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