‘Does Self Defense Work?’ by Geoff Thompson (Part 1/4)

Geoff Thompson

Violence in society is pandemic: punch ups, muggings and even fatalities are frighteningly common in a society that is bulging at the waist with unsolicited assaults. Due to astonishing growth-rate of violent crime in Britain, skills in self-defence are almost a pre-requisite if you want to get from the cinema to the Chinese and home again in one piece.

But what is self defence?

And does the martial art that you are taught in the dojo and sold through the magazines really work when the mat is concrete and your opponent does not know the rules?
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One of the many things I have learned in my forty years of martial arts training, from working with masters and from following the deity of my own experience hard won is that self defence and martial arts are not the same thing. Sport MA and self defence are not the same thing either. And recreational training – twice a week at the local sports hall – certainly does not constitute a serious investment in real self protection.

When people talk martial art they think that they are automatically talking self defence but they are not. And when they talk self defence they believe that it is synonymous with martial art. Again, it is not. The two are very different, and they should be separated and taught as such.

There is nothing wrong with sport martial art, I love it, I am a big fan. And recreational training is better than no training at all. But if people are ever to survive a violent encounter on the pavement arena, it is imperative that they learn to distinguish between the two.

If you train twice a week in martial arts and think you are a serious player in self defence you’ll be in for a big shock when it kicks off outside the chippy on a Friday night. If your penchant is for sport martial arts (and all that it entails) and you think it automatically translates to the street you too will be in big trouble when the pub-warrior breaks your rules and twats you while your un-zipped at the communal troth, or turns up for round two at your work or your home with a hammer and a bad intent.

I must stipulate that I am not having a go at traditional arts, at sport or at the recreational player. I have a deep love for MA and for its practitioners but mine is the reality game so I have to honour the truth above all else. And my truth is not based on theory of folk law or how well I can make it happen in the dojo, it is based on vast experience in all things real. I have hurt many people to acquire this information over a long period of time. I am not proud of that. But I do hope that the reader might learn from my knowledge, so that they do not become a victim of violent crime, or the next digit on a home office statistic about unsolicited assault. Because it is not bad technique or even bad teaching that gets people killed in street encounters, it is denial.

People are in denial. With their art, with their ability and with reality its self.

You may well ask, what is the truth?

The truth is that real self defence in its concentrate is not and should not be about a physical response, as I will explain further into the article. When I teach self defence I may flirt around martial technique, and encourage people to invest in a core system, but the bulk of my teaching is in the art of avoidance. And if an encounter does by necessity become physical I teach and I preach the pre-emptive strike (attacking first). It is the only thing that works consistently. All the other stuff that you see, that you are taught or that you imagine might work ‘out there’ probably will not.

Here is my advice for those with an open mind: if it works for you I am delighted, if not don’t complain, I’m not interested – just press delete.


I’m sure you have already seen – and are tired of – the wristlocks and shoulder throws that garnish just about every article and DVD on self-defence. They only work in Bruce Lee films and on police self-defence courses so I’ll spare you the embarrassment of a photo-shoot-re-run. If you don’t mind I’ll stick to the stuff that works when the pavement is your arena, and there are no referees with whistles and bells to stop a point scoring match turning into a blood and snot debacle.
As I said earlier, my premise is basic but empirical (I have as they say, ‘seen the elephant’) and at some point it might prove life saving.

Whilst some situations actually start at a physical response (in which case you either fight like a demon or you get battered), most are preceded by some kind of pre-fight ritual and introductory dialogue; even if it is only the uninspiring ‘are you looking at my missus?’ The Real art of self-defence is not in bringing the affray to a messy conclusion with a practised right cross, rather it is in spotting the attack ritual in its early stages so that a physical encounter can be avoided.

Hard Target

As a man with a varied and brutal background I can tell you with sincerity and emphasis that violence is not the answer. Reflecting this, my opening advice is to avoid violence whenever and where ever possible. Make yourself a hard target by giving volatile environments a wide birth. James Coburn was succinct when he advised us to ‘avoid arseholes and big egos, avoid places where arseholes and big egos hang out’. He could have added ‘don’t be an arsehole and don’t have a big ego yourself’. It helps. The inevitable consequences of toe-to-toe encounters are rarely favourable to either party so around-the-table negotiation should always be exhausted before sending in the troops.

Stay tuned for Part 2/4 where Geoff covers more aspects of Self Defense and don’t forget the special offer coming at you at the end!

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3 Responses to “‘Does Self Defense Work?’ by Geoff Thompson (Part 1/4)”

  1. […] Read a guest article Geoff Thompson did for us by clicking here Share this with some random wankerFacebookTwitterStumbleUponLinkedInRedditDiggTumblrEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  2. anomynous Says:

    maritial arts do work or at least some of them, why do you think that mma exists if someone could just take a self defence course or work out and become superhumanly strong and win ufc why? because they are going up against talented martial artists you only have to mug a judo, maury thai or karate black belt to find out just how effective MAs really are

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