Andi Kidd is one of the most practical minded Karateka that I know. He runs the Genjitsu Karate Kai, is an author and runs seminars all over the country. Like many of us in traditional martial arts, he had many doubts about the practicality of what he was being taught, so he sought out teachers to fill the gaps. He has trained with some of the top names in the Karate World as well as Continue reading “Interview With Andi Kidd, 4th Dan Karate, Author, Self Protection Expert & All Round Nice Guy” »
How often have you heard the phrase “before you can overcome others, you must first overcome yourself”, or “your main opponent is yourself”. If you’ve never heard these phrases, then take a long look at who’s teaching you! You should have heard these phrases before as this really is one of the most central core philosophies of doing any traditional martial art. Continue reading “Striving For Perfection: Combat Effectiveness And Spiritual Development” »
Kevin O’Hagan, 7th Dan Combat Ju Jutsu and author of numerous books is undoubtedly one of the very best Reality Based Martial Arts instructors in the UK. On Sunday 2nd Sept, I attended one of his seminars on the Anatomy Of A Street Assault. As per usual, Kevin’s seminar was very informative, practical and thought provoking! Continue reading “Review Of Kevin O’Hagan’s Anatomy Of A Street Assault Seminar” »
If you have experience of Reality Based Martial Arts, you will already have come across the idea of target hardening. However, it is not always included in traditional martial arts, so although this is not a new concept, I include it here for traditionalists who may not have heard of it before.
If you look at the way that animals hunt in the wild, they nearly all follow a similar pattern; Continue reading “Target Hardening Against A Street Predator” »
Diaphragmatic breathing is used in many traditional martial arts, but I don’t think that all martial artists completely realise the full extent of how important this really is. It actually helps us on a number of different levels.
But first though for anybody new to martial arts (or this concept) lets have a look at what diaphragmatic breathing actually is. Continue reading “Diaphragmatic Breathing In Martial Arts” »
Since the last of the Neanderthals died out about 20,000 years ago the human brain has continued to evolve from what was primarily an animal brain governed by instinct, to a much larger and more complicated brain capable of logical thought. A very large part of our brain today deals with communication, reason, social behaviour/interaction and a whole lot of other things that other animals are not capable of. The ideas of guilt and remorse, right and wrong, good and evil, are all absent in the animal kingdom. Continue reading “Engage Your Opponents Brain To Increase Their Vulnerability” »
The people that Sensei Johnston has trained with reads like a who’s who on the early Shotokan Karate scene in the UK. He has also trained at many seminars with other leading martial artists outside of the Shotokan world. This is all backed up by years of experience at the sharp end doing door work at the toughest nightclubs in Coventry, as well doing personal protection for some high profile businessmen and celebrities. Unfortunately, John can’t really talk about his personal protection work for reasons of confidentiality.
Many people these days talk about “reality based martial arts”, but John was poineer these methods long before it entered in the mainstream of martial arts. In fact Geoff Thompson, who’s name is synonymous with reality based martial arts received his early training and many of his early ideas from John. In Geoff’s own words:
“John was and still remains probably the greatest influence to my development in martial arts, taking me through all those vital fundamental lessons, offering me (free) private lessons when he saw my potential; he even brought my suit and belt for me when I didn’t have enough money. He is a great influence and great friend and a powerful presence in British martial arts. Without John I would not in any way be doing what I am doing today and I am very grateful to him for that, and I highly recommend him and his instruction to anyone looking to fast track their martial arts”.
John is a humble man and not a one to push himself forward. As such he is not as well known in the wider martial arts world as he deserves to be. I have been very lucky and honoured to have secured this interview with him. Later this month, I will be having a private lesson with him, which I shall report back on later.
In the meantime, here’s that interview.
CW: Please tell us about your early training in martial arts and who your main teachers and influences were when you started?
JJ: My first teacher was Richard Jackson. I started training with him shortly after his return from Japan. Having trained out there and taken his 2nd Dan. The reason I started with him was after having looked at some other Karate styles and Kung Fu, the immediate impact of the Shotokan style and his method of teaching. Seeing that made me realise that it was exactly what I was looking for. By the time I got to around 4th Kyu (2nd purple belt) Kawazoe Sensei had arrived in Britain and started to spend allot of time with myself and other colleagues from the Coventry Dojo. Someone else that also had a profound influence on my Karate was Neil Thomas from Wolverhampton, whom we had regular mixed sessions with. We were also very lucky and privileged that the Coventry Long Ford Dojo was used for the National and International squad sessions, which were taken by Enoeda Sensei and Andy Sherry. We were allowed to train alongside such names as: Steve Cattle, Billy Higgins, Bob Rhodes, Bob Poynton, Terry O’Neil, Mick Dewey, Dave Hazard, Mick Ragg and countless others from that era. I say we were allowed to train alongside them it felt more like we were being used for cannon fodder. I could tell you countless stories about those times, suffice to say training was very hard on many levels, retaining students for financial purposes was not a criteria, you could either put up with the harshness or pack up.
CW: You competed quite a bit in your younger days. Competitions and training could be much tougher and harsher back then, can you tell us about some of your experiences from those days?
JJ: My first experience of competition free style came when I used to visit one of the local Wado Ryu clubs at 8th Kyu stage. I remember my basics although stronger seemed slow and ponderous in comparison and finding it strange when Randori was called, watching everybody pad up and starting to dance about. On reflection I look back at those times and think about my frustration at not being able to score points the way they were initially. Visiting the Wado Ryu club periodically over an 18 month period I started to find it very easy to overwhelm and score points on people of a higher grade than myself. In the first competition that Coventry Shotokan Karate club attained, we were nearly all disqualified in the team event and the individuals because of our strong technique, lack of experience and understanding. Although other styles were allowed to use protective equipment, it was frowned upon for us to use, we neither wanted to or were allowed any type of protection for many years. Only after at least 10 years of training was it that groin protection and gum shield became mandatory. Any other form of protection required a doctor’s consent and would meet with disapproval from your team mates. I think because of this we all myself included gained far more control, precision and was better able to apply our techniques. Initially myself and likeminded colleagues would enter the open competitions with which we had some minor success and also gained allot of experience. Later I became a member of the KUGB Central Region Squad which was coached by Frank Brennan. I was with the squad for many years as its Captain and as a full competing member. The experience gained from being on the squad was phenomenal. We had many senior and junior champions on the squad of international and national level, people like: Ronnie Christopher, Dean Hodgekiss, Ronnie Cannings, Donald Campbell, Glen Davidson and Bruce Thomas, these all won either national, European and world championships. Along with the fact that whilst being coached by Frank Brennan who that over this period of time was at the top of his game. I was very lucky and privileged to have been a major part of the squad for 12 years or more. Any new members that were selected to the squad would quite often be initiated with a line up. I can’t describe how devastating that could be on a young lad who’d never encountered such action before.
CW: How do you feel that Shotokan Karate has developed and how have training methods changed from those early days to what it is today?
JJ: I see many changes in Shotokan over a long period of time. Quite a lot of it I feel is detrimental to the ethos, attributes and benefits of Shotokan. It has been diluted and lessened either because of financial considerations, fear of prosecution on health and safety grounds and or lack of understanding and knowledge of instructors that were badly taught themselves and do not have enough courage to step outside their small comfort zone and seek further knowledge and experience in a larger arena. They inherited inadequate and poor technique from their instructors and seem blind to the fact that they are passing on their bad technique to their students. I could write pages and pages on this topic but it needs to be said that it’s not all gloom and doom, there are allot of really good instructors on many levels, club, seminar and courses who are doing great work. I think that Kata especially has developed and improved from my early days. This has happened on both the competition and Dojo level. This seems to be a greater understanding of biomechanics, breathing and psychological focus combined with greater athleticism, speed, analysis and understanding of movement. It is a pity that this only happens in the more progressive Dojo’s. I know that in my case when I gave greater focus to my Kata training over long periods of time I became so much more successful with my Kumite. I think that there is quite allot of instructors who’ll teach only certain aspects of Karate which they may favour themselves. I feel that we should be teaching what the students need rather than what they want or we as instructors favour.
CW: As you progressed and became more knowledgeable, did anybody else especially influence your martial arts development, and have you tried other styles of martial art?
JJ: As I have explained in previous questions I have had many influences and I have experienced one or two other styles of martial art but I only train for Shotokan and in Shotokan. I have enjoyed some experiences of dabbling in Judo, I taught Karate at Neil Adam’s (who was the Judo World Gold Medalist and Olympic Silver Medalist) Dojo in Coventry for 11 years and for the fitness aspect I did boxing training for a two year period. Occasionally I get the opportunity to train outside Shotokan with various people i.e.: Steve Morris, Master A, Dev Barrett, Ian Abernathy. These have been within the last two years, previous to that there have been countless others in different styles of Karate, Kung Fu, Taekwondo, Aikido and Jujitsu. Although having enjoyed these as one off sessions it is Shotokan which I find suits me physically and psychologically.
CW: You spent a lot time working on the doors in Coventry, which was noted for being a tough city at the time. Can you tell us about some of your experiences and what effect these experiences had on your approach to your Karate?
JJ: First I started working part time as a doorman alongside some ex boxers and local hard men. Later working full time until there was a major incident at which point the police came back with the condition that to keep the licence for the club which was one of the largest in Britain, the club could no longer employ anybody with a criminal record. I would say that this was a precursor that helped to establish today’s criteria for door staff. It also helped to elevate me to head doorman. As you can imagine there were numerous incidents every night, unlike Geoff Thompson I never kept a diary otherwise I would have written a book long before now. I would say working on the doors gave me allot of experience in understanding the psychology of confrontation and was a good testing ground for various Karate techniques and it taught me that your basic technique needed to be adapted and refined depending on your intent. Not only physical adaptation but mental adaptation is required to be effective as a doorman. Charlie I would love to tell you about numerous colourful incidents but 1) I cannot just pick one out and 2) I would have to kill you so as not to incriminate myself.
CW: Karate these days has become very diverse with some people adapting or adding in things to make their teaching more realistic. However, do you feel that despite individual initiatives, most mainstream Karate is still lacking elements of realism which would make a difference in a real life confrontation?
JJ: The simple answer to this question is yes. The majority of my senior students have never had a serious or violent confrontation in their adult life and I think the same applies to the majority of society. Karate can be used for self defence/ protection and I believe that to teach this should come from experience and requires a certain mind set for it to be of benefit to a student. Most Karate is done or practiced for recreation, some for self development and improvement and some to fulfil a spiritual need.
CW: You have taught for many years that traditional Karate (as passed to us by the Japanese) needs to be modified to make it work in real live confrontation. Can you explain what you mean by this and what elements need modifying?
JJ: I would say as a way of explanation that training needs to be done in a very robust fashion with correct intention from all participants and with an intensive competitive mindset. That is to say that you could have really good Karate technique but when put under pressure or in a stressful situation you lose the ability to apply it. Conditioning mentally and physically needs to be part of a comprehensive training regime for you to be effective with Karate in a real life confrontation.
CW: Does this only apply to Shotokan, or do you feel that it applies to most traditional Oriental martial arts?
JJ: I would say yes in the greater majority
JJ: I don’t call my teaching method Adaptive Karate. The majority of my teaching is in Shotokan Karate. However, I do Adaptive Karate courses and seminars in which I try to teach people how to apply techniques. I take people through drills to increase their skill level and give them a greater understanding of disruption, destabilization and distraction against an opponent and how to use the body as a unit.
CW: With other instructors making a name for themselves with practical applied bunkai, do you feel that your approach is different to the way most other instructors apply Karate for self defence?
JJ: Yes. I will take moves from Kata and make them as straight forward and effective as possible. I do not believe that we have to call this Bunkai and directly relate it to a given Kata. I do not wish to go on a crusade or preach to other people about what they believe to be their version of correct Bunkai. However honesty has to play a major part in what you say and do in reference to your Karate. If you have not robustly pressure tested your technique as it applies to Bunkai. In reality, it is only your theory. If you can prove that the techniques that you are teaching are realistic and valid then your Bunkai will stand up to scrutiny, in other words if it don’t work then don’t teach it.
CW: On your Adaptive Karate website, it says that “Traditional Shotokan Karate has an underlying spiritual essence that builds character and inner strength which empowers the mind and so empowers the body”. How important is spiritual and character development to you?
JJ: My personal development is of paramount importance to myself and to be able to give my students the advice, information, instruction and tools so that they can develop into considerate, humble, courteous, respectful, strong minded and determined members of society.
CW: As somebody who puts a lot of emphasis on real world no nonsense self defence, do you see spiritual development and realistic self defence as being intrinsically linked, or are they separate elements where the student can focus on one more than the other?
JJ: The answer to that question I would say is down to the individual; on a personal level for me they are linked but other people will have different perspectives and priorities at various times throughout their lives. Their needs and ambitions will fluctuate, vary and change depending on what their immediate influence in life is. That makes it a very difficult question to give any sort of definitive answer to.
CW: Modern trends in martial arts tend to go either towards sport (primarily MMA) or “reality based”; both of which tend to move away from the emphasis that traditional Oriental arts placed on etiquette and pure form (such as kata). What do you feel traditional Oriental martial arts have to offer in the modern world which can’t be found in the more modern approaches?
JJ: I feel that in today’s fast moving and instant gratification society, that something such as Traditional Shotokan Karate taught correctly and progressively with the correct emphasis on courtesy, humility, self discipline and respect; has an enormous amount to offer to both children and adults. The benefits to children are obvious, but to adults there is the added bonus of a certain amount of spiritual fulfilment which can fill the void if you have no religious commitment or as an add on if you do have a religious conviction. It is so much more than a young person’s sport. It is a lifetime endeavour and commitment if you so want it to be.
CW: You have at least 2 testimonials on your website which mention that you have given free lessons to students who had financial difficulties at the time (including the now famous Geoff Thompson) and that you even went so far as to buy them their Karate uniforms and other training equipment. In a world where many people are just looking to make money, that was very generous. Do you have any criteria for the people you help like this?
JJ: The criteria which I have is that people are honest, and want to train and advance in their Karate. I don’t want to open the floodgates but I feel and have always said that if somebody can’t afford to train, I would rather they came training for free up until such time as their circumstances change.
CW: I understand that your wife, Elaine, does talks at local schools about peer pressure and bullying. Do you help her with this and how important do you think this work is?
JJ: Yes, everything that we do is some form of collaboration and we do almost everything together, and yes this type of work is important because not only as a Karate Instructor but as a member of the community, you have a civil and moral duty to help out wherever possible.
CW: Although you’ve trained in other martial arts, you still teach primarily pure Shotokan. Have you ever been tempted to add elements of other martial arts, or do you feel that Shotokan is complete enough without any other influences?
JJ: Anything positive from other Martial Arts are always worth integrating into your training. Pad and bag work should be an essential part of any Martial Arts training regime. Strengthening and fitness exercises of the right nature are always valuable. Nothing should be set in stone, that is to say that we should look at other Martial Arts and use and incorporate anything that is beneficial and effective. On my Adaptive Karate courses I have incorporated techniques from Judo, Aikido, Taekwondo, Jujitsu, Boxing, Thai Boxing and other forms of Martial Arts and styles that I believe have any validity and effectiveness and the people that train with me in the Adaptive Karate are not expected to do things exactly the way that I demonstrate but to find their own way of executing the basic principle of the drill that it suits themselves.
CW: What are your future plans for your own personal Karate development and for teaching?
JJ: For the future I hope to be able to expand my teaching base so that I can instruct on more courses and seminars as well as developing my clubs. As for myself, I train every morning, mostly on my own, in which I will go through drills that I have devised for myself as well as Kata. I know that this year I am booked to train on several courses with people such as Sensei Dave Hazard, Sensei Aiden Trimble, Sensei Ian Abernethy and hopefully will attend other courses with other Senior Instructors. I still sometimes train at some other local clubs occasionally.
CW: Are you available for courses and seminars outside of your own Karate Association, and if so, how should people contact you?
JJ: I am more than happy to teach outside the association to any Karate style or Martial Arts discipline. I can be contacted several ways. My website is: www.adaptivekarate.com. Any telephone enquiries can be taken by my wife and Secretary Elaine Johnston on: 07791 635958 or drop me an Email:j.johnston@adaptivekara
CW: Sensei, it has been a privilege to have done this interview with you and I look forward to training with later this month. Thank you very much for your time and your interesting and informative insights.
A little while ago on the BunkaiJutsu Facebook page, I put on the following quote by Gichin Funakoshi:-
“When there are no avenues of escape or one is caught even before any attempt to escape can be made, then for the first time the use of self-defence techniques should be considered. Even at times like these, do not show any intention of attacking, but first let the attacker become careless. At that time attack him, concentrating one’s whole strength in one blow to a vital point, and in the moment of surprise, escape and seek shelter or help. It is most important to be on guard without becoming excited and to act with presence of mind throughout the situation from the beginning and even once the situation is in hand.
When delivering the one blow against the attacker, the importance of using one’s whole strength and being especially accurate cannot be overemphasized”.
Gichin Funakoshi, from his book Karate-Do Kyohan,
It generated quite a bit of interest and comment, so I thought I’d explore it a bit further. What is easy to over-look here is that it shows a very different ethos and approach to how we are taught in most traditional martial arts today.
Today if we do any sparring, we face each other from outside of striking range, bow, take up our fighting stance, then start inching towards each other until we start to exchange strikes/kicks. Basically, its all about having a “fair fight”. It’s sport.
Even when we practice bunkai (applications) against more street style attacks such as haymakers, in most clubs, the attacker usually start out of striking range first, then moves into distance with the haymaker. Again, this partially reflects the “fair fight” mentality; as if two guys have agreed to “step outside and sort it out”.
Note, I did say “partially” as I do realise that somebody could randomly swing at you, ready or not.
Even in that step outside scenario there is the concept of an even one on one fight. I know it’s not always adhered to as one may pull out a weapon or mates my join in, but the concept is still there, and most traditional training seems to buy into it.
What most traditional martial arts do not train for the guy being right up in your face shouting and swearing, then head-butting you.
The old Okinawan masters did not practice sport. Several of the old Okinawan masters are recorded as saying that Karate is mainly for defending oneself against untrained thugs (rather than matches with other trained martial artists).
Funakoshi always taught that fighting (even a “fair fight”) was wrong and should be avoided if at all possible. He taught that Karate was mainly to make you a better person rather than a better fighter and as such if you were set about, he advised that the first course of action should be to run away. That way nobody gets hurt.
On the few occasions that Funakoshi was forced to physically defend himself, he felt that it was a personal failure to have gotten into that situation in the first place, or for not having handled it better. I personally think he was a bit hard on himself, but that’s just my opinion.
So if you hold true to the philosophy that you should decline any fights and run away if you can, then what do you do if you are cornered and have to fight whether you like it not? The person picking on you is usually doing so because he/she thinks you are an easy target. Are they looking for a fair fight?
No! They’re looking for an easy victim.
So should you be expected to fight fair against somebody like that?
No, you should have to, because you shouldn’t be put in that position against your will. You didn’t pick the fight and you didn’t agree to have one. Self defence is about defending yourself from harm, it is not about having a fair fight.
No. That warns them to be more careful.
This is the scenario Funakoshi was talking about. Let them bluster at you and become over confident, then hit them with a pre-emptive strike to a vital point. Then run!
This is the way that modern Reality Based Martial Arts train. Don’t you find it a bit strange that people talk about Reality Based Martial Arts as if it is still quite new, when Funakoshi was talking about it decades ago?
To my mind, it suggest that most of today’s so called “traditional martial arts” are not that traditional. It isn’t what Funakoshi taught!
On and off over the 6 months (when I actually get the time), I’ve been reading a fascinating book called Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. It’s a great book about how the brain works and how to use your own brain to get the best out of life. I’ve also been struck several times on how much of it applies to martial arts.
One chapter, Crisis Into Creative Opportunity, is particularly applicable. There are few crisis more immediate than that of being violently assaulted.
Here’s an extract from that chapter:
Although we may learn fast, we do not learn well under “crisis” conditions. Throw a man who can’t swim into water over his head, and the crisis itself may give him the power to swim to safety. He learns fast, and manages to swim somehow. But he will never learn to become a championship swimmer. The crude inept stroke that he used to rescue himself becomes “fixed” and it is difficult for him to learn better ways of swimming. Because of his ineptness he may perish in a real crises where he is required to swim a long distance.
This is where advocates of reality based martial arts should be sitting up and paying attention, as much of their training is more psychological than physical, to hard wire the brain to act under the most extreme circumstances. The scenario based training where the aggressor shouts, threatens and swears at the defender are intended to induce an adrenalin rush, (to create the the feeling of a crisis). It is known that under emotional pressure (adrenalin dump), blood goes away from the brain and it the muscles (ready for flight or fight).
However, with the lack of blood to the brain, the defender is not able to think as clearly as usual and will therefore tend to rely on remembered experience. If the last experience of being attacked led the defender to cower and cringe, then that is what the defender will probably do again.
The scenario based training is designed to put the defender into an emotional/adrenalized state and hard wire (or “fix”) a different response, which the defender can fall back next time the blood is drained from their brain.
This type of training is akin to throwing somebody into water over their head to teach them to swim. In light of the paragraph above from Psycho Cybernetics, what conclusions can we draw?
Well firstly, this type of training will get very fast results. But just like the guy who is thrown into water over his head does not learn to swim well, they do not really learn very much in the way of self defence skills. The main thing they learn is that when the crunch comes, they will fight back ferociously. In many cases that will be enough, as many street predators are just looking for an easy target. If they can see that their intended target is going to fight them ferociously (however badly), many street predators will move on and look for somebody else.
However, if you are picked on by an experienced street fighter and who just wants to fight no matter what, then this type of training is limited. A street fighter is used to “training” in this emotional/adrenalized state. So this type of scenario training just means that the defender will fight back without cowering or backing down. It does not mean that they will in any way be a superior fighter, or have any other advantages.
This type of training therefore is ideal for somebody who just wants to do a short course and get good results and does not want spend years training at a martial art.
But what about the person who does want to become very good at martial arts; someone who does want to take self defence skills to a much higher level?
Maxwell Maltz says to be really good in a crisis, we should practice without pressure. He also writes in Psycho Cybernetics:
Dr Tolman found that if rats were permitted to learn and practice under non-crisis conditions, they later performed well in a crisis. For example, if rats were permitted to roam about at will and explore a maze when well fed and with plenty to drink, they did not appear to learn anything. Later, however, if the same rats were placed in the maze while hungry, they showed they had learned a great deal, by quickly and efficiently going to the goal. Hunger faced these trained rats with a crisis to which they reacted well.
Other rats which were forced to lean the maze under the crisis of hunger and thirst, did not do so well. They were over-motivated and their brain maps became narrow. The one “correct” route to the goal become fixated. If this route were blocked the rats became frustrated and had great difficulty learning a new one.
Another example given was that of fire drills. Those who practiced fire drills in a controlled manner were more likely to safely get out of a burning building, than those who had to find their way out under crisis conditions of that fire.
So as martial artist who want to react well under crisis conditions, we have to first learn in a non-pressure environment. Once a technique or drill is learned, we can of course always up the pressure later. In fact it would be foolish not to. However, always training under high pressure hard wires and fixes responses in the brain which makes it difficult for the trainee to respond to should the circumstances suddenly change.
My Sensie, Paul Mitchell teaches over and over to practice movements slowly in order to perfect them. As perfecting technique takes a very long time, whilst hard wiring a response under pressure gives very quick results, there is a clue to how you should train. Most of it should be relaxed with a small (but regular) amount of pressure training.
It would seem no accident that most people who teach reality based self defence have a background in traditional martial arts, thereby covering both aspects. Kevin O’Hagan who is a world renowned teacher of reality based self defence has said that traditional martial artists always pick it up fastest.
It also explains why Tai Chi is considered a higher level of martial art which martial artists should progress to (not start with).
Although Psycho Cybernetics is not a martial arts book, I would seriously recommend it to anybody who is interested in self development. I’ve certainly found it eye opening.
Louis Thompson is the son of martial arts pioneer, author and modern day legend, Geoff Thompson. As such he has had the unique opportunity to grow up practicing reality based martial arts with the very best instructors in the world from a very early age. As an adult, Louis has often assisted his father teaching at many seminars.
Now Louis is set to branch out and teach independently. Although still quite young, he has a wealth of knowledge and experience beyond his years as he has had a start in martial arts that most of us could only dream about.
I’ve been lucky enough to secure an interview with Louis and I believe that I am among the first to do so. Without any more ado, here is that interview below and I hope you find it as interesting as I have:
CW: Hi Louis and thank you for agreeing to do this interview with me. Obviously you have grown up with martial arts in your blood. Your father would have been a big influence (as he has influenced the whole martial arts world). However, apart from your father, who else were the main influences on your martial arts development and in which ways did they influence you?
LT: I try to take my influences from everywhere, not just martial arts. If I see someone who is highly successful in their field then I will take the same method that they used and apply it to my training. That is how my immersion training idea came about. I noticed that if people wanted to learn a language or skill quickly, if they completely immersed themselves then the gains were massive. I just make whatever I am doing a massive part of my life and that is how I get ahead of the game.
As for people who have influenced me there are many. Obviously my dad has had a huge effect on the way I view the world especially in martial arts. I feel like he has sifted through a lot of things arts and techniques and taken the essence and passed that onto me. Now it’s for me to go and find out of those things what works for me. I have been around Peter Consterdine since I was a child and I have massive respect for him. He has such a wealth of experience in so many different areas and he is someone I really would like to be around more. Obviously all of my dads students (Lea and Matty Evans, Tony Somers, Al Peasland, Justin Grey) have all played a massive part in my MA education. My first and probably favourite art is Judo. For me it is the missing link in this new MMA culture we have and I find that it is dismissed far too quickly. Within Judo people like Neil Adams and Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki are such amazing players and it would be an honor if I could ever get on the mat with them.
CW: Reality based training obviously involves a lot shouting and swearing at each other to de-sensitise yourself to that kind of raw aggression. When growing up, did it seem strange acting out these aggressive scenarios with your own father?
LT: I have been around the shouting and swearing so much that it is a very normal part of my training. I try to treat it like a drill. It is such a great tool that you have to include it in your training. In essence what you are doing is acting. You access the base energy in you and project that as pure aggression. For me doing this with my dad is no different to hitting the pads or practicing throws. It’s just a part of what we do.
CW: Do you practice traditional martial arts alongside your reality based training? If so, which ones?
LT: As I said Judo was probably my first real ‘art’. I love it and think it is massively underrated. I have also trained in western boxing as well as various forms of wrestling. My main focus is reality based self defence and taking from the arts the techniques I can apply to that. I am constantly looking for new things to learn and new techniques to drill.
CW: Having a famous father has some obvious advantages in getting started in the martial arts field, but do you sometimes feel that it is a double edged sword? Do you feel that you have a lot to live up to and that people will always judge you as “Geoff Thompson’s son” rather than as your own person?
LT: My dad has set the bar high but for me that is great. It gives me something to work towards. Hopefully I can prove myself in my own right and people will respect what I do as an individual. Ultimately I am teaching what my dad has taught and it means a massive amount to me what he thinks of what I am doing. I think the only person I have to prove anything to is him. As long as he is happy with how I am teaching then what the rest of the world says is irrelevant. There will be lots of people out there who have and will continue to criticize what my dad has done and I have seen small pockets of that. People who feel that way will no doubt always view me as Geoff Thompson’s son but it is a label I am grateful to have.
CW: What do you feel are your own unique strengths and talents to offer which are specific to you as a martial artist?
LT: I can only really offer people my experiences. I can’t claim to have been in hundreds of fights or worked the door for 10 years but I can certainly say I have had world class instruction for my whole life. When people go to train with anyone they go to get their experiences. I am the only person in the world that can offer my experience and deliver it in my style. When it comes to the Real Combat System or The fence and pre-emption I have lived and breathed that for 20 years. I know how it should be taught and I know the theory behind it and if I am ever unsure I have the creator at the end of the phone. I am in a unique position and I am very excited about teaching people everything I can and learning lots in the process.
LT: My 6 week course focuses on all aspects of self defence right from becoming more aware to being able to hit very hard. My favourite way to teach is through immersion training. 4 hours of intense tuition focusing on whatever area the student wants. I have been doing a lot of this recently and the gains people get are tremendous. I don’t have a class as yet but it is something I am organising very soon.
CW: What kind of response have you had? Have your courses been filled up?
LT: I have had a great response so far and people seem to be getting lots from it. I tend to keep the groups small so I can make sure that the progress is good and identify and address specific needs with people.
CW: On your website you mention that you strive to improve your skills in all areas, both physically and spiritually. Can you tell us what your spiritual beliefs are and how they affect both your training and you daily life?
LT: I am a great believer in the fact that I create my own reality. I have created amazing things and also watched them crash down all because of the way I think. Meditation is something I am trying to do more and more. For me it is far more difficult than any physical training. My mind is incredibly active and I find it really difficult to keep it centred. Ultimately I am looking to be congruent which is really difficult at times.
CW: Do you believe (as I do) that developing some kind of spirituality is important to all developing martial artists?
LT: I think developing some kind of spirituality is important to all aspects of life although I am not sure that spirituality is the right word. It seems to scare people. The masses hear spirituality and assume religion but it’s not really the case. At a basic level they are all the same thing. I think it’s important to develop integrity and congruence because if you don’t have that then things will come crashing down at some point.
CW: Having learnt directly from some of the Worlds very best martial arts instructors, do you feel that their message is properly understood by the wider martial arts community, or does that message get a bit diluted and confused along the way?
LT: If you are looking at what my dad has developed then I would say it is massively distorted by the wider MA community. You only have to type the fence in to YouTube to see people doing it wrong. I think people take it away and try to make it work within the realms of their own art and that really isn’t possible. I have seen people using the fence and then teaching blocks and counters of trapping from the fence but when you start doing that you destroy the main message which is pre-emption. People misunderstand and then pass that on to their students and the wrong message starts to spread.
CW: What advice would you give to traditional martial artists who realise that their training has become either sport orientated or stylized, to make their training more effective for the street?
LT: I would say look at what is available to you in a real situation and when I say that I mean what is very easily available. What will guarantee you results. Look at the range you have. It’s is real difficult to let go of your art and see that all you really need is one really good punch and the ability to strike first and you will be leagues ahead of anyone. The key to effective self defence is always pre-emption. The only way to really remove a true threat is by KO. Use the fence to maintain the distance. If they try to close the distance and you feel there is a genuine threat then strike the jaw which will cause a KO.
CW: Sometimes traditional martial artist feel that they only want to train in their own system and don’t want to “confuse” themselves training outside their style. I personally find that training outside my style often helps me to understand elements of my main style better. However, as most of the readers of my website are traditional martial artists (mainly Karate, Teakwondo, Kung Fu); what do you feel your courses have to offer to a die-hard traditional martial artist?
LT: I think people who feel that training outside their art will confuse them don’t really understand their art. When you look at all the different arts they all have very similar elements that are styled in different ways. All I can offer people is the opportunity to get excited about educating themselves with new and interesting techniques and show them that by making all the techniques from all the arts interchangeable you can make something that is overall stringer and more durable.
CW: On your website shop you recommend/sell a number of DVD’s and books. Do you plan to produce any such products yourself in the future?
LT: I am building up slowly but surely and although I have no plans to create my own products yet I am sure it is something that will come up at some point. When you want to get your message out to a wider audience it is a necessity.
CW: What are your plans to for the future and how do you plan to continue developing as a martial artist?
LT: I am taking each day as it comes. I have achieved a lot of goals in a short space of time so I think this is a great time to make sure that they can all sustain themselves. I want to keep growing Louis Thompson SD as a brand and a company and try to get my message on a global level. I have my own SD/MA studio which is a lovely space and I am getting more and more students as time goes on. To develop as a martial artist I just look at training privately with as many great people as possible. I will continue to train and teach with my dad and just continue to push myself as an individual and hopefully that will translate in what I teach.
CW: Louis, thank you for doing this interview for BunkaiJutsu.com. On behalf of myself and the readers, I would like to wish you every success in your career and we hope that we’ll all be hearing more from you in the future.