I talk to Matt Lindland, the head coach of the USA Greco Roman wrestling team, Olympic silver medalist & MMA Pioneer. We discuss his experience coaching wrestlers from a folkstyle background and how to alter their risk-taking intuitions to suit Greco roman.
How coaches can simplify their coaching to help their athletes learn more and a lot faster How failure and questioning athletes can help them learn, his time coaching BJ Penn for his MMA fight against GSP and what BJJ can learn from wrestling.
Listen to The Matt Lindland Interview Here:
Matt Lindland Interview
Sonny Brown: Welcome to episode number 11 of The Sonny Brown Breakdown, a podcast where we discuss the training, teaching, health, and education of mixed martial arts to help you find the difference that makes the difference. I am your host Sonny Brown. In this episode, I talk to Matt Lindland, the head coach of the USA Greco-Roman wrestling team and an MMA pioneer. We discuss his experience coaching wrestlers from a folkstyle background and how to alter their risk-taking intuitions to suit Greco-Roman, how failure and questioning athletes can help them learn, and his time coaching B.J. Penn for his MMA fight against GSP. Now let’s go to the podcast. Coach Matt Lindland. How are you today, Matt?
Matt Lindland: I’m doing great, Sonny. Good to have you on the call here.
Sonny: It’s excellent. I’m very excited to be talking to you. I’m actually a bit of a fan of your work. Let me just show here your dirty boxing book. I think is one of the best mixed martial arts book-
Matt: Oh, well, thank you.
Sonny: -out there. Maybe underrated, but I think it’s one of the most comprehensive books written on wrestling and especially wrestling for MMA. I just want to give you credit and props for that. It’s actually the first time I’ve got to speak to someone who I’ve done a video breakdown on as well.
Matt: Oh, that’s great. I found your video breakdown. I think it popped up in my recommended videos or something. I may have done it because I watched Randy’s dirty boxing one or something and then it suggested that. I don’t even know how I found your YouTube channel, but I love the breakdowns and I’ve definitely gone through and watch a few other ones and I’m sure there’s some more I need to watch. Very good editing. I really appreciated the editing. I’m starting to, especially with this COVID thing going on, trying to do more remote coaching. I’ve been doing some FaceTime coaching whereI”m like, “Set your camera. Okay, I could see you. Oh wait, you went out of screen. Get back off there.” Working on technique with some of my national team athletes, but definitely trying to– I had a bunch of video on my computer. I was like, “Oh, let’s film that. That’s really good.” I dumped all this video off my computer, put it on the hard drives and I started dragging them back and figuring out how to edit. What do they call it on the Max? The iMovie, that’s the basic one. I’m just a novice, so I’m doing what I can.
Sonny: That’s fine. You got to start somewhere. I tell you, video editing is one of those things that before I did it, I would definitely not have been able to appreciate how difficult it would be. It would be one of those things where I’d say, “Oh, it can’t take that long.” Then I actually get started, I’m like, “Oh, there’s a lot more to this.” Maybe we can get into some of those lessons in wrestling. Just before we do it, I just want to ask, how close did I get? Was I on the target? Was I in the ball range for what I was saying?
Matt: I thought you even picked up a few things I didn’t even recognize that I did with the footwork. There’s a lot of footwork involved. There’s some other stuff that’s just very intuitive from wrestling, from doing Greco-Roman wrestling and fighting. It is like I am southpaw in the sense that everything I do that’s gross motor is left. If I’m going to write or brush my teeth, that’s right-handed, but basically, that’s it. Everything else is left-handed. It was a little awkward transitioning from wrestling and everyone was trying to get me to throw right hands. It’s like, “You write with your right hand.” I’m like, “Yes, but I swing a bat left, I play hockey left.” I don’t play golf, but if I did, it would be left [chuckles] .
Sonny: Oh, I thank you, as well [chuckles] . Interesting that you mentioned that it was mainly intuition that a lot of things are picking up because as I am speaking to different coaches, the fact that a lot of this stuff does get tore into intuition or built into the people’s intuition, I think is a very interesting area to explore. I’m wondering your current role now, you’re the head coach of the Greco-Roman wrestling team for USA wrestling, working out of the Olympic Training Center. I’m wondering if there’s any lessons from that that you’ve taken or that informs how you’re coaching those guys or just, give us a general overview of your role and how you do coach there.
Matt: That’s a broad question. The first part, let’s take the general overview of my role. My role is to manage the Greco-Roman wrestling in the United States. In the United States, folkstyle wrestling are what you see at the NCAA, the colleges. It’s competed in high school, it’s competed in division one, division two, three, all that. If you wrestle in the United States, you’re probably a folkstyle wrestler. Greco Roman is a very small subset, but for the rest of the world, especially you go to Eastern Europe, it’s like, that’s it, you wrestle Greco. There’s many countries, they don’t even have freestyle. They have wrestling and it’s the classic style of Greco-Roman wrestling. It’s a very European sport. I noticed that even in Australia, you guys do a lot of folkstyle more than even freestyle. I thought that was a little peculiar to me, but yes, I manage age groups starting it at U15, U17, U20, U23, and senior, which is our Olympic athletes. Many of our U20 and U23 athletes are some of our best senior athletes as well because that’s right when you should be peaking in athletics and in their sporting career. It’s in mid to late 20s, but some guys are starting to do it early 20s. We saw Nazaryan’s son, just won Europeans at 18 this year, just won the European Championships in Greco-Roman at 55 kilos. The age keeps dropping for the world. We saw in London, I think the average age was about 27. In one quarter, it dropped to 23. I’m trying to attract a lot younger athletes. The traditional model has been like, let these guys go to wrestling college like the Penn States, Ohios, and our Oklahoma, all the college programs that people heard about and talk about throughout the sport of wrestling. What I’m starting to notice is guys are peaking a lot younger. Maybe they missed their peak and it already happened in college, which is really the amateur side of the sport, the college wrestling, but it’s very popular in the United States. Everybody’s looking to do that because it’s like, “Oh, you got to get a degree.” That’s a whole nother topic of conversation there but just trying to get athletes engaged at a lot younger stage, get them involved in Greco-Roman wrestling. That requires developing a lot more coaches because if you just try to pick one athlete at a time, you’re like, “Hey, you’re a great athlete, team wrestle Greco,” versus, “You’re a really good coach, maybe you could develop 30 guys.” A lot of it is investing into our coaches throughout the country, going to different regions of the country. I travel all over the United States and all over the world, but for the United States, going to a coach that already has a program, he’s already developing athletes in the Olympic styles, whether it’s freestyle or Greco-Roman, understands the philosophy of folkstyle wrestling and international style are completely different. They’re almost opposites to tell you the truth. International wrestling is all about risk. The greater the risk, the greater the reward. College wrestling in the United States is all about “don’t take risk” because you could give up a point. It’s like what we’re doing now with this whole COVID. We know that there’s a risk, there’s an inherent risk if I get in my car and jump on the freeway, somebody could be drinking and driving, slam into me, kill me, my family, and whatever, but I still am willing to take that risk to get on the freeway, to get to where I’m going. It’s the same thing with this COVID. It’s like, yes, there’s a great risk, but we know what the risk is. Either you’re willing to take it or you’re not. Risk is critical to success. If you don’t take risk, if you don’t attempt to fail, you’re never going to learn how to succeed. It’s taking that philosophy and trying to turn it upside down for the United States because it really is ingrained in our culture of “don’t take risk”. The whole sport of wrestling internationally is all about risk and reward. The more risk you take, the more the points you’re going to get against your opponent. That’s the short answer of what my role is. Obviously, within that is preparing our number ones or even our national team one, two, three, any weight categories. There’s 10 weight categories in wrestling for the world’s, there’s only six weight categories in the Olympics. We’ve got to pare that down, squish everybody into those six weight classes and get them peaked and timing and preparation and training. There seems to be a lot that goes into it for some reason. Does that answer the first question? I think you had a second part in there.
Sonny: That’s a good roundup. I think the second part was probably just getting more into the coaching specifics, which I definitely want to do. First thing is just with the wrestling in Australia. It is still mainly freestyle. Wrestling is still very small here, but it is still freestyle-dominated. I know you’re aware of the Wrestling Foundation who I coach for with my coach, Gary Jones. He’s friends with I think a mutual friend with you, Rica Dante. We’re really trying to get it going out here, just to try and get the folks to our wrestling programs happening and then trying to make it happen as much as we can. Maybe we can talk about that a bit more because you have actually founded a lot of kids’ wrestling programs, I believe.
Matt: I have. I’ve run quite a few kids’ wrestling programs. Throughout my career as an athlete, you’re trying to figure out, what can I do that fits into my training schedule? As you’re an athlete, you’re like, “I need to work because I’ve got to bring in income. Maybe I’m not at the level I want to be right now, but I’m taking that risk and I’m going to invest my time and my efforts and my energy into pursuing this goal of not just getting to the Olympics, but hopefully getting on the podium at the Olympics.” It takes a huge commitment and a lot of sacrifice and time and energy and efforts. To do that, you’ve got to travel all over the world to compete and train. I was always looking for opportunities to share my knowledge with other people. I have a different philosophy than others. As you’ve heard, I already feel like we need to focus on more international styles to become the best in the world. We’re the best in the world at folkstyle, but we’re the only country that does that [chuckles] . We’re also the best at NBA and major league baseball. We can just make up our own sports and become the best at it. That’s an American thing and the rest of the world doesn’t do that.
Sonny: We’re the best at Australian rules football. [laughter]
Matt: I guess you’re right, that is true [chuckles] . Touche.
Sonny: When you’re working with the athletes that you’ve got at the Olympic Training Center, they’ve come through folkstyle wrestling program and you have to change their mindset on risk, what’s the process there? How do you go through that?
Matt: That’s a very good question. We recently had an athlete that had some success, was a world silver medalist at the 100-kilo weight category in Budapest in 2018. The World Championships, Adam Coon. He was a very successful folkstyle wrestler. He was a national champion, three, four-time All-American for them. Not only that, he’s a rocket engineer. The guy graduated–
Sonny: Astrophysics or something like that, something crazy.
Matt: He’s insanely smart. Guys that are that smart, it’s so hard because it’s like, “Well, if I do this, this could happen and this could happen.” He’s analyzing every situation. You almost need dummies to wrestle sometimes. These guys that are super smart and can out-think everything, logically, this doesn’t make sense. What we do to our bodies doesn’t make sense. Adam, look at you. You’re going to land– Throw another man that’s 130-kilo and he could land on top of you. That’s a real risk, but to score and to win this fight, you have to take those kind of risks. It’s really just breaking it down trying to explain the differences in philosophies, putting athletes into the positions to where they can score points. How do I change that philosophy? It’s challenging, I’ll tell you. It really is. That’s why I would like to see more guys have experience. Adam did have a lot of experience as a youth wrestler in Greco-Roman and frestyle. He kind of did everything. He just loved to be on the mat, train, compete. I don’t think his goal at that time was to be an Olympic champion, I think it was to be an NCAA champion. Once he accomplished that and college was over, now he had to refocus and say, “Well, this is my new goal and this is how I’m going to approach this.” With that, you’re just trying to guide these guys into different situations, give them opportunities, create the right environments, bring in multiple training partners. Recently, we had a camp up in his wrestling room, in his hometown. I brought the Chilean heavyweight, I brought the Norwegian heavyweight, and then I brought him and Cohlton Schultz and Jacob Mitchell. We had a pretty good group of big, heavyweight men in the room and I was training with those guys. What I realized that it’s a different sport. Heavyweight’s a different sport and there’s no easy landings when you’re training with these big, big giant men that are 130-something kilos. Everything you do hurts when you do it with them. You’ve got a guy that’s around my size. I’m about 100 now, but when I was 85 kilos or something, it didn’t hurt as much when having a guy your weight land on you, even though you were the same weight. I look at these guys there and I’m like, “Well, you’re the same weight. It shouldn’t hurt as much,” but it does. That size matters. The techniques need to be a little crisper. They just have to execute and they have to fully commit to those risky positions. It’s about creating those environments. Bringing the right athletes together and putting them in those situations and letting them fail and then coming to you and going, “Why did that fail?” Then you ask a bunch of questions to them and see if they can figure it out. A smart as a guy like Adam Coon is, he asked a lot of questions. I think that’s why he’s probably such a smart guy, he just asked a lot of questions. I always try to flip it back to him and be like, “Well, what do you think? What is your reason?” He’ll come up with his thoughts or whatever. It’s like, “Okay, I’ll share whatever the situation is, how I could think you could adjust or make an adjustment in that area.” We’ll try it and if it works, then I start building that trust. I can believe him here because he showed me something. That allows me to show more and share more with these athletes. Coaching, as you know, you’re a coach, it all comes down to building that trust with these guys. It takes that back-and-forth communication, this dialogue of it’s not just, “Here’s what I do and here’s how I can pour this into you,” because you and I do not think alike, we don’t have the same body, we don’t react the same way. You’re 6’2, I’m 6-foot. I’m 100-kilo, you’re 130.” There’s just all these different– You see coaches that are like, “This is how I do it,” and they try to show what they do. “This is what I do.” Yes, but we’re on the opposite sides of the bookends here in weight categories. Maybe for me, I could try this. I’ve been coached like that and I’ve been coached the other way. I look at wrestling as a true art form. It’s a martial art. It’s an art form. You develop the guy’s basic fundamental decisions. It’s like if their mechanics are flawed, if their body positions are flawed, you want to fix that quick, you want to make that adjustment. Head up, hips in, butt down, lower your level, don’t hinge at the waist. That’s so much different than what we see in freestyle and folkstyle is there’s a lot of hinging and you’re getting the weight pushed onto your toes and you’re getting snapped down to your face and you’re falling. In Greco, it’s a much more upright posture where you’re getting your hips underneath you so you can drive your legs through your opponent. You’re not just pushing into him, you’re trying to drive through your opponent to attack that body. In Greco-Roman wrestling, I don’t know if we’re on video, but there’s only about six inches of space. There’s six inches here where you have to get to that body. If you’re up here underneath their chest and you’re trying to lock, the guys are loosey-goosey, but if you can get to those hips. I’ve taught a lot of freestyle and I’ve taught a lot of folkstyle. When I talk about attacking a single leg, I’d much rather be closer to the hip than closer to the knee. The closer I can get to the hip, I have more control. Even though it’s a single leg, we’re looking at a single-leg technique, it’s like I’d rather grab right next to your hip socket than closer to your knee. Somebody that’s rustled and put the time in there. You visualize that and you look at that and you’re like, yes, that makes more sense, but why are guys grabbing at the knee or below the knee? Low singles are a whole nother philosophy and technical area, but controlling that hip and– Greco-Roman wrestling really has two what I call control positions. The definition that I use for control position is I can score and my opponent can’t. Everyone’s like, “How is that possible?” Well, it’s only possible for a moment at the time, but you just got to add those moments up. The more times I’m in a control position is the last time that he can score on me and I’m creating an opportunity to where I can score on my opponent. Those two control positions are an under-hook and a 2-on-1. Those are the areas that I talked about a lot and how are we’re going to use those two areas to get to that body, to control the body, capture our opponents so we can score.
Sonny: Yes. Okay. That’s interesting the way you talked about that with having to make the athletes experience their own failure and come to the conclusion on their own so they can learn from that process as opposed to just telling them, “Hey, do this technique,” and expecting them to pick it up like that because that’s– A lot of the conversations I’ve been having lately is focused on that area, but it’s like how much easier just telling someone what to do is, but how much longer that would actually take them to learn the skill. With your experience then coaching coaches, as you were saying, you’re going out, how do you impress on them the way to take that view into coaching?
Matt: That’s interesting because– What I was thinking, the problem usually starts with the coaches. We’re talking about these coaches that are like– but it’s not all the coaches, it’s just the majority maybe, that this is how you do it. Put your hand here, put your foot here. Look, it’s that simple, but it’s not that simple because wrestling’s so dynamic. You’re going against somebody that doesn’t want you to do that to him. The fear of failure is so real to young athletes that you need to tell coaches, let these guys fail. Put them in those situations, encourage failure. It’s like, I clap. Yes, you failed. Okay, now what are you going to do differently? How are you going to make an adjustment? What is that going to look like? Show me. Don’t tell me, “Just go,” you failed again. Okay? Now you’ve figured out two ways not to do this. Well, let’s if we can get it right the third and the fifth or whatever it takes. To the coaches, it would be encouraging that experimentation and failure. Well, let’s use an arm drag for an example. I want to grab the guy’s arm, reach around his body, control his body and it’s like, here’s how you do it. Well, your opponent also has a saying in that, and as you’re attempting that technique, you’re taking that arm, you’re dragging to the guy’s body and he backs away or he squares up or he moves his feet, you got to start anticipating those reactions and build those reactions into the techniques because it’s not a static sport. It’s so dynamic that you’ve created these situations where this arm drag could be to the body. If he takes his hips back, well, now he’s leaving his head down. Now I’m going to attack his head because he took his hips away. Well, that means if he took his hips away, he has to bend over. That means is his head’s available. Well, if I attack his head, he pulls his head up, well great, that that opens up his body. You can’t get that tunnel vision where you’re like, “This is the move I want” and it’s like that’s the action that created the scoring opportunity. Whether I scored with that drag or he squared up and I hit him with an arm throw or he squared up, I ducked him to the body, you’ve just put yourself in this situation to where all kinds of great things can happen, but they only can happen because you made an action that created that situation. Maybe that drag didn’t work. Okay. I didn’t need the drag. I’ll take is his head. He puts his head down, I’ll snap him down and go mind or I’ll strangle them out if it was Jiu-Jitsu or whatever because there’s a lot of parallels with coaching Jiu-Jitsu and coaching wrestling. To me, wrestling with a Gi on, it really is. There are some intricacies like you can’t take locks against the arm in Greco-Roman, but you can in Jiu-Jitsu but it really comes down to getting to your controls and getting to an angle of attack position. When I talked about an angle of attack, do you know what I’m referring to?
Sonny: I think so but maybe it would be good to explain it to everyone.
Matt: I would say the simplest way to describe it would be my hips are facing my opponents and his hips are not facing me. They are facing away from me, so positive hip angles, we’re always fighting for that. In boxing and wrestling and in any combat sport, you’re fighting for this positive angle. I’d be in a southpaw and fighting a lot of orthodox fighters. It’s always getting outside that lead leg and then making a pivot so I’m in a positive hip position. Well, that’s only going to last until he squares up. From there, I’ve got to land out one or two strikes or make that arm drag attempt or hit that attack, whatever that attack is and whatever discipline we’re referring to. It’s about getting to a control position. When you’re in a control position, remember I said a control position has to have the part where I can score and he can’t. If I’m not on a positive hip angle and his hips are facing me, if he clears that control in a split second, he has an opportunity to score. If I’m constantly staying on angle and whether that’s right, left, moving my feet, but if I take a positive hip angle and my opponent takes that away from me, I just have to create a new one. Whether I go the opposite way or the same way, I increase, I doubled down on the direction I was going or he squared up so hard and it’s a shorter route to go the other direction. You’re looking for those different routes to get to those positive hip angles and owning an under-hook or owning a 2-on-1 allows you because there are two ways to get to a positive hip angle. Are you aware of those two ways? There’s only two. I teach a clinic sometimes, “There’s how many ways?” and they’re like, “There are a million ways.” I’m like, “No, you’re an idiot, there’s two.” [chuckles] I’m like, “If there are a million, name three,” Name three. You go to a clinic and you’re like, “There are so many ways to get to an angle.” It’s like, “Okay, if there are so many, name three.” I can only think of two, but I’m always eager to learn. If somebody’s got something to share, I want to learn what’s another way to get to a positive hip angle. In theory, there’s only two.
Sonny: That would be I guess you take a step or your opponent’s steps, right?
Matt: Move him, move you. It’s that simple. Move my feet to get to my angle or move him, keep my feet static, move him. Now I could do those in combination. I can move him and move myself and maybe get to a more of an acute angle which is harder to recover from. I typically try to move my opponent as I move myself into a positive hip angle. That’s what I would encourage my athletes to do as well but to anticipate the reactions. If I’m moving into a positive hip angle, he knows. His hips are not facing me. He cannot score. He’s going to square up as soon as he can. He does not want to stay in that deficient situation where he can be attacked and he can’t counter attack or he can’t even create offense. They’re going to constantly be squaring up with you. You’ve got to constantly be making those adjustments. When you get to those angles of attack, you have to take risk. You can’t look at that and go, “That was, I got there.” You don’t score, angles don’t score, angles just lead to scores. Teaching coaches to simplify things more, it’s not like I don’t care how much you know, what matters is how much you can relay into your athlete, how much you can get him to understand. Maybe I know a million different moves, but just showing move after move and after move with no context and not understanding the position. I think the first thing to get coaches to understand is just how critical, fundamental positions are. I think we’ve gotten away from the basic skills of wrestling which stance, motion, elevation, penetration, lift, back step, back arch. I’ve always said there’s an eighth basic skill and it’s much more applicable in Jiu-Jitsu and folkstyle because there’s a lot more ground fighting, which is the hip heist, but all the other basic skills are more standing skills, stance, motion, elevation, penetration, lift. The two that get left out a lot and because I don’t know why, I think maybe it’s a lack of knowledge, probably more than anything but a back step and a back arch. Those are the two areas where you can create the most scores. A takedown is great. When I get on top, and then I can lock up my gut wrench and maybe turn the guy for two, or I could lift him for four. I’d rather lift a guy for four. Same thing with the takedown, I’d rather expose his back and get four points, which requires greater risk. Hence the back step and the back arch being the two skills that I feel are most efficient, at least in American wrestling system, not in the Asian system. You look at Koreans and the Japanese and back step, everything’s an arm throw, a headlock, a hip toss, a lot of rotational turning throws, which puts you for that split second, you’ve given your opponent a positive hip angle. When you are facing your opponent and you turn your body away from your opponent to execute that technique, you’ve given him an opportunity. Well, hopefully, he’s pushing in a little bit because you’ve created that. You take his feet off the mat and you score your four points. You look at that same scenario in a folkstyle situation. If that doesn’t score, it’s not rewarded as a risk because, in international styles, you slip, there’s no score because you made the attempt. Your opponent didn’t stop it. You didn’t execute but you made a risk, you took the attempt, so you’re going to get rewarded for that. In college wrestling, you get penalized for that. It’s quite heavily penalized because not only do you end up on bottom, he scores points, now you’re underneath your opponent, and your lines of defense are facing the mat, they’re not facing your opponent. I think that in a nutshell is where I started out saying, guys don’t take risks because in folkstyle they’re punished for it and in international style, they’re rewarded for it. It’s like, “Okay, get back on your feet. No scores. Try it again. We want to see action. We want to see creativity. We want to see scores. We’re trying to entertain crowds.” I’m not entertained watching some guy lay on top of the other guy and try to hold him onto the mat and maybe turn them for two or writing time. That’s not fun.
Sonny: I hear you. I’ve liked a lot of what you said there really. I think maybe one of the takeaways I got from that is, let’s say you’ve created that hip angle with the athletes and the moment that they might have that angle of attack is so brief that they can’t think about it logically, it just has to be intuition that they’ll know how to respond in that moment. The folkstyle wrestlers that you’re getting, they’ve trained their intuition to be risk-averse. When you come to Greco, that’s the process where you’ve got to retrain that intuition to be more risk-taking. Is that a good summary?
Matt: I think you summarised that very well. Maybe I should just have had you share that because I was a little long-winded. [laughs]
Sonny: I learned that from you, so there you go. [laughs] I really like the way that’s looking at it because coming–
Matt: That goes back to my philosophy of coaching, is take a very complex problem and simplify it. That’s what you did. To me, that’s a sign of somebody that has spent a lot of time coaching in the coaching field, that says, “This is a very complex problem. All these different things are going on at the same time simultaneously. How do I simplify this and break it down to its just course situation?” That’s what I’m talking about 2-on-1 and under-hook, there’s two controls. There’s two ways to get to a positive hip angle. There’s not a million ways. There’s a million attacks, maybe from those angles, but let’s focus on just getting our guys in proper position and getting them to move their feet into those positive hip angles, and then the magic happens when they start taking risk. You got to put them in those scenarios over and over and over, whether it’s drilling, or sparring, or playing. However, what modality you’re using to coach that day, you got to encourage that. You’re going to have a lot more failures than you are successes. You’ve got to have a short memory with the failures and be like, “All right, that didn’t really happen. Let me try this again.” Just keep going over and over and over until it’s like that time you’re like, “Okay, that worked. How can I replicate that? What can I add when that doesn’t work? What’s the next piece I can add to?” It’s like that Andre, let’s go back to that Andre. I reached around and I didn’t get to his body, but he left that arm out here. Maybe I ducked and went to the hips on the second attack. Just continually to build on those attacks. We call that chain wrestling. Have you heard that term?
Sonny: I have actually. It’s interesting because I did have a conversation about that with– We talk about catch wrestling and pro wrestling. The chain wrestling came up and we’re talking about how that’s what a lot of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is now doing for Instagram and stuff like that. They film little videos where they put this flow rolling together. That’s really chain wrestling.
Matt: It’s all the same. I love the terminology, flow roll. Just that terminology makes me think of so many cool things. I’m in the flow state, I’m enjoying this, I don’t have ego. When I think about flow, I don’t think about, there’s a lot of ego and if I take this risk, oh, it might not work. It’s like, that’s ego, that’s all about hubris and saying, “Well, I don’t want to take this risk because I might fail.” Who cares if you fail. You’re training. That your partner going to go up to the cafeteria after practice and tell everybody how many times he countered your arm drag? Because that shit doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is competition. Are you getting better? Did you get better today? Did you grow? Did you improve? Did you learn something? Those are the lessons that matter. I’d always try to be the worst guy in the room. Whenever I got to that level, where I was one of the best guys in that room, it’s like, I need to go find a new training environment or I need to bring guys into my training environment that can challenge me. Maybe I could still beat that guy in this area, but I know I can’t– When I was doing MMA and I just started, I think a lot of guys were like, “Well, I don’t want Matt to get ahold of me because he clenches me up, he gets me in an under-hook, or he puts me in a 2-on-1 situation. He knows what to do there. I don’t want to stay there. I want to just box.” They would naturally assume I didn’t want to box with them, I would just want to clench them. It would almost frustrated guys to the point where they were so ready for that clinch game that they had their mind set. It was like, “No, you’re a better boxer than me. I’m going to box with you today because I know what I can do when I get my under-hook and my positive hip angle. I already know what I could do there. Let’s focus on an area where I’m weak.” That’s gap. That’s not the close gap. There’s those ranges of fighting. The first range I would say is where I could push kick or maybe I could throw around house, but I can’t connect with you with my strikes. That second range is that where I can punch you or I can clinch you and then there’s ultimately that clinch range where the striking really doesn’t work because you can’t get a whole lot of hip rotation and power, you’re tapping guys, but- maybe that was just to open something up. Understanding those ranges of fighting is important too. That’s not necessarily in wrestling, because in Greco, it’s all this range. It’s all that fight range. If you’re not willing to put yourself in that range, we’ll penalize you. If you don’t want to get in that range, where you have to take risk, it’s called passivity. It’s penalized, in my opinion very harshly. Not only do you just lose a point, the opponent gets a point. Now you go face down on the mat and you have your lines of defenses on the ground and your opponent starts on top of you. Wouldn’t every martial artist like to start with the back? For the guys that are jujitsu and maybe not Greco-Roman, they don’t know a lot about Greco-Roman, this would be the equivalent to you’re watching a grappling match and somebody is not taking risk, which happens all the time in grappling matches. It’s like the risk happens on the ground, but on the feet, nobody wants to get the takedown some guys, even pull guard and jump on their back just to get the fight to the ground. Imagine you’re not being active enough, you’re not taking enough risk. You’re passive.The penalty for being passive is the guy gets to start with both hooks in from the back. That’s the equivalent to what you’re giving a guy that is an expert in Greco-Roman wrestling in the park position. You’re giving them a huge advantage. That’s an opportunity where you see a lot of matches ended. You see Roman get on top of a guy, two side lifts it’s over, or EVEl oofer– There’s so many guys that just have that ability to put a match away as soon as they get a chance on top.
Sonny: Yes. I get exactly what you’re saying. For me, that’s why I’ve enjoyed training folkstyle wrestling more is just with the lack of that party position, just being forced to stand up, I’ve found more applicable to MMA, and even Brazilian jujitsu. I’m wondering with your transition into MMA, one of the things that I’ve picked up on is that you’re talking about coaching the end of the sequence first, you know, just, hey, we’re getting to an underhook letting the athletes fail their way into getting that position to learn the learner intuitively. But it seems like with Brazilian jujitsu, it’s very much the opposite where the instructor’s going to tell you, this is the start of the technique work their way through. This is a very special technique that was used by this person to win this match. Maybe because of the ranking structure, it’s held up in a higher regard. To bring that together, I’m thinking when you’ve transitioned over to MMA, have you probably used your wrestling style of coaching to inform classes. Whereas some people I notice, especially I’ve seen up there, it can also be a Brazilian jujitsu style of teaching of MMA as well without doing it, showing the whole technique first. Have you noticed that or is there anything you’d like to comment on between those two?
Matt: No. I’ve noticed that. That’s what a lot of coaches that maybe they’re young in their careers, maybe they have a black belt because they’ve studied the sport really well. Maybe that’s how they were taught, that type of a system. They understand all the holds and they can do an Arm bar and a triangle and a double wrist lock from every position. But when I coach MMA or I coach jujitsu, and when I coach MMA I coach MMA, I coach the whole sport. I don’t break it down. For example, I’ll give you a really funny story. It was when B.J. Penn was fighting Matt Hughes, and called me up. He was like, “man, I’d really like you to be my wrestling coach for this fight.” I was just like, there’s not a chance. I do not want to be a wrestling coach for this fight. B.J. I said, right now I’m in between fights and I would be more than willing to train you and prepare you for this fight, but I’m going to be the head coach. What you see in a lot of MMA fighters is they want the boxing coach, the kickboxing coach, the wrestling coach, the jujitsu coach, and they all have their different philosophies. They all have their different theories. Of course, the wrestling coach wants you to take the fight to the ground. The submission coach wants you to bar on the guy or strangle them, and the kickboxer wants you to kick him in the head, and the boxing wants you to knock them out with a straight right. It’s like, I want to put together a whole package for you B.J. If you’re interested in doing this here’s what it’s going to look like, and I would be open. You think about that and then call me back. He called me back and said,”okay, well, how long is my camp?” I said, well, it’s going to be eight weeks. “I’ve never done an eight-week training camp.”I said, I understand you’ve probably never done an eight-week training camp. That’s fine, but we’re going to do an eight-week training camp. I’m going to lay it out for you. But first week is you’re going to come out to Oregon. I’m going to evaluate you. We’re just going to train. I’m going to see where your fitness level is. Then I’m going to send you to the Olympic Training Center. This was before I was a national coach. One of my assistant coach was a mole, who was a Olympic champion, gold medalist for Yugoslavia. He was coaching here in Colorado. He retired last year and has moved on. Now he’s training jujitsu in Kentucky and he’s 65 years old, and he just took up jujitsu. He’s pretty damn good at it. [laughs] I always told him, because we worked together from 14 through 18, we worked together. For four years I was like, coach, you need to do jujitsu. You need to put on gear, you’re 63 now, you don’t have to wrestle every day, and just go have fun. Now he’s in Kentucky for the last two years, he’s loving. He’s calling me, telling me he’s doing jujitsu, but I said, I want you to go wrestle Greco Roman for two weeks. I just want you to get in that Greco-Roman shape. I want you to feel the positions that guys are in. Just go get coached in Greco. I don’t need to coach you. I’ve got an Olympic champion there that can coach you. You know what I mean? I know a lot of the stuff he does, but maybe he knows something that I don’t too, but go get coached from really good people in Greco-Roman wrestling. Then come back here. Actually I said, go back to Hawaii for four days and then come here, take a break, come back. Then we’re going to have our training camp, but now you see we’re down to five weeks. I have five weeks. One week is a taper week. One week is fight week. What do I really have is three weeks. I evaluate him in one week, I sent him to Colorado Springs to wrestle Greco for two hopeful weeks just wrestle Greco, get these positions. I don’t know if you remember that fight, but couple strikes, double under hooks, little unbalanced, grackle on balance, but he also used a little foot hop with it, which was a little judo sweep and took his back, I think it was like 30 seconds or something. It was a great fight. I had an opportunity to coach him the first time he fought Georgia NPR as well. I thought we won that fight, but it was lost a split decision. One of the areas that we talked about, and I don’t know if you– You’re a fight nerd. You’d probably do remember these. B.J likes to put his back against the cage. He uses that knee between the body to create space. He takes away space to slow the guy down and control him. He pushes him away with that knee uses the strikes in the clinch very effectively with his back against the cage. Well, if I was in a room fighting and I’ve learned. I’ve learned this, it’s like, the best position is to push a guy against the cage for support. But if I was in a real combat situation, I’d want my back against the wall, against the cage so I can see everything that’s going on around me. That’s more real life combat and real martial arts, not just sport, but I explained to B.J., I said, if you have your back against the cage, it looks like he’s controlling. He has the octagon control. That’s one of the main criterias that the judges– These guys aren’t real martial artists, they don’t understand the sport at your level. They’re just looking at it and going look at Georgia, he’s pushing B.J up against the cage. Yes, B.J is doing well in defending himself in there. But that’s not what was happening. He was actually dominating the position with his back against the cage, doing way more damage. But to the judges, they couldn’t recognize that. What they can recognize is who’s on top? That guy’s winning. Who’s got their back against the cage? If I’m forcing that guy to get his back against the cage, well, I’m controlling where the action is. I didn’t agree with that tactic and tried to push back against it a lot. But it was one of those areas where he’s like, I’m really effective in here. I see that. But do the judges see that? In fighting, unless you’ve tapped the guy out or knocked him out, it’s going to go to the scorecards and you’re going to have judges that are going to determine who they thought won that fight. You got to give them more evidence to say, I won the slide, I control these positions, and so I just wish he would have swung them around a few more times, pushed his opponent up against the cage, and done more damage that way. You learn.
Sonny: I think you’ve probably touched on there the same thing with about changing people’s instincts maybe how hard it could be to change a fighter’s instincts in only a short amount of time of the fight camp. I think we see it often that people can game plan for a fight, but it’s very difficult to make someone fight a completely different style than they have been in the past. Is that something that when you’re game-planning for fights or is that something that you would think is relevant as well?
Matt: I think that’s very important as an athlete to be open-minded and be flexible. I’m not at all saying B.J wasn’t open-minded. We had good conversations. He just philosophically disagree with me on that one situation and I didn’t have the ego to say, “Well, this is the way you’re going to do this.” It was like I could see how that’s effective, too. I could see both sides. Again, I haven’t more trained higher than you do and I’ve sported with you. I’ve pushed you against the cage because that’s one of my strengths and I see how difficult you are to deal with that. You’re almost impossible to take down. When you get your back against the cage or BJ does. Not everybody do. When B.J had his back against the cage, he was damn near impossible to take down. I could see why you like that position. You’re much more stable. You’ve got a barrier to your back. I can see the damage you’re doing because I’ve sported with you and I’ve been in those situations. All I’m saying is from one perspective, we’re looking at this from the judges perspective. How do they see it? That was only that situation, particularly. Like I said earlier that I still felt like he won the fight and it was a split decision. That’s one example. It is hard habits die hard man. The habits they die really hard with athletes it’s like I’ve had success with this. It’s like, Yes, but you’re at another level. There’s levels. There’s so many levels in wrestling it’s like, you start out in this kid’s club in the Pee Wee League. Then maybe you wrestled at the state tournament. That’s a new level. God forbid you went to the national tournament at your age group but then you got out of that age group. Now you’re in high school. Now it’s a whole new level. We see attrition at every level. I think the attrition comes from us as coaches not teaching the enjoyment and the joy of the sport and the love of learning and failing and just the whole experience. I think what we do is we say, “You want to win,” and we just keep putting more pressure and more pressure. Like winning is so important. Winning happens when you enjoy what you’re doing so much to the point that you’re obsessed with getting better. Getting better requires you to put yourself in situations to where I’m at a disadvantage. Like I said, for me sometimes especially early in my MMA career, it was like, the stand-up thing, this getting punches and kicks thrown at me, I’m going to spend as much time there as I can because I already know if this was a fight, I wouldn’t probably stand in front of you. I’m going to close that distance and get to my control positions, my positive hip angles, and put you on the ground. I’m going to control you and I’m going to do damage until I can find a way to submit you. It’s like, how many guys when they’re just rolling in Jiu-Jitsu, or don’t give up their back. There’s especially if you have maybe a partner that you can beat in your guard all day long. If he’s in my guard, I’m going to triangle him. I’m going to hit a drag. I’m going to take his back. I’m going to triangle armbar whatever. I know if this guy gets to my back, he’s really good there. What am I going to do with this guy? I’m going to let him get to my back as many times as he can in that training session, because that’s where he’s really strong, and he’s really good. If I keep him in my guard, well, my ego is going to win. I’m going to have a really good practice today. What’s the definition of a good practice? Did I grow? Did I improve? Did I learn or did I kick somebody’s ass in the gym? It doesn’t really matter. That’s why we see that attrition. I think it could come from coaches just teaching more. It’s okay to fail. I expect you to fail. What we are attempting to do here is really difficult. Wrestling at a high level or martial arts at any high level is a very tough task to take on. Somebody’s trying to kick the shit out of you. They’re trying to choke you, pin you, punch you, or whatever that is, in whatever artwork we’re practicing that day. You got to redefine what enjoyment is of the sport and it shouldn’t all be about did I win every situation today because if you did, you probably didn’t get much better, because you weren’t going with good enough guys or even if you have guys that aren’t at the same level of you well, give me your back every time. Start with a triangle choke. Let them walk it up. Then Figure out how to get out of that. Put yourself in the worst positions possible sometimes and then start the drill from there.
Sonny: I hear that and I think about in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu side of things how much more difficult that is made potentially by having the ranking system. If you’ve got someone just one rank below you who you’re supposed to– That puts you above them how much extra pressure that might put on someone to be risk-averse in that situation which wrestling doesn’t have. Do you think that could be a contributing factor?
Matt: You know what, I still don’t have a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Not because I haven’t been offered a black belt just because I’ve chosen not to be a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I’m okay. My wife’s like, “Why haven’t you ever gotten a black belt?” I was like because I still study Jiu-Jitsu. I love to go to other places and learn and study. It’s like, it doesn’t matter because that’s just somebody’s opinion that says, “You’re good enough to have a black belt.” I don’t know. I think you just got to take the ego out of that and say it doesn’t matter. We’re all white belts. Shouldn’t we have a white belt mentality as we go into the gym? We hear that ad nauseam, like, “Oh, I have that.” As you as soon as you go on against the guy that’s a belt color above you, you’re going to go harder. You just see those guys are [unintelligible 00:57:36] and they’re breathing and it’s like, “Dude, I’m not going to hurt you.” You know what I mean? It’s like I’m just here to train and get a little flat. Roll around and have fun but it’s serious. I call them the head squeezers or they’ll squeeze anything. Anything they get a hold of, they’ll just squeeze, squeeze it. You’re like, “Okay. Go ahead and squeeze that and then you’ll be done here in three, two, okay. Now I can roll with you because you’ve depleted all your energy systems.” A big thing about martial arts and coaching is how to control that energy management too. Energy, there’s only a certain amount of it that you have. Whether the bout is six minutes or 25 of it in a title fight or whatever, you got to think about how you’re using those energies. Putting yourself in positive hip angles and control positions allows you as the guy that has that position, allows you to almost recover in those positions. We’re still in the fight. The fight is happening but I’m not tense. I’m relaxed in those positions, and he’s tense. How many more times can I put my opponent under threat where he’s using that energy, that nervous energy, like I can’t be here much longer, because something bad’s going to happen because you start to realize, “Okay. He’s controlling me. I can’t score until I free this arm. Now he’s got a positive hip angle.” Now that guy is going to start using way more energy when you’re letting off the power and you’re waiting for that moment to explode and use that energy. I’ve always tried to use an acronym for MMA. I said, minimize the amount of energy you expend, maximize the amount of energy you’re imposing on your opponent, and attack effectively as possible. It’s all about when do I exert and when do I not exert? The head squeezers, they’re just going to burn energy till it’s done and then you just see a *crack* because they don’t understand that how to use that energy throughout whatever the given timeframe is.
Sonny: I think that’s really good, solid advice about utilizing energy and making sure the way that you’re using it is putting your opponent into a deficit and you’re getting the advantage over them by that. I think that’s really strong advice. Speaking of then of some of the pressures of MMA and dealing with maybe athletes in MMA who are more confident in themselves and maybe sure of their own way. Then the additional pressures that could put on someone, coaching and just experience of coaching in general. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind just maybe finishing off with your thoughts on Robert Follis, who was coach at Team Quest and just, he tragically passed away by taking his own life. Just your thoughts on some of that or just even a valuable lesson you learned from him.
Matt: I can tell you, I learned a lot of lessons from Robert Follis. It was very surprising that such a positive influence on so many individuals. You would have never thought Robert was depressed. Apparently he struggled with this for a long time but didn’t share that with anybody. If there’s anybody out there that is dealing with that depression, you need to talk to somebody. Recently this week I actually talked to somebody, I’m not going to tell you who but this guy was a world champion in two combat sports, literally a world champion. He’s transitioning out of the competitiveness and trying to figure out what’s next. What’s next in his mid-40s and it’s like, “I’ve been an athlete. I’ve been a combat athlete my whole life. I’ve been a world champion my whole life. Now I got to figure out what I’m going to do.” A lot of guys go into coaching or whatever. There’s only so many of those jobs out there. There’s only one Greco-Roman national team coach in the United States. There’s one in Sweden and one in Finland and Norway and Russia. Those jobs they’re just not there and you got to create those things. If somebody’s dealing with that, first of all, I think they probably should find Jesus because I think that gives a lot of people a lot of peace and knowing that there’s something greater than this life. There’s an eternal life. I think that’s an important lesson there. I think one of the things Robert, he didn’t have Jesus in his life but I think he was always looking. He was looking for what the next thing like that. He loved to go to Tony Robbins and listen to him and he loved to be inspired by people. I can be inspired by history and reading a good book and find out what others have done. Robert treated everybody very well. He was a very good coach as far as open-minded about bringing new skills in. I think that was probably one of the greatest things that he did is he always would help us like Randy or me or we would invite different people in whether I fought them or trained with them or against them, even if I could have fought that guy in the future. It’s like, “Come into our gym. We’re going to both compete. It doesn’t matter if we’ve trained together a year ago or six months ago. We’re going to bring our fight to the game.” Robert did a good job of bringing in a lot of different ideas and outside influences, different instructors that maybe– You wouldn’t believe the names of guys that have been in our room and coaches and athletes that I’ve got to learn from. I’ve talked to you about I’ve spent a lot of time with BJ and spent a lot of time with Marcel Garcia and John Hackleman was one of my great mentors and Matt Hume and Maurice Smith and I love Maurice. What a great boxer. His coaching style for me was more of that, “No, you need to do it like this. You need to do it like this.” It’s like, “Yes. This was working. Maybe this one is okay.” Because I’m not trying to knock the guy out. I’m just trying to land this punch to get to the clinch. I get it, but if I land that punch and then I got a slip and I got to duck or move my head, he might punch me back. I might get knocked out. That isn’t my strength. What if I just land that punch and I close the distance. You’ll find people that are saying, “That’s okay,” versus guys that are like, “No, you need to do it this way.” Being exposed to everybody gives you such a wealth of knowledge. Then I can even tell you Dennis Hallman was one of the guys that I’ve learned so much from. Jeff Monson, those guys are our neighbors. They’re just up the street from us. I am forgetting names after names of all the great people that have come through our gym and I’ve been able to be coached by or been able to share things with and just that brainstorming of like, “Well, this is how I do it.” There’s something simple like taking a double wrist lock and going above the elbow or below the elbow and having these philosophical discussions on leverage and pressure and strength. It’s like, “If I go against this, that part of my arm is a lot stronger than this part. This part here, I’ve got more leverage points.” You’re like, “Yes, but this coach showed it this way.” It’s like, “We’ll try it this way,” and being open-minded and willing to say, “All right. I’m going to try it and see if it works.” Also you’re like, “Wait a minute, that’s better. I’ve been doing it this way all along.” You know what, I’m going to start doing it this way because I feel like that’s going to be more effective. I could take that for a million situations. I used to do this technique on the front choke, where a lot of guys they love this Gable. They call it the Gable grip. Dan Gable gets a lot of credit in our country as the master. I call it a butterfly grip because it looks like a butterfly. I was using this grip here. I don’t know if you can see it but it’s a really awkward grip. I can only pull a Gable grip that tight. I can push that thing all the way through the back of his throat and changing the leverage points. I called it a chokeslam because I started when I let a guy shoot a single and when he’d start to drive I’d get out the way and let it head slam into the mat, give him a concussion as I was slapping a choke on to him. Everyone’s like, “Ozzie guillotine or you’re not doing it right.” It’s like, “I’m not doing that move. I’m doing something totally different that I just stole this little piece for Marcello. I took that piece for BJ and I figured out how to do this lock because that’s what I did when I was wrestling Greco was– I know I can push it more than I can pull it in and just taking bits and pieces. Like all great artists, you got to steal and take what works and call it your own. I just think Robert was really good at saying, “Show me. I want to learn that. All right. Let’s do it your way,” or “You know what I think this way is going to be better. Why don’t you try it? If it doesn’t work, let’s unmarry it, let’s get rid of it. For a month let’s just work on it this way.” Being open-minded not saying that my way is the only way, but saying, “I think this will work or I think this won’t work. Why don’t we experiment? Why don’t we try it and try it on next time. You got that on Shale. Try it on Randy. See if it works on him.” Which nothing ever worked on Randy. I tapped Randy one time in the room one time in my whole career. You know what I tapped him with, guess the move.
Sonny: I don’t know. Peruvian necktie.
Matt: It was the toehold.
Sonny: The toehold. [laughs]
Matt: That was because he was standing on top of me beating me down. I swung around got his leg and I was like, “This is working. Wait, wait, wait. It’s going to work.” All of a sudden he tapped. I was like, “That’s it. I’m done for the day.” It’s the only time I’ve ever tapped the natural out but now it’s just taking those and trying on the next level guy and seeing, “Does this work here? Okay. It works at this level, but will it work at the highest levels against the best guys?”
Sonny: I like that. It’s really beautiful. Some of the things that you’ve gone through there and it’s very important. What you said to reach out and speak to people if you’re going through something like that and to have those conversations. Of course I’m loving this conversation on technique and coaching that we’re having too. The conversations of reaching out to people for help if you need it that’s also very important and even something that I myself should be doing more often. I’m sure it’s probably something everyone should be doing a bit more than they normally are. To make things a bit more personal, I guess if we’re going that route and keeping it in wrestling, and the last question would be, well, we’re trying to grow wrestling out here in Australia, me and Gary Jones the wrestling foundation, wondering what tips, with Brazilian jujitsu it does seem that the ranking system is very good for student retention in getting [crosstalk] provided?
Matt: Oh, it’s great for gym owners and it’s great for retention and I think there’s a lot of positives in both sides of that like you said, I think we lose a lot of athletes to wrestling because maybe we don’t have that system to where they can see if I do these things, I can get to that next level. There’s always a next level for them. It’s like you’re either winning or you’re not winning with wrestling and that’s hard. Like I said, are you growing? Are you improving? Are also important. I don’t need somebody that’s maybe got a higher belt rank than me to tell me if I’m at the next level, I have to feel it and I have to know it because I’ve done it and it’s not just because somebody else’s their opinion and that’s really all it is, isn’t it? Am I wrong? Is there more to it than I’m missing out?
Sonny: On any given day, it’s the same with anything else. You could say there’s more to it and people could have that debate for ages, but on any given day, anything can happen and you might be caught sleeping, and then what does as the old saying goes, the belt only covers two inches of your ass.
Matt: That is true. Now that’s good and I think if we as coaches instill the love of the sport into our athletes and stop putting so much pressure on doing things perfect or doing things this way and just saying, show me how that works, you’re having success. I want to know what you’re doing, it makes it work and maybe I can learn from you and I could coach you better because I don’t want to change anybody that wrestles far as obviously they’ve gotten to this level because they’re doing something right. When I get to a guy that’s making a world or Olympic team, I’m not trying to make these gross adjustments. I’m just trying to make micro-adjustments maybe work on their training prioritization plans, or their mental skills or some small technical adjustments and just everything is an add. How can I add to what you’re already doing? It’s not how can I change you or how can I mold you? It’s like, how can I just add on to what you’ve already built because you built something pretty damn good to get to this level, and what are your strengths, and what techniques should we try to work into your strength areas. I think that’s important.
Sonny: Yes, I like that and that is something that I think Gary Jones has done by implementing a level system within the coaching of wrestling to give the students level one, level two, level three system to work through with techniques to try and encourage that side of things so I think that’s a good place to take things for sure. Look, Matt, it’s been a wonderful conversation.
Matt: Thank you.
Sonny: I’ve really enjoyed it. I hope you have–
Matt: I developed a belt ranking system for Team Quest and it was for retention. It was from my students that were young. It wasn’t for guys that are competing like your belt is what are you fighting in Strikeforce, UFC or that’s your belt, but for the young athletes and in 20 years I’ve promoted four black belts and two of them are still training at my gym and see one of them, she was the only female out of the four. She’s 25 years old and she’s also my daughter and the other one who just turned 16. He started with us when he was five and he got his black belt just a year ago. He got his black belt and then Isaiah and Kaitlin, they’re still doing martial arts. Kaitlin took up some stick fighting, but he blew his knee out doing football, American style football, and Isaiah, he’s 19 now and he’s just trying to figure out what he wants to do in life. I think that martial arts definitely gave all of these young people, good base a foundation. They’re all having success in other areas and like I said, two of them are still really heavily involved in martial arts. Robert is a 16, he’s trying to make the U-17 world team. My daughter, she’s not a competitive martial artist, but she’s in the gym daily training and staying fit and running our fitness side of our programs at Team Quest and she’s a very good martial artist too. I’ve gone back and forth on women in martial arts and whatever the opinions are and I think it’s really a great thing for all young people, whether it’s a young girl, it builds just that confidence and self-esteem and for men, I think it’s critical. I think all men should be required to do martial arts of some sort or some kind just to develop that resiliency that somehow we’ve lost as a society because right now we’re locked up in our houses and not even going out because we’re so riddled with fear that we might get a bug. I understand that coronavirus is real and it makes certain people sick and if you feel like you’re compromised and you’re unhealthy, well you should not go out in outdoors, but you should not try to mandate what somebody else should do and how much risk they should be able to take with their own lives. Where does it stop with taking risks, I think we all know that risky behavior and we still do them, we still get in our car and get on the highway and more people die every year from car accidents than have this year from coronavirus, and we’re still driving.
Sonny: Yes, I think that being able to evaluate risks and learning sometimes the hard way sometimes the easy way I guess if you’ve got a coach there to help guide you with those risky decisions is such an important thing that can be taken from the training room and then used hopefully lifelong in a lifelong practice of martial arts is probably the best and ideal goal for the young guys. You mentioned stick fighting, I think that one could become huge in with the social distancing going on. The stick fighting might come in handy and could be the one that could be the next big thing I tell you. [laughs]
Matt: I tell you what, and if I had the time and there’s a couple of martial arts I wouldn’t mind trying, that’s one of them and then what’s that other one that’s like really meditative and like the ones that old people do, I’m 50 now-
Sonny: Tai Chi.
Matt: -so I might have to do Tai Chi. That one looks very interesting to me.
Sonny: Do you know Tai Chi is pretty much, they have a competitive side of it?
Matt: Oh, I’ve read that book.
Sonny: The Art of Learning, have you seen his matches?
Sonny: They’re pretty much Greco-Roman. I think you’d be pretty good at it, Matt.
Matt: I think you’re right and I’ve also trained in Thailand and Muay Thai like the Thai do it is very close to Greco-Roman as well. Head up, hips in. The only difference is you’re slamming knees and elbows into the guy’s body instead of shoulders like Greco and Thai fighting are so similar. Well Sonny, thank you for having me on your show and keep up the great videos and appreciate that one you did on me and stay safe dude.
Sonny: Thank you very much for your time, Matt. I’d love to have you back on some other time to talk about your career and all the technical sides and maybe that time that Fedo held the ropes when you were fighting against him.
Matt: It’s all good. Thank you, brother.
Sonny: Thank you.
Subscribe To My Newsletter
Sign up for my newsletter and receive occasional updates on my articles, podcasts and videos and receive a link to my guide which lists the top 5 habits to start a martial artist's day.