Paul 'Batman' O'Brien demonstrating the Jim Wagner Knife Disarm Rule for Irish Fighter Magazine
In 2001, I had been a student of the traditional martial arts for over 15 years. I had trained in a variety of styles and systems of combat. I was a black belt many times over and I was confident in my abilities to defend myself, and had faith in my skills. But in 2004 I was involved in a particularly brutal and violent altercation, and although I came out of the incident unscathed save for a few cuts and bruises, I was shocked. I hadn't used a single technique I had practiced in the previous decade. Not one. What I did was put my head down and punch and kick until I could get away.
There was no formal bowing obviously, but I didn't launch my side kick that I had practiced repeatedly and that had served me so well in competition, nor did I throw my devastating reverse punch. There was no polite opponent facing me doing nice structured techniques, but a jittery drug addict holding a blood filled syringe and his friends who desperately wanted my wallet. After that I realised my training hadn't prepared me for the reality of the situation. So I set about finding something that would.
I needed to train with people that regularly encountered real life violence, not the sanitised version found in many dojos. I traveled and was fortunate enough to meet with many great trainers, police officers, SWAT members, counter-terrorist team leaders, and more. I trained intensively with these men and women and with many Special Forces and combat units from different countries around the world.
I was taught what I should have been practicing and then some. I was taught techniques reserved for Special Forces, Navy Seals, Green Beret's and other things I don’t even no where they come form it's that classified.. Besides that, I was taught vital information on the legal system, when and where you can act, and how hard, and how to explain yourself in court. I was taught how to take these skills and apply them to survive crimes such as robberies, burglaries, drive by shootings, rapes, kidnapping, chemical attacks and gang and terrorist violence.
I was taught about the psychological aspects of crime and violence, such as conflict cycles and post traumatic stress to name but a few. I was instructed and trained to rescue individuals form dangerous situations, revival and resuscitation techniques and body guarding so I can protect others. I was even trained in counter-terrorism; how to survive office and school shootings, small arms terrorist attacks, bomb threats, sniper attacks, suicide bombers, and even deal with Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).
Most importantly I was taught how to train others to protect themselves, and their families, and this is what I would like to talk about now. The training methods employed in the traditional martial arts can create dangerous habits and patterns that can lead to serious harm in a street confrontation.
Before I discuss this however I want to make my stance on traditional martial arts clear. I am at heart a traditional martial artist, today primarily studying koryu, old school forms of combat from feudal Japan, in particular arts such as:
• Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryū Iaido (drawing, cutting and fighting with a katana, a Japanese samurai sword, along with the wakizashi, a short sword, and more),
• Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryū, (fighting and tactics using a long sword, staff, short sword, two swords, truncheon, etc)
• And Shindo Muso Ryū Jo (fighting and tactics with a short staff, sickly and chain, sword, rope tying, walking sticks, truncheon's etc)..
In addition all of these arts involve hand to hand grappling and combat.
In addition I do more "modern" traditional martial arts like Shotokan Karate which I dearly love. I’ve also studied Aikido, Kobudo, Judo, Jujutsu, and more. I love traditional martial arts. I like the formalities, the culture immersion, the language, the mindset, the tools, the outfits. I like studying traditional systems of movement, learning about the history of the people, their environment…I love doing the kata’s. I don’t train in martial arts to be a good fighter and defend myself, I train because I enjoy the training and it is, for me, a way of life. It’s as simple as that.
That said I did think that the skills I learnt in Shotokan and other arts like it, would prove useful. I'd competed in a variety of tournaments and placed well in several. I had repeatedly demonstrated the strength and power of my techniques and was confident that they could hurt someone. I believes I was good at adapting to movement and have greater control over the muscles in my body than a non-athlete. These were undoubtedly just some of the many benefits of traditional martial arts and...you also get to look really cool. ;-P
That said I did think that the skills I learned in Shotokan and other arts like it, would prove useful. I'd competed in a variety of tournaments and placed well in several. I had repeatedly demonstrated the strength and power of my techniques and was confident that they could hurt someone. I believed I was good at adapting to movement and have greater control over the muscles in my body than a non-athlete. These were undoubtedly just some of the many benefits of traditional martial arts and...you also get to look really cool.
The gendai martial arts (such as Karate, Aikido etc) are not however, realistic. One of the many things that impacted me most during was the environment we trained in, the opponents we faced, and the scenarios we acted in. It is these three elements that make the training I received from those in Special Forces that is so effective and revolutionary.
I’ve gone on record a number of times that traditional martial arts does not adequately train people for real world violence – the situations that would require martial arts and self defence just aren’t addressed in TMA. That annoys a lot of people. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy TMA, I do and have trained in them for nearly 40 years now. But it won’t prepare you for violence and it sure ain’t something I would rely on to save my life.
So I looked at Reality Based systems – and yes, they prepare you for social violence. Notice that term, it’s very important – SOCIAL violence. By this I mean, many reality based systems, including the ones I teach, prepare you brilliantly for social situations where you may need to defend yourself – the pub fight, the road rage incident, even in some extremes like an armed robbery. These are all situations where, people may come to blows, intimidate one another but in essence are communicating – they don’t really want to kill each other. And that’s great – to be honest for a long time I thought that would be enough. I was accomplished in pre and post conflict, combat and self defense, I knew how to punch and kick, knew how to use lethal and non lethal force, defend and justify my actions in court, etc. All very important skills and one’s that I still feel are very much worthy of study and development.
In the back of my head there was always a small niggling doubt. Sure I had faith and confidence in the techniques and principals I knew, knew they worked, and sure they had saved my life in the past, but at the same time part of me knew that I was lucky. There was always the “what if”?
What if they guys I was being attacked by couldn’t be stopped? What if this was someone asocial psychopath that couldn’t be reasoned with. What if there was no communication – if he just wanted to kill me because that was his reality. What if this was the big bad unspeakable terror that I could unload an extinguisher of mace into and he’d keep coming. What if it was the guy that could be stabbed 60 times and still keep coming? What if it was the guy that could be shot and it didn’t stop him? What if?
Now that might seem completely farfetched to you. If you shoot a guy he’ll go down. If you burn his eyes out with mace or pepper spray he’ll curl up screaming as he claws at his eyes. If you stab someone the fight’s over. As a student and instructor of reality based systems I’ve spent hundreds of hours watching footage that would show those assumptions are complete rubbish. And YouTube just makes it easier to access this. Where I once had friends in the American prison service or former students in the police and military services send me the occasional example – YouTube and the net is simply incredible, real violence is only a mouse click away.
I have watched in absolute horror as I’ve seen patrol officers fire point blank, skin to muzzle into assailants and criminals. And the criminals keep coming. They don’t even slow down. And they beat those officers to death with their bare hands. I’ve seen skinny 4 foot nothing guys take full cans of mace and not stop stitching the guy they are attacking with a prison made knife. They are out there. Those monsters exist. And while my training has prepared me for the ego driven idiots most people are likely to be attacked by (here’s a hint, don’t go there, back down, walk away, hand it over – your ego isn’t really important). But that’s a social situation– there’s that term again, people establishing their position in some primitive and pointless pecking order. But the what if wouldn’t go away.
Would I be able to stop an asocial monster without remorse, hesitation, or fear? Could I stop the guy that can’t be stopped?
So I went looking for someone who could. And who could teach me to do the same. I found my answers in studying with the instructors to Special Forces, SWAT, Orange County Sheriffs, FBI, CIA, Army Rangers, and Special Warfare Intelligence Officers for the Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command (the Admiral in charge of all SEAL Teams). I trained, qualified and am now one of those instructors.
I'll teach you the same life saving techniques they taught me.
I've been teaching people how to survive the unthinkable, to deal with everything from a pub fight or mugging to civil unrest, riots and terrorist attacks since founding Reality Based Ireland in 2005. In that time, training hundreds of people I have been consistently published in the martial arts world for over 15 years. I have a regular column and numerous feature articles (check them out in the Media Section) in Irish Fighter magazine (the largest selling martial arts publication in Ireland).
In that time I have continued in both gendai budo (Shotokan Karate 6th Dan, Aikido 2nd dan) and the traditional Japanese Sword Arts. I am currently a senior instructor for Dublin Kendo in Iaido, Jodo and Kenjutsu. I am a Sandan (3rd Dan) level instructor of ZNKR Iaido, and Sandan (3rd Dan) level instructor in ZNKR Jodo. I am also a Sandan (3rd Dan) level instructor of Musō Jikiden Eishin-ryū (無双直伝英信流) under the International Division of the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai. I have proudly represented Ireland at the highest level of internatioanl competitions and am a two time Bronze Medalist in Iaido, have represented Ireland at multiple European Iaido Championships and received the Fighting Spirit Award from Oshita Masakazu Sensei at the Masamune Taikai in 2015.
I also hold the position of dojo-cho (dojo leader) for
Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryū in Ireland, having studied the style since 2011 and receiving direct instruction from Kajiya Soke, (12th headmaster of Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryū) from 2014 onward and was authorized to open a study group for Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryū by Soke in 2014.
I am certified in First-Aid, hold Safeguarding Level 1 certification and am a recognized IMAC instructor.
I also lecture on the Samurai, their history, culture, armour and weapons in Dublin City University, and in University College Dublin and as part of National Events such as the Experience Japan Day held on the Farmleigh Estate.
I am the former President of the Iaido Association of Ireland, former Secretary and am regarded as one of the foremost experts in Samurai History and Culture in Ireland.
Outside of my enthusiasm for the martial arts, I am a successful author, personal trainer, acupuncturist and herbalist, with a successful private medical practice in Dublin. I have has written over 30 books on health and fitness, including the ground-breaking "7 Seconds to A Perfect Body" and the revolutionary "Project Dragon". In addition I am the owner and writer of www.Isometric-Training.com, one of the Top 1% websites as ranked by Alexa and www.Meridian-Acupuncture-Clinic.com, the website for my Traditional Chinese Medical practice.
The following are some recent clips from our seminars and public demonstrations.
An except from a private presentation for a tech group on proven reality based techniques. This was one of the most important lessons covered - The Jim Wagner Knife Disarm Rule, which I have taught to LEO and military officers for over 15 years.
Some advice for solo training on a heavy bag for the reality based personal protection student during solo training with lockdown.