Webmasters note; this interview appeared in a recent issue of Martial Arts Ilustrated
TO THE SUMMIT
BY COLIN STAINTON
Over the last few years, I have been privileged to meet some astonishingly charming people, charismatic personalities, and true gentlemen. Lee Morrison fits all of these. He is up there with the best of them and I have sat in his company.
To some of you, you may think Ďsoí! Let me tell you, his knowledge of life, his love for living and his determination to help other people should be applauded.
To those of you who know Lee, grasp every last ounce of him. Because if you can attain even one step of the run of the ladder this man has climbed, then be proud of yourself. Adversity has smacked him in the face, but determined to change his lot, this man created wonderful things.
Lee is another one of the greats, who prove that anything is possible if you have the right mindset. Nothing is beyond us, and pulling ourselves out of the victim state, can and does create positive results.
From playground victim, to published author. From doorman to teacher, this man has been there, and outgrew the t-shirt.
Lee Morrison is a mountaineer of life.
COLIN STAINTON: Hello Lee. Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Many people have spoken highly of you. The respect you have is amazing, but I guess that comes from being a gentleman. You were born in London, but what part?
LEE MORRISION: No, thank you Colin. Your in-depth interviews are becoming famous, so it is a privilege to be sitting here with you. I was born in South East London, quite a rough part of the city during the later part of the 60ís.
C.S. From the research I have done, your mum was a single parent. Did this have an effect on you?
L.M. Thatís right, she was a single parent and to be honest, we didnít have a home of our own. My mother survived by living in as a residential worker. You know housekeeper etc. The trouble with her was, she didnít have the demeanour to hold a job down for too long. Consequently we moved around the country many times.
C.S. What about your education, did that suffer?
L.M. I went to around 13 schools in total and being shoved from pillar-to-post did have its downside. I found it very hard to settle down with people and was frequently a victim of bullying due to the fact of always being the new kid on the block.
C.S. I guess you faced the pecking order more than most?
L.M. Every school I attended, I was on the rough end of the bullying.
C.S. Not having a father figure around you growing up must have had an effect on your confidence. Did you find this to be true?
L.M. Definitely. Not having a father or brothers did leave me without the necessary attributes to focus my attention on stopping the bullying. I wasnít a very assertive person so I was pushed around. One of the things I didnít understand from an early age was this feeling of trepidation about going to school. Getting bullied on a daily basis and not knowing why I felt the way I did, which I now know to be fear.
C.S. Did you speak to anyone about it or did you join the majority of people and keep quiet?
L.M. No I didnít want to talk to anyone about it because I thought it was isolated to me. I guess I felt a coward and weak. I didnít understand why I couldnít stand up for myself and I felt ashamed.
C.S. Were your experiences with bullying more physical or mental?
L.M. It was more mental bullying, which was harder to cope with than the actually beatings.
C.S. Did this come under the usual categories of not having the right haircut, clothes, trainers, or mixing in the right circles?
L.M. You got it in one. Sounds pathetic really, but at that time, these were major factors that children had to contend with. With me, it was more as a result of not really fitting in within the other kids social circle for whatever reason.
C.S. Lee, out of all the people I have spoken with who suffered bullying at school, there was always a defining moment when they decided it had to stop. Did this happen with you?
L.M. One night lying in bed I decided, I had two choices. I could either run away and probably run away for the rest of my life, or do something about it. I decided to confront the one bully who had been giving me a hard time for months. I had it all mapped out in my head, but like always, things never go as planned. When I approached him, he didnít take me serious and called over one of his mates. I figured if I was going to take a beating, I should try and gain a little self-respect, and give him a dig, so I just banged him with a right hand, not really knowing what I was doing, but he went down like a sack of shit.
C.S. Was that the end of it?
L.M. No I just got on top and kept punching him. His face exploded into red crimson and I thought this is easy. Before I was dragged off him, I had this rush and felt exhilarated for utilising the fear.
C.S. I guess that was your defining moment, but did it all explode again or come to a grinding halt?
L.M. No in that very moment everything stopped and changed. All of a sudden I was popular, but I wasnít after that. I just wanted the bullying to end, and it did. I stopped being the victim and switched roles from prey to predator.
C.S. Was taking a beating easier to deal with than dealing with the fear itself?
L.M. I was just so fed-up of having this fear with me every day. I sat down and tried to isolate what I was feeling, and the conclusion, I was scared of taking a beating and embarrassed with the fact I couldnít fend for myself. I figured that the fear had to be worse than the beating and if it happened, hopefully the bully would have got it out of his system and then leave me alone.
C.S. I guess Lee by that time you were at an acceptance stage?
L.M. Thatís right. By that stage I had accepted the worse case scenario and I wanted it to end and I didnít care how. What surprised me was, that within a few seconds, the whole thing was over. Not just the fight, but also the bullying. This guy whose name used to put the fear of God in me, was curled up in a ball crying like a baby.
C.S. How satisfied were you with what you had done?
L.M. I was really satisfied, but not to the extreme that I became the bully or the dragon after. In-fact, I despised that.
C.S. With moving round the country so much, I guess your fishpond was always big? By that I mean it was a case of just settling in before you were upped and moved to another area, only to face the whole situation again.
L.M. Yes youíre right. I quickly learned that the pecking order and chain of command was something I had to go through all the time. New school and new bullies, but with the same old outcome. The second time it happened it wasnít so bad. I must have exerted some kind of none victim state, because it was less frightening and less intense. I was kind of desensitised.
C.S. Would you describe the pecking order as an ĎInterview probing?í
L.M. Definitely. Thatís a great way of describing it. I did notice this probing as you called it from my aggressor, which I have noticed in later life during my time on the doors, or in street situations. There is this verbal probe, interrogation interview type of thing first.
C.S. What does this indicate?
L.M. It indicates to the would-be aggressor if you are a safe candidate to continue with the bullying. It was a valuable lessoned learned and I wouldnít have changed the four years of bullying I had to endure to reach that conclusion, itís stood me in good stead as an adult and was part of the character building process.
C.S. Is it correct that you began martial arts at 11-years old?
L.M. Yes thatís right. I began in Wado Ryu Karate in the north of the country where I was living at the time, but after moving to London I started Shotakan Karate. I was very fortunate in-fact, because I trained in Martial Streets Baths under the late Sensei Kenosuke Enoeda, who was the top person in Britain and was an 8th Dan Japanese Instructor at the time.
C.S. So after falling into karate, where did that take you?
L.M. After seven years I achieved my 2nd Dan status. Competed in competitions, felt very confident and did really well during the early 80ís.
L.M. It did yes. One day when I was about 16-years old, I had this situation where I was faced with an attempted mugging in North London. Two guys approached me with what I know now as the Ďpincerí approach. One gave me the dialogue and the other flanked me from the side. I was so caught up in this over confidence if you like, I just dropped my gym bag and didnít even feel any adrenalin at this time. I turned round and banged one of them, kicked the other in the groin and they did absolutely nothing. Not a flinch or a flicker. I couldnít understand and I froze in a state of hyper vigilance. Within those few seconds they steamed into me. I suddenly turned into this Neanderthal swinging punches every-which-way I could. Nothing resembling karate came out. Iíd survived the altercation, but was totally disgusted with myself. I looked down and my gym bag was open and on the floor was my lovely silk woven black belt that I held with pride, but in disgust I just kicked it into the middle of the road. I just thought, whatís this all about, why didnít it work and whatís the point to it all?
C.S. Is that down to the early years of punching into the air?
L.M. You bet it was. In the early 80ís students wore nice white karate suits marching up and down punching into nothing but air. I understand differently now. Nobody hit a pad; if you worked together with a partner it was always touch for control semi-contact. C.S. So you were training your muscle memory to fail?
L.M. I was training to fail for any live situation, but didnít realise that at the time. I just thought karate had failed me; it was shit and didnít work. Now I realise that isnít the case. If Iíd applied karate with impact, I would have known how to adapt it for use on the streets.
C.S. Being so disillusioned, did you move away from the art you were doing at the time?
L.M. Yes, I kind of moved away from karate and looked at various other things. My real awakening was boxing. Sparring was a real pressure test, but I had to force myself into this situation. Once I learned how to hit, I moved back into karate, but I was being disqualified. Iíd trained my muscles to the point of full contact, which is what I needed in the first place.
C.S. This must have taken you up to about your early 20ís, but what then?
L.M. I continued to research many other martial arts, but at 21-years old I decided I needed to put on some weight so I moved into bodybuilding and weight training. I gained a couple of stone and after a period I decided I wanted to compete in Olympic lifting, which I did well at. C.S. But even though you were now in your 20ís, had done various martial arts and boxing, was the fear factor still there; was you still scared?
L.M. By the time I was about 23-years old, I went on the doors, because I did feel scared yes. I was frightened even though I had all these skills and experience. It was a form of bullying really, only to myself. I realised bullying comes in all shapes and forms, but itís the standing up for yourself that really counts and makes you feel better. Itís the initial doing it I suffered with, for example, to tell the neighbours to keep the noise down felt uncomfortable. The answer was to place myself in an environment where this happened a lot then I could desensitise those feelings, so the doors beckoned.
C.S. This was about the time Geoff Thompson was speaking openly about fear I guess?
L.M. Yes, Geoff was the power base for everybody, but he was the missing link. At the time karate was all about technique, which is a load of bollocks, it doesnít work. It should be 90% mindset and attitude and 10% technique. You get the mindset right and everything else falls into place.
C.S. So where did you begin your career on the doors?
L.M. I began in London then moved and worked in Portsmouth, which is where I got married then finally I working the doors in Southampton for the last 15-years. In-fact I gave the doors up about 2-years ago, so I have enough experience to know this fear feeling doesnít go away.
C.S. So, with all your knowledge of the different arts etc and the newfound lessons from Geoff, did you then tone down your moves so to speak and only apply what works?
L.M. I guess I did, and I got my physical toolbox down to about three good techniques. Techniques that I knew worked in any given situation. I mastered the art of verbal persuasion as well. I talked my way out of a lot of tricky situations in-fact. But if it came down to the nuts and bolts, I knew from experience what worked consistently, was to be first and ferocious, assuming all other non-physical options had failed of course. I was always explosive and extremely aggressive. This formula worked for me.
C.S. Knowing after all that training, that maybe three techniques' is all you need must be so disheartening?
L.M. To be honest it is. All you need is one or two good strikes and a support system. Thatís the one thing I learned from Geoff who was and still is my backbone
C.S. Is being a gentleman what kept you on the straight and narrow?
L.M. I guess I am a caring, warm person and being a family man as well did keep my feet on the ground. Everybody knew that if I had to become physical on the doors, I had no choice. I wasnít a bully and so I gained the respect for being a fair person.
C.S. Have you worked with people who became ugly from the enjoyment of being able to knock someone out?
L.M. Oh yes for sure and itís ironic that they are the kind of people I trained to defend myself against. The doors were my training ground to learn how to control fear and ugly people or not thatís what I did.
C.S. So what have you replaced the door work with? You obviously got out at the right time and I guess if you hadnít had left when you did, you would have still been there.
L.M. The new legislation meant it was time for me to go and Iím glad I did. If Iíd have took my badge Iíd have still been there for sure. For the last five years Iíve concentrated on writing, and teaching. As well, Iíve worked on my self-development as a student and continued to train.
C.S. How did the writing happen?
L.M. Iíve always been a bit of a writer, and have had some articles published in the past. But it was Geoff that inspired me to write. So I did and my first book ĎUp Close and Nothing Personalí has just been published. I just penned down how I learned through my mistakes, and gave the best way in my eyes what works and what doesnít, through all my experience on the doors and in life. My first book signing was a few months ago and it went very well. About this time I also wrote a book for children and parents relating to self-protection and because I was teaching at the time, I wanted to write a curriculum manual for my students, which Iím looking at getting published. Iíve also got a new door security manual coming out soon, published by Hodders & Stoughton. So writing is in my blood I guess.
C.S. So you have come along way since those childhood days of being bullied. You have met and trained with the best in the world, but have you been selective in who you train with now?
L.M. Now I tend to limit the instruction I seek, because I didnít want to accumulate any more knowledge that would get in the way of my learning. Iíve found a formula that works for me and Iíve started to teach that formula. What I teach is ĎCombativesí. Itís quite different from the martial arts, because itís not a reciprocal thing, where somebody attacks, you defend and counter, itís not an exchange. Combatives is designed for one thing only and thatís to deal with a threat. If justified, Combatives is basically a one sided beating. So if the situation is going to become physical, youíre going to attack first and keep attacking until the threat is eliminated, assuming of course there is no chance to avoid and escape. So I sought out the people who trained along these lines. A lot of my influences come from ĎFairburn and Sykesí from the World War 2 period. Everything they taught, was a compressed curriculum, and real world operatives had maybe eight hours to learn it in, then dumped behind enemy lines so really, it was sink or swim. What they were taught in the morning, had to work later that day and what better pressure test for Combatives than war.
C.S. So from this you opened your own club?
L.M. Yes I started í Urban Combativesí, which is basically geared for altercations on the street. Self-protection for todayís environment. Itís about building awareness skills so we can avoid an escape. Looking at all none physical options first, but if it is going to be physical it has to be pre-emptive. Everybody in my class train for impact as well.
C.S. So you follow Geoffís Ďlearn to hit fucking hardí approach?
L.M. Thatís the first thing they learn, which as Geoff Thompson says is, basically good self-protection. Then we build a good support system for that. We learn to use improvised weapons, we work a variety of scenarios, what to do if you lapse your awareness, and I address these issues from pressure testing and my own live experience.
C.S. The weapons, is this from your own personal experience as well?
L.M. Yes. Iíve been in three knife situations. The first knife situation was on the door and I was stabbed in the stomach with a 7Ē lock knife, which pierced my bowl. I had four days in intensive care, and I learned a lot of lessons from that. The second weapon that was involved, I was cut on the arm, but I disarmed the guy successfully and the third you could say I was pre-pre-emptive as I dealt with the threat before the edged weapon was drawn, made possible by as understanding of my aggressorís body language and pre-attack indicators, which I had learned up to this point; the hard way!
C.S. Was there a common factor with knife attacks?
L.M. Thereís a craft to these people. Thereís body language and I knew if somebody wanted to conceal a weapon to harm you they could. I learned how and applied it to my training. I now pass this on to my students. A lot of my students are doormen, taxi drivers, or people who work in public relations. I train a large girls school in the area at an age range of 11 to 15-years old. 1500 students to whom I teach anti-rape tactics, awareness stuff and in-fact I work with a large array of people, which is moulding clay for me. I learn a lot from teaching and how people respond.
C.S. So you teach a basic curriculum then pressure test it?
L.M. Yes, I like my students to progress to padded assailant scenario based training to bring on that adrenal state. However, I donít pressure test children and I donít really teach children anyway. With children and parents itís more about prevention, itís more about understanding the danger and risks, but yes there is a small physical element, but 90% is about preparation to avoid the danger. With the male and female classes, however, we do a lot of pressure testing.
C.S. Have you had a chance to go abroad to teach or learn more about Combatives?
L.M. Iíve had several trips to the United States to continue with my interest within the field of Close Quarter Combativesí. I went to train with a legend who recently passed away and who was one of the true last living links, Charles Nelson. He was in the US Marines and was a hand-to-hand combative instructor, who taught self-defence for 50-years in New York City. A very well respected figure and I was so lucky to have been under his guidance and become a certified instructor in the Nelson System through Mr Nelson and his senior student, Bob Spiegal.
C.S. So whatís the ideal situation for a student?
L.M. If you can reproduce a real situation in a controlled area that will give a student that feeling of adrenal stress, then let them operate under that stress, get them use to it at an average pace, then youíll give them something functional. To learn to function adequately under extreme pressure is far better than learning to function fantastically within the comfortable environment of a compliant dojo.
C.S. Was it Kelly MacCann who summed up martial arts as a reciprocal thing? He quoted Ďmartial arts is something you do with someone, itís reciprocal. You throw a punch, Iíll step back, block it and Iíll counter attack, but with Combativies, if itís going to go tits up, itís something you do to someone or on someoneí.
L.M. Thatís pretty much what Kelly MacCann said yes. Incidentally, MacCann is a major influence on me and what I teach and thatís what I train for. To protect my family and myself in any live situation, and Iím not interested in anything else.
C.S. Would you say what you teach is I controversial?
L.M. Some people see it like that; do I though? Yes I do. Thereís lots of swearing, shouting, salivating, eye gouging, head butting and biting in my classes, but lots of people say I couldnít bite somebody like that. If somebody has broken into your house in the middle of the night, beaten shit out of you and your wife and youíve woken up and seen your 8-year old daughter being dragged down the stairs by her ankles youíre telling me you wouldnít bite somebody to protect her? Of course you fucking would. Youíd bite his fucking nose off and spit it down his throat if youíre worth your salt.
C.S. What about the women, are their attitudes against your methods?
L.M. Some are. They say they couldnít pick up an improvised weapon and beat them round their head with it; this stuff is too extreme. Look at crime history. Peter Sutcliffe who killed 11 women with a hammer. Is anything less going to work in such a situation? The environment we live in is so volatile, and Iím dammed sure Iím going to give them the skills they need to survive.
C.S. So there are no rules and fairness?
L.M. No rules what so ever. Out there on the streets there are people who thrive on victims and they have an instinct. Itís innate. So fuck them. Ask a question, engage the brain and strike and keep hitting till the threat is over then get out of there. If you canít avoid and escape, protect your space by using some kind of fence, and attack first and hit fucking hard as Geoff would say, end of story. All Iím doing is carrying the torch of those before me. Itís been done before and worked successfully, and so Iíll teach it and continue to make it successful, but with a little of me in there also.
C.S. So you are using your own angle?
L.M. Yes, my own angle from my experience, from my lessons learned, understand that I will always teach avoidance and escape as our absolute priority. You have absolutely no business becoming physical with anyone if the option to escape is available, and where possible the level of force should always parallel the threat. But in the extreme circumstances that will hopefully never come your way. Surely it is better to have the ability and never need it, than to need it and not have it. All I offer the student is a delivery system for that. Look at it and take whatís useful to you; thatís it!
C.S. It seems you have researched the martial arts media and discovered a load of bollocks out there?
L.M. There is a load of bollocks out there, at least in terms of what will work in a self-protection sense for todayís environment. There are many dry land swimmers who have just never been wet and who are preaching this is the way. I just want to shake things up a bit within this field. I am just re-enforcing what my peers have already said, and Iím beginning to become a respected authority for it, which Iím very grateful for. But I have put in my own personal input from my own experiences, so lots of what I teach is based on active learning from myself. But there are lots of great influences that I have mixed in with my teachings.
C.S. So your writing and teaching is geared towards that?
L.M. Without a doubt. Itís geared to teach the good people how to protect themselves from the bad minority. So everything I do, read, travel train in etc, is geared towards that angle.
C.S. Itís your conquest Lee.
L.M. Yes thatís right, itís my conquest, and my summit to climb. Everybody who practices martial arts are on the path towards where ever that maybe. I want spiritual development, but Iím not there yet. However, Iím on the right path and thatís what counts. Iíve had a certain amount of adversity through my life. I suffered physical and violent abuse as a child. My mum was married four times and had many abusive partners. So I grew up with violence. I saw violence towards women, experienced violence towards children, and itís the one thing I grew up hating. I have four children of my own, and I want to make sure they donít grow up experiencing these types of things. I want them to have a good healthy life, be around positive adults, be assertive, not bullied, and I try to encourage my children to stay on the assertive path and go for their goals, dreams and desires.
C.S. So what is your summit Lee?
L.M. I want to be the best father, the best soul mate, best instructor, student and person that I can be. I want to give and express myself. This endeavour just happens to be my vehicle of choice towards that objective.
C.S. Lee Morrison, it has been a great pleasure to sit here with you today. I feel very privileged to have spent time in your company and I want to wish you all the best for the future. I am sure the sun is shining in your face and the shadows are falling behind you. ĎOm Nama Shivayaí Lee. I am sure you do and I hope that being a gentleman and great teacher, other people will follow in your footsteps.
L.M. Colin, thank you and all the best for the future as well. Peace out