River Style Martial Arts teaches low-impact self-defense

Williams: 'I just wanted a training method that I could use to increase my health'

MECOSTA, OSCEOLA COUNTIES — Whether it’s a physical, mental or spiritual guide one seeks, River Style Martial Arts can provide a healthy, low-impact approach to self-defense training.

Matthew Williams, a martial artist for over a decade, is teaching his blend of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), boxing and kickboxing to adults in the Mecosta and Osceola counties.

Williams first learned boxing as a recommendation from his grandmother, to help him combat the bullying he was experiencing as a teenager.

“Just going to the (boxing) gym and consistently putting yourself in that situation, it changes your perspective pretty quickly, especially if you're not very durable,” Williams said.

It was during these boxing training sessions that he discovered that despite learning to defend himself from others, he wanted to de-escalate conflicts and avoid hand-to-hand situations whenever possible.

“I had a different perspective. I knew what real fighting was like, and I didn't want that to happen. I didn't want to do that to somebody. And I didn't want someone to do it to me,” Williams said.

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 break down difficult concepts and moves for him to learn.

“Slow is smooth, smooth is fast,” Fred Williams would tell his brother.

At the time of learning BJJ from his brother, Williams was in the process of rehabilitating his body after it had been “broken down” by training boxing and kickboxing at several different gyms.

“And the end result is, like, I just wanted a training method that I could use to increase my health, or at least salvage it, so I had to start studying about the different aspects of the body, the tendons and muscles,” Williams said.

The result is a system of low-impact conditioning that Williams created. It teaches trainees basic moves and footwork while simultaneously conditioning certain muscle groups.

“To get where I could defend myself when it was just basic principles. perspective, simple training, effort over time drilling, that's all I needed in the beginning. And I got in a lot more fights than I wanted,”  Williams said.

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

“Imagine if you threw yourself into a river with a bunch of rapids. The situation is simple, you need to swim out of the river. But the application of doing that is not easy, but you can train to be a better swimmer,” Williams describes.

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

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

For those who went through what Williams went through and have been bullied, Williams said this:

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

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

His rates are $10 for a 25 minute session and $20 for a 50 minute session.

Williams currently offers up to two or three lessons per week, per student. The best way to sign up is to call Williams at 906-259-3701, or email riverstylehome@gmail.com. Classes are for people ages 18 and older.