Friday, January 02, 2009

Ollie Batts - interview in Martial Edge

Martial Edge recently caught up with Ollie Batts, who has over 30 years experience in martial arts including Kali, Jeet Kune Do, Savate, Combat Sombo, traditional Korean arts and Judo. He is a fourth degree black belt in Combat Sombo (recognised by the Sports Council) and he is a full member of the National Coaching Foundation. He holds instructor grades in Kali and Jeet Kune Do under both Rick Young (Edinburgh, UK) and Rick Faye (Minnesota Kali Group), and in Savate under the Great Britain Savate Federation.

Martial Edge: When and where did you get involved with martial arts?

Ollie Batts: It was a couple of years ago at least [laughs!]. Actually I started out in Judo whilst I was still at school. I can't remember exactly how long I trained in Judo for, but it wasn't longer than a couple of years, at most. After I left school I did a bit of weight lifting for a time before going back into the martial arts around the time of Bruce Lee and Enter the Dragon. I restarted in Taekwondo, in late 1973. Shortly after I got my green belt I also began training in Hapkido, under the same instructor, Mok Yang Kim from Korea, who was a master in both arts.
Martial Edge: What exactly is Savate, and what does it offer the students who practice it?

Ollie Batts: There is actually two sides to Savate. On the one hand it is a sporting system, in some ways resembling kickboxing (although the French hate that analogy) and on the other, it is a system of self-defence for real life. Some people specialise in one of those areas only, others know and practice both sides of the art. Sport Savate, has many names, including Boxe Francaise Savate, Boxe Savate, La Boxe, or simply 'Savate'. The street art also has a variety of names, depending on who you happen to speak to: Savate Defence, Street Savate, and Dans de la Rue, literally, 'Dance of the street'. Robert Paturel calls his art 'Street Boxing'.

Martial Edge: Tell us about the Cambridge Academy of Martial Arts and the other styles you teach.
Ollie Batts: We founded the Academy in 1989. I had spent a total of 16 years studying Korean Martial Arts by then and wanted to broaden my horizons. (I was also rather fed up with the politics!) I started to attend as many training seminars as I could afford, and also learnt to box a bit - not to any kind of standard of course, as I was already starting to grow long teeth and ever shorter hair [laughs!]. Now, some 16 years later, I am qualified to teach Filipino Kali and JKD Concepts, under Rick Faye of the Minnesota Kali Group (USA), although it was the phenomenal Rick Young in Edinburgh who first certified me - someone needed too! Although I regret that I don't see Rick Young that often, I still host regular seminars in Cambridge with Rick Faye. In addition to that, and where the Filipino martial arts are concerned, we have several intensive training sessions each year specifically in the art of Doce Pares Eskrima, under Danny Guba. Danny is a tenth degree Grand Master and a former World Champion, both in full contact Eskrima and in the forms competition. I am now qualified directly under Grand Master Danny Guba to teach and promote the Guba Doce Pares Multi-Style system. Further to this, I am also qualified to teach Combat Sombo, through Grand Master Martin Clarke of the British Sombo Federation (BSF). Where Savate is concerned, I am now one of the Senior Instructors (a Moniteur, not yet a Professeur) in the Great Britain Savate Federation, as well as being the current GBSF President. We are of course fully affiliated to the International Savate Federation (FIS), which means that my grade is universally recognised worldwide.

Martial Edge: With such a busy teaching schedule, what do you do for personal development?

Ollie Batts: If you mean in the martial arts, I eat, drink, think and sleep martial arts. They are now an inseparable and integral part of me. In order to develop I train with high level instructors as often as I can to further my progression. The only problem is, there aren't enough hours in the day, days in the week, weeks in the month, or months in the year! So it can be a complete juggling act. Sometimes I have to put one area on the back burner whilst I refresh and try to progress in another. I am all too aware just how easy it is to slip back in ones development at times. I also learn from new students. Sometimes they have specific skills, like the young Brazilian Ju-jitsu Champion who trained with us a few years back, and sometimes I can learn from someone who has had no martial arts training whatsoever. That's because someone with no training can be unpredictable and awkward. It's like the story of the martial arts instructor who asked a new female student to attack him with a dummy knife. When she suddenly plunged it into his gut from an unusual angle he said, "No, not like that!" I had to laugh at that one!

Martial Edge: As an instructor what core attributes do you look to develop in an individual?

Ollie Batts: That's a tricky question, not least because different people turn up to practice at different stages in their lives, and they all have differing wants, needs and aspirations to begin with. Sometimes they will also change direction completely when they see just how much there is out there. I do my best (and I'm all too well aware that I sometimes fall short of the mark) to help each person to attain the goals that they have set themselves. If I don't think I'm the best person to give someone what they most need, I'll try to point them in the direction of someone else who might be better suited to further their individual development.

Martial Edge: What would you say to people about what they should be looking to achieve in their martial arts training?

Ollie Batts: Firstly, enjoy your training. Next, keep an open mind as to what direction you want to go. Never be afraid to ask questions, or to question those answers - just do it as diplomatically as possible, not by being rude. Try to see through the bullsh*t in the martial arts. If you find a good instructor, treat him or her well. (Training partners likewise!) Don't be afraid to move on if things aren't working out. But try not to make too many enemies along the way. Life's too short!

His book:
Written by: Ollie Batts
Publisher: Cambridge Academy Publishing
Printed by: Pendragon Press
Available from: Cambridge Academy Publishing
PO Box 29
Cost: £10 plus £2 towards postage & packaging
Combat Sombo is the system of hand-to-hand fighting used by Soviet Spetsnaz (Special Forces) Troops. It offers a plain and simple approach to learning and practising fighting skills for combat and self-defence.
This is the first book written in english on this fascinating russian art. It contains hundreds of illustrations, with detailed instructions on how to apply locks, holds, takedowns, throws and escapes.

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