Reality-Based back in the United Kingdom Jim Wagner
Pete Lee, the new Reality-Based Director of the United Kingdom, proved last week that Great Britain is not only a huge market for the Reality-Based Personal Protection system, but that it is desperately needed in the wake of last week’s unprecedented stabbings, shootings, and terrorists attacks around the country.
From June 26th to the 30th I, with the assistance of Pete Lee and Gary Dell (his top Reality-Based instructor that I trained last year in Amsterdam), together taught the five Level 1 courses (Defensive Tactics, Ground Survival, Knife Survival, Crime Survival, and Terrorism Survival) in Newton Abbot in southwestern England, which turned out to be the coldest and wettest June in decades.
This is Pete’s first seminar since taking over the hard-to-come-by position of Director six months ago after Dave Shorter had to step down from the position a year ago due to a promotion and a demanding new schedule at his full-time job. In a very true sense Pete was starting over and getting the Reality-Based train back on track.
Until last week I have not taught in the UK for about a year. Once Dave Shorter stepped down I was in need of a top rate instructor to take over one of the biggest markets in Europe. I had always enjoyed teaching in London, but putting the right person in such an important position is not an easy task. To be one of my directors one must have to know their stuff, be a good business man, and be willing to promote the system exclusively and in its purity. When Pete took the new position he put 100% into the position by advertising in Martial Arts Illustrated, contacting martial arts schools throughout the region, and sharpening his own skills by teaching a few Reality-Based introduction courses in a few cities across England. The results paid off. Last week I certified 16 new Level 1 instructors, two of which flew in from Cork, Ireland both of whom wish to open up their own martial arts center in that city. The names of our newest certified instructors are: Max Rangeley, Mark Sherratt, Rob Deere, Lee Lamb, Damien Lane, Jason Gaule, Peter Morrison, Dylan Bristow, Matthew Sylvester, Kieran Mckenna, David Cornthwaite, Mike Buser, Josh Skinner, Rich Westwell, Stuart D Hallett, and our only female Miranda Farley who proved to be quite fierce.
When I first arrived in the UK from a day off in Zurich, Switzerland Pete and Gary picked me up at Gatwick International Airport. That night I settled into my Bed & Breakfast and in the morning I was in for a nice surprise on my day off. Pete had slated us and a couple of his friends to do some air gun combat. The facility, UCZ Paintball Parks was an old World War II bunker facility that had room after room, and a great outdoor area. To go against us was some active duty military personnel that made the scenarios all the more realistic. Of course, they wanted to see “if the American could hold his own.” I did, but I did get shot in two different scenarios.
What made this training even more realistic was the use of flash-bangs, and small explosives that are packed with 6mm plastic pellets. Hearing those things go off in rooms makes one want to jump out of their skin, but I was always keeping myself from being trapped in a room. I made sure I always had a mouse hole to escape. Even though it was with air guns, the training proved to be valuable and quite realistic. The facility even added in sound effects, smoke, and low-light scenarios.
On the first day of training in Newton Abbot, which was the day of our Defensive Tactics course learning everything about unarmed conflict, journalist Emma Snowdon from the local television station iTV came with a camerawoman to tape a couple hours of the course and to interview me. They showed up around 11:00 o’clock, just in time to see many of the students’ new skills.
The first thing I showed Emma was how to do a zigzag run from a gunman in an office massacre or a school shooting. She was ready to watch someone else demonstrate the movement technique, but I said, “No, Emma. You need to learn this. Imagine if a disgruntled employee decided to shoot up your T.V. station, what would you do if he was coming after you?” I then raised my air gun in her direction and said, “I am that gunman.”
Emma though I was bluffing, until I pulled the trigger and send a 6mm plastic projectile into her side that offered her no protection other than a clinging fashionable blouse. She yelled out, “Owwww!” I then shot her again, and you could see it in her face that she was in shock. She didn’t know what to do. I sent another pellet into her that bounced off of her back which was now directed toward me in an involuntary attempt to protect her front side. My students behind me began to yell out to her, “Run! Run out the door.” Then, as if the crowd had jump started her very survival instincts, she began to run for the door that was clear across the room.
As Emma tried to make it to the door I put three more rounds in her back, and each time she let out a gasp. It was easy because she made no attempt to zigzag. However, painfully she made it out the door. She came back in rubbing the part of her back which she could reach. Nobody had ever shot her before, or attacked her so violently, and she came in not knowing what to say. But, before she could say anything to me I said to her, “ You see Emma, that is what it is like in an office shooting. Now, I’ll teach you how to survive it.” Before she could complain about the bee-sting like pain I told her, “They all went through what you just did” as I waved my hand towards my students in a gesture of empathy. She was a good sport about it, and then her racing mind went from confusion and disbelief to curiosity and learning mode. She was now willing to learn a little something about Reality-Based Personal Protection.
After showing Emma how to properly zigzag out of the “kill zone” she and her camerawoman went on to film my instructors-in-training for an hour and a half. Then, when I dismissed my class for a one hour lunch I stayed behind to have an interview, but not until she lifted up the back of her blouse to show me her new “war wounds,” which she proudly pointed out to me and Pete. We laughed and assured her that they were not permanent.
Each night we eagerly watched the news at 18:30 for an hour, but by Friday it was apparent that the story was never going to air. Emma called us that Friday afternoon to let us know that her producer did not want to air the news story because some viewers would find gun scenarios too offensive, despite the fact that real shootings were making the news nightly around the rest of the country. Pete and I kind of had a feeling that it would be cancelled. I had this happen to me just recently in South Africa. Emma told Pete that she really wanted to air the story, especially since she told her producer that she had other good footage other than the gun play, but to no avail. Like most media they don’t want stories where people are learning to protect themselves. It is much easier to always complain that the government should protect us, weapons of all kinds should be banned, and that violent criminals and terrorists should be rehabilitated and find out want went wrong in their childhoods.
Not afraid to report the news as it is was Matthew Sylvester who was there to go through all five days and write about his experiences for Combat magazine – the United Kingdom’s top martial arts magazine. Matt is quite a skilled martial artist himself, and has quite an interesting military and police background. His story will be coming out in a couple issues from now, and when it does I will post it on this site.
A nice surprise was when my one and only Scottish Reality-Based instructor Simon Leila showed up to watch the Ground Survival course and to greet me and Pete. It just so happened that Simon had a business meeting at Plymouth a short distance away. Then Simon handed me a new emergency escape hood used to filter out chemical, biological, and radiological agents as well as smoke and toxic dust (asbestos). The thin portable mask, that can fit into a pocket comfortably, is made by www.safetyhood.com out of Kent, UK. I had trained Simon several months ago in New York City and he showed me a prototype of the hood back then, and I said, “When they come out be sure to get me one.” Well, he did better than that, he gave me three. He gave me one for myself, one for my wife, and one to demonstrate. This is just one good example of the networking that goes on in our system – I get a lot of input from a lot of people.
Each day for lunch I couldn’t resist the meat and potato pastey (a very British hot pocket type sandwich pronounced pass-tee). One of them is enough to keep you going for the rest of the day, up until dinner time. Of course I always make it a point to get a fish & chips dinner at least once or twice when I am in England.
Gary Dell took time out of one of his evenings to show me around the costal city of Dawlish, which is famous for black swans, ice cream, and an abundance of pubs.
Some of my students must think I am a prophet by now. On Friday, July 1st, I taught my Terrorism Survival course. That very night Al-Qaeda terrorists parked a car bomb outside of the Tiger Tiger nightclub on Haymarket Street in the West End of London. A second car was parked 200 yards away from the nightclub and was intended to be a secondary device designed to main and kill those escaping the first intended explosion. Thankfully, the vehicles were discovered before exploding.
Not so fortunate was the terrorist attack the following day at 3:15 pm at Glasgow airport when two Islamic terrorist, suicide bombers, rammed a green Jeep Cherokee filled with propane canisters and gasoline containers shrouded with nails right through the main entrance of the airport and successfully detonated it. On Sunday morning, the day after the incident, I flew out of Gatwick airport, but not before passing sub machinegun totting police officers, check points, increased security measures, and BBC broadcasting the story all day long.
I had warned my British students that terrorism will increase in the UK regardless if their military pulls out of Iraq and Afghanistan or not. The war of the East against the West is building momentum, and attacks against Western targets will continue. Also increasing are office massacres and school shootings, like the one in Virginia Tech a couple of months ago. This is exactly why Terrorism Survival is a part of the Reality-Based Personal Protection system. Few instructors are qualified to teach this subject, and it is this course that is just one more thing that separates us from other systems.
A few hours before I left Devon I told Pete Lee that he has my complete confidence. He not only organized a great seminar, but he teaches like me. He is very detailed and careful to stay on Reality-Based doctrine. Of course, his police officer and Defensive Tactics background won’t allow him to stray from the truth of conflict. Pete and I are planning to have two Level 1 seminars in 2008. For those of you who wish to attend the next one coming up keep an eye out for dates that will be posted at the end of summer. This course is bound to fill up, based on the turn out of this last one, and so getting signed up early will guarantee you a space in the course.
I always enjoy teaching in England. I feel quite at home in that country, and I look forward to the next time I am there, and training a whole new set of instructors that will change the way the martial arts are taught in the United Kingdom.
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