Lee Morrison was one of my first influences when I started training seriously in Combatives. There is no doubting his credibility as an instructor. He has trained under some of the worlds top Combatives instructors, including Dennis Martin, Kelly McCann, Geoff Thompson and the now legendary Charlie Nelson.
I think Lee more than anybody has done more to raise the profile of Combatives, both in the UK and across the world. His website, Urban Combatives is the biggest online resource there is for anyone looking information on Combatives and he has released many information packed DVD’s and books over the years as well, all of which you can find on his website.
Lee Morrison is the real deal, and I hope you enjoy this interview with the man himself.
Neal: First of all Lee, let me start by saying what a big influence you have been on me since I started training in Combatives. I think your stuff is some of the best out there and your no-bullshit attitude to training is an inspiration to me and those I train with.
So let’s begin by talking about a bit about your training background. Can you tell us about your martial arts background?
Lee Morrison:I took to the martial arts namely traditional karate; starting with Wado Ryu then Shotokan and finally Kyokushinkai, as that was all that was around at that time (back in the very early 80’s) in part it was an attempt to try and focus my energy. Also like all youngsters at that time, I saw a Bruce Lee movie and thought learning a martial art would be extremely cool ( :
I was a rebellious kid, by the time I hit teenage, I’d learned that people only treat you the way you let them. I was somewhat a product of my upbringing having been brought up in a quite a rough part of South East London.
I experienced bullying at school and domestic violence at home, was moved around from pillar to post and went to many different schools and lived in many different places. I never really knew security growing up and left what was home and school by the age of thirteen. Once I’d made the decision to stand up and fight back, which began at school around the age of eleven; I realised a change from there on in; particularly with my general attitude, to be honest I started to get into a lot of fights as I was quite a fiery youngster.
Martial arts were a way to channel some of that energy I guess. My early training was primarily Japanese TMA first, starting with the several styles of karate mentioned, then judo and some aikido.
Over the years my journey took me through a huge variety of arts. Throughout the next two decades I trained in most things from Western Boxing to Chinese, Filipino, Indonesian methods, along with some other Western arts such a shoot wrestling and Greco Roman I realised that Boxing and later Thai boxing had the most to offer me at that time.
Neal: Why did you move away from martial arts and into Combatives?
Lee Morrison: At 21 years old I started Strength training and eventually became a competitive strength athlete over the next ten years. Also at 21 I went on the Doors where I quickly learnt what worked and what didn’t.
Sometime later the RBSD scene hit, with Geoff Thompson who was to become a great influence and friend. Here I started to realise it was more about controlling adrenaline and emotion and more about principle driven ideas, than simply collecting techniques or skill.
Also how being first, gross motor with significant impact was the main principle that worked the majority of the time. After getting plenty of opportunity to test and confirm this I decided to look for a more Combative approach.
My introduction into Combatives came quite late in my career, when I was a kid I would read a UK magazine called ‘Fighting Arts’ which covered a variety of TMA’s as well as other stuff including a regular article section by Dennis Martin who was a Shotokan karate-ka back then and is a leading UK Combative instructor now and has been for many years.
He’d write about many things including WW2 Combatives and the likes of Fairbairn and Sykes, which I found extremely interesting even way back then. Eventually I found my first Combatives Instructor the late, great Pete Robins, who had genuine lineage back to Fairbairn and then eventually I got to train and later become a first generation instruction under Dennis Martin, the rest is history really.
Neal: Did working the doors have anything to do with your decision to train in a more practical system?
Lee Morrison: I wanted to learn how to control my emotions, under the dynamic of fight stress and really develop more control over myself and forge my character, the doors certainly gave me that alright.
It provided me with an environment, much like a training laboratory if you like, that quickly showed me how most of what I had learnt up until now, particularly in a martial art sense; had to be simplified and quickly, if it was to stand any chance of working in a live and completely non-compliant environment.
Neal: What are biggest lessons you took from doing door work and security in general?
Lee Morrison: It taught me that all violent confrontation begins and ends in your head, mind-set, mentality and pre-fight perspective is everything!
Also the simple lesson how ‘less is more’ the more options you collect the more time you’re waste trying to make a decision under stress, this will be during a time when your cognitive brain is on its way to shutting down and you simply, can’t think!
The more options you create from collecting techniques, many of which are unworkable anyway; the slower your reaction time and under fight duress is guaranteed to be.
Even though the rules of engagement were different from the street the commonality of the need to develop a small gross-motor toolbox that is mentality driven and adaptable to a variety of events was something I realised very quickly.
Also it taught me a lot about body language, misdirection and deception reading it in others and using it on others; as well as reading precursors to violence and good communication skills.
Neal: You’ve trained with a lot of top instructors in the SD field. Who has been your biggest influence?
Lee Morrison: Kelly McCann without a doubt. Particularly from the early material that he put out. I just loved his ability to hit the
switch and be all over someone like an aggressive rash! It really suited by mentality and explosive body type; I liked that; if I can say that without sounding sociopathic which I’m not
Neal: Are you surprised by how popular Combatives and RBSD has become now? Did you foresee this happening when you first got into reality training?
Lee Morrison: The thing is; ‘Combatives’ to me is really about using anything that works; backed up with the will and intent to make it so! People have been doing that since day dot. The wheel of light just came back around and others; some good and some not so good have jumped on it. I did not foresee this no;
My journey was for my own knowledge, I had no foresight to become an instructor, to me I’m still a student; I started teaching from the influence of others initially and they in turn helped me continue to learn. This was back in the infancy days of what’s now since been referred to as RBSD or even Combatives.
Now it’s like a ‘buzz word’ that some use to sell no more than martial arts in jeans, they’ve missed the point somewhere. With that said, there are many fantastic people out there and more and more up and coming.
Neal: Given the amount of different systems around now, and the sheer amount of, information present on the internet etc., do you think people are confused by it all now? Do you think there is too much conflicting information around now?
Lee Morrison: I think there is a need to sort the wheat from the chaff with ‘reality based methods’ just as there was decades ago with the martial arts. Less is best you can confuse the shit out of yourself if you’re not careful and still end up none the fucking wiser
Neal: Your name has become synonymous with Combatives now. Was that always your intention, or was there some other career path you wanted to take?
Lee Morrison: Like I said when I went to train with all these great people it was just for the purpose to learn. I just loved to train and mix it under pressure. I’d always cross trained and have good attributes. The guys I worked with saw this in me and encouraged me to teach, initially by presenting modules on seminars and stuff like that, then I was getting the chance to become an instructor under some of these guys and before I knew it my profile started to accumulate.
I still couldn’t find a regular club to train in that had all that I wanted on a more than recreational level; so I got a bunch of like-minded guys together and we hired a hall and would just train hard sometimes dangerously so ‘our own ‘animal day’ type stuff’ if you like. It was not for everyone but there were enough of us for a small club.
This was the beginning, then I formulated and compressed a curriculum based on the conclusions of what we was doing along with the large amount of experience I was getting at that time on the door and on the street. That’s how it started, a few years in is when I consciously thought, hey I can do this, I found my vocation if you like.
Geoff Thompson was a big help to me once I decided to go in this direction as was Dave Turton and many others. I knew media production and a good website would give me the exposure I needed, next thing I’m on the International circuit doing it full time.
Neal: You are very prolific when it comes to releasing your DVDs and books? How do you stay so productive?
Lee Morrison: I’m motivated, I just love learning, teaching and networking all over the World I was born to do this.
Neal: Back in the nineties, Dennis Martin began talking about NLP in relation to Combatives training. Since then, a few instructors have delved into this subject, most notably, Richie Grannon. Do you think NLP has any real practical value in Combatives? How do you incorporate it into your system?
Lee Morrison: I use NLP and principles of Neural Based learning in a variety of ways in my teaching and in my own training. I believe the mental conditioning that you can develop with such methods is and has been a crucial missing link when training methods of counter violence. Some of the ways I use it are as follows;
Modelling to accelerate learning; Anchoring state for state access and management; Mental imagery; Enhancing Communication skills; Body Language cue acuity; Instructional enhancement; Enhancing Situational Awareness; Pre-fight perspective as well as many other things beyond the scope of this interview. Let’s just say for me it is a huge part. Richard Grannon has done great things with this side of training his stuff is standalone brilliant, he has been a big influence on me in this area.
Neal: What do you think of the work being done by Rory Miller and Marc McYoung, who are working on evolving the soft skills of self protection, increasing our awareness of the law and improving our methods of communication and de-escalation? Does this side of things interest you as a Combatives instructor?
Lee Morrison: For me the soft skills (personal security) side of things is where it’s at; the best self-protection comes from not having to be physical in the first place, or better yet ‘not being there’ this comes from seeing it coming (situational awareness) and understanding what ‘it’ means to you right now (threat recognition) without these things the rest is redundant. Of course an understanding of how to articulate you defence post event in court is absolutely crucial; I don’t think enough has been done in this area. Marc McYoung is an interesting character and Rory Miller is fucking cutting edge, I love his stuff in this area in particular.
Neal: Do you think Combatives in general will continue to evolve, or has a pinnacle been reached?
No, I think it will continue to evolve, the new generation of instructors coming out will take it even further I’m sure. My goal is to develop such guys that will be motivated to help those that need it and be motivated by that reason alone, not by the bitching of who does what and where does it come from. At the end of the day it should be all about giving good information to those in most need of it.
I think that as time goes by more and more people looking for ‘self-defence’ as their motivation to learn will come straight into reality based or street orientated Combatives directly. As opposed to the last two generations who come to it from more of a martial arts orientated background. There will always be art for art sake and combat sport will continue to boom but as good as these things are they are an incomplete picture for this domain.
Those looking for self-preservation skills and an understanding of dealing with street orientated violence will come straight to the correct door with an empty cup; then you will see a new breed of student.
Neal: Finally Lee, what’s next for Urban Combatives? What’s your next book or DVD release?
Lee Morrison: I have two DVD’s coming out soon with Paladin Press and also a book with them as well as a book I’m working on myself right now.