Geoff Thompson is one of the world’s leading self-defense experts [Voted by Black Belt Magazine USA as the number #1 self-defense author in the world] and my (Coach Joyce’s) most influential teacher when it comes to self-defense. Thompson has a FREE podcast that you can subscribe to on iTunes (&blog), in which he chats with host and good friend Richard Barnes. The CombativeCorner highly suggests everyone give them a listen as there is much to learn not only in the realm of the martial arts and self-defense but Life in general. Being a man of multiple talents, Geoff is a prolific writer of books (30 published), and has several scripts that have been made into film (Bouncer [BAFTA award winner for Best Short Film 2004] & his first full length feature film, Clubbed). Visit Geoff Thompson’s website to learn more by clicking on his picture (above) and visit this link [here] to listen (and subscribe) to his wonderful, educational and always-insightful podcasts either on iTunes or from his blog.
Now for The Combative Corner’s exclusive interview with Mr. Geoff Thompson!
(1) How young were you when you started training in the martial arts? (and did you study one system only?)
GT: I was 11 years old, so that makes just about forty years now of continuous training. I started in aikido, went onto to Gung Fu, then started studying Japanese Shotokan and western boxing. Much later I went into lots of different systems, everything for Greco right through to a little qigong.
(2) Did you always have a desired goal of teaching self-defense professionally or did you have a different career path?
GT: I always wanted to be a writer as a kid, but at the time I was too scared and too insecure to attempt it, and also I was a writer with nothing to write about. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties with a plethora of colour behind me that I found my voice and published my first article with Terry O’Neil in Fighting Arts International magazine and then a couple of years later I wrote my first book, Watch My Back and it all escalated from there.
(2) How do you divide your time day-to-day between all that you do (books, workshops/lecturing, screenplays, training)?
GT: I pretty much let the work dictate, if I have a writing commission then I am on that pretty much as a full working day (at the moment I am doing a rte-write of a feature film), I only do a small amount of teaching now, my masterclass sessions and the odd course with Peter C. I am also running a black belt course at the moment too, but I work the teaching around the writing. As for my own training, I work out every day, weights, bag, yoga, running, grappling, meditation according to what my body dictates.
(4) How has your training evolved over the decades? Are any significant changes that you’ve made to your own training?
GT: Less concussive these days, all my early training was based around KO or submission, it was hard, honest training where there was no hiding place. I learned a huge amount from that, but you have to evolve in your training so these days I concentrate much more on inner development and health. I still like to power train but I have invested so much over the years that I can now keep everything polished with tight intensive sessions.
(5) What is your feeling about sport competition? (Do you encourage your students to test their skills in this manner?)
GT: I think it is great, I admire anyone that can enter an arena and place it on the line. But I have never been a very good sports martial artist, it never really attracted me (although I had to do a lot of competition style fighting to win my judo black belt) so I have never really felt qualified to teach it to others. I don’t encourage it or discourage it with my students, I just let them follow their own way, if they want to do sport I try and direct them to good sports teachers.
(6) As a self-defense instructor myself… I employ a great deal of fight de-esculating techniques/communication. I’ve noticed in your masterclasses, you use shocking, colorful language and strong body posturing to dissuade a potential encounter. Males particularly can see the benefit of this at times… but when is it advisable to use more passive or non-confrontational communications/language?
GT: The core of my self defence is about managing fear, avoidance strategies, escape, verbal dissuasion, posturing, understanding attack ritual and violent body language, loop-holing and – if necessary – the pre-emptive strike. Post assault I teach about the law.
Posturing is just one aspect and I teach it as a method of avoiding physical conflict if it feels intuitively right. I also teach de-escalation because sometimes that is the better option. I teach physical self defence only as a last resort. I think there are many better options. Knowing when to fight, when to run and when to talk a situation down are very difficult skills to teach, because it is only your intuition in the face of an assault that will tell you definitively which is the right choice. My job as a teacher is to offer people options that work, their job is to choose which is right according to the situation. What I do know is that most people are not really prepared or trained, physically or psychologically, for a physical encounter, so I tend to concentrate my self defence teaching on something that will work, avoidance.
(6) I’ve learned quite a bit about you through your podcasts and books, but what does Geoff Thompson like to do when doesn’t do the teaching/training/writing stuff (you know, “business”)?
GT: Ah, now you’re talking Michael. I like to watch films and theatre – I have a passion for words – I love going on cruises and reading for two weeks solid (I have an extensive library), I love attending lectures (I have seven to go to this week at BAFTA by seven of the worlds top screen writers) and I love visiting cafes. I do all of these things with my wife Sharon. We work together and we play together. I feel really blessed to be able to enjoy such a privileged life with the girl of my dreams.
(8) A century from now, when people remember Geoff Thompson, what would be the main thing you’d like people to remember about you?
GT: That he did not let his great fear get in the way of his great potential.
(9) Has there been a martial art style that has intrigued you, that you never had the opportunity to train in or learn more about?
GT: Not really. I have pretty much explored all the systems that I wanted to. But there are a few personalities that died before my time who I’d love to have sat with, just to be in their aura. Don Draeger is one, he was a real MA pioneer. My friend John Will was lucky enough to have trained with him, and I believe that my other friend Bob Breen also met and trained with him as did terry O’Neil. I am very envious. I’d love to have met George Hackneschmidt, he is my all time hero, he was a wrestling genius who was prominent at the beginning of the 20th century. Also Carl Pojello, another wrestling hero of mine. And of course I would have loved to meet Ghandi; they say that simply being in his company had a life changing affect on people.
(10) What’s on the plate for the great Geoff Thompson (besides the cake that Richie sent your way to do this interview)? Any upcoming events, books, films that you’d like to unveil? [obviously you can opt to keep us in suspense]
GT: MA wise I have just spent the best part of 2010 putting together my 100 Hour Masterclass Home study course. Writing projects can be a bit of a moving feast as you probably know, but at the moment I have three feature films on the go, a TV series treatment in development and three stage plays optioned by two different directors. And can I just say (and I am not bitter or angry in any way): if there was a bit of bartering cake knocking around I didn’t see it. it must have gone into Rich’s orbit like a plane flying through the Bermuda triangle.
Thank you for the opportunity to share this with your readers.
You are very welcome Geoff! But it is we who should be thanking you! Cheers my friend and we’ll all be listening to the next podcast!
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