Interview with Matt covering his beginnings and overall entries into martial arts and his philosophies.

Matt, Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. Can you give our readers some background info on yourself?
Sure. I started my functional martial arts background about 20 years ago with boxing. I met a BJJ black belt named Fabio Santos a couple years later who introduced me to BJJ and have been hooked ever since.
What was it that interested you about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
Everything interested me about it. I always knew that my weakness in fighting was on the ground, and any kid who has been in a street fight before realizes that. And BJJ provided the key to that. More importantly, when you don’t know anything about BJJ it almost seems like magic. Getting effortlessly tapped out by a triangle is a pretty eye-opening experience. This was well before MMA, or the first UFC, so this was all amazing to me. I remember Fabio telling me after my first lesson that I was hooked, that once you get bit by the Jits bug you can’t go back and he was absolutely correct.
How did SBGI come to be?
I had some major differences regarding how I felt people should train with the school I was teaching at, and so I decided I would open my own club about forty miles south because, even though we didn’t get along at all, I still didn’t want to compete directly with my old club. It seemed like a dick move. So I shared a very small place with a friend who was a Judo black belt, and that was the very first SBG. It turned out that not only was I right about training, but tons of others felt the same way. So, the gym grew very rapidly and we wound up being the first real MMA/BJJ club in Oregon.
What is “Aliveness”?
Aliveness is a term we use to describe a method of training. We have an FAQ and lots of info on this topic at our website:
What is your vision for SBGI?
Twofold; first that we stay authentic. I don’t want to sell out what we are about for business reasons. Second, that we only include people who have a high level of that same quality; authenticity. So far, we have done that. We grow slowly, but the gyms that are listed all have one thing in common: the overall vibe. And if you walk into one you won’t be confronted by attitude or negative energy. People train hard, but everyone is nice, and that is crucial to us.
Who has been the most influential in helping you grow as a martial artist?
Rickson Gracie and Randy Couture.
Do you feel that being an active competitor also makes you a better coach? if so, How?
No, I think it’s the opposite. In my twenty years or so of experience the best competitors are often the worst coaches. Speaking for myself, I refer to my own competition phase as my jock stage. It was when I was the most self-involved and the least able to help my own athletes. After I grew out of that phase and realized that my own job now is that of a coach and teacher, I was able to fully devote my energy into my students and athletes and put them first; as a coach should. I am ten times the coach I was when I was competing, and my athletes are far more talented and prepared now. It’s a difference of light years and I am not unique in that area. If I was looking for a strategy or a trainer for MMA I would go to a Karl Tanswell, or a Greg Jackson. Not a Matt Hughes. No offense to Hughes, but being a coach and being a competitor are two very different jobs. Each one has its own set of skills and learning curve that needs to be honored and developed.
Who is someone you haven’t had that chance to train with but would like to?
I have not gotten to train with Rickson since I was a blue belt. That would be the person I would most like to train with.
What is the biggest mistake that new grapplers make when they first start to train?
They go through a technique-hunting phase, always looking for the “new”. The new submission, sweep, or move. When, in reality, the focus needs to be on fundamentals, on posture, and on position. They usually realize that by the time they get to solid purple or brown, but the learning curve could be three times faster if they realize and train that way from white belt.
Where do you see Matt Thornton in 5 years?
I have no idea, I never set goals. However, wherever it is it will be perfect.
Can you give our readers some quick tips on picking the right martial arts school, What should they look for?
Find a place with experienced coaches, and make sure the vibe is right. If it’s a gym full of attitude and people are getting injured a lot then don’t go. It has to be fun or you won’t stay, so find a place where you feel at home.
Rapid Fire
● Favorite Takedown: body lock
● Favorite submission: gi choke from mount
● Favorite music to train to: Mozart
● Favorite martial arts movie? none, they usually (read always) suck
● Favorite thing to do outside of Teaching/Training? spend time with my wife and kids.
Thank you very much for your time Matt, is there anyone out there you would like to thank?
Big thanks to the flying spaghetti monster for making me the man I am today, and to all the men and women who stand up and speak out loud against ignorance and superstition on a daily basis.