Peaceful Warrior

Written by Administrator

An interview with Senshido founder Richard Dimitri. Richard Dimitri is best known as creator of the ‘Shredder’ — the lynchpin of his Senshido reality-based self-defence system — but there’s much more to the man and his methods than that. When he visits Australia for seminars this month, much of what he teaches will deal with the psychology of violence and the behaviour of victims and attackers. Here, the world-renowned RBSD instructor and author of countless self-defence DVDs and books, gives us an insight into what makes him and his system tick.

Richard Dimitri

Can you tell our readers what Senshido is in your view, as its founder?
This is a complicated question because, in essence, I am Senshido and so as I evolve, it evolves. There are many things that make up Senshido. Besides being one of the top RBSD systems in the world today, Senshido is also, for instance, a vehicle. It has brought some of the most incredible people from the four corners of the globe together in an effort to make this world a brighter place. This is why it has become critically important for us to transmit that message through Senshido, and it’s worked wonders because I see the lives that have been changed around me. I see the impact our work is having on people and, hell, if we’ve each reached even one person in our lives, then we made a difference in this world because this person will pay it forward, so to speak, and the proverbial light will continue to shine. I am more than happy to say we’re achieving that goal on a daily basis. Those who see past the Shredder, the fighting, the self-defence; they truly get the gift. It takes some a while, some gravitate instantly, some never do — and that’s all right, as we all have our paths to walk.

During my travels teaching and through meeting some of the most amazing people from all over the globe, experiencing how they live and view life themselves, I’m discovering through Senshido’s evolution that I can choose to accept the world’s offerings of a more free, healthy and happier way of living. Senshido is an international community initiative to make what we are learning and living more accessible to the world, using personal protection as the vehicle.

Allow me to elaborate. You know the old saying ‘we are our own worst enemies’? Well; I have found that saying to be very true for humanity. We indeed are our own worst enemies. I can honestly sit here and tell you that no-one has ever hurt me more than I have hurt myself. The more I looked at my life, that which surrounded me, the little glimpses that were permitted to me through threads and posts on various martial arts forums/blogs/pages including my own, the more I realised we were being hypocritical without even realising it.

Many in the RBSD field are quite immersed in training for the grim realities of the streets; for the possibility of facing violence. So, here we are, training daily in RBSD for the off chance that we may someday get attacked, yet the majority who vigorously train in RBSD live lifestyles that do not support the improvement or defence of the self (unless of course through a ‘choiceless’ choice one lives or works in a potentially violent environment, works to protect and to serve the community, etc.). There are those that train to protect against potential attackers yet have similar lifestyles to the average individual who lives in apathy and denial about self-defence and never trains in it at all — i.e. poor diets, lack of exercise, ego, insecurity, smoking, failed or failing relationships/marriages/careers, senseless arguments, jealousy, hatred, general anger, road rage, drinking, recreational drugs, gambling, stress, overweight, etc.

You see, at first, I didn’t quite grasp Matt Thornton’s ‘healthy attitude’ toward the martial arts. I really didn’t; perhaps because of my own experiences at the time, my own ego or perhaps it was because of the way he expressed it. I can’t quite be sure but I began to realize that he was 100 per cent correct. What good is it to worry about exterior fires if the one inside is ripping us apart slowly but surely?

Senshido is about self-development. It’s about strengthening the self first — and not with some false sense of security, self-deceit or by walking around with our ‘guns drawn’ 24/7 as it were, but by improving ourselves, our relationships and our communities first, and then the big evil bad man lurking in the shadows second.

After all, how many times does the average civilian get violently attacked in their lives, compared to the same average civilian sabotaging their own lives with all the above mentioned? Here I was screaming self-defence and surviving all these violent confrontations (most of which I directly or indirectly and self-righteously put myself in, all in the name of ‘justice’) while failing in two marriages, hitting a self-destructive phase, binging on all kinds of crap not to mention living one hell of an extraordinary life that is unfortunately filled with more painful memories than happy ones. How hypocritical of me. It was time to make a change, and Senshido and I are still and will forever be in this process of change.

There’s a saying I heard Tony Blauer say once: “Those who reject change, reject evolution.” I couldn’t agree more. So Senshido, in my view of it as the founder, is a personal vehicle towards a better way.

As well as giving students the tools to defend themselves, what above and beyond this do Senshido students gain through
their training?

A few months back, I personally was curious myself about the very same question and rather than have me tell you what I believe students get from Senshido, here it is from the horses mouth, as they say. The following is from several people who posted in replies to a similar question asked on the Senshido forum on October 12 2008 [refer to: http://senshido.savi.ca/viewtopic.php?t=5652]:

“Through Senshido, I’ve learned a lot about myself...some of which I didn’t like and lots that would have remained undiscovered or examined. I figured what’s truly important in life and what is not possible to control, but I can control my own interpretation of the event. Senshido’s Socratic methods to answer ones own questions has helped me be aware of other areas of life that have been neglected. Less angry, more positive outlook in general...working on being able to maintain a long-term relation ship with a woman. I could go on how Senshido’s and your influence has been nothing but positive and inspiring Rich.” – Warren Ng
“I had a reality check about the real meaning of combat, the real damages of combat, how to survive, but also how to avoid that hell, which is the top martial art move I know.” – Djaab

“For me it filled in gaps — lots of them. I was pretty lost to tell the truth. Senshido and Rich have shown me to go deeper than the combat and physical side. I used to have a huge ego problem, which I think I have resolved. I have put my life into better priorities. I have met some great people. People that I call friends, even if I only see them occasionally. I know I could call on anyone of them for advice or a shoulder to cry on. And I hope they think of me the same.” – Les Turpin
These are but a few of the benefits people get outside the combative aspect or self-defence realm of Senshido, which is honestly priceless. I figured better let them tell you themselves.

For a system that has been around for over a decade, why haven’t you got more instructors teaching it?
Well, because Senshido isn’t just your standard self-defence system or combative discipline. I am very picky with the quality of the people I wish to be on my team. Our affiliation/certification program is very difficult to get into. It is critical for me to get to personally know the individual interested in joining my team. I get so many people wanting to be affiliates yet they’ve never even seen some of my materials, attended a seminar or trained with one of my existing affiliates. I am not interested in certificate collectors or in being someone’s flavour of the month. I know each and every person on my team personally; they are not just numbers spreading my system at all cost.

It is imperative that every member of our team be empathic in nature. I also have to see dedication and commitment in them. When it comes to our team, I know that I have family everywhere in the world and that they too have family and a home wherever I may reside, and if ever a human being is in need of someone I know not one heart out there on our team will ever deny them. That is what I look for in my affiliates and that is why I refuse over 50 per year. My affiliates teach and donate to charities regularly; they go above and beyond the call of duty to help anyone in need. I am proud of these people and they are not my business partners, they are not just affiliates or even friends, they are indeed family and I love each and every one of them with all my heart.

You have been training in the martial arts since the age of six and ran your own full-time club for over 12 years. Where are you now with regard to your own physical and mental training?
In terms of physical training, I train an average of five days a week, mainly functional strength, fitness and agility at this stage. In terms of combative training, I mainly stick to bag work and light sparring (MMA/grappling/boxing) once in a while, as I enjoy it very much. I’m at a point where I know my skill level and am comfortable with maintenance while I improve on my own personal health and fitness. Also, lots of permanent injuries from the days of believing I was an indestructible super hero (read, my 20s) I have now healed and I would not want to re-aggravate them.

As for mental training, well, Carl Jung in his Modern Man in Search of His Soul said that when you become an adult, you’re still going through developmental stages, called archetypes, and there are four of them. The lowest of them is what he called the archetype of the athlete, which is the time in our adult life when our emphasis is on our body, and what it looks like and what it does. These become our means of identification.

As people mature, they move into the archetype of the warrior. The warrior is the time in our adult life when our primary emphasis shifts into what we can go out into the world and do in competition with other people. We rate ourselves on the basis of how much stuff we have and who we can defeat and who we’re better than.

The third one is the archetype of the statesman or stateswoman, which is the time in our lives when we stop asking what our goals are and begin to serve, instead of asking what’s in it for me. Eventually, Jung said, we reach the archetype of spirit, which is when you understand what it means to be in this world but not of this world.

I am told and humbly believe I am now in the third stage. Dan Millman refers to it as The Peaceful Warrior, which, by the way, is a fantastic book.

Who and what inspire you and how does that get incorporated into Senshido?
I am primarily inspired by the selfless: those who give of themselves unconditionally to help others in need, and not at the expense of others or their own families, of course. Today I am inspired by the likes of Greg Mortenson, who in 1993, after a failed attempt at climbing K2 and moved by the kindness of the inhabitants of an impoverished Pakistan village that received him, promised to return and build a school. He returned and not just built one, but 55 schools, especially for girls, in the very land that gave birth to the Taliban. Edmund Burke said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Well, I am continuously inspired by good men who do things. Of course we are all only human; we make mistakes. The key is in learning from these mistakes and not letting these mistakes define who we are.

How do I incorporate that into Senshido?
Here’s where the confusion sometimes comes in. Most fighting systems are categorised by a technical and heavily physically oriented curriculum while Senshido, though also being recognised as one of the hardest physical systems today, is heavily predicated on a conceptual and behavioural delivery system. The physical, conceptual, emotional and behavioural components create a multifaceted and evolutionary system that adapts to each individual’s personal needs. That said, Senshido is taught from a perspective of avoiding violence at all costs, then defusing violence if possible, then physically defending oneself if the situation calls for it, always taking into consideration the moral, ethical and legal aspects. This process is challenging to one’s ego and belief system, which forces a deep and introspective look at oneself. This entire process of training isn’t easy, believe me. We’ve had students break down in our classes, both male and female alike. The hardest thing a person can do is face his or her own demons and not everyone is ready for this. As many who have attended our seminars have said, ‘Senshido inspires one to become a better person’.

What are you working on with the Senshido instructors at the moment?
There is a lot in the works presently. Senshido has been the official training system for the Guardian Angels chapter in Mexico City, headed by Senshido affiliate Ian Hodgkinson [‘Vampiro’ of pro wrestling fame] for the last two years. They are people volunteering their time out of their lives to patrol the meanest streets in the world, unarmed and making citizens’ arrests and stopping crime. Senshido has been and is being successfully used in some of the world’s most violent streets in Mexico City on a daily basis; as far as the questioning of the efficiency of our self-defence system, we simply cannot ask for a better testimonial than this.

We are also currently revamping our entire website and logo — a whole new look, a rebirth of sorts. We will also be coming up with new products in the early New Year. One of the biggest things we are currently working on is a Senshido international charity event. I can’t say too much more on this and it is taking a massive amount of work and co-ordinating, but we plan on holding the first event on 26 September 2009. My soon-to-be-affiliate Dominic O’Neil will be representing us here in Sydney. We’re also all working hard teaching classes and seminars worldwide while setting more up along the way. These are some of our more immediate plans.

What would you like to see Senshido achieve in the future?
We are hoping that what we are doing eventually becomes a norm so we can be a part of the process to enhance the movement and lifestyle standard in the world from a continuous place of light. I would like to recruit like-minded individuals for our amazing team, and one day have affiliates in every country, city, small town, village in the world spreading as much of their love and light in efforts to improve anyone in need’s life, while maintaining the standard of excellence for which we are known.

I would like us working more with charities while sustaining our involvement with training law-enforcement/military personnel and anyone else that devote their lives to our protection. I personally would like to further expand my knowledge in order to reach more women and youths whose stories of healing through Senshido have reaffirmed my commitment to our cause, and work with like-minded organisations to help and care for those in need as well as strengthen our communities worldwide using personal protection as the vehicle.

If you had to summarise your approach to self-defense in one phrase or sentence, what would it be?
Honestly, I wish I could give you something incredibly original, but to perfectly describe it I would mix Dan Millman and Bruce Lee together and say, Senshido is the Peaceful Warrior’s art of fighting without fighting.

[Richard Dimitri’s extensive range of DVDs and books are available from Blitz — see catalogue in this issue or visit www.sportzblitz.net for many more titles.]