussed before the prevalence of politics in the martial arts (Here’s a past article) and how ego can often get in the way of the simple formula of fantastic people, fantastic training and fantastic development and progression. Get this right and I think you’re on to a winner in the martial arts. The emergence of a massive governing body for the martial arts will bring forth its own problems and as the old saying goes, where there’s people, there’s politics. How long before standards start slipping, people start falling out, and more and more McDojos pop up offering online course black belts and guaranteed success in self protection, all due to mainstreaming? Newsflash, there is no guarantee when it comes to self protection, and black belt requires hard work, dedication and sweat, not the watching of various online videos with the promise of black belt bad-assery at the end.
Even as martial arts are at the moment, there are enough egos needing to be massaged, falling’s out over trivial matters and frankly ridiculous and awful examples of self protection, that are not only misleading but frankly dangerous! Would martial arts becoming more mainstream improve or increase this? Is there any full proof way of ensuring quality and quantity in the martial arts?
I think we can all agree that we live in a technological age. An age where videos of cats go viral and takeaway food can be ordered to your home in a few simple clicks. But what does this mean for the martial arts? Type in martial arts on YouTube, the second biggest search engine after Google, and you get roughly 1,220,000 results. Wow, that’s a lot of martial arts action. Is this a good thing or a bad thing however? YouTube can be great in a number of ways for the martial arts, but as with most things, there are also a few drawbacks to martial arts and its YouTube audience.
Let’s start with the positive. Most obviously, it’s a massively awesome resource for getting your content out there. Whether it’s through advertising your school by releasing promo videos or training clips, it can easily get seen by a wide range of people, meaning your school, your art and you get put out there into the world of cyberspace! This can lead to a great following, increased students and great networking opportunities. Secondly it can be a great resource for finding out about different styles. You decide to try a new martial art out down the road but have no idea what it is. A quick YouTube search will give you video clips on it and help you gain more of an understanding about whether it is for you. Basically YouTube is a wicked tool for getting information out there to the masses in terms of martial arts and creating a great network if done right.
Getting content out there is great, but it has to be great content and let’s face it, there’s a whole lot of crap out there too. Someone knowing nothing about the martial arts decides to type martial arts in on YouTube and the first video they decide to watch is idiots getting knocked out by someone looking at them (see the clip below at 1 minute 10 and prepare to be blown away…), or watching some weird Mortal Kombat stuff that looks great on TV and Film but will pretty rapidly get you an arse kicking in real life. It can be off putting to people who have no experience of martial arts.
Linking with this, there are the cyber keyboard warriors. Whenever you post something online, it’s pretty much fair game for people to comment both positive and negative. I’ve found this even with The Martial View. People see what you’re doing, either like it and feel threatened, or don’t like it and feel threatened, then decide to go trolling! Look on any YouTube video of any martial art or martial artist and they’ll be a fair few comments from people saying how the stuff looks fake, or it’ll never really work, or that martial arts are all white pajamas, loud shouting and smashing the contents of B&Q up with your fists and legs. Now granted these keyboard warriors are probably spotty computer nerds who have never stepped on the mats in their life but they can still a hindrance, especially in a field such as martial arts.
Finally, there is such a wealth of information out there on YouTube at the moment in respect to the martial arts, that some people may not even think it’s necessary to join a school or get an instructor. Type in `right hook` on YouTube, they’ll be thousands of tutorials showing how to throw a right hook, similarly type in `choke defence`, they’ll be the same, some good, some frankly awful. Part of the fun of martial arts training is the social aspect, you meet new people, train with a partner, make new friends and join in the martial arts community in order to develop yourself. Pretty hard to do that when you sit punching a bag in your living room thinking you’ve nailed the jab, cross and can defend against grabs, punches and chokes while your long suffering (but gone viral) cat looks on. Martial arts are physical and technical and no amount of online training or video is going to beat going to an academy, getting a decent instructor and getting training.
YouTube can be an awesome resource for the martial arts, as long as it’s used correctly and as long as we don’t become completely obsessed with the digital age. This is not The Matrix, you are NOT Neo and can’t have Jiu-Jitsu plugged into your brain so you’re a master at it in a few minutes……cool as that would be…. Getting good at any martial art requires physical ability as well as dedication and having a great instructor, and unfortunately, YouTube is not a great instructor for the martial arts!
I’m sure everyone who does Aikido can relate to the fact that Jiyu Waza takes a special kind of fitness! I like to consider myself a fairly fit guy but after a few rounds of Jiyu Waza I’m pretty tired! I’ve known long distance runners, gymnasts and athletes be tired after one or two rounds! So what makes Jiyu Waza so tiring and how can we improve our endurance?
Firstly there’s the fact that it takes a certain kind of cardio-vascular endurance! You attack, get thrown, spring up and attack again. It’s dynamic, its athletic, and its tiring! Secondly there’s impact. Impact takes it out of you. You get thrown hard and the body tenses in order to prepare for the impact. You don’t breath correctly, you tense up in anticipation of the fall. You hold your breath as you meet the floor. You get tired! Thirdly, its not just tiring for the one receiving the fall, its tiring for the one applying the techniques! A difficult, stiff and inexperienced partner can make you tense and it can feel like throwing a sack of potatoes if the partner can’t yet fall correctly. Again this leads to fatigue! So what can we do about it?!
5 – Overall Fitness
This is pretty much a given, if you’re in reasonably good shape and have good muscular endurance as well as cardiovascular endurance, this is obviously going to help your jiyu waza! High intensity training where sprints are followed by periods of low intensity exercise are shown to be extremely effective in increasing cardio relatively quickly and is more effective than just running for miles and miles in terms of jiyu waza and martial arts in general. Jiyu waza is fast, dynamic and high intensity. Self defence situations are fast, dynamic and high intensity.
4 – Ukemi
Get comfortable falling. Simple as that, get comfortable falling for back falls, front falls, side falls, weird and wonderful angled falls. Just get comfortable falling. The more comfortable you are falling, the more your body will relax on the impact and the less fatigued you will become in both cardio and muscular.
3 – Know your techniques
Get comfortable practicing different techniques to use during jiyu waza and just repeatedly practice until you have a good “set list” of techniques at your disposal. The more comfortable with techniques, again the more relaxed you will be and the more you can focus on things like breathing, not trying to think of a technique to do!
2 – Breath!!
We’re all guilty of it. We tense up and we forget to breath! As Robert Mustard Shihan is fond of saying, its a well known secret of the martial arts that if you don’t breath, you die! Establish a pattern of breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth and you will notice an improvement in your endurance almost immediately in comparison to erratic breathing when you are panicking and tense.
1 – PRACTICE
So how do we get comfortable doing all these things?! Practice! Do rounds of jiyu waza, building up slowly as both the receiver and the thrower! Think about your breathing, the techniques you will use and the correct way to fall properly. Get a good training partner who wants to improve their jiyu waza too and get practicing. 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.
Let’s face it, normally martial arts are seen as a pretty masculine endeavour. Just check out Chuck Norris, could that guy be any more man?! The guys got more hair on his chest than Austin Powers! Martial arts involves kicking, punching, snapping, cracking, flipping, tripping and submitting (you like that rhyming?) and so is traditionally seen as a masculine. Martial arts also involves balance, elegance, patience, flexibility and a great deal of thought however and so is perfect and arguably more suited to females too! Martial arts still remains fairly male dominated however, even though in many cases women are more suited to martial arts training than males!
Women are generally considered to be less muscular than men but more flexible and I think we can all agree that martial arts requires a certain amount of flexibility. This could be used in Aikido to get into the long and low positions or to safely take a fall, Taekwondo to hit those incredible head kicks, or BJJ to manoeuvre your opponent into the rubber guard! Flexibility is key to great martial arts training both to reduce the risk of injuries and also to generally improve practice and technique! Reason 1 why females are perfect for martial arts! Need proof? Check it out below!
In case you hadn’t quite realised this yet…martial arts are tricky… It takes time, patience and dedication to achieve a high level in martial arts and again it is generally considered that females have a bit more patience than blokes! Hundreds of thousands of hours are needed to achieve mastery in martial arts and its a lifelong pursuit which very few of us will sadly continue for the rest of our lives. Due to the increased flexibility alluded to earlier, women can have more of a longevity in the martial arts, continuing well in to old age where others may have to stop due to injuries from training for a number of years.
I also mentioned earlier that women are generally considered to have less muscle mass than men and this can also be an advantage in learning a martial art, especially in the early stages. If you have an increase in muscle mass, there’s a tendency to use it in martial arts which can lead to poor technique. How many times of you heard someone say they were just “muscling the technique”. If there isn’t that muscle mass to use, proper technique must be employed and so females can have an advantage in this, learning the technique more effectively as they don’t have the option to just muscle the technique.
I will say however that if you get someone with great technique and who also works out, you’re in a world of s***!! This is beautifully demonstrated by my future wife Rhonda Rousey below 🙂
So ladies! Get training, give some martial arts a go! You’ve got a lot of the advantages of martial arts that us big dopey males don’t have so get involved :D. Check out our friend www.themartialartswoman.com for a perspective on female martial arts!
Disclaimer – This post involves an incredible amount of sweeping generalisations and in the end everyone can be good at martial arts, it just takes time, patience and the right attitude, it’s not the presence of an X or Y chromosome! Also I’m pretty sure Rhonda Rousey won’t be my future wife but get sharing, commenting and liking and maybe one day she’ll see this post and fall head over heels for me. Love in the digital age people…. I leave it in your capable hands!
In the this series of instalments, Geoff Thompson talks to The Martial View about his career in martial arts, his concept of `The Fence, pressure testing within the martial arts, and self development! More information on Geoff can be found at www.geoffthompson.com as well as on Amazon where you can find his books and DVD’s.
Hi Geoff, really appreciate you taking the interview. I suppose we should start with your introduction into martial arts.
I started martial arts when I was about 11. I started in Aikido, a traditional style at the time when there was a huge Bruce Lee craze. There was no Karate or Kung Fu around that we knew of, but Aikido was a martial art and so was the closest we could get to it. I did Aikido for around two years. I was really good at it, had the rhythm for Tai sabaki, was good at break-falling and it suited my temperament, it was very natural for me. The teacher I had at the time however, groomed and sexually abused me. I didn’t know at the time I was being groomed, I idolised him. The abuse of course was devastating and shattered my confidence. I didn’t tell anyone, I was afraid to tell my parents, I feared that if I told them, they would go to the police or something, I just wasn’t strong enough to bear that kind of weight at the age of 11, it would have been all over the papers and I was afraid of exposing the guy. So I fell away from Aikido and then ended up going to Shotokan Karate shortly after. I did that to purple belt and fell away from that. I then did Kung Fu with a brilliant guy called Charles Chan. He was very good, great tai chi guy and I did that up to Dan grade level and I became the British weapons champion. There was a lot of politicking there at the time, the infrastructure wasn’t very strong. But the people were nice.
I went back to Shotokan and got my Dan grade, I stayed with that until I became a doorman some years later.
What led you into becoming a doorman?
I became a doorman because I was suffering on and off with depression, a fear of life, a fear of change, a fear of potential. After a particularly difficult depression I became a doorman in order to confront and overcome my fear. I wrote all fears down and confronted them systematically one by one and a fear of physical violence was one of those fears. Even though I was a 2nd Dan in karate by this point, I was a good martial artist, certainly a good club player, but even with my dan grade I was still afraid, perhaps more so, I still had fears of just living in the world really. These fears weren’t there all the time, I spent a lot of time being living happily enough; confident, even arrogant, then these depressions would sweep through me like fire and debilitate me for months on end. I was strong though, went to work, and turned up in my life every day, I resisted medication. I went towards it for a while because I was so depressed, but innately I felt that medication wasn’t right for me. So I got to the point where I thought I can’t live like this anymore, the depression was so unpredictable, when it came I had no answer to it but to succumb to it. At this point I had children and a family, and I felt like I couldn’t protect them even with my all skill sets; couldn’t even protect myself against my own feelings. So I decided to do draw a fear pyramid (see Geoff’s book Fear the friend of Exceptional People) write all my fears down, each fear on one step of the pyramid, least fear on the bottom step, worst fear on the top, then confront them one by one. Physical violence and confrontation was at the top of my pyramid. It was a very interesting period. As I wrote down all these mundane fears like the dentist and spiders, and as I started to confront them and develop what we call a second body, other fears started to present themselves, hidden fears that I did not even consciously know I had, so I wrote those down, and I started confronting those as well. When we have likes and dislikes, and we place ourselves in between them as a resisting element we create light or the second body. You can feel it palpably growing inside you, like another strength coming through. Working with the fear pyramid expanded my awareness and allowed me to see more; it showed me what else I was scared of, as I said, the things that had been invisible to me before. For instance I had very unhealthy habits that I was afraid to leave: pornography, food, drink etc. As I started to expand I realised my real fears were a lot closer to home than I’d realised. I was afraid of my wife, I was afraid of my mother; I was a people pleaser afraid of being disliked. Then as I went deeper and deeper and I realised I didn’t like myself I was afraid of myself because I didn’t really know myself, and I certainly didn’t trust myself. Eventually through writing and internal inquiry which is the budo end of martial arts I could trace it back to some fears that I had inherited, things that I was born with. And I could see that some of the fears were what I had been taught as a youth, things I had been weaned on; my mum was a depressive and she has lived a painful life due to this. She was also a true hypochondriac where if she thought she had throat cancer, she would get all the symptoms. My mums nearly 80 now and still can’t eat in front of people because of this, she can’t swallow if people watch her eat, that’s the power of the unconscious mind. And this is what I was taught, unconsciously of course, but it was my early schooling. So I learned a lot as a youth about how to be fearful in the world, then as a 12 year old I was sexually abused by my first martial arts teacher, who, through his greed and ignorance, implicitly taught me that people can’t be trusted and that I was worth nothing. I had no trust of anybody. The aftermath of the abuse was self-abuse. I had a very damaged cognition, my perception of the world was unhealthy. I found deep below all these mundane fears, the smoke-screens (and I had to really inquire internally before I uncovered this) that I didn’t really have a fear that I couldn’t trust the world, I was fearful because I couldn’t trust myself and that’s a very powerful perception hiding under layers and layers of defence mechanisms. So eventually I started to explore and challenge my belief. Subsequently though internal enquiry, martial arts, writing, etc I was able dissolve this fear and alter my reality.
Around the age of 28 I began to challenge all my beliefs and fears. It seems peripheral to the martial arts as we’re talking about that, but at the time I was practicing budo and didn’t even know it. I was doing the internal inquiry and challenging perceptions because my old beliefs were making my life very unhappy.
The fear that sat at the top of my pyramid was a fear of violence confrontation. To overcome this I became a bouncer (see Geoff’s book Watch My Back). Going on the doors was a revelation. It is such an acute and violent environment that it immediately demands you develop a powerful second body. I realised quickly as a doorman that all of the ostentation of martial arts – the techniques that I was sure would be effective – fell away and all the things you think will work fall away. It’s like an acid bath where everything except a very small nucleus of technique remains, and these are so potent, so powerful and so effective that you don’t want to use them, they are too damaging to people, too dangerous. It was a fantastic time of learning, but as a martial artist, I had to go back to my class and say ‘we have to change everything: what we are practicing isn’t right or honest; it won’t prepare you for what’s going on out there, the real world of violence is so explosive, so volatile. There’s no trapping and countering, no blocking and countering, none of the defence stuff works, it fall apart under pressure. There is only pre-emption. I learnt that very quickly and brought that into my class. I then realised we needed a support system for the pre-emption, we need grappling, we need close range work, we need to be able to use any part of the body as a weapon and we must understand how to control fear. I started to really explore the martial arts in-depth, then I started to explore myself.
I went from being scared of spiders to being involved in thousands of violent situations, hundreds of fights. And all of violence, what I later called the lesser struggle, had been projected from the greater struggle that was going on inside me. This need to protect myself and fight, all these situations that I found myself in all came from the projection of wrong belief and untrained imagination. I had created a colourful, vibrant, beautiful, horrific reality for myself with pubs, nightclubs, fights etc. I created this world of violence with belief and imagination, I recognised that I had created it and then dissolved it again using the same process (belief/imagination). As I dissolved the violent reality, I then created a different reality, a beautiful reality, the reality of books, writing, teaching which of course is budo. The high end of martial arts, where you teach people that by changing their story and beliefs and perceptions they too can change their reality. So a big part of my development and practice now is telling my story and spreading my story around the world.
So that’s kind of the history of my martial arts, but in-between that, I training in lots of different styles looking for what was useful regarding combat and what was useful for budo. Budo isn’t about bowing in and out of the room saying Osu, it’s about developing a gold body and living a virtuous life, teaching your students and serving the community. So at the higher level it’s really exciting but at the bottom end, the base, the martial element, the physical stuff has to be right too. Martial means designed for war, we perfect technique that can kill, the martial element demands that we develop control of the mind and body. We can only teach what we know. If we aren’t aligned ourselves, if we have no control of ourselves, how can we show others the way. If I can’t be neutral and centred I can’t teach people. My job is to be in front of people and ask how can I serve you? Martial arts at the highest level is everything, it should work in every element of your life, but it’s often just worked at a fundamental level where people are ego centred and are only concerned with what the best system is. It’s really not about the system, it is about you. It is about you looking at how you live in the world, how you conduct yourself in the world. We have to ask ourselves the difficult questions: Who am I? Am I honest? Am I virtuous? And I hiding from my vices? Am I really practicing budo, or am I just saying the words – ace on the outside, base on the inside. So the martial arts if done correctly should align you towards virtuous living so we can reach our fullest potential and be of service to the world.
The physical stuff, the techniques that work outside the chip-shop on a Friday night, the is really simple but people still spend a lot of time dedicating their life to practicing stuff that wouldn’t work in a million years. If you went into the marines there wouldn’t be any of that, there is no theory in warfare, it would be this is what works, we’re using live rounds and it’ll work on the battlefield and there are thousands of years of testing to prove it. In the martial arts people believe anything, they’ll use a grappling system as main artillery and it’s the worst thing to do. It’s a beautiful system and a powerful system, but for combat outside its very limited because the moment you go to the floor you’ve tied yourself to one opponent and even strangers will walk past and kick you in the face, jump on your head, stab you. It’s the wrong choice. People work on traditional defence, block and counter, it won’t work in a real situation, and it’ll get you into trouble. Reality is about pre-emption, look at Sun Tzu, Musashi etc. they only work on a variance of pre-emption, the do not wait to be attacked, the only chance of survival is to strike first and have a strong understanding of the judiciary, to back you if your actions lead to court of law.
It isn’t difficult to know what works, you just have to go to someone who has experienced it prolifically and teaches it honestly. You’ll know it right away if it is honest, honesty has a unique sent, it will speak to you. If you read `Watch my back` it speaks the truth, it in I say ‘I’m a senior martial artist and I’m scared; this is what work works when you are scared. It consistently works. I’m still scared but I use that as energy to help me survive a situation. So you need to find a system that works in a real environment, then when you have that tied off you can look at the arts and have fun, start looking at the beautiful arts out there and play. I went on the doors to face my fears and find out what worked under pressure, to find out who I was under pressure, and I realised it’s all about mental hardiness, and close range punches. I worked on that, I worked on that a lot, I developed the fence system, and then all the other stuff that I trained in (many many systems) was just for the pure fun of it! Then of course when you have the ability to kill and you understand the violent arena and you are able to park that, then you automatically start spilling into other areas such as physiology, psychology, sociology, spirituality etc. When you know the physical, you tie that off then look at the other stuff. It isn’t difficult to get the physical right, go to a good boxing club and you’ll tie if off very quickly, same with Judo, it gets real very quickly. Its honest training and the guys that were most effective on the door were always boxers. Its close range, they can take a blow and are trained to knock people out. They understand fear. The honest systems are there. Once we have an honest core system – something that will work outside the chip shop, outside the controlled arena, where I’m really afraid – then we can build everything else on top of that, it is an amazing foundation.
There’s a lot of denial in the martial arts. This is not a criticism I’m a huge advocate of the martial arts, but my job as a teacher is to equip people with the truth, then we can really start exploring the arts and looking at who you really are and developing to our full potential.
Look out next week for part 2 of the interview with Geoff Thompson where he discusses his concept of `The Fence` and pressure testing within the martial arts.
Sifu Declan Lestat is the founder and chief instructor at The Forge in Minneapolis, specializing in Jeet Kune Do and Lau Kuin Kung Fu. He is a student of world renowned JKD instructor, Sifu Lamar M Davis II and a proud member of the prestigious Five Thunder Chinese Martial Arts Association. His website can be found here at www.theforgeacademy.com Here he speaks about children and the martial arts…..
I spend a lot of time teaching children. In fact, my time is probably split 50/50 between children and adults at the moment. As much as I love teaching adults – there’s always something new to challenge me when training a fighter of police officer – I’ve always felt that, when it comes to martial training, we have a lot to learn from children.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve spoken with an adult who, when they find out what I do for a living, shows great interest and enthusiasm for martial arts. More often than not, they’ve even trained in an art some years ago. Unfortunately, within minutes of their interest catching light, the flame quickly dims as real life dumps a bucket of water over their aspirations. I’ve heard it all, and you probably have as well:
I’m too old to start all that Bruce Lee stuff now.
Where would I find the time?
I’d never be able to do that, I’ve got a dodgy hip (Back, knee, shoulder, whatever)
I haven’t got a clue where to begin, I’d look stupid!
I can’t afford it right now. Maybe after Christmas (Easter, holidays, etc)
I have asthma
I’ve got two left feet!
I’m too tall/short/fat/thin/female
The list goes on, and I’m sure you could add to it with reasons you’ve heard too. It’s not much different for existing students who hit a plateau, or are about to be challenged in a new and different way as they advance in grade. It’s important to note at this point, that these reasons aren’t always excuses. They’re often genuine beliefs and fears held by the grown up in question, so I’m not passing judgment on anyone who offers a line similar to one of those above. Just making an observation.
Now, compare this to children. Children are notoriously unreasonable, in my experience. Wonderfully unreasonable. Over the years, I’ve trained children of all ages who you would never expect to see in a martial arts class. And if they were grown ups, you probably wouldn’t.
I’ve trained kids with learning difficulties and physical disabilities (From the partially sighted to the asthmatic). I’ve trained kids who were overweight, and some who were skinny. Some were tall, some were shorter. I’ve taught kids with anger management issues, dyspraxia, various degrees of Aspergers syndrome, and diabetics. I’ve had burly junior rugby players sharing the mats with dainty girls who would have loved to have frills on their uniforms (I actually had that request!)… This list, too, goes on.
But whatever the challenge, the child has seen what we do as martial artists, and said to their parents “Gimme some of that!”. They just want to have fun and train. Their personal shortcomings don’t even enter into their decision making process. Like I said, they’re wonderfully unreasonable. Not to mention unrelentingly optimistic.
But of course, they’re just children and aren’t old enough to know better.
As we continue our journey in the martial arts – or if you’re thinking of starting your journey – I suggest we do our best to not know better. We may just surprise ourselves.
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