It helps with your learning journey if you know about the person providing the information you’re relying on if you ever find yourself in serious threat situation. You need to see credibility in the self-defence system you’re being asked to put your trust in.
There were two keys points which started the process of creating RBM. The first, although unknown to me at the time, was in a single moment when I learnt violence doesn’t follow the patterns and rules of the martial arts I practiced at the time. Starting in Shotokan Karate at eight years old, I was mesmerised by the lines of people moving up and down the dojo in unison, performing highly skilled kicks and punches. It was fascinating how the routines followed a set procedure, a pattern of self-defence, I completely bought into the martial arts, and what they taught. Then key point 1 arrived; and it was undeniably highlighted to me that violent attacks are not a choreographed pattern when as a teenager walking to school one morning, this revelation was delivered courtesy of me being grabbed by the throat and head butted by someone who I thought was walking past me. After seven years of training in Karate, I had no recognition of what was about to happen, no knowledge of how to see any warning signs and I was totally oblivious to a threat to my safety.
Having someone’s head crashing into your cheekbone whilst grabbing you by the throat is not the Karate way! He was cheating, he didn’t stick to the sequences, he just hit me, and all the feelings I had in my brain and body in that precise moment were alien to me, I was frozen to the spot. Luckily, the person left with me receiving only one hit, which was good news for me as I was powerless to do anything about it and totally unaware of what was going on. I clearly remember the feeling of shame afterwards, it was debilitating, and I can say from personal experience it’s not great when your belief in your self-defence system falls on its backside when you need it the most, especially at 8:45am. This wasn’t at night on a dark street, it was daylight, early morning, and in a city centre full of people, and it was totally unexpected, and I was completely unprepared for the reality of what happened.
This experience, and the questions I had about how everything could have gone so wrong started my search to find answers to what really happens in a violent encounter. Frustratingly, I wasn’t being allowed to question the things taught in the various martial arts I studied, and when the hierarchy did give permission to ask a question, if it challenged the validity of the self-defence, then I found myself being palmed off with “that’s just how we do it” when the sensei didn’t have an answer. Not being able to question things from the very start of my participation in martial arts led to me owning a false confidence which crumbled under pressure, exposing the weaknesses in my self-defence training when I needed it the most. Thankfully, it wasn’t a gang, or a knife attack which exposed the problem, as the consequences of this learning curve could have been far, far worse. The person who shone a light on my self-defence failings didn’t use any fancy skills, only aggression. It was a simple grab and headbutt, yet the martial arts I learnt didn’t prepare me for this, nor did they have answers when I asked the people teaching martial arts questions about this type of attack after the event.
Over the years I started to talk to people who had studied different styles and methods of self-defence and found that a vast number of people had also become disillusioned with the protection aspect of these systems. They either felt the things they had been taught failed them, or they simply remarked they did it for fun and fitness and would never rely on it if attacked.
After years of hitting dead ends with different instructors, I changed my game plan and I went to the top of the martial arts tree to Kenny Johnson of Shito-Ryu Karate, who’s still highly respected in this field to this day. He spoke about how he had spent his life researching self-defence and found a lot of the answers I was seeking. My time learning Karate and Tai Chi from him was incredible, and I will always be grateful for his patience, knowledge and a friendship developed over many years, during which time I qualified to teach Karate, plus Tai Chi.
The other thing I learnt from him was close quarters, armed and unarmed combat for specialist groups. This took a long time, and I’m not talking about a weekend here and there, or training twice a week, but intensive immersion training. After which time, I successfully qualified as one of only ten instructors trained by him to deliver various facets of close quarters combat, including:
• Psychology, physiology, human body language & behaviour relating to combat & conflict violence
• Close quarter hand to hand, hand to weapon, weapon to weapon combat
• Blade edge & projectile weapon disarmament, retention, and usage
• Anti & Counter carjacking
• Urban threat awareness and counter measures
Finally, I had found the answers to a lot of my questions, and I started to teach these skills in the UK and across Europe to a wide-ranging client base. This was all going swimmingly until the second moment to have a huge impact on me happened, leading me to rip up what I was doing and start the process of developing RBM in its current format.
Key point 2; occurred when a person I had been teaching self-defence, and who became an incredibly good friend, tragically committed suicide. This raised many questions for me, the main one to be a thorn in my brain was why put all your focus learning to protect yourself from a violent attack if it’s the pressure of life which most often kills you? This led me to analyse the reasons behind learning self-defence, and to assess the whole basis of my teaching methods. I was determined to revolutionise everything I was doing to create something new, with a greater emphasis on how I see self-defence as a tool for helping people take control of their lives, and not solely focus on what to do if attacked.
“I wanted a system to assist in self-preservation for all of life’s situations, and not only for when under the threat of violence.”
Analysing my own experiences, I realised the sense of feeling frozen didn’t only happen the time I was headbutted, but many other times in my life such as exams, big life decisions, being worried about changing jobs, all leading me to panic and essentially, freeze. Due to this anxiety, I didn’t always make the best decisions, and when I did make a decision, it was promptly followed with rumination and excessive worry about the choice I had made, and the ones I didn’t make. I identified and isolated the point when this mindset changed for me, it was after I had learnt the close quarter protection skills and learnt how to stop an attacker. It was this which changed me as a person and changed how I respond to all stressful situations, helping me manage anxiety more effectively, which in turn enables me to make better decisions, because empowered people make positive choices.
Fascinated by how this had a more profound effect on me than Tai Chi, Meditation and Yoga ever had, I decided to dig deeper, discovering what had changed within me was my thought process; positively effecting how I approached different problems in life and how I became far more versatile in finding solutions without letting stress and worry get in the way. I needed to harness this and form a structured way of delivering it to others who were looking for the same results, even those with no interest in learning self-defence. People want to learn protection skills to make themselves feel safe and secure, but I found the statistical chance of a person sustaining injuries through being physically assaulted is much lower than the number of people who’ve had physical and mental health problems through stress related illness and depression. It’s anxiety most people are under attack from on a regular basis.
At the time of writing this information, more than half of my life has been dedicated to developing a fresh view of realistic self-defence. I had positive changes in my own mental health after immersing myself in the close quarter protection skills, changes which built my confidence in RBM being an authentic tool for people to use. The confidence gained from learning how to face an aggressive violent attacker will spread through your life and help you harness the courage needed to openly talk about mental health. Having a strong mental resolve doesn’t mean you don’t ever need to ask for help, being able to recognise the need for support and being brave enough to ask for help is what having a strong mental resolve is about. Mental health awareness in our society is moving forwards, it’s improving, but it still has a long way to go, and the lack of value society places on this, is evident in the amount of time children spend on this topic in school in comparison to other areas of learning.
Nearly forty years after I first walked into a Karate dojo, I have painstakingly blended information I was taught, with a vast amount of personal research and personal life experiences to present you with RBM. This is where, why, and how, RBM was shaped, developed, and formed. You can call it realistic self-defence, you can call it confidence training, empowerment principles, or you could say its stress management. If it works for you then call it what you like. I just hope this information has a positive effect on everyone who reads it, and makes your life a little easier, less stressful, safer, and of course, full of fun.
Why is it called RBM?
Focusing on solutions, such as how to make a threat to your safety go away right now. Or on a day-to-day basis becoming adept at recovering quickly from setbacks when you are caught off guard by life’s many surprises, rather than defaulting to ruminating on problems, causing further worry and stress.
Using breathing skills to directly influence the part of your brain responsible for monitoring stress and anxiety levels. Not complicated meditation, but simple breathing routines you can use anywhere, anytime, without anyone else being aware of what you are doing. Not that it should matter, but sometimes people feel self-conscious so skills which can be used under the radar are a good thing.
Positively programming yourself to have solutions to your worst fears of being attacked, building a new confidence in yourself, and observing as this confidence spreads through all areas of your life. Bringing with it the tenacity, inner strength, and drive to fulfil your goals to the absolute best conclusion. Stop standing still in life when you’re frozen in panic or indecision. Move, and influence the situation for the better.
If you’re ever unlucky enough to be attacked, ideally you’ll be aware of the situation and be mentally ready. Next you’ll breathe, as you understand the important & influential role breathing has on the fight or flight response. Then your brain will be loaded with information on what you need to do, so you will pick a solution and move. Ready – Breathe – Move. Perfect!
Yet, life does not always go to plan, so what if you’re not ready? Well, you start at a different place in the loop and continue from there. It’s not ideal but it’s the reality of the situation, so you must deal with it. If caught by surprise, you will be startled and instinctively breath in. You follow this by moving off the spot and getting your mind into gear. This time the circuit is Breathe – Move – Ready and continue. If really caught off guard you will flinch which is an instinctive evasive movement, your brain will work out what is happening, then you’ll inhale to get oxygen into the body to fuel the next movement. This time the circuit is Move – Ready – Breathe and continue.
You can start anywhere on the rolling circuit with each element supporting the transition to the next. By the time you finish reading this information you will understand perfectly how this simple format prepares you not only for when you’re aware of a threat, but also for when you aren’t ready and how to recover from this disorientation quickly. The application of this format is the same in any non-violent stress situations. You follow the same pattern regardless of where you find yourself starting on the loop, whether that be starting to feel worried or in a full-blown panic attack.