Pictured below is John Johnston being awarded his 7th Dan Shotokan Karate by Geoff Thompson and Dev Barrett at Dev Barrett’s Dojo in Coventry which is the hometown and birthplace of these 3 great men. Continue reading “John Johnston Is Awarded His 7th Dan” »
The British Combat Association was formed almost 20 years ago in the United Kingdom for the pragmatically biased martial artist who wanted realism over sport or style.
Iain Abernethy who is one of the BCA senior instructors and a world famous instructor for applied bunkai has been teaching all over the world and noted the need for a similar organisation on an international level. Continue reading “Launch Of The World Combat Association” »
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.
Geoff Thompson is co-founder of the British Combat Association and a pioneer for reality based martial arts training. His experiences as a martial artist (now 6th Dan) and working as a bouncer gave him a great insight into what does and does not really work when under pressure. He put this experience into his own teachings and was polled as the number one self defence instructor in the world by Black Belt magazine USA. From there he has become the author of thirty-four books, five multi-award-winning films (two BAFTA nominated, one BAFTA winning), two stage plays and hundreds of published articles.
It was with a little trepidation (and quit a bit of cheek on my part) that we sent my new DVD, Inside Bassai Dai to Geoff Thompson for review. We are delighted and honoured to have received the following endorsement from Geoff:
“Shotokan has always been my base system, so it was fascinating for me to watch the Charlie Wildish DVD on Bassai Dai, and come away with so much new information about this powerful kata and its origins. I particularly like the historical element about Sokon Matsumura (who created the kata) and how, when & why he created the “grappling kata”. I got a lot from this DVD and highly recommend it”.
I also sent Geoff a copy of my other DVD, 10 Kicking Tips, which I will be giving away free for a limited time to anybody who buys Inside Bassai Dai. Geoff’s comments on this DVD were:
“I thought your kicking DVD was very good too. You presented well and the info was strong”.
I’ll be honest, I was also given a few tips on improving presentation, which I was very grateful for and which I will be looking to implement as soon as I can. To find out more about Inside Bassai Dai and 10 Kicking Tips, or to buy them, please visit our on-line Store.
This is an area that you will see debated from time to time with people for and against it. Some claim that pressure points make your techniques ultra effective, whilst others claim that in the heat of the moment you will not have the accuracy to find the point whilst somebody is trying to hit you at the same time.
So who’s right? Well in my humble opinion, the truth lies somewhere in the middle and it depends on the circumstances.
If you start a fight 6ft apart, close in, then exchanging blows with a capable opponent; I believe that it would be difficult (but not impossible) to find pressure point targets. Just think when you are sparring against somebody of equal skill, it can be difficult landing a blow on their torso (which is a large target), never mind finding a very small pressure point to hit. Furthermore, when you have just had an adrenalin dump, your fine motor skills do not work as efficiently. For this reason, many people advocate concentrating on developing your techniques (regardless of style) so that you are fast and powerful and you will hurt your opponent wherever you hit them.
On the other side of the coin though, very few fights start 6ft apart. They usually start much closer with the antagonist making impolite enquires as to who the fornication are you visually observing! Or something like that.
In this kind of scenario, if you are genuinely convinced that you are going to be attacked and you are not able talk sense into your assailant, at some point you may take the decision that you will have to beat some sense into him instead. I’m not talking about somebody calling you names or jumping a queue, but a real threat of imminent violence. In this scenario a pre-emptive strike to a pressure point will be much more likely to succeed. The opponent is still posturing, still psyching himself up; he’s not actually going for it yet. You don’t step back into a guard as that only warns him that you are a proficient martial artist and tips him off to attack you even more vigorously.
You are better off using what Geoff Thompson calls “the fence”, with hand open and facing down in a universal position of neutrality, feet apart in a solid stance (but not a martial arts stance), engaging his brain with some dialogue (anything at all – isn’t it a shame about the polar bears!), then hit him as fast and hard as you can on a vulnerable point.
Now some traditionalist may get a bit hung up on this, as Funikoshi (founder of Shotokan Karate) stated that in Karate their is no first attack. This has been interpreted by many as you need to stand there and wait for the other person to throw the first punch. This is obviously not very practical. What he really meant was that we should not go looking for a fight. In other places, Funikoshi has described how to deal with an assailant by showing no sign of fighting, using a pre-emptive strike then running away to get help.
And as I’ve heard Kevin O’Hagan say, “you don’t really want a fair fight do you”? After all, he started it not you.
There are of course other considerations. Firstly, if your assailant is drunk or high on drugs, they may not even feel very much as there senses are dulled, yet their aggression can be heightened.
Secondly, if your assailant is fully hyped up and adrenalized, they will feel less. Have you ever cracked you shin against somebody elses in sparring? You think “ouch”, give it a quick rub and carry on. But the next day, it is throbbing like mad.
Why did you not feel it very much in sparring? Its because you were fully warmed up and your adrenalin was flowing. However, if you (or you assailant) are squaring up for a real confrontation, you have an awful lot more adrenaline in your body than when you are sparring. You will absorb a lot more punishment without even thinking about it . . . . . and so will he! Kevin O’Hagan reports of a case in America where a guy attacked a cop with a knife. The cop shot the guy 4 times, yet the assailant still managed to get to the cop and stab him before collapsing. How well do you think your pressure point strikes would work against a knife wielding assailant who keeps going with 4 bullets in him.
Boxers have been known to break bones in their hand early in a fight, yet still finish the fight.
I witnessed an incident in a pub many years ago where a confrontation broke out between two lads. One obviously wanted to fight and the other one did not. Very quickly a friend of mine, Daren, intervened to calm it down. Now Daren is a very large, solidly built guy, who whilst having a very friendly disposition is not the type of guy you would want to get on the wrong side of.
As Daren tried to calm the aggressor down, he was met with a complete lack of reason or logic. Daren lost his temper and went for the lad. It took 3 of us to hold Daren back, swearing and snarling in complete animal rage, with his sister trying to talk him out of it. The lad who had started it all turned white. My friend Keith (who you can see elsewhere on this blog demonstrating bunkai with me) tried applying a pressure point to calm Daren down. Daren in his complete rage did not even seem to notice.
After a while Daren calmed down and the other lad made a hasty (and wise) exit. When Keith met Daren a few days later and asked him what all that had been about, Daren gave a cheeky smile and said, “6 months stress all out in a few minutes”.
Human beings are capable of taking an awful lot punishment when in a rage, adrenalised, or just plain determined enough to finish the job; so it does suggest that pressure points can be limited when against somebody in a rage or fully adrenalised.
That said, there are some points that no matter how drunk, high or adrenalized a person is; cannot be resisted. An attack to the airways so that they cannot breath will always work, be it a strike or a choke. However, much of a rage someone might be in, if they can’t breath, they can’t fight.
Attacking the carotid sinus (side of the neck where you feel the pulse), causes the blood pressure to the brain to drop and hence the assailant passes out. This can be done with strikes (especially knife hand) or strangles.
Also an upward blow to the chin or the side of the lower jaw line causes the brain to “bounce” against the back of skull, causing un-conciousness.
These points (and a few others) should normally work under any conditions, though you are more likely to succeed with a pre-emptive strike than in an all out fight.
Whilst I believe that pressure points are valuable and have there place, they should not be treated as a short cut, or as a replacement for perfecting your technique. Whilst most people recognise that technique may only be 50% efficient when under pressure, 50% of a good technique is still much better than 50% of a bad technique. If you are not able to get in a pre-emptive strike, you may find yourself having to simply hit your assailant as hard as you can, wherever you can, until a good target becomes available. By then however, you may be too adrenalised to spot the opening, because a side effect of adrenalin is that blood goes from your brain to your muscles, slowing up your thought process.
Even if you are lucky enough to get in a good pre-emptive strike, that strike will need to fast and hard, which brings us back to good technique.
Russell Stutely is recognised as Europe’s number one leading expert on pressure point fighting. I recall one of his newsletters where people had been writing in asking him why he spends so much time doing pressure points. However, his response was that he only does a small amount of training on pressure points, with most of his personal training being basics and power development. When you look at Russell’s franchise training program, he deals with balance points, power generation and other aspects before he starts on pressure points. So if Europe’s number one expert on pressure points does not take short cuts and neglect his basics, neither should we.
My own Sensei, Paul Mitchell, always emphasises that form should have function (not just look pretty); but function will not work well without good form.
This is only my opinion and I don’t claim to have gospel knowledge on the subject, but I hope it helps others to form their opinion.