I have been training martial arts since I was aged 8 (about 29 years).

I did karate, Jeet Kune Do, Judo, Ju Jitsu, Boxing, BJJ, Vale Tudo, Wrestling and even Aikido.

Also, I spent 17 years as a police officer.

So you could say; not only have I seen a lot of martial arts I have experienced and seen real violence.

Yet, one Defence Lab seminar changed my life so much that I now teach my son the techniques from Defence Lab.  In this article, I will explain exactly, what happened and why I now choose Defence Lab over every other self-defence system.

This is an in-depth article, and I make no apologies for this, it is designed to closely examine Defence Lab and what it offers.


The Martial Gap

If you have ever trained for the competitive sport you will know there is a basic premise; the training should be as intense and as close to the real competition as possible.

If you sprint 100 Metres, you won’t be running marathons to prepare. If you play football, you don’t practise Rugby throws.

This is evident in all sports except in training martial arts for self-defence.

If you go to any martial art, you train in the actual art.  In Judo, for example, we train in Gi’s, and practise breakfalls, throws and other techniques that are part of the art.

Self-defence is rarely addressed in Judo. There is a sort of ‘expectation’ that training in Judo will cross over and help you protect yourself.

The same applies for Aikido, Karate and a whole bunch of other arts. You go to a martial arts class and practise that art, in its form.

So, you train in martial arts for a lot of reasons but clearly an expected goal is that it should help you protect yourself. However in my experience, the real world of violence is a far cry from any martial arts class, and this creates a huge issue.

I call this ‘The Martial Gap’ and it is a real problem.


Reality Bites

I spent a lot of time in the past training in what many call ‘Reality Based Self Defence’. However, while much of it is still relevant, the world has evolved.

Skill levels are higher now than ever before due in part to the global explosion of things like the UFC, K1 and submission grappling. Yet at the same time, we saw the rise of combat sports we also saw the rise of what in Britain we called ‘The ASBO Generation’.

ASBO was a term coined by the government for Anti-social behaviour orders. A court ruling that placed restrictions on people whose behaviour was utterly appalling.

This generation came with an attitude and sadly it was often one well versed with violence. In my experience, they were often children that had suffered a ‘shitty’ upbringing, but unlike the MMA fans they often developed a style of fighting that was ‘pack like’.

With little training, they would surround people and without spoken tactics, they would each play a role in bringing stronger adversaries down to the floor where they would stamp and kick the opponent into a hospitalised state.

It was during these years of reflection and education that I realised there was a huge gap in my training.

Both in terms of the martial gap and the reality gap. My training just did not match the current ‘real’ world.

This is why I ended up trying Defence Lab


The Defence Lab Feeling

I had previously tried Keysi Fighting Method (the other system co-founded by Andy Norman) however I had found that KFM was too rigid for my uses.

Without a doubt, it was excellent however the world was evolving fast and based on my experiences I felt that the old KFM was a few steps behind the curve even if it was several steps ahead of the rest.

So I went to a seminar put on by Andy Norman to experience his exciting new system called Defence Lab.

From the moment I tried DL I realised that this was not a Keysi upgrade or copy, nor was it like anything that I had seen or trained before.

At first glance, people will, of course, see similarities between KFM and Defence Lab but anyone that trains in DL know that the similarities soon vanish.

The technique side fills ‘the martial gap’ by the fact that the DL team have reverse engineered combat. By this, I mean that they have addressed the common and worst of situations and then worked backwards.

Imagine the worst scenario? A group of lads trying to kick your head in on the floor. Well, that is Defence Lab lesson one.

Two against one in a nightclub with music on and lights switched off, well that was also covered in the seminar.

What impressed me more was the disappearance of the old ‘Thinking Man’ head cover which was replaced by an extremely fluid and natural ‘shape’ system.

Now I have to say this… Had the Defence Lab seminar not delivered the goods I would never have come back.

Like I say, I am no fool. I do not train anything that I do not think has value and since that seminar I have of course trained a lot of DL classes and seminars.

Those on the fence might still be wondering exactly why or what makes it so good.


What Makes Defence Lab Special


My son is at an age where he naturally explores his relationship with violence. This is no different than what I did and the combative and playful combine to make for exciting games of wrestling and boxing between father and son.

In these games I have been very clear on the guard position I introduce to him, this is of course shape one from the DL training.

The shape itself is a basic yet solid biomechanical structure that protects the head and is an easy movement to apply even under stress. If a 6-year-old can pull it off, anyone can.

If you are not using this structure in your system or training, you are missing out. It is perhaps one of the greatest revolutions in combat training to come about on a large scale.

Those that are ready to dismiss it do so largely because they try and apply/ copy it without understanding the other associated movements and techniques that go along with it.  To do this would be like learning an arm lock and saying that grappling was rubbish if you couldn’t get it to work.

Shape one is of course just a building block of a very intricate system that has depth. There are a lot of other aspects that make DL so special that are beyond the scope of this article, but I will try to address a few.

My primary concerns in self-defence are simple.

Is the opponent trained?

Is the opponent strong?

Is the opponent armed?

Are there multiple attackers?

When you examine a variety of martial arts, we see that they seem to fail in one or more than one of these areas. Some arts never address if the attackers are trained and there is an assumption they are an averagely skilled attacker.

Defence Lab deals with all of these aspects.

I am at a skill level and point in my life that I do not NEED self-defence training, so anything I do is a choice. My children, on the other hand, will need training, and they WILL be training in Defence Lab.

Whenever I tell people this, they seem to think there could be a hidden agenda or some ‘deal’ going on. I assure you that as a parent, I want what is best for my children.

I want my son and daughter to be able to defend themselves and offer resistance to an attacker should they choose to.

This is the thing; self-defence training gives you options. It places you in a position of strength.

Other people have had the same experience as a result of a Defence Lab event or seminar:

Constantine “Doc” Theoharis went to an event put on by Tony Torres in America and here is what he had to say about the event:

“Okay everyone, we’re gonna warm-up with a scene where

you are in a disco and a fight has broken out,” Tony said.

Thus the seminar started.

With a bar-fight.

In a disco. As our warm-up.

I stood there, as happy as I could ever remember being

and thought to myself:

This DL stuff, this is the sh– !”

Mikey Wright was an experienced martial artist long before he tried Defence Lab and this is what he had to say about DL:

“I was blown away by Andy and Paul’s ability and movement I had never seen anything like it before”.


It took just one seminar for me to decide DL was the right martial art/ self-defence system for both myself and my kids.

There is nothing else like this anywhere in the world today, and I urge people to not only look at it but either invest in sessions or online training so that you can see what I mean.

You can watch a thousand clips on YouTube and still not ‘get it’.

You need the components; you need to be trained, and you need actually to try it.

You might love what you train now and love your art. No one is saying ‘give up’ what you do, but we are saying that by keeping an open mind you might not only learn something but also enjoy it.

Defence Lab works with any martial art because it never seeks to replace an art but it compliments your skill set.

Thanks for reading


Many years ago I was asked what the most effective training environment for self-defence could be.

I  answered them in seconds: “the set of Coronation Street”.

For our global readers, Coronation Street is a long-running British drama/ soap opera set in an urban Manchester street.

The person asking me the question was an expert in firearms, and he looked puzzled. Then I told him;

“The set (which I have stood on) has everything; there is a street, alleyways, shop fronts, houses, a pub/ bar, a kebab house and even a restaurant. Pretty much every type of environment where a person could be attacked. ”

While I might have been speaking slightly ‘tongue in cheek’ the sentiment still exists. A gym or a hall is the world’s worst environment for realistic self-defence training. However, it is the most accessible.

If you have ever trained with the founder of Defence Lab Andy Norman, you will know that he encourages outdoor training, nightclub training and also even turns off the lights in a hall, while playing club music.

He encourages the training environment to be real and for good reason. The environment changes things!

Unless you have used self-defence in a variety of situations, it’s hard to know what issues you will face that are caused by the environment.

In this article, we are going to tell you seven environmental factors you must know about and consider.


1. Kerbs


Have you ever been tripped over by someone?

It is a real pain in the ass but can be quite amusing.

Now imagine you are fighting for your life, and you get tripped over, not so funny.

Yet this is just one of the hazards that street kerbs present. We forget they’re there, but these short and little-raised blocks of concrete can deck you quicker than a right-hand punch.


2. Inclines Make A Difference


It was Star Wars Episode 3 where Obi-wan was fighting Anakin Skywalker, and he told him to give up because he had ‘ the high ground’.

Well, this is an excellent point that people never consider, inclines.

Stairs and even the pavement can give people opportunities to hurt you, both the one standing higher and the one lower.

So to fix this use the ‘eye line test’. Take a look at where their eye line is looking at and see how vulnerable you are.

Many years ago I watched a doorman standing on steps, and he had refused a person entry and sent them on their way. What the doorman didn’t consider was that the steps put his knees and legs in easy range.

So the angry man just grabbed the legs of the doorman and pulled them from under him, what followed was a punch!

The high ground does not automatically mean a tactical advantage, it all depends on the environment, but consider it!


3. Kebab Shop Floors


Ok if you know me, then you will know that I love a good kebab at the end of a night out. I have also been ‘hands on’ with people inside Kebab houses and let me say this. They are the worst places you can scrap in.

The floor of almost every kebab house is either tiled or some other ‘easy clean’ flooring. The reason is that after a few hours the floor is a mix of donner kebab, mayonnaise, ketchup and chips.

Great for skating, bad for fighting.

Ninja tip: if you are having issues in a kebab shop that might go ‘live’ tell the person you can’t hear them and ask them to come outside. This will give you a better chance to de-escalate the situation as fewer people will be watching. It also reduces third party involvement and reduces the slipping if things go wrong.


4. Avoid The Kitchen


House parties are far more widespread now than ever before.

Cheap alcohol, music on demand and convenience has made the house party an excellent choice for entertainment. However, every house party has an arsenal of weapons in the kitchen.

So if you are having a disagreement with a person, or you are a cop attending an incident keep out of the kitchen.


5. Nightclub/ Pub Toilets


After a few beers, you lose a lot of your awareness skills, and you often have no idea who you may have annoyed by your best attempts at ‘skipping the light fandango’ on the dancefloor. Not to mention if you have any enemies out there.

Many a ‘bad person’ will wait for you to go to the toilet before trying to hurt you. After all, there is no CCTV inside, and while you are face to the wall, you are vulnerable.

Now there is no fixed solution but a tip is to use a cubicle. For our female readers this is a given but another tip for everyone is to go to the toilet with a friend, there is always increased safety in numbers.

And yes I have had to fight inside a nightclub toilet, very messy, and I wouldn’t recommend it!


6. Cars


Road rage is a fact of life; I had a friend once that was mild mannered and quiet until he got behind a wheel and turned into a foul-mouthed maniac.

The issue is, just because you are in your car, and swearing at someone does not make you immune to repercussions

Now the thing is, when you are behind the wheel you are pretty vulnerable to someone opening the car door and hitting you.

Think about it, seatbelt on, steering wheel in your way. You are pretty trapped, and the same applies with carjackings.

Solution: Keep your doors locked at all times, be careful who you swear at and why! Now if you should choose to take action then get that seat belt off and remember the door is a weapon (if you time it right).


7. Doorways


The last challenging environment to start going hands on with another human is a doorway.

Now I am not talking about nightclub doors; I actually mean an average door.

Police officers, debt collectors, postmen, delivery men and just plain old you and I meet people in doorways. Over the years I have seen doors literally slammed in faces, fingers trapped and even ‘booby’ traps laid in doorways.

If you think about it, they are pretty substantive structures that are designed to keep people out. So here are a few things to consider.

a) be careful about putting a ‘foot’ in the door.’

b) watch where your hands are on the hinge side (trapped fingers)

c) a door is just like the iceberg quote where you can only see a small part. You have no idea what or who is actually in the address.

Legality aside, if you are in a doorway, and things go wrong you do not want to be in that doorway for long. Be one side or the other but not actually in the middle.



We might learn our skills inside a dojo, but we apply them in a range of environments. Just by spending a short amount of mental effort thinking about these environments you can are better prepared for the future.

Thanks for reading.


It is happening. Things just got real, and now you are in the fight of your life.

All those hours spent training have lead you to this point, and then it dawns on you.

This is real, and if you lose you could be seriously hurt or killed.

Just as you are thinking this, you take a punch straight in your face.

You have never been hit by someone before with a bare knuckle,  even in training you wore gloves. Now a fist had just impacted onto your nose, and you felt it break.

You start to feel blood dripping down your face.

Then you realise what is happening.


In this article, we will tell you how to spot the five signs you are losing a fight and what to do about it.


1. You Got Hit By 3 Punches

Sounds simple, but trust me it happens in a split second.

If you take 3 or 4 punches and are unable to respond, you are going to lose. This is not boxing. In real self-defence situations, there is a tempo, a kind of flow.

I have seen it time and time again, once the person breaks through with more than 2 punches, it is usually the beginning of the end.

So how do you fix this?

Use body mechanics, headcovers (shapes as we call them), body movement and of course footwork.


2. Your Legs Wobbled After A Punch

If you have never been hit hard, then this sensation might be unfamiliar.

If you get hit hard enough, you will get ‘wobbled.’ It is an odd feeling, but your legs turn to jelly.

If this has happened to you, then you need to act fast because you are at your most vulnerable. Your footwork and body movement will be out of the window, and you are easy to push to the floor.

So what should you do?

Take a leaf out of the book of a boxer and clinch.

There is no other solution at the time. You need to get behind them and grab them.

It will take just a few seconds to clear your head, and then you can get back into the fight


3. You Have Been Knocked Down

Boom!!! You took a heavy shot and now you’re down.

You are dazed, and you hit the deck hard! It feels as if a bomb went off as the noise is muffled and the world seems distant.

This is one of those moments that you never saw coming in training but it is here and what are you going to do next?

The answer is cover up!

Let me be clear, now is not the time for trying to jump to your feet. This is how you will get knocked out. Instead, you need to cover, regroup and potentially re-asses before you make another move.

I know people say ‘get up fast’ however just think about it. You have been knocked down by a heavy hitter. You are dazed, in shock and you are hurt.

It makes no sense to jump up and try and  ‘duke’ it out when you just got pole axed.

This is the time when the versatility of your skill base comes into play. How you have trained to get up off the floor, what level of the ground game you have and if you can protect yourself against a standing opponent.

However, you also cannot linger. You need to move fast but only when you have recovered slightly. Spot your opportunity (inline with your training) and get back up.


4. You Just Want ‘Out.’

I cannot tell you enough that how you react in your mind in a self-defence situation will dictate how well you do.

If you are thinking to yourself ‘please let this be over’ you are going to lose.

This is a victim mentality.

Instead, turn yourself from prey into a predator.  Do not think about what you want. You need to get back into the moment and do something.

Sure, no one wants to have to fight for their life, but here you are. So grit those teeth and if they hit you hard, hit them back harder.

Refuse to lose!


5. You Know You Are Losing

This is a tough one to swallow but in a fight for your life, you may realise in a few seconds that you have lost.

Let me explain.

Over the years I have seen a lot of incidents where one person was very aggressive verbally and keen to fight and the other less so.

Then after a few punches, the aggressive one backs down and wants to stop and then looks for the other person to stop.What happened? Well, the aggressive one knows he was outgunned and thought ‘ I need to stop this before I get hurt’.

I have seen this in normal violent encounters also when a person turns and looks to the floor and puts their hands out in a submissive manner.

It resembles a wolf lowering himself to the new pack leader.

If you are still struggling to picture this, think about someone putting a water hose on and spraying you. The same turn you use to avoid the water is the same you use in fights (when you know you have been beaten).

Sometimes people are just stronger, hit harder or are more skilled. At this point, all the internet bravado in the world won’t prepare you for that sensation.

It is the feeling of impending doom. The feeling that you just can’t win and you hope they don’t hurt you too much.

So what is the solution?

You need to do something completely different.

This could be running away, doing a takedown, grabbing a weapon. Whatever you can do you need to do it.

Take epic high-level action to change things. Sure you are losing, and you know it, so you need a new plan. What you are doing is not working and WILL NOT WORK!

Sure, it might work against another person, but right here, right now this is not happening the way you want.

You need to do something very different because if you carry on this path, you will get hurt!



We all train with the belief that should we have to use our skills in real life they will work, and we will be safe. Experience tells me that is not always the case.

However, you need to plan for the occasions where things do not go your way and figure out how you can change those situations to get you back on track.

Remember there are no referees in real life.

Thanks for reading