"Hey brother, could you come up here for a second?"
The tattooed, olive-skinned man with the closely-shaved head standing in the center of the dojo is pointing at you.
You get up and strut over to where he's standing, under the watchful gaze of 20 other martial artists who have traveled from all over the country and some even as far as London and New York.
"Could you do me a favour?" begins the man, in his distinctive accent, which is 3 parts Canadian and 1 part New Jersey wiseguy. "I'm going to stand here, and I want you to take me down, any way you want".
"And then when you get me down, I want you to beat the living shit out of me."
"Seriously bro, don't hold back! Take me down anyway you can, then I want you to start pounding on me, and I'm going to try and resist. Double leg, single leg, hip throw, rugby tackle, whatever, I want you to try and run through me like a Mack truck and then go ballistic on my head! It's cool, I take full responsibility for any physical damage you incur upon me!"
You both step back from each other a little, and in those couple of seconds you quickly scan the guy up and down. Yeah, he's a well-known self-defense instructor, but he'd be struggling to break 5'9" and 70 kilos. You, on the other hand, weigh in at a rock solid 105 kilos, can bench press a small car, and have your takedowns so honed you could floor an ape with your eyes closed.
"How hard can this be?" you think to yourself. You'll scoop him up, drop him on the ground, slap him around a little, and make a bit of an impression on everyone watching, especially that blonde hottie in the pink Adidas top sitting near the kettlebells, hehehe.
You face each other, then begin circling. You feint a couple of times, gauging his reaction, a process you've been through a million times before. You feint one more time, and then you feel it - that golden moment of opportunity when your instincts tell you the time is right to pounce.
You explode off your back foot, and launch your left shoulder towards his hips with the kind of force that would rattle a double-brick house. Your timing is impeccable and in those microseconds after your launch, you get that familiar feeling of satisfaction that comes from a beautifully executed shoot. In a split second, you'll have the guy on his back and be all over him like a rash.
But then it hits.
It's like a tornado. A very, very angry one. But instead of high velocity winds, you're being thrashed around in a vortex of gouging and scraping fingers, striking palms, elbows, knees, and head butts. It's all happening so fast, one moment you're hurling forward, then you're being snapped backwards, then spun to your left, then your right, then...heck, now you don't know where the hell you are.
In a fraction of a second, a million thoughts rush through your mind, and they're all related to pain. "$%#&, my eyes...my neck...my eyes again! Christ, my nose...is it still there?! Bloody hell, was that my..."
And then it ends. The tidal wave of violence that scooped you up and thrashed you around while you helplessly flailed, has decided you've had enough and dumped you face first in the sand.
You slowly rise up from the mat, feeling like you were just run over by a truck. Actually, five trucks.
One thought keeps churning through your mind, over and over: "What the **** just happened?!"
You feign an air of good sportsmanship, and manage to bend your lips into something resembling a smile, but inside you're burning with humiliation, frustration, and more than a little anger. For chrissakes, you're built like a Cyborg, you've got ten years of intense MMA training under your belt, you're one of the star fighters at your gym - and this guy just dropped you like a hot saucepan.
Congratulations. You've just been shredded.
One More Time, With Feeling
Your ego speaks before your conscious mind even realizes what you're saying. "Can we try that again?" you ask.
The first time, you tell yourself, you underestimated the guy. That's not going to happen again. No way. Geez, you're pissed now. You'll be buggered if you're going to let some skinny guy make you look so bad in front of all these people. Especially that cute blonde. You could've sworn she was flirting with you earlier, now she probably thinks you're a big goofy lug. You need to redeem yourself, and fast.
You step away from each other again. You begin circling each other once more. But instead of feinting, you promptly explode in. And this time, instead of trying for a double leg, you go for the clinch. And this time, you get a hold of him. "Now I've got the little bugger!" you think to yourself. "Ha!" Your arms loop around his midsection, you begin to squeeze and then...
Oh shit...NOT AGAIN!!
Hurricane Dimitri strikes again. Like the first time, you have no idea how you ended up here, but yet again you find yourself trapped inside an inescapable whirlpool twisting you every which way and seemingly battering you in several especially vulnerable areas all at once.
And when it's all over, you once more find yourself lying flat on the mat.
You've been shredded. Again.
You incoherently raise yourself up off the mat once more. But something has just changed inside you. You still feel a little deflated, but you're not angry any more. Instead, you are overcome with a sense of respect and even awe. "This guy," you think to yourself, "is the real deal". He's definitely no plastic tough guy that walks around making fanciful claims he can't back up. You walk up to him, all the while rubbing your watery left eye, shake his hand and say, with genuine respect and admiration, "Nice work, man!"
Meet Senshido, Richard Dimitri
If you read the martial arts magazines and follow the fighting arts online, you'll know there's no shortage of "unbeatable" training systems guaranteed to turn you into a lethal killing machine capable of destroying Brock Lesnar with a "single, simple, secret" move. And if you've ever examined more than a few of these "foolproof" systems, you start to wonder if some of their authors have ever actually been in a single real fight. You know, the kind that occurs outside the structured and low-risk dojo environment, where with little warning you can suddenly find yourself fighting for your life as you grapple with some violent drugged-up lunatic, simultaneously colliding into other people, bumping into tables, tripping over chairs and wondering if any second you'll cop a bottle over the head courtesy of an angry bystander or a knife in the kidney from one of his mates. Real-world fighting is not a choreographed sequence of spectacular acrobatic moves - it's angry, messy, unpredictable, often bloody, and potentially deadly.
Rich Dimitri is a real fighter. You won't see him in the ring, performing spinning kicks or applying flying armbars in front of a cheering crowd. Nor will you see him in the movies meditating while doing side splits between two chairs or catching flies with chopsticks. Most of Rich's fights have been of the unsanctioned variety - where there were no referees to forbid attacks involving knives, broken bottles and multiple opponents. At 41, Rich has seen, and been in the midst of, a lot of violence in his life, something that has shaped a very unique man with a highly unconventional approach, not just to fight training, but life itself.
Rich began martial arts training in 1975 and has been instructing since 1987. He's also worked as an undercover security guard, a bouncer and bodyguard for high profile clients. He's taught security personnel, bodyguards, law enforcement officers and military personnel worldwide, including the US Marines, Canadian Armed Forces, France's Marine Infantry, NYC LEOs, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers.
Rich has also worked in the film industry as a stunt performer, fight choreographer and actor, and he's taught, trained and worked with stars like Dolph Lundgren, Stephen Baldwin, Peta Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Lisa Boyle and Ian "Vampiro" Hodgkinson.
Rich isn't all about the fighting - because of his likeable, positive personality and his positive anti-violence message, he's also been chosen to work with disadvantaged kids and ex-street gang members.
Yep, Rich's CV makes for some pretty interesting reading, but his biggest claim to fame is a technique, or "concept" as Rich prefers to call it, known as "The Shredder".
Better Shred than Dead
My introduction to The Shredder and Richard Dimitri occurred entirely by accident. Several years ago, I was searching around on ebay for an entirely unrelated MMA DVD when I happened upon a listing for a disc titled "THE SHREDDER". The thumbnail pic of the DVD cover - a face being clawed apart by a gouging hand - immediately piqued my interest (being the refined, cultivated, debonaire gent that I am), so I clicked to find out more. I read through the listing, became even more curious, and Googled to see if there was some kind of "official" Shredder website. Within minutes I had found Senshido.com and begun the process of ordering the 3-disc Shredder series. This epic compilation has since gone on to become my favorite fighting arts DVD of all time. Seriously - if I was allowed to keep only one of my numerous martials arts DVDs, the Shredder is the one I'd choose without a moment's hesitation.
So last year, when I discovered that Richard Dimitri, the man behind The Shredder, would be visiting Australia in 2011 and giving a 6-day training seminar up on Queensland's Gold Coast, I immediately booked a spot. And after months of eager anticipation, in early May I finally boarded a plane bound for the Gold Coast to spend six days learning from one of the best self-defence instructors on the planet.
As I drove towards the Southern Cross Martial Arts Centre, where the seminar was being held, I started to wonder exactly what lay ahead over the next six days. As it turns out, Rich was one of the nicest and most approachable, down-to-earth folks you could hope to meet, and my fellow seminar participants were as friendly and amicable a bunch as you could wish for. And the seminar was easily the best I've ever attended, constituting six of the most productive days of training I've spent in a long, long time.
So what exactly is the Shredder? Well, that's kind of difficult to answer. As Rich repeatedly emphasizes, the Shredder is not a technique, but a concept. No two "shreds" look the same. The most common target is the head area, but depending on how your opponent is positioned and in keeping with the Senshido maxim of "closest weapon, closest target", you may find yourself shredding their ribs, femoral artery, or even their baby-making equipment.
There are a couple of common principles, however. Perhaps the primary one is an emphasis on simple but effective movements that don't rely on fine motor skills. The higher the degree of co-ordination, flexibility, and skill required to complete a strike or manoeuvre, the less likely you will be able to successfully pull it off in a real live situation. Flashy kicks and spectacular takedowns might work fine when you're wearing wrestling shoes on a matted training area, but what happens when you're on a concrete sidewalk, wearing Cuban-heeled dress shoes, with your back facing a large glass shopfront, and some crazed nut job is coming at you like a runaway train, screaming, cursing and flailing like a man possessed? At this point you'll really appreciate simple but effective moves that require a minimum of skill to execute. Which is why the Shredder is designed to override the cognitive brain and rely instead on gross, rather than fine, motor skills.
Another key principle is the aforementioned "closest weapon, closest target" tenet. Economy of movement and efficiency are critical - don't waste time trying to attack someone's head if your knee is already in a perfect launching spot inches from a vulnerable lower body target. Sounds kind of obvious, but watch even world-class MMA fights and you'll see missed opportunities occur with amazing regularity. When someone is trained with emphasis on a particular fighting style, they tend to operate within the confines of that style. This disparity is amplified even further in real world altercations where there is nothing to prevent the use of attacks banned from competition and hence absent from the training regimens of many fighters.
By relying primarily on what are referred to as "quarter beat" movements, rather than traditional full range strikes such as punches and kicks, Shredding is designed to trigger your opponent's flinch response, minimizing your likelihood of getting involved in a tit-for-tat match fight against a bigger and more skilled opponent.
As such, the Senshido system is as ideal for a small woman as it is for a law enforcement officer. Both may not have the time nor the physical attributes to spend years mastering complex martial arts moves.
It's Not About the Fight
If I ended the discussion with fighting, I'd be doing a huge injustice to Rich and his Senshido network. Rich has a bigger message that extends way beyond the dissemination of fighting strategies. Rich has seen enough violence to know that, even for the 'victor', it often brings unintended consequences. Sure, you and your two buddies might feel pretty heroic after just stomping that guy who mouthed off at you, but how will you feel when that same guy sees you outside the movies with your girlfriend a few months later, sneaks up behind you, stabs the both of you repeatedly, and kills your girlfriend? (True story). Will you still feel like backslapping your buddies over victory beers at that point?
Violence is a bit like eating tofu - you should only engage in it when absolutely necessary. For that reason, virtually the entire first day of the seminar was devoted to the psychology of confrontations and to the art of de-escalating potentially violent encounters.
One important strategy for avoiding confrontations, or at least being prepared for them should they arise, is awareness. Always, in a subtle manner, be aware of your environment and who's in it. Confrontations can start seconds, minutes, hours, days or even years before they go physical. People's body language, demeanor, and behaviour can give important clues as to whether a situation may arise and whether it is wise to stay or venture into a certain environment.
Just Do Some
Richard Dimitri is what many would consider an enigma; he's as much about peace and goodwill as fighting. He's about thinking for yourself, and not ending up in undesirable situations - whether it be a violent encounter or an unfulfilling life - simply because you felt compelled or conditioned to think or act in a certain way. If all that fails, then yeah, he's got the tools that can greatly increase your odds of a favorable outcome if worse comes to worst. But only if the situation cannot be resolved peacefully. As Rich says, "Don't become that which you are training to defend against."
If you ever get the chance to attend a Richard Dimitri seminar, then I cannot encourage you enough to do so. Some purchases you mull over, check your finances, discuss with a significant other, weigh up the pros and cons...while others are not so much purchases but rare opportunities you instantly seize when the occasion presents itself. As far as I'm concerned, a Senshido seminar falls clearly into the latter category.
Just make sure you warm up real thoroughly before the seminar starts, wear mouth and groin guards, and wrap your knees...rest assured, you'll thank me afterwards 🙂
Many thanks to Rich, Damien, Joe, Hannah and all my fellow participants at the 2011 Senshido Gold Coast seminar for a fantastic week of training. All the best!
For information on Senshido products and seminars, visit:
Anthony Colpo is an independent researcher, physical conditioning specialist, and author of the groundbreaking books The Fat Loss Bible and The Great Cholesterol Con. For more information, visit TheFatLossBible.net or TheGreatCholesterolCon.com
Copyright © Anthony Colpo.
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