View Full Version : Seminar report (Matt Thornton, aka Mr. Thornton)

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2/22/2004 9:07pm,
Matt just finished up a two-day seminar here in Berkeley, and I have to say I was very impressed. We received about 10-11 hours of excellent instruction, and I absolutely feel that I got my money's worth. I paid $120 for both days - prices were higher if you weren't an SBG member, or if you were attending only one day.

Day 1:

On Saturday we worked ground, clinch, and standup. He began by teaching us some basic defenses from common "street attacks" i.e. bodylocks and Average "I'm not a grappler" Joe headlocks. The headlock escapes he showed us were very impressive in their simplicity, and much easier to pull off than the ones I'd been shown before. Bodylock defense basically consisted of some simple throws from a whizzer.

All these drills were practiced with Matt's three I's technique: Introduction, Isolation, and Integration. The introduction phase consists of learning the technique, and the integration technique is when you add it into your sparring game. Matt pointed out that most BJJ schools only use these two phases. His famous "aliveness" comes in during the Isolation phase, which basically consists of drilling the learned techniques, but at full resistance.

Clinch work focused on the Thai necktie - getting into it and getting out of it. Not much to say here - I just want to emphasize that Matt has a gift for explaining difficult techniques so that they seem obvious. Throughout the weekend, a number of moves I've been having trouble with kept "clicking" into place, and I heard the same from everyone else at the seminar.

During the standup portion we covered phases 1 and 2 of his "crazy monkey" boxing style. Phase 1 was basic defense and basic offense. Phase 2 covered stalking and counter punching. Again, after each technique was introduced, it was drilled against a resisting opponent. The drills he used for learning how to stalk an opponent were especially good.

2/22/2004 9:23pm,
Day 2:

Sunday focused on BJJ. We started out with guard passes. Matt divides the guard pass into stages with specific things to focus on in each stage. This allowed me to immediately pinpoint the most serious problem in my guard passes and I know what I need to do to fix them. I think it will also make my passes more consistent.

After guard passes we moved to side control. Matt explained a number of details to make your side control much more effective. Some of these I had figured out through sparring, but I wish someone had just listed them off for me at day one. There's 5 main points, things like "block out the guard" (which I had figured out), or "control the opponent's near side arm" (which I hadn't). We drilled side control for a while, and I was able to feel mine improve drastically over the course of 15 minutes.

And of course, he showed us some nifty submissions.

After breaking for lunch, we focused on the butterfly guard, which is completely absent from my game. The lack of an open guard game was a serious problem for me, but after all the sweeps and submissions we learned today, I feel much more comfortable, and I look forward to integrating into my rolling in the future.

Each day ended with a Q&A session. I asked him how to escape from north-south, which has been driving me crazy ever since I stated BJJ, and finally got an escape that I think I might be able to pull off. He also talked for a while about "aliveness" and the importance of training against resisting opponents. I should mention that he never said that he invented "aliveness", or that TMA's were worthless. He just said that 99% of what's currently marketed as martial arts is worthless as far as making you a better fighter, which I think we would tend to agree with.

All in all, it was a very satisfying weekend. After most BJJ classes I come home with a new move and I think "This move is cool, I'll definitely try it when I get a chance." I came back from this seminar with a whole new dimension to add to my ground and standup games. And everything was something I could incorporate immediately (like the butterfly guard), not a crazy submission that I'll have to wait until I'm perfectly set up for.

Thanks to Matt and the crew at Modern Combatives for setting this up. I had a great time.

2/22/2004 9:45pm,
Thanks for the review.

Can you please explain what you mean about the "Integration" stage. Exactly how does he do this (Please provide an example).

2/22/2004 10:14pm,
Integration just refers to normal sparring, i.e. trying to pull off a new move when you're rolling in class, or competing in a tournament. Matt's point (at least as I understood it) was that the failing of typical BJJ schools is that they go straight from Introduction ("OK, these are the moves we're learning today") to Integration ("Great, now go roll").

Of course, when you're rolling, you naturally fall back on the moves that you're most comfortable with and are most successful for you. This means that a lot of the moves you learn in the beginning of class never really become part of your game. Or if they do, it takes much longer.

2/22/2004 10:57pm,

Thanks for the info. I was anxious to hear an opinion about Matt Thornton from someone with experience on BJJ and who met him live, cause all I had read up till now were opinions about Matt's opinions.

Since I'm in Brazil, I have access to some of the best BJJ instructors, but they DO NOT focus on the standup game and on the clinch, just groundwork. Therefore, I'll try to get Matt's books and tapes.

2/22/2004 11:09pm,
Oops, i meant "Isolation". What guard type drills for example did he use to work on a technique? Just trying it at 50% pace, restriction of techniques or what?

Thanks again.

2/22/2004 11:16pm,
Thanks Bunyip, great stuff.

I hope you mentioned Tigerfly and Djimbe sometime during the two days.

2/23/2004 12:15am,
Isolation drill examples:

For ground the obvious example is the pass guard game: top tries to pass, bottom tries to submit or sweep, both use full resistance, if either succedes they start over. Or, for headlock escapes: one person starts with the other in a headlock, the other starts in the ideal starting postion and they roll to submission. Or one guy starts in a very dominant side control and they roll to submission or sweep.

For clinch another obvious example is pummeling for position, restarting when one person attains a dominant control position and the other can't counter.

For standup one drill we did that I really liked was for practicing stalking. One guy throws punches full force right/left/right/left in an unchanging rhythm. The stalker then moves towards him, blocking punches as he goes, while the puncher retreats in a straight line, maintaining his punching rhythm.

The Wastrel
2/23/2004 12:27am,
I think TigerFly's review was so much more informative.

2/23/2004 12:42am,
yeah, she totally broke it down for us

2/23/2004 12:45am,
We normally do that but call it "In the hole". We do it for being side-control, mount, knee-ride, guard passing etc. I've found that it's invaluable, but still not enough. We teach the technique, then do "in the hole" then spar. The problem seems to be there's too much of a gap between learning a technique and getting it against someone your own level or higher (or even lower) when the pressure is on. I'm going to try getting people to "play" with a technique at 50% speed for a while so the can't better work out the timing etc without being worried about being swept or submitted or passed. Then when we go "in the hole" it won't be such a jump.

Thanks for the info.

2/23/2004 12:55am,
JohnnyS - I've had the same frustration. We actually try to do drills in class where one person only resists 20%, or 70%, but there still feels like a huge gap between the intensity in the drills and the complete spazzing out that people seem to do during sparring. I don't know if the gap can be completely surmounted, but the varying degrees of resistance is better than nothing.

Some of Matt's drills involved restricting the actions allowed for the "victim" of the technique being drilled, which also seemed to work well.

2/23/2004 2:15pm,
I think one of the major problems when people are working aliveness is they just assume aliveness means full contact - or 100% effort.

Aliveness has little to do with the amount of contact or effort - it has to do with the realism while drilling.

You need to take the idea of progressive resistance and apply that to your aliveness training.

Progressive resistance simply states that you start off at a low level of resistance and contact, and work your way up to a high level. You do not have to reach full contact, but that is a good option to do occassionaly.

The resistance can go from 20% to start to 80% in the span of a few minutes, over an hour, over a week, over a month....

The key is that while you are working on your drills in the Isolation stage you are applying the principles of aliveness (with progressive resistance).

Aliveness just means that anything you drill will have energy, timing and motion all the time.

You can do a drill alive at 20% contact and effort - but you can still have it be alive, which just essentially means the attacker is attacking in a realistic manner (and you are defending in a realistic manner).

So a 20% contact drill is still 100% realistic - just like a 100% contact drill should be 100% realistic. The way you train at 20% should not be technically different than 100%. Often people when training at lower contact levels fight different than they would if it were all out (this is the problem).

For a quick example let's say someone wants to work on defending against the jab. Let's also assume they just want to work on slipping the jab.

1.) Introduction

This is where you teach someone the mechanics of slipping a jab. You also show them when to do it, and why you would do it. This part of your training would not be alive, and it will also be the least amount of time of all your training.

2.) Isolation

Now you have a partner work the jab against you so you can practice the above technique.

a. (energy) In order to make it alive the jabber must throw the jab like they are trying to hit you and retract it back properly so they protect themselves (this is the proper energy, whether it slow, medium or hard).

b. (timing) Next the jabber needs to not just throw a jab, wait 1 second, throw a jab, wait one second...this will not develop timing. They will mix up when they throw the jab so you never know when it is coming.

c. (motion) Lastly the jabber will have to move around like they are fighting. You wouldn't work it from a set position.

This entire stage (isolation) is done alive with progessive resistance.

3.) Integration

This is where you just fight (spar). All tools are available (for both people) and when the opponent throws the jab, you work on adding the slipping into your full game. You will still be fighting with anything you want, but you will be focusing on making sure you work the jab slip into it.

2/23/2004 2:26pm,

Your 'In the hole' does sound alot like the SBG Isolation stage.

This might have been mentioned, but I think one area you might want to look at is adding in more elements.

Take my slipping the jab example from above.

At first you would want to keep it very simple - all the attacker does is throw the jab. Once you get to the point that you are successful with this 75/80% or more of the time when the resistance level is way up there you need to gradually start adding in other factors. Too many people make the jump to adding in all the other factors too soon - before the initial basic slipping skill is acquired.

So for example, you might then allow the attacker to lead with a cross before you slip the jab. Or the attacker could lead with a kick before they jab...You start to add as many elements as needed until the drill gets as close to the real situation as possible. You can still isolate at this point, which just means you start and stop with specific goals in mind - but the closer this stage gets to looking like a real fight - then the better the chance of you actually integrating it into your overall game.

You'll find that you will bounce back and forth between the 'Integration' stage and the 'Isolation' stage all the time.

There are so many ways to drill the isolation stage that it should always be fun and new.

2/23/2004 5:21pm,
This is a great thread.
In class last night I got people to work two standing guard passes, then got them to play with their partner. So the partner is adding resistance, but their goal is to help their opponent, not stop them passing. We added more resistance in a second stage. The guys got to work some things out for themselves such as timing and control. Then we did "In the hole" which is 100% resistance, then sparring. Everyone said they enjoyed being able to play and work the techniques without 100% resistance so they can see the patterns and get used to them first.
I'm definately only teaching this way from now on.

2/23/2004 5:37pm,
Agreed JohnnyS

Here's my basic rule of thumb. When someone is in the 'isolation' stage - especially when they are relatively new to the technique being worked on - I tell the attacker to pick a level of resistance where the person working the technique is doing it successfully about 70% of the time (sometimes I choose 50%).

If they are doing it successfully 100% of the time it probably just means the attacker is going way to easy - and if they are screwing it up most of the time then you are probably going way to hard for them.

sometimes people misinterpret this to mean go easy the first 7 times, then all out the last 3 times. but essentially I am telling them to find a consistant level that allows the person to work the technique successfully anywhere from 50% to 70% of the time. This level has to be re-adjusted as the person increases in skill.