River Style Martial Arts teaches low-impact self-defense techniques


MECOSTA, OSCEOLA COUNTIES – Whether one is seeking a physical, mental, or spiritual guide, River Style Martial Arts can provide a healthy, gentle approach to self-defense training.

Matthew Williams, a martial artist for over a decade, teaches adults in the Mecosta and Osceola counties with his blend of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), boxing and kickboxing.

Williams first learned to box at his grandmother’s recommendation to help him combat the bullying he experienced as a teenager.

“Just going to the (boxing) gym and putting yourself in that situation all the time changes your perspective pretty quickly, especially if you don’t have a lot of stamina,” Williams said.

During these boxing training sessions, he discovered that while he was learning to defend himself against others, he wanted to de-escalate conflict and avoid hand-to-hand situations whenever possible.

“I had a different perspective. I knew what real combat was like and I didn’t want that to happen. I didn’t want to do that to anyone. And I didn’t want anyone to do that to me,” Williams said.

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Eventually, after taking some wrestling lessons alongside boxing and kickboxing, Williams’ brother Fred Williams introduced him to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ.

“He had been training Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Albuquerque, New Mexico at a place called Impact Jiu-Jitsu,” Williams said.

His brother was his mentor in the very complicated art of BJJ and was able to learn difficult concepts and moves for him.

“Slow is smooth, smooth is fast,” Fred Williams said to his brother.

At the time he was learning BJJ from his brother, Williams was in the process of rehabilitating his body after “collapsing” through boxing and kickboxing training at various gyms.

“And the bottom line is that I just wanted a training method that I could use to improve or at least save my health, so I had to start looking at the different aspects of the body, the tendons and the muscles,” Williams said.

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The result is a system of low-impact conditioning that Williams developed. It teaches exercisers basic movements and footwork while targeting specific muscle groups.

“To get where I could defend myself when it was just basic principles. Perspective, easy training, effort over time drilling, that was all I needed to get started. And I’ve been in a lot more fights than I wanted to,” Williams said.

He calls this style the “flow style” because, like a river, real-life situations require quick thinking and, to put it simply, “going with the flow.”

“Imagine throwing yourself into a river with rapids. The situation is simple, you have to swim out of the river. But it’s not easy to apply, but you can train to become a better swimmer,” Williams said.

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The confidence in knowing how to defend himself helped rehabilitate his mind, while the physical improvements in his body helped him feel healthier.

“The foundation of all martial arts is your health,” Williams said.

For those who went through what Williams went through and was bullied, Williams said the following:

“As long as the lights aren’t out, you still have a chance. There is always something that can change.”

Williams teaches at TNT Gym in Big Rapids, as well as Evart at Community Yoga Space and in Reed City.

Its prices are $10 for a 25 minute session and $20 for a 50 minute session.

Williams currently offers up to two or three classes per week per student. The best way to sign up is to call Williams at 906-259-3701 or email [email protected] Lessons are for people over the age of 18.



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