Martial Artists……and lying to people – Robbie Butler

Ok… first off….let me just say….I’m no “expert” in the field of martial arts…..both as an instructor… grade….or by competition… fact…..I’m a fucking dot on the landscape.

But….what I am….is both an observationalist (if that’s even a word)….and those that know me will tell you….I am brutally honest when it comes to methods and opinions on both my heritage, what i have passed on….and what I see being taught to people.

As an instructor…..people will be listening to you…..if you tell somebody from the off that the best way to deal with a certain situation is to poke them in the eye….then that’s what they’ll do. So you have to be very careful here.

If your heritage isn’t as glamourous as some…..then just be honest…there is no shame in not having as much experience as Grandmaster World Champion Johnny Spinnykick… long as you can teach what you do actually know…..and draw from your own experiences.

Otherwise you are lying to your students….and yourself.

Remember…there are also great fighters who cannot complete a full syllabus or teach…….that sort of puts you on an even keel.

I was lucky in the sense that I had fantastic points and continuous fighters and full contact instructors around me, namely Nigel Chappel, Dean Jones, Craig Ratledge, Stuart Watkins, Christopher Price and Ashley Brace…..totally on top of their games who I could learn from.

Then there was the full contact Muay Thai side, Karl Price, Tyerone Houston and Inmo Bob(Bob Spour). Then the self protection side , again Inmo Bob(Bob Spour) and John Mcaleese and Anthony Tex Wales Wilson.

Now you may not have heard of any of these…..but…after wanting to up my game and searching out who were the best in each of these fields…..I have to say…..the people named above knew their onions.

So my teaching methods, my training methods, competition methods and mindset ended up becoming my interpretation from what I saw from them all.

But that still limited me in my teaching ,if a student asked me a question that i was uncertain how to answer….then I would go to some of the named people above…and seek it out Sometimes they knew….sometimes they didn’t. Either way…..the person seeking the answers from myself would be told the truth…’s like this….or….I don’t know.

Just because you don’t have the answers…or your peers don’t….doesn’t make you any less of an instructor…..asking someone elses advice, picking their brains…..also doesn’t make you less of an instructor. But what does….is when you say this is what you must do….when the reality is you don’t have a fucking clue.

The worst part though….the biggest liars….

They are the ones that tell a person…or a parent you are ready to compete…or your child is when the truth is they aren’t.

I have seen people go from never being able to throw a punch get entered into a competition within six weeks of joining a class. This is absolute fucking crazyness.

6 weeks? Let me tell you something……although the competitions are relatively safe……this is a stupid idea for all. I honestly think event organisers should have a minimum training requirement to keep the standards…but that’s just me.

Yes…we know that proper youngsters won’t have the same skills as the experienced…..but….I personally don’t like to see kids out of their depth where a winner emerges….but still have that feeling inside of what the fuck did I just watch.

It brings down the calibre of the event.

So……..don’t blow smoke up anybodies arse…..and two….don’t give in to a ranty parent who thinks their child is ready to compete. The same can be said for the older generation…..the young dumb, full of cum testosterone fuelled teenagers and early twenty somethings that have something to prove. Your job is to know when they are ready….and to tell them so.

If they aren’t ready…and you tell them so and they get upset about it…..tough. Too many instructors out there are too willing to risk their own reputation,club reputation and to put on a mediocre show…..all in the name of political recognition……and for kickbacks from the event organisers.

Once upon a time…..I would go around different clubs to test myself… see where I was at……sometimes I was asked to instruct at different clubs…..and what would happen most of the time…..I was beating people at their game…..and these people were apparently champions somehow. Now i’m not bigging myself up here….what I am infact bigging up…..are the methods that my instructors and fellow students passed onto me.

Sometimes…..after competing against me, even refereeing matches…..people joined my classes for my approach…..

The approach that I took was one where one….I didnt want to let myself down….two…..I didnt want to let my instructors and peers down…..three…..didn’t want to disrespect my sport…..and four…..I didn’t want to let my students down by blowing smoke up their arse. Which unfortunately too many people do.

Now…all of the above is the competitive side……but what about real life? The playground stuff……the outside a pub or in the queue down the chipshop? A.K.A……Self protection. Again……you should only ever draw on what you know to be fact….not assumption or bullshit.

There are a million and one different martial artists out there today selling their brand of self protection….. Again…..I am no expert…..but……if I say to somebody this will work every time….that in itself is a lie…..the correct method of explanation would be to say well this is an educated guess of what could work for you as it is something I have either seen work for somebody else….or I myself have done this.

Don’t dress shit up…..say it how it is.

Just because you have a box full of spanners in the shed doesn’t make you a mechanic… have to get out there and learn your trade. I’m not saying go out there and start a fight with somebody so you can see how long it takes to choke somebody out or lay them flat on their back. What I’m saying is……don’t be saying you’re a self protection expert or teach self defence when the reality is you don’t go out at weekends and still live at home with mam and dad.

Respect your sport

Respect your art

Respect yourself

Keep your students safe

But above everything…..

Keep it fucking real!!!!

Vive La Difference – Garry Smith

We were training in Ju Jitsu pretty much as normal one Saturday recently when one of our senior instructors and fellow director of CRGI Jayne called me across the mat. She was helping one of our 1st dan black belts Sam with one of his 2nd dan techniques, (Jayne is a 3rd dan for the record). She asked me to demonstrate the technique,

So after a few seconds thinking back I did, just like that, and that is where the fun started. Jayne then demonstrated on me how she did it, there were a couple of differences and we started discussing them. As we did our other senior instructor Bill came over and joined in, he is a 6th dan and has studied and trained Ju Jitsu longer than Jayne and I combined, his knowledge is encyclopedic.

Bill demonstrated the technique, it was different to either of ours, so now we have Sam watching 3 different versions of the same technique. The technique in question is irrelevant, the point is you have 3 senior instructors all showing how to do it differently. So off we go into a huddle to discuss how and why we do that technique the way we do.

To be fair there are a number of techniques where we teach a couple of variations and we are happy to differ. So once again we discuss, try each others way and agree that what works best for each of us is cool as the core technique works however we manipulate it to suit us. The differences are usually influenced by both psychological and physiological factors. Jayne is 5’2½” tall and slight and needs to make her techniques work mostly on a much bigger male opponent and she trains to hurt them a lot, Bill is about 5’10” and a skilled technician in the art and he trains to hurt them skillfully whilst I am 5’9” and a bit of a thug, I am not much concerned about the art I just want the job done.

After our discussion I went to explain to Sam our differences and why we have them and asked if it looked a bit amateurish. Sam is the clinical director of a hospice and we all have great respect for him, his reply was not what I expected, he explained how many skilled medical practitioners do just what we did but not in front of the public. He described how after some examinations of a patient they go off to a private space and share their different prognosises. He regarded what we did as a very positive thing.

The philosophy we all share is that the tecnique needs to fit the student not the student the tecnique. Both instructors and students come in a variety of shapes and sizes and one size does not fit all. I have seen really bad practise where a student is made to repeat again and again a technique in a particular way when it just does not work for them, a slight change of position of one leg might make it work but that is not allowed because it has to be done this way and this way only because it always has been. If it does not work for you then that is because you are the problem.

That stinks but the attitude that underpins it is seen as a virtue by many in the martial arts and self defence industries. It is at its worst in those systems that exhibit cult like practises and behaviour. Too many people slavishly follow the how it has always been done approach for my liking, I love my Ju Jitsu a lot, it is fun and works for me. Last week one of our black belts who has not trained JU Jitsu for years because he went off training and fighting Muay Thai came back for a session and took me down with a leg sweep they use. The good news is he will be training with us and instructing regularly in the new year and will teach us the said leg sweep plus some other cool stuff, also there was one of our black belts who does BYY and he often teaches us stuff not in our sylabus.

Its abou having an open mind and recognising there is not just one way to do things and that having conversations about it and if necessary agreeing to disagree is a very good thing indeed.

Turning Tigers Inside Out: The protective power of the unexpected – Tamlan Dipper

My godfather, Donald Milner, used to tell stories. He had been a Royal Navy officer aboard torpedo boats, a godfather to what felt like a battalion of other children, and a distinguished correspondent for the BBC covering everything from suffragettes to rebels in the Congo[1]. In addition to teaching me how to make cocoa properly (custard powder and condensed milk are key) his motto might have been “Expect the unexpected.” Instead I think his motto was “be unexpected.”

The best example of his “be unexpected” maxim is from his coverage of the Indian partition in 1947. Moving alone on foot during the violence, he ducked down a side street to avoid an oncoming mob of people whom he assumed would not take kindly to a young representative of Empire. However, emerging from the alley he came upon two Indian men. There was a long pause, terminated by the older Indian handing the younger Indian a brick, gesturing at Donald, and walking away. The implication of the brickbat was clear.

Donald never knew what gave him the idea. But when the man hauled back his arm to hurl the brick, Donald went into the catching pose of a cricketer – bent knees, hands open and placed together. And when the brick was thrown, it arrived as an under arm lob, which Donald caught. Donald then rose holding the brick, and when the half-astonished Indian saw this he also dropped into a catching stance. Donald politely threw the brick back to him, under arm. Nonplussed, the Indian simply dropped the brick where he stood, and walked quietly away.

My godfather maintained that what he had done was to change the story. On his arrival the older man had ‘said’ (without saying more than a few words) “Right, my boy. Our country is on the verge of breaking free of colonial influence. You had better do something to this Englishman if you are a patriot. Throw this brick at him and prove your chops.” Donald, in turn, had used body language to excite a narrative of playing a sport – cricket – with all the civility implied. Fortunately, because the younger man shared this conception of cricket, and it ran deeper than his instinct for violence, cricket won out.

On film, I have only seen this used in the classic Fort Apache, The Bronx[2], where Paul Newman’s patrolman character ‘defuses’ a knifeman rather than shoot him dead, by acting unexpectedly (to put it mildly). Newman turns asking for the knife into an eccentric, even crazy request, rather than a demand. And when the knife is handed over, the initial aggressor looks like he has solved a problem, and receives applause from the initially hostile onlookers.

Scientifically speaking, what changed in this exchange was what is called a ‘schema’ (Norman, 1981), and success can be called an ‘action slip’ (Sellen & Norman, 1992). Schemas can be grand, like a love affair, or technical, like swinging a tennis racket to serve. One theory is that schemas activate by environmental triggers, which is why like many people I find myself staring into the fridge for no reason, simply because I’m in the kitchen. To give some examples, schemas have been linked to experimental (Carver et al. 1983) real world (Gee, 2010) and online aggression (Runions, 2013).

In each case of aggression above, the effective action succeeded through activating a powerful alternative schema. Although in scientific theory one may change a schema any way you choose, it is my firm belief that you have to ‘be unexpected’. It is not enough to simply ask for a change in the story, particularly not when blood is up. It is best if it is shockingly different, implying that it is the aggressor who has misunderstood the nature of the  engagement. A story from my own experience may illustrate.

Approached at night by five men at a cash point and asked for money, I used the maxim of unexpectedness. I exploded that I was fed up with “Steve expecting money I didn’t owe him,” And why, I wanted to know, was he asking anyone else to collect it for him? This fully formed narrative was confusing, and derailed the encounter. When they looked shocked I quickly backpedalled and apologised profusely for being rude. I explained that I was angry because I didn’t owe the money and did not even have the money. I then asked what they had wanted originally.

At this point, the potential muggers’ instincts rebelled at restarting a mugging on a man they had just been talking to – and who was also on edge and apparently short of cash. They wished me luck and moved on, completely leaving the vicinity of the cashpoint.

What we take away from this understanding is problematic. Do people commit terrible acts of violence and cruelty because they live according to mean and boring narratives created by mean and boring people? Probably. is it possible to change the narrative by being unexpected and shifting to a more humane script? Sometimes. It should not be the only thing in your toolbox, but it might save you grief.


·         Carver, C.S., Ganellen, R.J., Froming, W.J. & Chambers, W. (1983) “Modeling: An analysis in terms of category accessibility”; Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 1983, Vol.19(5), pp.403-421

·         Gee, C (2010) “Predicting the use of aggressive behaviour among Canadian amateur hockey players: A psychosocial examination” ProQuest Dissertations Publishing

·         Norman, D.A. (1981) “Categorisation of Action Slips”; Psychological Review, 88, pp.1-15

·         Runions, K.C. (2013) “Toward a Conceptual Model of Motive and Self-Control in Cyber-Aggression: Rage, Revenge, Reward, and Recreation”; Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 2013, Vol.42(5), p.751-771

·         Sellen A.J. & Norman, D.A. (1992) “The Psychology of Slips” In Baars, B.J. ed. “Experimental slips and human error : exploring the architecture of volition”; New York ; London : Plenum Press


[2]   WARNING – SPOILERS,_The_Bronx



Fighters Time – Rory Miller

I was teaching a class for writers about realistic violence. One of the students said, “You think about time differently than anyone I’ve ever known.”I hadn’t realized it but, yeah.

Fighters think about time differently. For most people, as near as I can tell, they think of time as a medium they move through. They are in time the way a fish is in flowing water. They move through it, always in one direction. Or, more accurately, it flows past them continuously.

Fighters see it as a resource. Time can be spent or wasted. It can be borrowed and stolen. It can be invested.

When I give you false information, like feinting, I force you to spend/waste time figuring it out and responding. I have stolen time from you. When I concentrate on getting the job done, putting the bad guy in handcuffs, I spend time. When I think for even a second about possible complaints, that second is wasted. Training is an investment in time now that may pay off in a single incident years from now.

We learn this in fighting but apply it to the rest of our lives. Investing in healthy habits, skills and education at a young age pays off forever. If I wouldn’t waste a fraction of a second in a fight, why would I waste hours with someone I don’t enjoy.

And stolen moments are awesome.

Time is Life

Murder is nothing but stealing time. Kill a young adult and you have stolen fifty or more years of their time. Fifty years they will never experience, fifty years of amazing things they will never do or see. And time-theft is an especially heinous crime because the killer doesn’t get any of that time himself. It is completely wasted.

But turn it around. Wasting other people’s time is slowly killing, taking minutes and hours in dribs and drabs that they can never get back. If time is life, then wasting time is murder.

And wasting your own time is suicide.

Chaos Management

You’ve probably heard the grappling saying, “Position before submission.” The idea is that it is much easier to submit an opponent (to win) from a position of advantage, so time is usually better spent improving your position than going for the quick win. I don’t categorize this as a winning strategy. Thing is, if luck (a handmaiden to chaos) presents me an early, easy win from a weak position, I’ll definitely take it.

It may not be a winning, strategy, but it is a winner’s strategy. When things are going well for you, you want to minimize chaos, minimize the role that luck will play in the future. When things are going well, you want to better your position. When things are not going well…

Chaos and uncertainty usually is an advantage to the person in the weakest position. This is common sense— things continuing as they have been will obviously serve those who have been successful under those conditions. The only reason the word is “usually” instead of “always” is that the person in the weaker position must have the mindset and the resources to exploit the chaos.

To manage chaos, the mindset needs adaptability based on awareness of the situation and interactions of the components; and a willingness to act, without the possibility of knowing the outcome. This is sometimes called courage. But no mindset will compensate if luck breaks when you are too weak or damaged to act.

Rock Bottom

Within the context of Fighter’s Time. You have hit rock bottom when you have nothing to lose. When death is certain— whether a stranglehold from a true enemy (7-9 seconds left) shot in the heart (roughly ten seconds left) a pistol aimed at your head with a finger tightening on a trigger (maybe two seconds left, probably less) or trapped in a burning skyscraper (minutes)— you have nothing to lose.

If that strangle hold is on, you have nothing to lose by holding tight and throwing yourself (and your attached assailant) in front of a truck. Correction, you have a fistful of seconds to lose. Your enemy has much more. Chaos management from rock bottom is recognizing this. There are four basic outcomes:

  • You die and the threat does not. This is what was going to happen anyway. You only lose 7 seconds.
  • You die and the threat dies. You were going to die anyway, but the threat doesn’t get away with it.
  • Neither dies. This is where you started but it’s damn likely the stranglehold is gone and the playing field is more equal.
  • You live and the threat dies. You might be injured, but this is the best outcome.

The worst possible outcome is where you started. From rock bottom, things can only get better.

Discretionary Time

I learned this concept from Gordon Graham, but I doubt if he ever applied it to fighting. And that’s fine, because it’s a valuable concept in almost any situation.

In a nutshell, discretionary time are the moments where you have choices. Outside of emergencies, that’s almost all of life. In emergencies is when the ability to recognize discretionary time becomes a superpower.

In every emergency field, one of the biggest differences between the rookies and the veterans is how they see and exploit time. When a rookie gets challenged and threatened, he feels he has to do something. When a veteran gets challenged, he appreciates that a warning gives him time— time to evaluate, time to plan, time to access resources. Conversely, when a rookie gets jumped, his first thought is often, “I’m under attack! I need a plan!” Planning takes time and under assault, time is damage. The veteran under attack moves. He or she knows that you can only plan when there is time to plan.

Planning takes discretionary time, under attack there is no discretionary time.


The Day Chooses You – Terry Trahan

My wife is waiting on me, ready to head out the door. “I’m just about done, Baby” I tell her as I finish lacing up the steel toed Docs, and securing the ankle rig with tools in it. Stand up, arrange the clothes to eliminate any tells, check the tools one more time, and throw on the jacket. There, ready to go.

Every once in a while, she’ll ask why I always gear up before we leave, even just to the corner store, but after 20 years, she knows. I don’t get to choose when bad shit will happen, and I made a dedication to this lifestyle and my Family long ago, to be ready when it does happen. Because it will.

You don’t get to choose, the day chooses you. Think about it logically and it makes sense, but let’s spell it out. Do you think the people attending the Boston Marathon knew shit was going to happen, and ignored it. How about New York, Vegas, the church in Texas. Nope, they didn’t know, the day chose them.

Personal Protection is many things, but at its core, too me, it is a way of life, something that needs conscious consideration, everyday. So, everytime I leave the house, I go through the checklist…

Med kit, tourniquet, tools, weapons, comfort items. Just like making sure I wash my face. I’d say brushing my hair, but ya’ll who have seen me would laugh.

And this is what I teach my students, it is not a fad, or a pick and choose. It is something to take seriously. Don’t buy gear just because someone says you should. In order to support the mission of personal protection, you need to be picky, analyze your life, circumstances, and level of training, and pick your gear from there.

Why would you carry lock picks if you can’t pick a lock? Carrying and trying to apply a tourniquet on someone when you aren’t trained in it doesn’t make sense, and is potentially dangerous.

Everyone is different, our lives, our circumstances, and our talents are different also. And this should influence what choices you make. Play to your strengths, find ways to help with the weaknesses, whether that is gear or training, and then, the important part. Always realize that you are your own first responder, you are the first responder for the ones you are with also. And you never get to decide when something bad happens. You never get warning on what kind of bad stuff might occur. But being mature and thinking, you take the responsibility of being as prepared as possible, and flexible of mind enough to use your training to make up for the other circumstances the tools won’t cover.

But, in the interest of expanding your outlook on this, some of the things I carry, with the proper training, of course, are;

Medical kits: One BOK(BlowOut Kit) on my person, a fuller trauma kit in my bag

Weapons: At least one impact weapon, and a couple knives, strategically placed for access, and a few surprises

Tools: Leatherman tools, mini screwdrivers, pry bars, cutters, they come in handy

Escape tools: Maybe for another day

Flashlights: two, because light is our friend

Miscellaneous items based on comfort or need under specific circumstances

I carry these things because I have made the commitment to myself, my wife and my family to be as ready as I can to handle situations as they arise, whether a fight, a casualty incident, or a busted headlight.