4D Combat interview with Mittmaster Matt Chapman

About Matt Chapman: Matt came to train with me from about the age of 15 along with his close friend James Evans Nichole, he's now in his 40's. Over that time he's had a stellar career. A champion MMA fighter, a very successful martial arts school owner with about 450 students and now an online guru showing people how to make the most of themselves online. He's a dude. This is an interview we did a few years ago.

MC What is 4D combat? I’ve seen you teaching it here but what makes it unique.

BB. It’s an evolution of my training in JKD and Kali. It’s based on a total approach to stand up Combat. That’s where all fights begin and most end. So that’s the place to start. You want to get to the place where you’re still standing and they’re on the floor. You never know how a fight or altercation will develop so we have a total approach. Though it’s got a street approach it works just as well in the ring. We cover Striking, clinch, weapons and group attack with more or less the same method or code. That way it works whatever happens.

MC So tell me about the 4D System is it an evolution of JKD and Kali what you’ve done previously or is it something totally different?

BB It is definitely an evolution of JKD and Kali. I was the pioneer of those arts in Europe so of course they are a huge influence. Across the board there’s a big Kali influence as you can see for Phil Norman’s Ghost and even Andy Norman’s Defence Lab. I think all of us would agree that at the very heart of that, the very nub of that is Kali in particular and the JKD mindset. It’s stand up fighting in all it’s aspects. I know there’s the myth promoted which says that 90% of fights end on the ground, but most of my bouncer friends would totally disagree. I’ve had loads of fights and none of them have ended on the ground.

MC You never went down once?

BB I went down once, he went down as well, I tugged him down as he was trying to get up so he didn’t get up faster than I did, I left-hooked him, he disappeared. So I disagree with that totally, as far as I’m concerned, all fights start standing up. You’ve got four elements (striking, clinching, weapons, group attack) in a stand up fight and they are variable because you can’t control what’s going to happen in a real fight in the street, but what’s nice about 4D is you can use the same skills and strategies for everything - it’s the same. So my big question was “How do you get competent in all those areas?” Because it is incredibly hard, I see many JKD people and the Kali people going round and training a bit of this and a bit of that, and there’s no ..

MC It’s disjointed?

BB Yes, it’s disjointed. There’s no integrated approach, you see the footwork changes, like I’m doing the Penjak Silat now, and now I’m doing my Boxing - Under pressure, it doesn’t work, It’s just unfeasible. So I said how do I get the core of these skills down so whatever is happening I know the game and I’ve got 60% of the core of the code for whatever happens sorted. So that’s 4D. Whatever it is, I’ve got a strategy a map and a code. In many ways it’s being reverential to the original concepts that Bruce Lee expounded on in his book the Tao of JKD. Making it simpler-yet at the same time deeper.

MC So its sort of scenario based?

BB To an extent, but it’s very simple but adaptable. Say I start with an empty hand fight with you, we get into clinch, but there are five other guys coming, I know how to use the same clinch stuff to offset you and put you between me and them. Say one of them pulls a knife, I know how to deal with the knife or stick, I know the basics, the core principles of everything and it’s all integrated so less holes. So therefore, I’m faster.

MC. You certainly seem really fast when we stick fight.

BB I’m doing less so I’m faster. The first thing about 4D is it’s about faster thinking, we say ‘simpler thinking, faster thought’. So we don’t do the techniques which never happen, we start with the techniques and the structures that happen all the time, based on the five combat instincts, which are fight, flight, fence, cover and clinch. That’s what everyone does, whatever fight you are in, those are the five things you are going to do, but you start off in a fence, or what we call the box position, that’s just the starting point for everything, hands up - "whoa, whoa, I don’t want to fight".

MC So almost before the fight initiates, you’re obviously going to put your hands in front of the person, so that’s where it kind of starts from?

BB Absolutely. I think of it like building a castle's defences. If you think of concentric circles of defence; the first circle which is beyond my hand reach - is my eye reach (for instance when clinching we scan for others, all the time, so that we can see problems coming before they’ve happened). We want to be offsetting you when others are far away. That’s a big thing, then we’ve got what we call the box. This is where you’ve got five defensive strategies and all your defensive tools. These work whatever the situation. If you’re involved in a fight you have no idea how that fight is going to evolve.

MC True

BB Much like Toshiro Mifuni in the Kurosawa film, Hidden Fortress, I don’t care what the weapon is or the battlefield is, I’m adaptable, and that’s it; human beings are adaptable, but they have to practice being adaptable and that can be huge fun. Of course it’s easier if you have a map which is a core thing in 4D

MC Why is it faster thinking in 4D?

BB First I have a map that lays out my options. Then we concentrate on binary thinking all the time, say I’m in my box position, I’m either going to fight you or I’m going to run or evade. But I’ve only got IN or OUT. I’m in a neutral position, I’m either going forward or I’m reversing. What am I doing if I’m going forwards, I’m either striking you or I’m clinching you. So we teach our students to think like that all the time, binary.

MC. cool I can see how that works. Anything else?

BB Mentally quicker is the first advantage you get then there’s physically quicker; what we do with 4D is almost like the JKD thing of doing non-telegraphic striking. Before JKD we used to call it independent motion. People talk about that but rarely practice it, but in 4D its one of the essentials and its tested all the time.

MC Tested?

BB In 4D there are criteria on moving forwards. A bit like Super Mario there are scores you have to achieve. For instance, where you tell the defender what you are going to do and you have to score 8 out of 10 -against a defended target. You get to the point where they cannot stop it, even if you tell them what is coming. That way it’s built on rock. Everything is built on rock, I’ve got stats on everything. If I don’t achieve the stats, it’s almost like a computer game, I can’t go on to the next level, until I’m up to this level, so I’m sure, as a student you’re sure of your stuff, sure of everything, so we’re faster thinking, we’re faster striking or what we call invisible striking, because you can’t see it, so how do you stop it? you can’t.

Thirdly we’re faster because we try to slow you down. Instead of making us only faster, we can do the same thing by making you slower. A big thing in 4D is to make you heavier, make you be balanced on one foot, make you lighter so you are never on balance. Manipulation is a key element.

MC So you are never on balance physically, so that messes you up mentally. You want to strike, but oh I’m off balance, and that will take a time frame away from me?

BB Absolutely! The aim in 4D is to take you off balance physically and mentally. Take the blocking system based around the BOX people say it feels like they’re putting their hand out there when they attack, but they are unsure if it’s going to come back. So it is difficult for the attacker, the attacker feels frustrated, and in danger all the time.

MC Which makes them tense and slow?

BB You’re manipulating them all the time. And so that’s the core of it, i’m faster, faster, faster and then we work on structures as well so that we hit harder.

MC So you’re faster, but you’re faster because of your independent motion

BB And changing their timeline

MC And changing their timeline, making them off angle so that they’ve got longer distances to travel

BB Yes, so I am either fighting you or I’m not there, I’m never on the twelve position right in front of you. . The big thing is I’m either too far, too close or off to one side. I’m never in the sweet spot that you’d like me to be. And that’s a really easy decision tree in that I retreat, almost like attack by drawing from Bruce Lee or I advance and stop hit you but I never stay where I am, and if I do I use my box or my fence to adjust you or manipulate you or get you into a tangled web, where you never feel happy. I’m stealing time from you, all the time. And then because I’ve embraced all aspects of stand-up, I’m quite happy clinching but I’m not addicted to clinching. I’m addicted to winning, the 4D fighter is addicted to victory.

MC So you don’t need a specific range?

BB 4D guys don’t need a specific range, they just want to win. They are just addicted to winning and it covers everything from finger locks to wrist locks, arm locks. sweeping, throwing, striking, in that we don’t have a speciality other than victory. We also train in cycles, or flow series.So say you’ve got a six count flow, you can go from one to six, or two to four, and there are common things that come up all the time. At any time I can lose that lock or clinch or striking position depending on what evolves, however I’ve trained for that. I’m trained to flow. We emphasise flow, flow from locking to hitting. From lock to lock, from game to game plus we have drills for flowing around the body, because the key thing is to be able to flow, with one aim in mind - victory.

MC So it’s almost like an 80:20 approach to martial arts - your working on the 20% that brings in 80% of the results.

BB Totally. Absolutely. And everyone that has been doing it says that they feel less fear, and less panic. And that was the big thing in the development of it, I realised “Oh, there’s no panic now”. And even at the highest level, once you’ve got bashed a few times, you start to panic, everyone does, even though they might say they don’t, everyone starts to panic and flap around.

MC So true

BB With 4D you reduce that panic almost to zero, because you know the structure; you know you can hit hard because that structure has trained you to hit hard because it is in your skeleton, not using effort and in some ways it is the antithesis of those systems that rely on lots of speed and lots of athletic ability. Not that we decry that, it’s fabulous, and we train you very hard and you should have those things as well. But, what I mainly want is leverage. Leverage of my potential, leverage of my position, leverage of time. So I’m a small guy but I can beat a big guy, because I’ve got my leverage patterns structurally good, so I can hit harder. Because I’ve got leverage of your time I’m just quicker than you, all the time, I’m using leverage all the time, and as Archimedes said “Give me a lever and I will move the world”. That’s basically it, so I’m trying to be cleverer than you are, faster and harder - and Ghostlike!

MC And what brought about the evolution to this point?

BB Well it was really good for me in a way because back in the 80’s I wore both of my hips out through triathlon and running up hills and things like that and training very hard so I’d worn everything out so therefore I couldn’t walk really. However, I was still fighting and training with people like Winston Fraser, European Champion in Thai Boxing, World champion Neil Mcleod, JKD’s Terry Barnett, Thai boxing's Gordon McAdam and other people; All monsters. Not as well as I would like but I had to develop different skills. So I adapted,I got particularly fascinated by the blade then, by the knife. What the knife teaches you is how acute the angle is and how accuracy of angles is everything, if you want to buy time. With empty hands, the blocks tend to be much bigger, say if you were to describe it in space it is like a two foot or eighteen inch block of space and time. Where the knife is like an eighth of an inch of time so the calibration has to be much more accurate and so I realised there that I had to be better at manipulating and finding the space within space. So a big thing for a 4D fighter isn’t to seek to get more space it is first of all to find the space within space, secondly is to move you, instead of moving himself.

MC. like Dummy concepts?

BB Yes. Strategically, you’ve got three things, you can move around them, or you can move them around you, or you can find the space within the space you already have. It’s almost like a house, most people don’t use their attic, so the same thing with evasion and stuff like that, there’s loads of room in there if you practice it correctly and test it.

MC Yes, of course

BB And if you offset them as well, you’ve got loads of time, you don’t need to jump around, although there are times that you do.

MC Yes, that makes sense.

BB Because jumping around, you can trip over things, as I’ve found when I’ve had fights on football terraces and stuff like that, if you trip over or fall over, you’re in a bad place.

MC So, from that perspective, is it more geared towards the self defence side of things, or is it sport as well?

BB It’s sport as well, what is quite nice is that it is principal based, so once you’ve got it, you can apply it to stick fighting if that is what you’re doing. I keep it really simple, the structures are really simple, but the paradox is through the simple structures you find all the elaboration that people never find. In 4D they’re offered to you because you are in the right place with the right structure, they’re offset and…

MC It gives you freedom

BB It gives you freedom and time to see. We’ve all seen those techniques when you see that arm bar flying past you and your think “oh, if I’d been quicker I’d have got that”, where here you create a space and you think “oh here comes the arm bar” and I’m prepared for it. So it slows the whole process down.

MC Very nice

BB You become a much more potent fighter and your success rate is just much higher. You get luckier.

MC And have people picked it up quickly or do people have to work at it.

BB Yes, some of it is subtle to get but because it is simple in action and simple concepts, once you get the box down and you get the idea of that, all the other stuff is easy, all the other stuff is compounded on that and that works quite well under pressure. Because we test everything. In 4D everything is tested -can I hit you with that? Can I hit you consistently without you being able to stop it, can you throw me? So in the training we have lots of testing games - games are fun, It is all built on success, who scores the most . So therefore you’ve got your theoretical plus you’ve got your practical and you need to get those two in alignment, because you can have all the theory in the World but if you can’t do it ..

MC Yes, you need active resistance

BB You need active resistance to understand it, with clinching you need to know your stuff and also know what they do all the time so you need hands on with lots of people. It’s also good for teaching strike based stuff later as you learn your stuff but you don’t get punched in the head as much whilst learning. That’s why early on we introduce clinch because it is slower and it’s more controllable.

MC When you say strike based do you mean like Panantukan / Filipino boxing.

BB Yes, The beauty of the Kali Panantukan was it gave you the image of being able to hit and to manipulate and sweep and throw people but the reality was that whilst people would train it, few could do it in real time. This always pissed me off, it wasn’t taking the art forwards and I wanted to do that for my Teacher Dan Inosanto. All the Kali students loved it, but they couldn’t do it. Myself included. And so I realised, oh no you’ve got to slow the process down, I can’t do it ballistically until I can do it in a slower environment. Once I can get it, once I’m getting my stats up there, once I’m getting my six out of ten there, then I can do it ballistically.

MC Yes, I’ve struggled applying some of the drills that I’ve learnt because of movement time and in the fact that the person would try and strike me, which is just one movement time for them and then I’d try and apply two or three techniques in that one movement time which would never seem to work for me. But if you’ve obviously offset them, off balanced them and they try and strike, it increases the time they use.

BB It increases their time, I’m always over extending them or over shortening them or jamming them left and right, and they’re always in a position of distress or discomfort. I know that if you’re not there, you’re here. If you’re not here, this is coming next. And everyone says oh you can’t do that, but it’s instinctive, you can’t help it.

MC You’ve only got two arms, two legs and a head in the middle, so how many ways can you move your body.

BB Yes, and if they don’t want you to work on this arm, they’ll give you the other arm. Or they’ll give you the head or they’ll try and hit you.

MC Yes that’s what I’ve noticed when I’ve sparred with you, is you create instinctual reactions in my body which other people don’t seem to do. I can maintain technique and have a structure, like a recognised structure, but you somehow manage to make me do crazy things like put my arms out, reach out with my hands, flinch back - usually without touching me

BB I think the thing that’s good with that is it’s all based on instincts, isn’t it. So a threat for instance, particularly overhand threat is hugely hardwired into your system, for you to react and put your hand up, or to turn your head away and leave your arm exposed. The same with being off of balance, you’re going to put your arms out to stabilise. And so people either put their arm out wide or they post on you. And so, with the post on you gives you the arm to work on, and nine out of ten people will give you the same response. So therefore you just go - here we go again.

MC So you don’t need different strategies or systems for small people, for short people or tall people? It’s all based on human instinctual behaviour?

BB Sometimes there are different problems with taller people, but they still do the same things, and then we’ve got ways of breaking that distance advantage up with the 4D, all based around the box and the float where you preset them beforehand, so it’s much harder for them to hit you with their longest tool.

MC Which obviously tenses them up again, like you said

BB Yes, tenses them up and obviously we can crush, just as you would in Kali or DL, the same thing, because that’s one of the instincts, so we do that as well, but we are playing you, you are not playing us.

MC Nice

BB The big thing is always active, never passive, I’m always hunting you, even if I’m walking away. And then we take that concept and then apply it to everything. Applying it to the knife, disarms are either on me or on you. So I’ve either got you extended or I’m so close that it’s hard for you to do anything. You’re tied up. The same with the stick, that same with a group attack.

MC So you’re doing a cross branding thing with Andy Norman and his Defence Lab and Phil Norman and Ghost now. How does 4D link into that.

BB We all come from a common background and are all innovators So we were all on similar but different paths to answer the same questions. As I’ve developed 4D I’ve made sure there are change points built into 4D where you can go into either of those two other systems - if you need. So you can go I’m playing this game now and then this one. It’s built to be complementary.

MC So almost yours could be used like a bridge to go between those two different arts.

BB Yes

MC Because Phil will obviously looking to move out and away a lot and Andy will be looking to crash and enter, like that

BB Yes, and if you look at it we are three different heights, Phil is very tall and very athletic, I’ve had a double hip replacement although I’m quite athletic, Andy’s smaller and very strong.

MC So you’ve each kind of developed a style to suit your body type

BB The big thing for me was having the bad hips. I realised how, as Musashi says, ‘investigate walking’, I realised I could walk in on even the best opponents and hit them and walk away, with them unable to hit me if I knew how to cover my entry. And the less athletic it looked the more invisible it was to people. As we found with stick fighting, and actually it is quite weird you don’t see it because it is normal.

MC Yes, when I’ve sparred with you, stickwise, you just kind of walk up and hit me on the head and then walk off and I’m like “how did that happen? That was a bit weird”, but you’ve obviously taught me how you do that now, and the 4D will build that into empty hands, into stick, into the knife.

BB Yes, that’s where we are going, obviously it is evolving every week because we are testing it. Everything is tested, which is great because then it is an adventure. But it is also very deep. It’s for normal people but also for all those people who did JKD and Kali before and felt it had become overly complex. Who’d felt it had become a bit of a classical mess, although with the best intentions. The original stuff or the true art is amazing but many have got lost. It’s almost like trying to grab a handful fish you ended up with none. So we’ve said no, let’s just get one and the one will call all the others.

MC The thing about you is you seem very focused on functionality where a lot of JKD instructors I’ve trained with seem more interested in preserving those arts as they are and or formalising the structure and things. You seem more, can I hit you, can you hit me, more realistic, is that right, why is that?

BB I think it was quite good that I came to JKD as an international fighter anyway, so I always had that before I saw JKD so that coloured my view a bit, but also for JKD many people are just Bruce Lee fans. They are following the founder, nothing wrong with that at all, after all he’s one of the genius’s of modern martial arts. In my way I’ve tried to stay true to his vision. I’m not here to disparage JKD which I love and it was and is a huge part of my journey but now it’s about the human being evolving Through the experience I’ve had of almost fifty years of fighting at the highest level against some of the best people - yourself included - and having various handicaps along the way that made me develop, I think I found something which is unique. It’s functional, but actually in function there’s huge fun, there’s a poetry in there, which is what you want. As you know, I play jazz flute and I like the improvising structure and the game. The game is the big thing. Reacting, offsetting, having fun trying to see the changes as they are changing. That’s the ultimate thing because then if I’m playing with good people all the time, I just get so fast, and have fun and become functional. And that’s a good place to be. If I and the team can hand that on to other people; take away their fear, make them lucky, and get them really fit in the process whilst having fun then my job is done.

MC What about the cross collaboration with Andy and Phil?


What’s great about the current collaboration with Andy Norman in Defence Lab and Phil Norman with Ghost is that we’ve got a shared vision. Plus we like hanging out with each other. We’re inspiring people, giving them really good defence strategies that work yet having huge fun in the process. People get fit and fearless whilst having a blast. We’re all hugely motivated by that vision. It’s a new evolution and it’s coming like a tidal wave. Ride it or drown.

MC Many thanks..

BB. My pleasure.

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