Fitness fundi friend and bodyguard to king of pop
IN MATRIC, master trainer Matt Fiddes, who was once Michael Jackson’s personal bodyguard, had a premonition. He wrote in one of his school books at the time that he would be the best fitness instructor, that he would work on his own terms and that he would be a millionaire at 21.
“I wrote in my school book in the maths class about 10 goals I wanted to achieve by the age of 20,” he told The Star during a recent visit to the country.
Fiddes is one of the most respected experts in the international world of fitness. He received the highest honour by being inducted into the UK Martial Arts Hall of Fame and was presented with the prestigious Martial Arts Superstar Award.
He surpassed all these goals earlier than he originally planned. “I achieved all these goals by the time I was 19,” he said.
His journey might read like a novel ready to be made into a blockbuster Hollywood flick, but he has had to overcome several obstacles on the way to the top.
“At the age of seven I was being bullied at school and a child who sat next to me suggested I accompany him to a tae kwon do class.”
From there, Fiddes said it only took 30 minutes in the class for him to know that this was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
“I found my career path early in life.” Fiddes said what drew him to the sport was that it not only taught him how to deal with bullies, but also helped his self-esteem.
“There was no need to fight because martial arts taught me confidence and to not let bullies get the better of me.”
It was these lessons, together with hard work and perseverance, that Fiddes used to help others transform their bodies and minds through fitness.
His official venture into the fitness world began when he realised he had a successful business model with martial arts schools and decided to franchise it.
“People were buying franchises all over the UK, Germany and Australia.
“It was tough at times and I had to sacrifice a lot of having a normal life to get to where I am today, but it’s worth it, as I get to help people and change lives.”
His work ethic at such a young age caught the attention of the media and he secured his biggest break – working with the “king of pop”. “There was a lot of media attention around me at 17, with the headlines in UK newspapers saying, ‘Bullied boy becomes millionaire’.”
These articles caught the eye of Uri Geller, a world-renowned illusionist, magician, television personality and self-proclaimed psychic who contacted Fiddes about making fitness videos together.
The pair quickly became friends and it was through Gellar that he met Jackson. “Michael was so respectful to me and bowed when he introduced himself to me, just like we do in martial arts,” said Fiddes.
“It turned out that Michael was a big martial arts and Bruce Lee fan and already had a black belt.” At the time, the musician was in financial trouble and because security was so expensive, Fiddes decided to be Jackson’s bodyguard free of charge.
“I didn’t need the money, so I helped him out for over 10 years and I got him to a second-degree black (belt) and provided security for him when he needed it.”
Fiddes said although it was challenging protecting one of the most famous people in the world, he thoroughly enjoyed the time they spent together.
“He was a wonderful man and was great to my family. When my mother was dying of breast cancer he would call her daily from wherever he was in the world.”
When Jackson died, Fiddes said, several other celebrities wanted to work with him.
“I was not interested in being a bodyguard, I have a huge company and I only ever did it as a favour for Michael,” he added.
But he didn’t mind helping stars with stalkers, death threats or fitness advice.
This included supermodel Caprice, musicians Sting, Britney Spears, the Bee Gees and all the Jackson brothers, and he has even advised on Kim Kardashian’s security issues.
Now Fiddes, who is married with two children, wants to concentrate on his brand and his martial arts schools around the world, with plans to open one is South Africa soon.
GOOD PALS: Matt Fiddes with his friend Amor Vittone during the filming of her show Skoonpa se Tong.