"[The guy] turns around and starts trying to advance towards the cop, so I was like, ‘Alright, fuck this’...Standing shoulder-locked him, put him on the ground, got the knee in his back, his arm pinned. I look up, and the cop’s looking at me, and he's bug-eyed, like he wasn't expecting that."
Matt Brunson is a man of many talents. The Louisiana native is a life-long martial artist, with backgrounds in Hapkido, Judo, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
He has also played lead guitar for Crowbar since 2009. The legendary sludgecore band has melted millions of faces since its inception in 1992 with albums such as Obedience Through Suffering and Time Heals Nothing. Despite their longevity, they still follow a relentless touring schedule, where typical days off consist of riding in a van 14-straight-hours through Europe.
Crowbar is slated to resume performing on 29 September in the United Kingdom. Grappler Mag took a moment to catch up with Brunson before he heads back across the pond.
Grappler Mag: You’re so well-versed in several disciplines, how would you describe your style?
Matt Brunson: My style is very old school. I come from a real traditional background, so I really focus on the self-defense aspect of the art, as well as the competition aspect. I don't want to be closed-minded, but I also want to make sure I focus my training.
GM: Have you had to use what you've learned as a martial artist in the real world, whether it be on an unruly fan, or just being in and around heavy metal circles?
MB: It's funny you mentioned it, I was just telling somebody a story over the weekend. We were doing direct support for Carcass, and we were in New Haven, Connecticut (USA). This place, Toad’s Place, it's like right near the Yale campus, by the Skull and Bones House, and it's always fun to be up there and it was a packed show.
So [after our set] as I'm walking out, I see security struggling with this guy to get him out of the out the building. The guy looked like he was pretty loaded, wearing khaki pants, no shirt, a Mohawk [haircut], kind of a big dude.
So I'm walking out the door, and as they’re kicking him out, something told me, ‘Just hang back for a few seconds.’ I guess that's kind of the martial arts thing, like, ‘Okay let’s see what's going on here.’
It always reminds me of the Dimebag Darrell situation, [when] a fan came in the back door and shot him while he was on stage at Alrosa Villa [Columbus, Ohio, USA]. Ever since then, fans getting on stage and fans being unruly and trying to make their way back into the building, [we all] kind of treat it a little differently once it became a reality that it's possible for somebody to do that. So [this] kind of set off a little alarm bell, you know? I think he was just trying to get back in to enjoy the show, obviously, but it always kind of makes you worry.
There were three police officers down the street, and they see what's going on, and one of them comes over. The cop tries to grab him, and [the guy] pulls away and tries to force his way in again. The cop flips out the MEB, the expandable baton, about halfway. He jams the guy in the ribs and tells him to get moving.
[The guy] turns around and starts trying to advance towards the cop, so I was like, ‘Alright, fuck this’...Standing shoulder-locked him, put him on the ground, got the knee in his back, his arm pinned. I look up, and the cop’s looking at me, and he's bug-eyed, like he wasn't expecting that. He’s going to pull out his cuffs, and I’m like, ‘Come on man, let's get this going.’
The guy says, ‘Man, you gotta help me out.’
I said, ‘Look man, you're the one causing problems here, so I'll see what I can do.’
The club [owner] is like, ‘Man we just want him out of here.’
So I said, ‘Dude, they’re gonna let you go, but [you have to leave].’
He was like, ‘Trust me, man. I don't want to be anywhere near here right now.’
So, you know, they uncuffed him, and he gave me a hug, and he went on his way.
GM: A lot of martial artists have the ability to really injure people and yet when somebody's past the introductory level, they’ve spent time learning and understanding the danger that comes with fully throwing in some of these techniques,they tend to have more restraint then people that are less trained.
MB: If you saw what [police] learn in the in the academies, it really is a joke. Frank Caracci, who owns Louisiana Martial Arts Academy where I teach and train, he was a police officer for 16 years, and he was showing us what they’re taught. [Techniques] with the mindset of ‘we don’t want to be sued,’ so everything is a safe version of a technique. Unfortunately, safe-version techniques don't really keep people in pain and don't keep them compliant.
So that guy might have felt a little bone bruise after being put down, and a little pain on his wrist and it probably hurt, but ultimately he’s fine. [Without proper training,] with possibly anxious police officers, if hands on fails they may just start to beat the fuck out of him or pepper spray or taze him, or even worse case he gets shot.
GM: Give us your perspective on martial arts, not only as a seasoned practitioner, but as a world traveler.
MB: People come up to me at shows talking about all kinds of martial arts. A lot of times they know I practice, so they'll seek me out, we'll have conversations about it. It's always really cool, like a universal language. [I] can always have this great conversation with somebody about music without even speaking a common language, and the same goes for martial arts. I've been on the mat with with guys from countries who have very limited or maybe no English [speaking experience], but we had great conversations just from knowing martial arts. So I think that's kind of like another universal language, if more people practiced a lot of barriers would drop.
GM: What advice would you give to the young martial artist? the young musician?
MB: First and foremost, with martial arts or music, just do it because you love it. Don't do it because you know if you get a black belt you can open up a school and make money; or if somebody hears one of your songs on the radio, you can make a ton of money or be famous. Do it because you love it. If you do it with that kind of passion, people will notice, and people will also notice if you're doing it for the wrong reasons. That's one good thing that we [all] kind of instinctually have. Pretty much anybody can spot a fake. [Secondly] surround yourself with with other like-minded people. Those are the two main pieces of advice that I would give to anybody doing pretty much anything in life.
Grapplermag does not own the rights to this photo
GM: What about advice specifically regarding training?
MB: Don't disappear from the dojo. You still got a long way to go, there's a lot of things that can [still] be learned. Don't forget your roots. Those basics are your foundation. Those techniques are the most important things you'll ever learn in the art. At some point your speed, your strength, your flexibility, and just the gift of youth, will leave you. The reverse De la Riva, 50/50, even the Berimbolo, that stuff [will] be off the table for you later in your life. But all the little basic techniques, they'll pretty much never leave you. As long as you're walking on two legs and have all your limbs, all that basic stuff is going to be the bread-and-butter, from right now until you take that last breath.
The other advice is, there's nothing wrong with wrist locks. Dangerous weapon. It’s there like 90% of the time.
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