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Combat expert opens mixed martial arts studio in Warrenton

Wednesday, Jul. 9 | By Hannah Dellinger
Matt Larson striking a pose at Combat Fitness in Warrenton.
Photo by Adam Goings
Matt Larsen is known the world over as the father of the modern Army combatives program.

Larsen has spent his career competing in martial arts around the world, training with the best of the best in each discipline. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps, the Army and worked as a private contractor through out Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa. With his experience adapting combat sports for practical and tactical use, Larson has opened a gym in Warrenton for the public that teaches his renowned fighting methods.

Combat Fitness on 365 West Shirley Ave, offers classes and training to all levels.

“It’s fun and a good way to get in shape. Also, you really do learn how to fight,” said Larson. “It’s all about a healthy, fun active lifestyle.”

Larson explains no one should be intimidated by his gym, or any other fighting gym.

“Strangely, fighting gyms are probably the friendliest places in the world,” he said. “The reason they are is because you are training hard with each other and it’s intimate, you must be friendly.”

If a client wants to be a professional fighter, they can certainly learn those skills at Combat Fitness. If a client wants to have fun and embrace a healthy lifestyle, that can also be accomplished at the gym. There are even classes for children looking to build self-esteem and learn discipline.

Larsen has black belts in several martial arts including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He learned from Romero “Jacare” Cavalcante, who is considered to be the leader of the most successful team in the history of the sport.

Larsen boxed in the U.S. Marine Corps, fought in the All Japan Karate Championship and Kodokan Judo in Tokyo and Kinawa, learned Muay Thai in Bangkok, learned Kali in the Philippines and learned Taekwondo in Korea.

Larsen started his military career as a marine, eventually moving to the Army. He joined the ranks of the elite 75th Ranger Regiment where he designed the hand-to-hand combat regiment. He spent more than a decade in Army Special Operations.

Larsen overhauled the Army’s hand-to-hand combat doctrine and re-wrote the Combatives field manual. During his time in the service he saw combat in Iraq and Panama.

After retiring from the Army, Larson worked as a private security contractor training U.S. Marine Corps personal security detachments (PSD) for deployment in Iraq. He also designed a combatives system for the Canadian Special Operations Regiment and consulted on the design of combatives training systems for the U.S. Air Force and the British Royal Marines and the British Infantry.

Larson moved from Zambia back to the U.S. to get married last June. His friend and now one of the three co-owners of the gym, Greg Craddock, convinced him to open a gym in Warrenton.

Larson already had two Combat fitness locations, one in Columbus, Ga. right next to Fort Benning and one in Texas.

He says that all of his gyms offer the same training that he formulized in the Army.

“What I basically did was take all of those arts [Brizillian Jiu Jitsu, Muy Tai, Judo, wrestling and boxing] and deconstruct them and evaluate the training methods and see what’s right about each method or what’s wrong about it,” he said. “Then I’m able to determine which training methods give you good habits or bad habits that you need to correct with another training method.”

Larson said that what happens in most singular combative sports is that people get so caught up in the rules that they forget practicality.

“What happens in combat sports is that people start to focus on the game. That pulls them away from combative reality,” he said. “For example, in boxing what’s the defense to a tackle? They don’t have one, because boxers are not trained to fight, they’re trained to win boxing matches, which is not quite the same thing.”

Larson wrote the book “Modern Army Combatives: Battle-Proven Techniques and Training Methods” and co-authored “Sniper: American Single-Shot Warriors in Iraq and Afganistan” with his wife Gina Cavallaro.

For more information about Combat Fitness, visit http://www.combatfit.com

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