The history of RAT is similar to that of many other martial arts from other parts of the world, which evolved out of a need where conventional martial arts did not suit the particular context or adequately satisfy the requirements of the people who needed an efficient method of defence.

Mike doing splits on shoulders or Paul Reynolds and Steven Yates 1987
Mike doing splits on shoulders of Paul and Steven – 1987

The need was to train special soldiers from in unarmed and armed combat who were engaged in a war in Africa. So the roots of RAT are from a non-competitive military and practical application in South Africa. The emphasis has always been on ‘practical’ and effective learning, but with a strong emphasis on self-discipline and adherence to the underlying principles of most martial arts, such as avoiding conflict, persistence and determination, respect for one’s opponents and training partners, and a formalised system of learning.

Even though we have competed extensively in a range of martial arts competitions, holding the first MMA style competitions in the early 1990s, these competitions serve only as a method for students to test, practice and learn new skills under pressure and resistance.

I had never set out to found a new fighting system, but it is something that occurred through a recognised need and my willingness to do the best job that I could. I was not confident that traditional martial arts or the way that they were taught would be effective enough in the types of scenarios special forces soldiers would encounter. And since, lives depended up it, it was essential to devise a system that would save lives.

A RAT without a name

Mike performing a back kick - 1987
Mike performing a back kick – 1987

RAT initially had no name when it was first devised during my national service , but by the time that it was used in another Special Forces regiment the name Rough and Tumble (RAT) was used for several years and boasted a fully developed syllabus, based on hard physical training, strategy training, and an eclectic approach which is adaptable to different contexts and needs.RAT is a martial art with a broad framework allowing for multidimensional solutions to self-defence problems, but focuses on the useful solutions for different life applications that are applicable to the individual. A RAT practitioner should be able to fit into any martial arts situation or style. It is almost like every martial art is only a part of the complete picture.

We are proud that RAT has developed in the footsteps of legendary soldiers and that RAT might have also played some small role in helping those soldiers who an are integral part of the history of South Africa and the almost mythical role that they played in the South African border war. Read more about these legendary soldiers, the Recces.