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Surviving is winning

What is it about Senshido?

Hi everyone. I’m Derek – all-round nice guy, 46-year-old father of two girls, loving husband with an enjoyable job, gentle, sensitive and with a keen interest in reading and writing, particularly history – oh yeah – and I’m mad about motorbikes.
I love good food, a few pints, conversation, nature, and being a dad. I hate violence, but in fairness, loving history means that I’ve spent decades reading about it one way or another.
The point is this: when asked to write a piece about Senshido, I can only truly explain it from my own perspective. Having briefly introduced myself it might therefore provide a little context.
I’ve always been into martial arts, from when I was a teenager and did Karate, on and off, into my early twenties. At the age of 29 an incident very nearly kicked off that sent alarm bells ringing in my head that I needed to brush up on my training. I got stuck into Tae Kwon Do, Wing-Chun and kick-boxing. I loved them, trained in all three in an excellent club. The strains of training even helped me give up smoking – the habit did not exactly complement the intensity of the classes.
After that I tried Krav Maga (KM) for a while. I found it tough but hugely rewarding, and met some terrific people training there.
Mick O’Brien was an instructor at the KM club. This was a good few years back. When Mick took the class, it went up a notch. He introduced himself more and more to the class, as one does, while the training progressed. It struck me that this guy was the real deal – years in the military and plenty of additional experience in jobs that by their very nature draw conflict. This guy knows what he’s on about. When he took over you knew you were in for a tough night, but that you wouldn’t be short-changed in terms of what the class provided. So, when Mick moved on and later set up Senshido Ireland both myself and a few others I trained with Jumped on board straight away.

So – firstly – why do Senshido?
I was asked this question by some work colleagues a while back. I’d never really asked myself the same question – at least on a cognitive level. My immediate reply was: ‘I have two daughters.’
Now, at first, this could very easily strike someone as a stupid macho comment about breaking the legs of the first young lad to turn up at the door, and then beat the crap out of his dad before returning to my man cave with a six pack to binge-watch Sons of Anarchy, so I was quick to point out that this was not the case – far from it. But let’s face it – Ireland and the world is a very dangerous place, and whatever my two girls pick up from their dad in terms of conflict avoidance skills, situational awareness etc. is a huge head-start to them. They would never train with me – Hell no! – they’d be far too embarrassed. However, in both of their cases, within the last three or four years, I’ve seen and heard of them reacting to scenarios in a manner that suggested to me that between their yawns and eye-rolls, some of what I was taking home and boring them half to death with was filtering through to them.
Then there’s myself. What’s in it for me personally? Well apart from the reassurance that my beloved offspring have something of a head-start, well, a tragedy that happened a few years back springs to mind. A 55-year-old journalist – Eugene Moloney – was walking down Camden Street on a Friday night. Some scumbag, out of nowhere, punched him in the face. The journalist collapsed to the ground, and died. This was one of the more notorious reports of the arbitrary violence that threatens us all. Now one thing that resonates from Senshido training is this: You cannot avoid the trajectory of arbitrary violence if it’s coming in your general direction, but you can familiarise yourself with the signals that herald such potential tragedies as that which befell the journalist. Additionally, you can train and drill in such a way that facilitates what nature has given you to deal with the primal ‘gross-motor’ cluster-fuck that, by its nature, over-rides the more technical training offered by most self-defence systems. I’m not casting any aspersions on the incident in which Mr Moloney was killed, but highlighting it as a glaring example of what can happen in the blink of an eye if a predator selects you. It is awful.
Senshido provides extensive training in how to avoid such a selection, and if that fails, how to de-escalate the situation. The system is emphatic in its examination of the ripple-effects of violence. There is nothing good about violence. There are no winners. I might feel momentarily ten-foot-tall having dispensed with an assailant outside a chip-shop on a Saturday night. My ego could be fuelled by the imagined respect bestowed upon me by onlookers at being such a ‘hard bastard’ – but what then? What happens when the cctv is examined and I’m under arrest for all sorts. I then have to fork out thousands in legal fees, if I’m lucky. What if I’m locked up? What happens to my family – my home? The training Senshido provides is rigorous in its emphasis on violence avoidance and de-escalation. Waking up the following morning following a potential incident knowing that it is now only visible in the rear-view mirror of life, trumps every time, the short-lived ego massage many imagine will follow their ‘stunning victory outside the chipper.’
The training itself is intense. It’s the most intense I’ve done. The instruction is unflinching and unforgiving – as it should be. There is no sugar-coating and it is frequently distasteful. But then again, I’m not aware of a single form of inoculation that is pleasant to its recipient. We familiarise ourselves with ugly situations by immersing ourselves in them, and learn to adapt what Mother Nature has spent eons hard-wiring into us to suit a variety of traumatic situations.
It is the most realistic self-defence system there is, and it attracts the most determined men and women among us, who come from a variety of backgrounds and for a similar variety of reasons. The atmosphere is of respect, and there is plenty of fun to go around. There needs to be, as once it kicks off – well – it kicks off. It’s important to counterbalance – and it works.
Quite bluntly, it is the only properly worthwhile self-defence / protection system on a holistic level, at least that I’ve come across. Other hugely worthy systems can be of tremendous benefit to one’s health and sense of self-fulfilment, but fall by the wayside once the crap hits the air conditioning. They practice fine-motor skills with a view to deploying them in ‘combat’ and they simply don’t work under a high-speed blitzkrieg of shouts, spits, headbutts and human octopus-like grapples – plus whatever else comes your way. They base themselves on an aggressor behaving according to a specific pattern, which reminds me of Napoleon and his mantra – ‘No battle -plan survives contact with the enemy.’
Senshido is no less beneficial to one’s health and well-being in terms of its physical, emotional, and mentally enhancing characteristics. It is the most character-building system I’ve yet encountered. We train with people who encourage us to persevere through our mutual learning.
We train in and practice techniques that are cost effective in terms of energy conservation once it ‘kicks off.’ We drill them relentlessly. They are hugely injurious to an attacker. They are not easy, but I’m getting there. For me they are complicated with the issue of trying to un-learn some of the flinch reactions I’ve picked up from other systems, but whose shortcomings are rapidly exposed in high-intensity drill situations. The drills are not easy, but they are becoming more manageable. My breathing is improving amid the mayhem, which is a huge plus, as I can think on the spot ‘I have an arsenal at my disposal’ and choose and deploy my weapons accordingly. My subconscious is slowly adapting to my ego having been placed where it should be – outside the front door of the training venue. All that ego has to offer me is a fear of losing. But in Senshido we learn that there are no winners and losers as such – surviving is winning.