UK Self Defence Systems with Martin Brown
They’ve appeared in Martial Arts Illustrated the past few months and it’s been great reading about their stance on Self Defence and how it should be taught and developed. We recently spoke to Martin Brown of UK Self Defence Systems about what the organisation was aiming to do, and his thoughts on Self Defence and his plans for the future! I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot about these guys in the future!
Hey Martin! Thanks for chatting with us, can you tell us a brief history of your system?
Well, we’re really not that old as an organisation being that we’re only coming up 12 months at the end of 2015. We’re a mix of military combative instructors, full time self defence trainers, operators, police trainers, MMA coaches, Dan grade teachers across multiple styles and deep partnerships with other organisations that also bring in additional expertise. I’m the public face of it, possibly because I’m the best looking of the bunch, but overall this is an organisation not about any individual or style except for the students themselves. As an organisation, our only function is to deliver effective self defence in a manner that’s fun, memorable and will suit anyone of any level.
Sounds awesome! What would you say are the main principles of your system?
The main principle is that every student is unique, and all people have unique tools that they can use better than others. We simply make sure that the student bins the bad bits and develops the good bits.
We’re only focused on one thing: self defence. That could mean a fight for your very life, or life changing injuries like brain damage and spinal injury, or it could mean something like verbal de-escalation and just getting away as soon as possible. Avoidance is the best way, but we don’t always get that chance to not be there. It’s not a place open for ‘opinions’ or discussion or theory: violence is nasty, wrenching and can change lives both physically and mentally, forever. We only take what works for an individual, and as nothing works 100% of the time, we have to identify what has the highest percentage chance of success most of the time for an individual and then develop that idea with them.
As far as I am concerned, and the organisational philosophy is concerned, imposition of a technique someone can’t always perform for the sake of a system is giving them a slow and ineffective tool in the face of very, very bad things. That isn’t acceptable for defending yourself.
I go back to the first sentence again – every student is unique. There is no getting around this, and our philosophy and teaching methods reflect our investment in the people walking through our doors.
What makes your system unique?
Nothing whatsoever. It’s all been done before as far as techniques go, and we all borrow and steal from everything else – I haven’t seen a new technique in decades, I’ve only seen what’s new to me as a person.
What makes UK Self Defence Systems as a group unique is something else though. It’s our delivery method. We don’t impose a system on people that they may not be suited to. We can’t all be graceful Taekwondo masters, some have terrible timing for striking arts and some are amazing grapplers. We’re all different, and UK Self Defence Systems is there to tailor effective ideas, tactics and techniques as they relate to the individual. It’s not the easiest thing to do, it requires a lot of previous background, but at the end of the day it’s about the student getting the tools that they need to survive violence: nothing else.
Where do you see your system going in the future?
We’re more of an entity than an art or system, so we’re going much more into businesses, education and other sectors to deliver training programmes in direction. We have numerous ‘bolt on’ workshops for instructors that would like to invite us in for additional material (it’s not as if gun disarming was a thing 200 years ago or in sport) to compliment their own styles and material, and we’re always happy to chat about that. Just drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org and have a chat, and there are plenty of references on our website www.ukselfdefence.systems from traditional and sporting martial art schools as to what we delivered.
We’ll keep evolving, and keep training martial arts instructors so that they are giving legally compliant information. Many instructors aren’t aware that they can be prosecuted if a student is harmed or does something based on guidance or advice that they give that can’t be backed up. These instructors need to get in touch if not an accredited BTEC Level 2 Advanced Self Defence Instructor, as it may come back to bite, and that’s something that can damage martial arts as a whole. We’re passionate about not letting anyone get into these situations, and we’re here to help.
What is it you love most about the martial arts?
It’s the passion in people. I love seeing anyone, from any system doing their best and making progress, and that doesn’t matter if it’s a beginner on the mats for the first time or someone like me who’s passionate about their teaching. I’ll never forget watching Guro Roger Agbulos teaching knife defence and how passionate he is about what he does and how he stays in touch with everyone who attended our workshop with him last year. He cares for everyone that walks through the door, and he really sets a great example of someone with no boundaries, an open mind and a willingness to share everything he knows. I think that’s beautiful, and I think it’s a model to emulate.
What do you think MA/Combat brings to people’s lives?
That really depends on what you’ve chosen to do. People in sports can compete on a high level, feel fulfilled and test themselves in a semi-safe way. Traditional martial artists can compete too, but may find a lot of satisfaction in perfecting, preserving and learning the intricacies of what they’re doing. Others may be more like me, and just have a deeper consideration for personal safety or the safety of others. We’re all doing similar things to a degree, but there are clear distinctions in goals, motivations and ways of getting there. As long as the student is happy and as long as the instructor is delivering quality for the remit promised, then I think everyone is generally happy with the arrangement.
How do you define success in your system?
It’s quite hard to quantify success for students in a syllabus style of achievement for us, as we’re only really concerned with getting home in one piece. We give everyone a survival handbook, and inside of it are multiple topics like ‘Confined Spaces’ and ‘Cold Weapon Defences’ which are then sub-divided into ‘Started Out’ ‘Intermediate’ and ‘High Level’. We stress test the students at appropriate times to see if their understanding in a given scenario is adequate and mark them accordingly. We do it this way because everyone is unique, and when it comes to dealing with violence, I’m not interested in the techniques that the student uses to survive. One student may have been taught one set of tools to fit their body and gender, whilst another student has been taught very differently due to height, weight and general build. It’s possible for two students to both be ‘High Level’ and yet use completely different effective tools to commit to the scenario at hand. What matters to me is only the self defence performance as it pertains to the first moment to the last, and that they can repeatedly defend the same situation effectively over many different variations of attack – never the same thing twice.
What do you think the key to success in Martial Arts is?
The key to success? Understanding that an expert is someone who does the basics well.
What is your focus in training now and in the future?
My focus at the moment is in reversing the self defence mantra of ‘don’t go to the ground’ as a reason not to teach the ground. I’ll be working with Paul Severn, Checkmat BJJ coach and Trojan MMA coach on bringing the survival skills needed into the self defence world, whether armed, unarmed, multiple attackers and any other variation. People slip, fall, trip, get pushed, thrown and any other number of causes to end up on the floor. ‘Not going to the ground’ is a nice thought, but it happens more than anyone would like in actual confrontation and it’s a topic I feel really, truly needs to be addressed in a format that can be delivered well. People’s personal safety is the priority, and there can be no sacrifice on any level for ‘style’ or ‘system’ – I just won’t entertain that, and I won’t ever stand in front of a group and tell them something has a high chance of saving their life if it hasn’t been researched as far as it can be taken. Paul will provide the drills, mechanics and movements, and I’ll provide the stress, duress and pressure until the idea breaks or survives.
So there we have it! My passion is for people to be safe. It’s not about me, and it’s not about UK Self Defence Systems or our instructors – it’s about the students, their safety and getting home in one piece. Thank you for inviting me to take part, it’s been a pleasure.
On Sunday 25th of October, we are holding a four hour workshop covering all distances of defence. Everyone is welcome, from beginner to expert, we’ll have something for you. It’s always a lot of fun, just see flyer here for address and contact details.
UK Self Defence Systems
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