10 Questions with Richard Dimitri
Richard Dimitri is one of the foremost authorities in reality-based self-defense and hand-to-hand combat. Recently, the Combative Corner had the honor of asking Mr. Dimitri “10 Questions.” He was so generous with his words that we’ve decided to separate this particular interview into Part 1 and Part 2. For more information on Richard Dimitri and the close-quarters conceptual tool know as The Shredder™, please visit his website at Senshido.Com (or click on the picture).
(1) Could you please tell everyone a little bit about how you got into teaching Self-Defense? Did you start via the “traditional martial arts?”
I started at the young age of 6, my father after seeing “Enter the Dragon” immediately enrolled me at the closest Karate school, at the time, it was the style of Kyukushinkai which was to be the beginning of a life journey in the martial arts. As every kid at the time did, I too idolized Bruce Lee and fancied starting my own martial arts style one day, little did I know then it was exactly what I was in the process of doing.
Teaching the self defense portion of it came from my own personal demons. I battled with guilt, anger and frustration over what I perceived to be ‘the injustices of the world’ due to personal traumatic experiences in childhood years. I also grew up in the day and age of Stallone, Arnold, Mel Gibson, Clint Eastwood, Van Damme, Seagal, Bruce Willis etc. and the characters they portrayed in their higher grossing films. I grew up with this ideology and belief system spawning from my traumatic experiences combined with the role models I acquired for myself in the movies and presto… you get an angry teen thinking he’s a super hero out to right the world’s wrongs thinking, believing he’s indestructible. I learned the very hard and painful way.
As all my heroes were action and martial arts heroes, I never stopped training in the martial arts, researching them passionately and with vigor, absorbing all I could find, modeling myself after Bruce Lee wanting to own as many martial arts and books on fighting I could get my hands on. I would go through these books with a fine tooth comb, I would test out everything I learned on training partners, with friends, anyone I could find who would participate. Eventually, as I grew older, as a young adult, the fantasy remained but it transformed, it hid, it wasn’t an actual super hero fantasy anymore, I had an ‘out of the box’ lifestyle working jobs in security, bouncing, bodyguarding etc. I was living the fantasy, I was protecting the innocent against the evil doers in my own way.
All this eventually lead me to creating my own self defense system, my experiences, the inspirations in my life, the experiences in my life at this point made my primary focus to create a functional self defense system which is catered to those that actually need it: Housewives, children, the elderly, the disabled, those who are perceived as victims and preyed upon in our society. And so, Senshido was officially conceived on April 11 1994.
(2) What’s one thing that you wish everyone understood about self-defense?
That self defense begins with the self, first and foremost. We all heard the cliché “No one will ever hurt you more than yourself.” Well I fundamentally believe that to be true from personal experience. As ego is the primary motivational drive of all confrontations, Senshido began primarily addressing the individual’s own emotional state (fear, stress, anger, hatred, insecurity etc) as the springboard of self-defense. Anyone harbouring any or all of these ego based emotions, should be more concerned about the damage they are causing themselves and their loved ones, be it directly or indirectly, for it will always be worst than anything any “bad guy” or criminal will ever do to us. The simple understanding on a higher level of this concept alone is empowering enough to change one’s entire life for the better.
(3) What particular system, in your opinion, is the most “Combat ready” “Street Adaptable.” [Just on what you’ve observed]
There are many that are “Combat ready” and street adaptable and many of these systems are excellent. It depends on the system though as well as the practitioner. Not every system is designed or can be adaptable to everyday people, the general population. There are systems that were created by ex bouncers, by ex special forces or military, by ex cops etc. and they are all fantastic systems but if you take a close look from an average individual’s perspective, they are not marketed nor designed for their needs whether living in modern or third world societies for that matter. They are geared much more towards those in the protection field, be it military or civilian. A bouncer will greatly benefit from such systems, so would a cop or soldier or most read blooded young males between the ages of 15 and 40 depending on physical attributes and such.
I don’t know if there is 1 particular system which is the best, that wouldn’t make any sense really as there are so many differing beliefs and mentalities out there. I believe there is a need for all these systems as they all have something valuable to offer and important lessons to be learned, it is up to the “consumer’ to decide which system suits their present needs best based on their lifestyle, environment, beliefs, etc.
(4) What’s the difference between teaching self-protection to women versus men? [What changes do you make and/or what principles do you emphasize?]
Well, for starters, women get attacked differently. Both physically and behaviorally. When Mike Tyson allegedly raped Desiree Washington, I doubt very much that he handled her the same as he did Mitch Greene when he knocked him out with 2 punches.
The psychology is vastly different, the reasons, the motivations, the ego levels, everything really. It is possible and doable to teach a generic personal protection program where the fundamentals are covered to a mixed group but it is preferable to specialize depending on one’s concerns and situation.
(5) Who are some of your role models in your profession and in martial arts itself?
In life, I have many role models, the first being my father, a truly great man with a heart of gold. In his light, he is who I aspire to be. I also am inspired by men like Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Lennon, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and the like. People who with all their fears, al their insecurities and flaws, still managed to rise above mediocrity and take a powerful, world changing stand regardless of repercussion. MLK was jailed 123 times in 12 years then shot to death. So was Gandhi and Lennon while Mandela spent most his life in a prison. Regular men and women who stood for peace, unity and co-existence.
And I know, no; no one is perfect. No one is pure and even those people put up on a pedestal are flawed and plagued by both sides of the human emotion coin. Regardless of an individual’s faults, and we all have them to one extent or another, it doesn’t automatically dismiss the good they also brought. MLK reportedly beat his wife, so did Gandhi, everyone’s got their demons to deal with. This doesn’t mean I condone the behavior or would allow it to go unpunished, but it still doesn’t change the fact that they changed humanity for the better as we know it. They improved the quality of life for millions world wide as well as inspired countless others to be better people. Key word here is better, not perfect… perfection doesn’t exist and if we are to condemn every great man or woman who managed to changed the world as we know it because of their personal flaws, then there will never be anyone out there worth being inspired by if all we do is concentrate on their shortcomings.
In the martial arts world, I am currently inspired by men like Geoff Thompson who faced his demons and changed thousands of lives worldwide for the better, mine included. I know he is facing much criticism from many circles, and that to me states that he is further ahead in the game than most as truth always goes through 3 stages: Criticism, violent opposition, acceptance. Most get stuck in the first 2 and never evolve beyond and that is fine as they are necessary for those that do to remember where they were once at and to accept and understand the position the others are still stuck in.
I admire guys like TJ Kennedy who is up and coming in the industry who is full of passion and heart. The brother’s at a great stage, he’s turning 30 or has by the time this comes out, and he is in full personal evolution, a beautiful road to self discovery with much to share.
Christopher Roberts, another name people might not have heard about. That’s because he works with High schools all across Canada teaching teens self defense and violence prevention, something that isn’t as glamorous as teaching the special forces but in my most humble of opinions, much more important and honorable.
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