What is Senshido

An Interview with Rich Dimitri

By Phil Elmore

Rich Dimitri, the man behind Senshido.

What is Senshido? 

Senshido literally translates to “The way of 1000 masters.” I chose an oriental name at the time (1993) because reality based systems and names weren’t quite as common or as accepted then as they are today.  I originally looked for a Chinese name but, if I remember correctly, “The way of 1000 masters” in Chinese was “Wong Fu Tien Si” and I didn’t want people calling me up for an order of egg rolls and fried rice.  Senshido (a Japanese name) translated well and The way of 1000 masters seemed fitting. At the time, my system was eclectic and originated from various sources, so you can see the connection.  Today, however, Senshido has evolved tremendously. Although there are many influences from other systems, it has become much more of a scientific, transcendental methodology than a system per se.

The first thing we do is to help redefine an individual’s belief system, changing it into one that is more congruent with the objective of survival.  We then impart the necessary skills (profiling, situational and environmental awareness, intuitive radar, pre-contact cues and indicators, tactical threat assessments, etc.) to avoid a potential threat or confrontation. After that, we arm students with pre-contact psychology (fear and stress management, adrenal stress conditioning, physiological and biological results, perception time enhancement, reaction time reduction, etc.) in order to move, not necessarily faster than the opponent, but earlier.

The third step is the physical portion. We cover all ranges of combat (contrary to popular belief, we’re not all about eye gouges and groin strikes).  We rely heavily on athletic ability, conditioning the students through functional combative strength training.  We cover tool and target development in the kicking, boxing, close quarter combat, grappling, and ground fighting games.  I separate grappling and ground fighting because you can grapple standing up.  All the ranges are then worked together through (if I may quote Matt Thornton here) “alive” drills, sparring, and scenario based training.  I fundamentally believe in Matt’s approach at training “alive.”  If you’re not sweating, bleeding, and invoking stress on a physical, psychological, and emotional level in your training, then you are not training for reality.

The last step (not necessarily in training time but for explanation purposes) is to teach students the legalities of their actions.  It is important to look at the legal, moral, and ethical aspects of self-preservation, as you don’t want to end up being someone’s bitch in prison because you put some drunk in a coma through excessive force.  The aftermath of a fight is equally important. Will your “opponent” seek revenge?  Did the fight occur in your neighborhood?  Was the individual “connected?”  Were there witnesses? Do you know how to talk to a law enforcement officer?  A lawyer?  Have you ever spent a night in the tank?  Do you have a record?  Do you know how long a record lasts and are you aware of its effects when looking for employment or wishing to leave the country for a simple vacation?  All these are integral factors.

How long have you been an instructor? 

I began teaching functional combative training methods in 1987.

What prompted you to create Senshido? 

It was never really my intention to create my own combat system, but after studying several arts and acquiring a few black belts, I began to get involved in Bruce Lee’s JKD concepts and functionality over “art” per se. Several people would ask me to teach them in their basements, garages, and backyards. I found myself mixing several of the arts I had learned and modifying them by the time I was 16 years old.  I found out not only that I love to teach but that I am very good at it as well.

I was more and more interested in the practical side of things and, by the time I was 18, I had begun working as an undercover security guard, a bouncer, and a bodyguard on a contractual basis.  In these fields, I found out quickly what worked and what didn’t. To be honest, much of what I learned in the traditional arts had no application in the real world. 

One day in the early 1990s I came across an ad for Tony Blauer‘s Chu Fen Do school. His system was what I had been looking for. Tony was farther ahead than I was with his research at the time that I enrolled there.

I quickly became an instructor for him, teaching over 15 classes a week, running seminars, etc.  By 1993, we didn’t see eye to eye on several things, so I left.  By that time, I had over 18 years experience in the martial arts and 5 years on the field in the jobs I mentioned previously. Because I was extremely passionate about teaching, I wasn’t much of a “scholar,” and 9 to 5 was never my forte, so I opened my own place and created Senshido based on my experience, training, and research at the time. 

What are Senshido’s principles, and what sets it apart from other arts and systems? 

The principles are simple: to enhance survivability at all costs.  I am more interested in “landing the punch” than which knuckles to hit with or which angle the fist should leave at.

How it differs from other reality based systems… well, judging from what I have been exposed to, it is much more fluid in it’s conceptual and philosophical processes than the majority of other systems out there, which seem to rely more on technical applications.  Senshido translates to everyday life as well. Many people, from all walks of life, apply our concepts to their everyday lives. Although those who have successfully applied our methods in violent confrontations speak volumes about the practicality of our Senshido as a combative system, it is the others – such as parents who used our work to help their kids overcome their fear of the dark, a mother who helped her daughter work through traumatic events from her childhood, a young man being bullied by his boss who applied our confrontation management strategies to put an end to the behavior while maintaining his position – whom I believe make us different.

Our approach is also nontraditional, even for reality based systems. We don’t have a dark, brooding, or too serious “military” type approach. I teach using humor and my own personality as opposed to becoming “the instructor” or “Guru” when it’s time to teach.  What you see is what you get with me… I’m the same person whether I’m teaching, eating, hanging out with my friends, or whatever. No mask, no pretense, just me.

What are you feelings on pre-emptive self-defense? How do you address legal and moral issues involving the use of force in your teaching? 

I firmly believe in the first strike principle. However, I believe it needs to be justified and one shouldn’t jump the proverbial gun with it.  There’s a saying that goes, “Those who talk can be persuaded to walk.” For the most part, that is true.  Verbal defusing is not only feasible, but probable as well.  There are exceptions, though.  One should go pre-emptive if the situation is escalating, if the aggression level hasn’t diminished at the verbal attempts at defusing, and in multiple attacker scenarios.  Since there are no absolutes in combat and everything depends on circumstance and scenario, the scenario will always dictates the response.

As for the legal aspects, well, the force used must parallel the threat faced.  The passive stance psychology and verbal defusing attempts enhances your legal chances. The passive stance [a non-aggressive protective stance taught in Senshido] does several things to enhance your chances: It is a window of opportunity for your opponent to “walk,” your awareness of the potential threat, a moral and legal permission to go pre-emptive in case of witnesses, reflexive protection of your centerline, access to offensive tools, and more…

Do you teach the use of weapons? How do you approach weapons defense? 

Weapons are a crucial element of any self-defense program worth its salt. However, it has to be based on experience and thorough research, not some “style’s” answer to weapons defense.  One has to look at statistics. (This includes weapons used, how they were used, the relationship between the pre-contact stage and the actual use of the weapon, behavioral elements of armed assailants etc. An excellent book for such examples is James LaFond‘s The Logic of Steel).  In order to understand how to defend against a weapon, it’s imperative that you understand how to kill with said weapon.  It’s only logical.

Marc MacYoung said it best:

How many knife fights have you actually been in?

I’ve trained in kali for ten years

No, no, how many knife fights have YOU been in?

I’m trained in five different knife fighting systems

Yep, he’s a knife-fighter, alright – his business card even says so.

Have you experienced violence in your own life? Would you tell us about it? 

As I mentioned before, yes several times, for three main reasons.

1. Job related working as an undercover security guard, a bouncer, and bodyguard.

2. Stepping into a violent confrontation in which someone was about to be or was being victimized.

3. Wrong place, wrong time.  I got into more confrontations than I care to have been in.

I’ve been attacked at knifepoint on several occasions. I’ve also been attacked with broken beer bottles and a crowbar. I had guns pointed at me on three separate occasions; on one of these occasions the guy actually fired a shot (he missed, I urinated, I disarmed him, and I took a dive as he ran off).  I even, unfortunately, faced a multiple armed attacker situation, which had to be, bar none, one of the worst experiences of my life – but I survived.

Each violent confrontation was a learning experience.  For example, I was caught in a huge melee one time and was handling myself fine until I was struck in the back.  I turned and took care of the problem but considered it a huge failure even though I survived relatively unharmed.  Why I considered it a failure was because, had it been a knife instead of a kick or a knee, I might not be here writing this right now. Experience is a wonderful teacher. 

What are your thoughts on the state of martial arts instruction and the self-defense industry today? 

I think it has come a long way.  People seem to be gearing much more towards a pragmatic approach.  The reality-based systems have evolved tremendously in the last 10 years, thanks to people like Sammy Franco, Geoff Thompson, and Tony Blauer.

What is “The Shredder,” a term I’ve heard often in conjunction with Senshido? 

The Shredder™ is a concept over nine years in the making.  Its evolution has come a long way.  It has attracted much attention in the martial arts and combative communities and has been referred to by most as revolutionary. The Shredder isn’t pretty.  It isn’t an x,y,z, type of martial arts technique. If you’ve ever applied it full out, then you have disfigured your opponent.  You have torn away parts of his facial anatomy, probably scarring him for life.

Dimitri demonstrates the Shredder™.

The Shredder began at first as a physical retaliation at close range that was comprised of short, half beat strikes too close to stop due to the hand being quicker than the eye.  It began evolving slowly. Several more tools and principles were added to it as it evolved. 

I realized through the training and teaching that the Shredder was not just a physical tool.  It wasn’t just a technique or a sequence of “moves” any longer.  The timing was shortened from a half beat to a quarter beat, incorporating all five of Senshido’s Five Principles of Physical Retaliation™: Economy of Motion, Non Telegraphic Movement, Closest Weapon to Closest Target, Primary Target Acquisition, and Tactile Sensitivity.

The Shredder, once applied, is utterly devastating.  Every single individual who has been properly exposed to it was completely overwhelmed by its invasive and destructive force, and this was during simulation!  I noted that the Shredder’s forte was not so much the physical trauma it caused, but the psychological and emotional damage.

The Shredder is a concept that is behaviorally and scientifically rooted.  Once applied, it does three vital things: 

1. It overrides the cognitive brain (no more clear thought process).

2. It bypasses the startle to flinch response (therefore making it impossible to actually stop any of the “strikes,” if you will, due to the quarter beat onslaught, ghosting footwork, and the viciousness of the retaliation). 

3. It completely shifts the predator-prey mentality. 

If you were to look at the physical aspect of the Shredder, it wouldn’t look like much, really.  The Shredder is basically comprised of several short, traumatic offenses such as eye gouging, ear ripping, palm striking, raking, biting, elbowing, kneeing, spitting, throat crushing, and neck and head cranks and manipulations. It is a spontaneous barrage of gross motor skills in which the targets are manifested by your attacker’s panicked attempt at reflexive and defensive disengagement. The diversity of tools used is produced by the individual’s adaptability and training regimen.

What makes the Shredder such a complex yet paradoxically simple tactic?  The behavioral elements.  The mind navigates the body. 

Due to an overwhelmingly high demand, I am releasing a package on the Shredder which comes with a 50-page book and instructional tape describing, in detail, the concept of the Shredder and its applications.  (For a review of the Shredder package at Martial Direct, click here.)

Are you part of, or do you work with, any individuals or organizations you’d like to recommend or promote? 

I’m not a part of any organization per se, but Sammy Franco of Contemporary Fighting Arts and I allied ourselves about 3 years ago with Marc MacYoung, Geoff Thompson, and Peyton Quinn in order to provide quality information and a sort of a guideline to people looking for realistic self defense.  Due to scheduling, the first Coalition Seminar was held in Summit, New Jersey with 3 of the 5 members: Sammy, Marc, and I.  As time moved on, scheduling and personal reasons made it impossible for all the members of the Coalition to come together for more seminars and workshops, so unfortunately Peyton Quinn and Marc MacYoung had to leave. They left on good terms and continued giving their full support towards the Coalition’s goals. Geoff Thompson is more of an honorary member who lent his support for our cause, as he believed in our work.

Pro wrestler of the famed WCW, Ian “Vampiro” Hodgkinson then joined the Coalition and was present at the second Coalition seminar held in Maryland. Vamp is definitely the real deal.  This guy’s been through things most would cringe at.  Many think that because he’s a pro wrestler, that he’s fake, but I can assure you, I would rather have him watch my back if knee deep in shit than the majority of the reality based experts out there. 

What are your thoughts on the Internet and its use in transmitting and exchanging self-defense information? 

It’s both good and bad, actually.  Good, because now there’s an easy resource for excellent information that makes it very accessible to anyone and everyone.  Bad, because anyone out there with a dot com, a few pictures, and some basic research can pass themselves off as an expert.  People with no information or knowledge can easily be fooled by [websites presenting poor, even ludicrous information].

What do you do when you’re not working? 

Honestly, it’s so rare that I’m not working.  I literally work 12 to 15 hour days.  When I can relax, I try and spend as much time with my wife as possible.

Thank you for your time, Rich.

Thank you very much for this opportunity, Phil. I sincerely appreciate you
taking the time to do this

Self Protection Ireland