Reality-Based Self Defence: Scenario Training – 2


Blitz Magazine, September 2014 Vol. 28. No.9

“Senshido is not a style or system as such,” begins Jimmy Armstrong, the Glen Waverly-based instructor who also teaches Lee Morrison’s Urban Combatives. “It’s more a collective group of people that really want to help others and we use the vehicle of self-protection to do that. A lot of people seem to think it’s a style [or] system and all we do is shred people and do scenario training to the ‘nth’ degree, but what we do is far bigger than just those two things.”

Instructors and practitioners of Senshido bear a broad variety of skills and styles but when they enter Senshido, they transmute those skills into something far more practical, which remains recognizable in the realm of ‘traditional’ martial arts.

“Everyone has a different martial background, from Judo to tae kwon do, MMA to the FMA and from BJJ to Karate and everything else in-between, but… we’re all there to help others become happier, more confident and to hopefully become a positive part of their community.”

It may seem a long bow to draw to the uninitiated, especially if their only contact with reality-based self-defence is the result of googling the websites of many of the practitioners mentioned in this article. Images of eye-gouging, head-butting and teeth-gritting abound.

All the arts, or systems, described are fundamentally concerned with a ‘real’ confrontation. All employ methods for negotiating a given situation, including early detection, assessment and analysis. Once every other avenue for diffusing a confrontation has been exhausted, actual contact begins.

Systems such as Tony Blauer’s S.P.E.A.R. and Tim Larkin’s TFT do away with technique altogether, preferring to opt for ‘tools’. The simpler and more instinctive the response, the slimmer the possibility that ungovernable aspects of the interface, such as one’s presence of mind and motor-neuron control, will betray you under pressure.

Practitioners with roots in the more traditional martial arts see RBSD (reality-based self-defence) training as having benefits that stretch well beyond survival.

“[RBSD] helps you get used to own belief system,” says Jim. “The big benefits of it are that you will learn who you are and what you can do. It provides a point of reference. It’s not ‘real’, but it is; it’s still training [because] you know no one’s there to hurt you. You know you will walk out of there. Ultimately, the outcome of RBSD in the context of Senshido is that it will teach you who you are, [rather than] make you the ultimate fighter.”

Obviously, the more ‘real’ the trainee’s experience of the scenario, the greater the potential transfer to a practical situation. For that reason, the simulation must be as close to real as possible. Which, as anyone would expect, presents its own set of problems and concerns.

“I wouldn’t just go into another school and do it,” says Jimmy. The success of the scenario depends a great deal on who is participating and who is teaching. “There is always one guy in charge [of the scenario] and one or two to jump in for safety.”

It’s also vital to have a detailed understanding of every participant and their back-story, especially the trainee subjected to the ‘reality’.

“Everyone knows what’s going on; you know the players in there.”

Before the scenario kicks off, Armstrong makes it his business to know the history of his participants. The paradox of such training is that while it is intended to equip people with the necessary psychological skills to survive a violent confrontation, it could potentially leave similar scars – especially on someone who has been motivated to seek out self-defence training as a way to safeguard against a repeat of some kind of trauma.

“I’ve had a couple of people lose it before,” he says, “and it’s something you have to be prepared for if you don’t know them. That can be the result of negative past experience. If it’s good, they learn from it. Otherwise, you could fuck someone up. I make sure that beforehand, I know everyone. I don’t want anyone to leave with a negative experience.”

An essential feature of the process is discussion to analyze and evaluate the scenario afterwards.

“You have to debrief – that’s how people learn. You can’t bullshit; you have to be truthful. Sometimes there is real distress during, but it comes away during debrief.”

For Jim, experience has always been the great teacher. To that end, can other forms of stressful experience help train a person to deal with the actual reality of conflict, once it arrives?

“It depends on the person,” he says, citing previous experiences of his own. “Once, I had to come to the assistance of someone suffering from a stroke. Another time, I helped prevent a girl from jumping off a bridge. At the end of the day, it’s all part of the story in your head. It comes down to being real to who I am, and that helped in those situations. Stress is created in your head,” Armstrong says.

By way of explanation, he cites Geoff Thompson and his fear pyramid. “It’s about anything you find stressful – it doesn’t have to be about violence. You write the story of who you are; you control your stress. [Ultimately] you push your own buttons.”

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