Reality-Based Self Defence: Scenario Training – 3

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

Geoff Thompson, father of modern self-defence training, comes from a similar background to Jim Armstrong, having grown up and learned to make a living as a doorman and bouncer on the mean streets of the UK. Similarly, his path has cut through the forest of traditional martial arts and ultimately served as the platform for his own insights and methods.

Thompson calls it ‘pressure training’, rather than ‘stress inoculation’. While the process is the same, the outcome is slightly different, given Thompson’s interest in the metaphysics of combat and the warrior mindset.

“I always practiced pressure training more to find and strengthen psychological and physiological character, as well… as placing technique under pressure to see how it fared when the rules were pulled away,” says Geoff. “It was more about character training than it was about preparing for a street encounter; the latter was more of an exponential effect.”

Geoff explains the theory of pressure training thus:

“Pressure training in any area is metaphorically like immersing an inner tube into water and then applying air pressure… to find leaks. If you see bubbles, and you find leaks, the job then is to repair those leaks. Then we go through the same process again, to see if the leaks have been successfully sealed. If there are no bubbles second time around, you have your undeniable proof.”

Geoff believes that post-traumatic stress disorder is a potential consequence of pressure training, but has never witnessed it in his own sessions.

“Whilst it aims to get you closer to the real thing, it cannot be the real thing without actually spilling out of the controlled arena and falling into real violence. And the only way to properly prepare for that is to live it.”

The obvious concern with scenario training is that a participant will be indirectly subjected to a similar trauma to the one that motivated them to undertake self-defence training in the first place. Ironically, that experience can be cathartic and healing.

“We have had a lot of former rape victims find great benefits from pressure training; it allows them to find some sort of control.”

The way to avoid trauma, for Geoff, is to ensure that scenario training is given a philosophical context, in order that the emotions experienced are given context within it.

“I think that it is important when doing any kind of extreme training that you clearly explain to the students exactly what it is you are doing, what you are aiming for (the results) and of course, why we are doing it. The ‘why’ is the most important; purpose is king here. We can endure anything if we have the why.”

Thompson truly is the martial artist’s martial artist.

“As Musashi said, ‘Master one thing, master all things’. It is a transferable asset that you can take into any endeavour. It allows you to find elixir very quickly by going directly to the place of pressure.

“For me personally I have no interest in violence, but I am excited about using pressure to develop perfect function in a technique. If I can find perfect function in even one punch, I can take that learning and find perfect function in my body, in my relationships, in my business and in my life.”

Scenario training then, or pressure training, is the catalytic event in a true martial artist’s life.

“I think it was the dog brothers who said, ‘Higher consciousness through harder contact’. I certainly found that to be true.”

While that’s difficult to argue with, less-traditional practitioners might disagree, not least of all because their systems are primarily preoccupied with the how.

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