By way of a short introduction, I trained in traditional martial arts when I was younger, mainly karate, then got interested in RBSD for a number of years. After injury and health setbacks in recent years, I currently focus on maintain general fitness as much as possible, do some solo drills and still keep an interest in "the arts", Tai chi being the one I can at least do regularly…
The two reasons for this post are 1) before attending a seminar, I knew very little about Senshido. Alongside general information about Senshido, personal accounts from seminar attendants proved useful, so this will hopefully help other people looking to build information. 2) Richard had asked us to post an honest account. Sorry it's taken so long, but as they say, better late than never… All I knew beforehand was from a Black Belt article and from the articles on Craig’s website, which I’d skimmed through before the seminar.
It’s only after passing him that I thought “hang on, I’ve seen this face on the article, it’s Richard Dimitri”. He did not come across as an aloof master with a huge ego, but a very normal person.
I also realise in hindsight (with all the stuff we learned during the seminar) that he was probably scanning the people coming in, not actively perhaps, but in a sort of continuous awareness mode. When the seminar started, Craig introduced Richard, who invited everyone to sit down on the matted training area and started talking.
I can't help wishing I’d had a tape recorder to record all the information he imparted. To sum up, he explained his background and his philosophy, explained how he came to develop it, what principles he followed, what real life experience he based it on. He told us half-way through “Don’t be impatient, we will soon start the physical drills, and then you’ll be wishing I was still talking because they are tiring”. I’m not sure how long he spoke for in total in that first part, but it went on for maybe 45 man. I can assure you that not for a second did I feel bored.
|Auckland New Zealand|
The description he gave of his past, his observation on the nature of real life fighting, attacks, muggings, violent fights was captivating. Straight away I was also struck by the intensity and sincerity emanating from what Richard was saying.
This introduction established his credentials as a reality based self defence instructor (basically, I’ve done my research, in the field, by observing real fights and being involved in real fights as well). Some of the stories he recounted (either fights he was involved in or attacks some of his students were victims of) were grim. But they underlined the crucible in which his method was created and refined and helped us understand where he was coming from (not from a book or an imaginary and idealised view of conflict).
We then started working on real drills. Rather than a set of rigid techniques, as in "you do this, I defend like that", these felt like exercises designed to raise awareness of certain principles. As an example, we worked on a situation, such as a knife threat, and tried to apply principles to avoid being hurt. Throughout the day, as well as introducing the fundamentals of his method, Richard passed on a wealth of seminal information and messages. Some of these seem evident but when you think about them, you start questioning a lot of information which is widely peddled as true and taken for granted.
Richard discussed how often do we see a drill or a routine, purporting to be real self defence, where the attacker strikes or reacts in an unrealistic way. After some of the points he made and illustrated, certain clips you find on the internet are actually quite painful to watch because they look really staged, prearranged and ultimately unrealistic (more like theatre or cinema).
The explanations that Richard gave us on the mindset of someone who is about to hit or attack us was astonishing. We worked on the reactions we should have to try and defuse the anger and some of the ideas Richard revealed to us were a revelation. To give you an example, he said that we should avoid provoking any further a person who was confronting us violently (in other words, do not unknowingly fuel the fire).
One drill we worked on was designed to avoid making him/her more angry: consider the scenario: a man is accusing you of eyeballing him. He comes at you, nostrils flaring, eyes glaring, smoke practically coming out his ears and growls, "what the f*ck are you looking at you little sh*t?”. Now if you try and calm him down by saying "I was not looking at you”, Richard explained that in a lot of cases the man will get even angrier and say "what, you calling me a liar?" "No I’m not", "there you go again! Do you think I’m stupid?!" and so on until it goes physical. The drill was to defuse it by admitting you were and improvising a natural response, fitting your character, and the situation, and acknowledging you were looking at him, for whatever reason, and apologizing.
|North Carolina USA|
Now you might already have worked out this principle for yourself but it’s one of those things I would never had thought of by myself, except perhaps through painful personal experience. It is a very good example of the level of insight which on this course. It was not all physical drills, but went deep into understanding the mechanics of a confrontation and the principles which underpin the way they play out.
As a further example we also covered lots of principles, such as the 5 things one should never do when faced with an aggressor, the 5 principles of physical retaliation.All through the seminar, Richard also kept referring to other great thinkers on the fighting arts, from Bruce Lee (as in the martial artist and not the actor) to Japanese sword master Musashi. Some of his conclusions were fairly close to the messages you will hear from Geoff Thompson or French Expert and living Legend Henry Plée. But let me make it clear it was not Richard stealing the ideas and passing them as his own. Rather, it was a case of several people independently reaching the same conclusions through a different path (a reassuring phenomenon one would imagine for the people who are doing the searching).
Quoting Tony Blauer (I think) Richard said “good information does not displace good information, it merely adds to it”. He did not come across as dogmatic or rigid in his message and paraphrasing Bruce Lee urged us to absorb what is useful (especially to us) and reject what isn’t. (even amongst the material he taught, and not many experts I’ve heard have the same message, not of shooting down what they teach, but of being honest enough to emphasise reality, where some things don’t work out for everyone, rather than an idealist, where cock-ups are ignored)
At the end of the second day, he also invited questions from all attendees, and did not dodge any. (I believe he used to do the same in former seminars with physical attacks and used to invite people to attack him, before injuries forced him to slow down a bit; that said, as one of the participants found out, Richard will not shirk from a live demonstration if someone remains unconvinced of the validity of his method).
|Washington DC USA|
Also, this was very refreshing in the current climate where some disciplines have proven themselves very expedient in the physical arena of (nearly) no-holds-barred, seemingly at the expense of any moral values (what you gain in reality efficiency over traditional arts, you seem to lose in terms of decency and moral character in certain quarters)
As for Richard Dimitri himself, it is quite obvious that he knows what he is talking about, because he speaks from experience. Not only has he been there (quite important for a RBSD instructor) but he has applied a methodical approach to his experiences, reflected on them, analysed and refined them, and has worked hard to draw his conclusions. He is clearly a very deep thinker as well as a firm believer in basing his system on real life.
Richard also conveyed another warning : the knowledge he possesses has clearly come at a price: not only physical scars he bears, but also psychological ones which he himself alluded to with a lot of candour (like Geoff Thompson, he emphasises you that there is nothing glamorous in violence, despite what some trendy film directors would have us believe)
Also, listening to him speak informally to normal students during breaks or after the course, showed Richard to be a very modest and approachable person, very intense and sincere, who doesn’t play the part of the big expert, but tells it like he sees it, and shares his passion with enthusiasm with everyone, either one-on-one or speaking to a room-full.
Interestingly a person who'd watched the seminar said he had "charisma ", a word which came to mind during the seminar. Not wholly indispensable for his job, granted, but as soon as he walks on to the matt and starts teaching, it’s like a switch is flicked and he lights up full blast and goes into the full-blown teaching mode.
Really striking.In conclusion I would simply say that Richard Dimitri’s seminar opened a lot of doors and gave me a huge amount of food for thought. If you went from traditional arts to a more RBSD you will be aware of a quantum leap in your perception of reality fighting and the info we gained in this seminar produced a similar effect. We did not come away with a feeling of invulnerability, but a sense of a deeper understanding of the reality of conflict and a lot of food for thought, which has lead me to question a lot of my conceptions and the knowledge I’d acquired over the years. For weeks afterwards, I found myself reflecting on the principles Richard taught us and thinking about their application, not just in the physical realm, but the psychological and even emotional arena.
This is another aspect of Senshido which proved really impressive: you do not only explore the physical, or the awareness and avoidance side of things but you also delve into the emotional aspects of self-defence, before (including your own psychological profile or what makes you tick and react), during and after). If you are interested in self defence, you might well find a lot in what Senshido has to offer.
The approach is very innovative, original and refreshing. It carries the stamp of reality and benefits from the methodical and systematic approach of an expert committed to refining methods, strategies, principles to enhance survivability.
Even if you find some of the info was not what you were looking for it is hard to imagine that you will not find anything of value. Whatever system you study, it is likely you will find lots of stuff to reassess what you do, add to it, question it and refine it.
Even better, if you have a chance to train with Richard, I strongly recommend it. I have seen since the seminar that he comes in for some harsh personal criticism on the Internet, which is fair enough as you can't please everyone, but some people tear him apart and then say they have never met him or attended his seminar or classes. It leaves you wondering at how valid their argument is. Not wishing to dwell on this, it seems obvious that the least one can do to pass an opinion on the method is to try it once… After that, everyone's entitled to their opinion…
Finally I would like to once again thank Craig and Debbie first for holding the seminar, and second for making everyone feel very welcome throughout the weekend. And also Craig for doing his bit to prove that, as the James Bond song goes, in terms of humour "nobody does it better" than the Brits! And a big thank you to Richard for providing so much information which kept resonating for ages afterwards, for his honesty and for his approachability.