“Cross Training for Self defence” by special guest Clive Girdham

Why do most people commence martial arts training? Perhaps it’s because deep down inside there is an anxiety that one day they may need to protect themselves or others in a violent confrontation.

Conventional thinking is that the scout hall martial arts class will provide all the answers for little Tommy, so with all the best intentions in mind, his parents send him off to learn selfdefence under the guidance of that guy wearing the revered black belt.

Tommy trains diligently twice a week and in 3 years shoots up the ranks and gets awarded his black belt in Scout-Hall-Do. His parents breathe a sigh of relief as Tommy is now fully equipped to take on any violent situation and come out unscathed.

Unfortunately riding home on the bus one evening after training, little Tommy is confronted by 3 older youths all carrying knives. Fortunately for Tommy he is frozen to the spot by an adrenaline dump and his only reaction is to fully comply and handover his valuables.

Ok this isn’t a true story but it easily could be.

My journey in martial arts started with Judo at age 14 and progressed through many other arts including Muay Thai, boxing and now at 44 I find BJJ is the most friendly to my body. Along the way I also became heavily involved in the Reality Based Self Defence or RBSD scene. This way of training became very popular from early 2000 onwards but was actually pioneered by a fearsome Martial Artist named Geoff Thompson much earlier than that

In 1994 I became a member of his organisation because I had come to realise that my one dimensional way of training, then in Judo, did not prepare me for the realities of London’s streets. I was a Judo black belt training hard 5 times a week with Olympic team members however that did not help me in a confrontation one day on the train when two guys began to verbally assault me and my girlfriend. I was lucky enough to not escalate the situation however at the time I didn’t realise how lucky I was. Only two days later, my work colleague who I sat next to each day was stabbed through heart on the bus. These realities caused me to question my own training and preparedness and Geoff Thompson provided the answers.

Clive Girdham doing a live knife drill with Richard Dimitri!


Geoff’s philosophy is simple, if you need to go physical then you must hit first and hit hard. Geoff’s background was in Karate however in all his time on the nightclub door as a bouncer, his Karate as traditionally taught, did not help him. He started to train his karate punches to be pre-emptive and from non traditional stances, hey presto it started to work. However his experiences told him that even though most fights start standing, they quickly deteriorate into messy close range grappling, almost always finishing on the ground. Geoff became an advocate of using various martial arts as “support systems”

For punching and kicking, he chose Western Boxing & Muay Thai
For vertical and ground grappling he chose Judo, Greco Roman & Freestyle wrestling.
He would then pressure test his skills in the gym in what he called Animal Days. These were full contact, no holds barred fights which were won by knockout or submission. This was in the late 1980’s before UFC.

This all deals with the physical side, what most people are not prepared for is the emotional attack on the self. Geoff introduced aggressive verbal attacks & multiple opponents to add realism. It was during these sessions that it became clear to any “one dimensional” martial artist that everything turns scrappy, traditional techniques fail.

I remain a firm believer in the effectiveness for self defence cross training in different ranges (or support systems) and MMA classes are fantastic for this. However I moved far away from the RBSD scene as I truly believe you bring into your life what you focus on and I don’t believe over training in RBSD is healthy for the mind.

Non compliant sports like Boxing, MMA, BJJ, Judo etc where you practice against real energy in sparring bring you enormous physical benefits and sense of well being. I believe other people can see that strength within you and this in turn makes it less likely that you are selected as a victim. The humility learnt in sparring transfers over to the street. You’ve already done the hard yards, know your limitations or capability and do not feel the need to prove yourself.

However I do believe all martial artists can positively benefit from a wake up call of scenario training which can involve multiple attackers, weapons, environmental factors etc

I’ve recently held seminars with Deane Lawler who like myself knows that all of the arts have something positive to offer, the problem is that most Traditional Martial Arts are not taught in a realistic environment. To quote Deane Lawler, RBSD is all about those initial few seconds, where you have to mentally recover from the verbal or physical onslaught allowing you then to use the techniques from whatever system you come from.

Bridging the gap between your martial art or sport and reality is easily practiced and can be as simple as adding a concealed wooden knife to a BJJ roll or adding two attackers to your MMA session. You continue to add layers of variables. Try turning out the lights, add loud music, put your arm in a sling the possibilities are endless, but the important realisation is to find your weaknesses and then acknowledge them. That way you won’t be like Tommy sitting on the bus wearing his black belt as a shield from reality.

Clive Girdham


NOTE FROM FELIPE: “Special thanks to Clive Girdham for sharing his knowledge and experience as a (former) Reality Based Self Protection Instructor and if you’re ever in need of a photographer please check out Clive’s website at http://www.pictureoffice.com . Thanks again Clive, you rock mate!

Good luck with your training and Happy rolling!

Felipe Grez

Jiu jitsu Kingdom


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

25 Responses to ““Cross Training for Self defence” by special guest Clive Girdham”

  1. “Cross Training for Self defence” by special guest Clive Girdham … | Drakz Free Online Service Says:

    […] the original post here: “Cross Training for Self defence” by special guest Clive Girdham … Share and […]

  2. Lawrence Lai Says:

    I dont know Felipe…the topic of “Reality Self Defense” and “Street Techniques” make me cringe and the troll inside me grows.

    Even if i was a BJJ black belt and UFC MMA Champion, if 3 teenage junkies with knives confronted me, i’d still give them my wallet, whats $50 and some credit cards compared to me fighting off 3 youths but sustaining a few superficial cuts that still require stitches? (The cost outweighs the benefits in my mind).

    I think empty hand knife defense is a fairytale that will leave you close to death if you try it. Same with gun disarms, dont get me started on krav maga shotgun disarms…

    Maybe i’m naive, the confrontations of groups vs. single dont usually end well, your best bet is to take up track and field in my opinion.

    As for 1 vs. 1 scenarios we all know theres a high percentage that it’ll end up on the ground, where mount, take the back, choke will solve most times….

    • jiujitsukingdom Says:

      Really mate? As much as I am ahuge fan of pure BJJ, mma and other combat sports, I still believe it’s important for people to learn a little about awareness, street smarts and self preservation and the best way is to simulate street scenarios and common attacks. Jiu jitsu has som great self defense techniques but is lacking in pre fight rituals, realist knife defensive tactics(in my opinion at least) and post conflict aftermath. And I agree with Clive that you dont have to become a paranoid killing machine always training for the worst case scenario, I do believe it’s important to mixup your training every now so often and add an element of suprise or spend some time learning about fear, and the pre fight rituals of attackers.
      Now dont get me wrong I agree that I would happily hand over my wallet to a knife wielding attacker rather than try to be a hero any day of the week. But what happens if you wake up in the middle of the night with an armed criminal in your home intent on doing you and your family harm??? Having at least a good tactical awareness of the limitations of the knife and unarmed combat as well as a basic startegy for survival and eliminating the threat could save your (and those that you love) life! Surely that’s worth taking a little time to learn about. Personally like anything, if I have to fight or deal with something I would rather have at least spent some serious time learning about, working with and becoming familiar with it before facing it for the first time! Look at Gracie Jiu jitsu and how effective it was in the initial UFC’s when noone knew wht they were doing. I bet those guys wish they were exposed to and had trained some jiu jitsu before they fought! Even a little knowledge can go a long way as long as you are not overconfident and think you are untouchable. On any given day, ANYONE can be beat… Including an armed attacker!
      As for my experience in more than 10 years of door work I do agree that getting the clinch and securing the “Mata leon” will solve most problems on a lower scale but hey it never hurts to keep an open mind! 🙂
      Kind Regards

      P.S. I’m telling Liam that you’re dissing his Krav Maga weapon disarms! 🙂

  3. Meerkatsu Says:

    Great article!

    Although my belief is that BJJ guys spend so much time training, the odds of ending up in a ‘street’ confrontation are much lower than your average guy who goes out drinking 1-2 times a week and comes back leery and prone to attack or who starts a fight in the first place.

  4. Lawrence Lai Says:

    I agree with you Meerkatsu, i never want to get in a street fight if it means i cant train because of an injury!

    • jiujitsukingdom Says:

      So true bro, but Liam is still going to hurt you for dissing his Krav Maga syllabus! 🙂
      Kind Regards

  5. Derek Says:

    You should train with Clive, Lawrence, the man is absolutley spot on in terms of knife defence – i’ve had the pleasure to train with him once or twice before.

    He advocates verbal de-escalation, psychological strategies and ways to avoid it going to the point where a knife does comes out AND he wouldn’t disagree with you in simply handing over your wallet if that’s all it took.

    But it’s good to have the knowledge and being pressure tested to really understand what knife attacks involve so if all else fails, you can at least try. Also, if you are going to get attacked no matter what, you better fight for your life and know what to do (in fact wouldn’t we all fight for our life it came to that?)

    Clive also has close affiliations with Richard Dimitri’s Senshido system who’s first rule of knife defence is “Expect to get cut”, the second being “The only cut you have to worry about is the next one that’s coming” (see Clive for the rest), so Clive’s views on knife defence are more than what this simple article shows.

    If I bet money on anyone to get back safely to their family after being confronted by three youths armed with knives, one of the people I’d choose would be Clive.

    And yes, I wouldn’t attempt to pull gaurd then kimura if I was knocked to the ground with someone on top of me – but all the BJJ i do certainly helps me understand ground positioning and that being on the bottom is like death.

    Also, streetfights should definitely be avoided – if only so we can train more BJJ!

    • jiujitsukingdom Says:

      Wow! I should have read your response before replying to Lawrence’s earlier post! You’re absolutely spot on Derek! And that last line is so insightful I would have expected it to come from the mouth of Yoda himself!!! 🙂 Awesome session last night by the way, you’re submission attacks are getting really sharp! Perhaps you’ll need to kimura (ie twist his arm) Lawrence to convince him of the benefits of self defense… 🙂
      Kind Regards

  6. Derek Says:

    Speaking of which, maybe i should bring a wooden knife to surprise Felipe during the next private…

    • jiujitsukingdom Says:

      I was ready for it last night Derek 🙂 I even had a training knife in my bag to even the odds! Perhaps I will have to stash a makeshift gun in my gi from now on???
      Kind Regards

  7. Lawrence Lai Says:

    lol Derek, definately get a wooden knife, but hide it in your pants instead, i rekon that’ll scare him more.

    • jiujitsukingdom Says:

      Mr Lai… That would be disturbing to say the least!!! Try it with Sifu Liam and let me know how it goes? Also, are you coming to Randy seminar tonight?
      Kind Regards

  8. MMA Shorts | MMA Training Workouts Says:

    […] “Cross Training for Self defence” by special guest Clive Girdham […]

  9. Derek Says:

    As per usual Felipe, thanks for the great session. I’ll bring a surprise weapon on Thursday.

  10. Lawrence Lai Says:

    I didnt make it to Randys (as you probably know), UFC 110 ($250), coupled with Valentines day ($300+) pretty much killed any extra spending money i had for the last two weeks!

    I heard it was fun…apparently the turtle is the next big thing in MMA according to Randy!


  11. Grace Says:

    This was very informative, my experience in weapons is very limited, to the Jo and the Bokken and even less in Iaido. To me this was very interesting and exciting! I love to see all different things martial arts!

  12. Hermina Duracher Says:

    I love this website, definitely some of the most accessible advice i’ve found in a while. I stumbled upon you guys by searching Ask and im exhilarated that I did! Please keep up the brilliant posts and I will be back ! Check out my blog about the UFC and Pride if you have a chance, Watch UFC for free

  13. angelia Says:

    glad to discover this artist making more attention.

  14. Suzie Laplant Says:

    Would you kindly translate your site into Italian since I’m not very comfortable reading it in English? I’m getting tired of using Google Translate all the time, there is a handy WP plugin called like global translator which will translate all your pages automatically- this will make reading articleson your great blog even more comfortable. Cheers mate, Suzie Laplant!

  15. Dog Exercise Says:

    I simply subscribed for your RSS feed.

  16. Self Defense Knives Says:

    wow training with a live blade. that is kinda crazy. thats alot scarier than training some long range machete work

    • jiujitsukingdom Says:

      Live blade…. Hmm, not something that I would encourage but that is up to the instructor, their student and level of proficiency. Although I think training blades are a much safer option!
      Kind Regards

  17. 行銷 Says:

    I usually don’t post in Blogs but your blog forced me to, amazing work.. beautiful …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: