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Bri Thai
02-02-2004, 08:20 AM
Shredder UK Seminar Review

Richard Dimitri, founder of Senshido, recently came over to the UK from Canada to teach two Senshido seminars (31st Jan &1st Feb 2004). The first was for women, and was Rape Prevention. This is a review of the second, and this was predominantly about the original Shredder, Senshido’s best known innovation to date.

The seminar was scheduled for 5 hours, starting at 11am. The training area was quite a centrally located dojo in London and, as such, was a little difficult to find by car. If he comes over again and teaches at the same dojo my big recommendation is go by Tube Train as London Bridge Station is about a 5 min walk away (but, I’m reliably informed, feels about 20 minutes on the way back.

Rich, along with the two guys who helped organises the event (Adam and Les) were on hand to personally welcome people on arrival. A nice touch that helped put people at their ease. There was a large matted area, though the structure of the building necessitated a large stone pillar in the middle. That didn’t really matter. The organisers had limited the numbers allowed to attend, so it didn’t get too crowded.

The seminar started a few minutes late, but Rich went straight into some background information about both himself and then the Shredder itself. He has this unique way of expressing himself, like a mixture of master tactician, stand up comedian and Black Belt in swearing……and it established a very positive tone for the whole event. Illustrating his ideas with real stories went a long way in keeping everyone’s interest. Being funny AND serious at the same time is a skill that not many possess, and he put it to good use throughout the day.

There was no official warm up, and no killer exercise programme. I was pleased with this. I know how to exercise/warm up, and didn’t want part of my entrance fee being taken up by this. We were all here for the technical side, and that’s what we got. The drills did start of easy though, so we didn’t go full throttle whilst still “cold”.

It’s surprising just how many drills we actually went through on the day. The session flew past but now, looking at my notes, there are reams of entries. Richard doesn’t really bother giving drills names, so it is hard to document what he had us physically doing. I don’t want to go into too much detail anyway, as it is hard to put them into words – they have to be seen to get an understanding of them.

Suffice to say the activity ranged from gently brushing our partners’ face with the fingers, up through slow Shredder drilling, and onto Shredding against full takedown attempts, as well as knife attacks. This culminated to a final ‘free form’ drill where both you and your partner attempted to shred and counter-shred, putting to use everything shown from reflex response to biting and growling. The additions of ear pulling, biting, spitting, finger breaking etc. really helps bring the Shredder alive. Even if your hands are temporarily immobilised on his face, the flinch caused by these things freed them up again very quickly. And the growling when biting… That certainly turns up the volume in more ways than one. Nasty, basic and brutal.

Looking around some of the people there were getting really into it. Bodies were flying about, and faces began to look a little red. For the most part Rich demonstrated on Les and Adam. They got the reddest faces of the day. I was all ready to volunteer for a while and ease their burden. But I was just too shy to put myself forwards…….

The most impressive element for me is the way Rich puts his stuff to the test so readily. Nothing is choreographed, so Les and Adam go at him hard. Then Rich asked “are there any dedicated grapplers here?” Some guy raised his hand. It seems this lad has been grappling for about 6 years, and he certainly looked the part. He was about a head taller, and towered over many people there. “Take me down as hard and as fast as you can” says Rich. Our friend needed no further encouragement. He went for it, big time. Rich was defending with a partial shred. He did go to the floor and was underneath for a time. But not for long. Within a couple of seconds his partial shred had reversed the situation, and the grappler was left with a red face. Not through embarrassment, he did well. It was just..…. red. Whilst rolling around on the floor the second time they banged into the wall, this is where Rich sustained his first (visible) tag of the day. I find it so refreshing that here is someone that takes it to the finish, no stop start “that didn’t work”. He just deals with it, “Less torque, more shred”. It’s so nice to have someone whom is humble enough to admit that even you can get one on him, and he doesn’t hide the fact that he’s human too, not some super Ninja assassin. Like he says, that’s for the movies. But, even so, he wasn’t submitted and a real full power Shred would have been very ugly.

Senshido methods are practised as realistically as possible. People attack each other. This is so different from the “one step half baked punch” demonstrations seen in so many arts. And if something goes wrong? Ignore it, and carry on reacting to what is happening. He emphasised that there are no combinations. No set pieces. The confrontation starts, and you take it as it comes.

It occurred to me that Classical Martial Arts can be likened to Classical Music. It’s all very nice, has beautiful sounds and can be played straight out of the book. But the only creativity is from the person who wrote the tune. Richard kicks the classical into touch. He plays Jazz, and spontaneously goes where the music takes him.

I was doing my best not to laugh at one point. For one hour the mat was split into two, and some kids had their martial arts lesson. But Rich was in full flow! There was no stopping him! With only a curtain separating the two groups, Rich is giving it his “So just blast the f’**ker!” and “So this ba5t@@d is going to get f@@ked up man!” etc. Those kids will talk for ages about that nasty man with the evil tongue.

Looking around, everyone seemed to be picking the Shredder up. My training partner, Justin, hadn’t seen it before. I could tell a real difference in the later shreds as opposed to his first attempts. It is quick to learn. But Richard looked in a different league. He made it look so easy, and serves as a reminder that simply knowing how to do it may not be enough. You need to fine tune the skills and practice applying them in many different scenarios. Here are a few notes from Justin himself, a guy new to reality based concepts with a TMA background –

“Before coming to the seminar I realised that it was a good idea to bone up. I knew what the shredder was in principle, but boy oh boy it was a whole world away from the drills that we did.

I feel like I grew here, the initial trepidation of grabbing a ahem large opponent by the ear very quickly turned into a mounting biting spitting shred fest! That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable to be shredded as well, it very startling to have what you know and love from the past 8 years of training literally shredded in seconds. Brian even developed his personal favourite the two eared head throw and I found that it is mandatory that we are always pushing to the limits what we know, and that we need to learn to let go of that which doesn’t work.

This is the first time I have learned anything that I knew I could use when I walked out of the Dojo, its dizzying to have this sort of knowledge, almost like your walking around with a loaded uzi stashed in your pants.

That said, whilst the basic concept is easy to learn and effective against the uninitiated, it will take practise and plenty of courage to get to the ‘Dimitri’ level. That level is more psychological than physical, its having the confidence to say “hit me hard anyway you want” and knowing that you can deal with it. Personally I have a lot of deprogramming to do, 8 years of robotic head blocks has tainted my twitch response with a dangerous bias for the ‘Nike’ defence.”

I think Rich could improve future seminars though. Firstly I would recommend a little more attention to safety. Getting people to check that they have taken their jewellery off, that their fingernails are not too long or dirty, pointing out the potential hazards in the room etc. (like the stone pillar and the mirrors). This would appear a little more polished and help keep people injury free. As you can gather, I’m one of those annoying “Health and Safety” types. Also I would ensure that people regularly changed partners. He certainly didn’t have an objection to people doing so but, for the most part, people stayed with their friends. It would add to the learning experience if they had to work on strangers in my view. There would be dangers though, as there are plenty of idiots attending fighting arts seminars (none apparent yesterday to my knowledge). So the supervision would have to be top notch to weed them out.

All the people I spoke to were very complimentary about the day. I didn’t see or hear anyone complain about any part of it. People were displaying bruises, cuts and abrasions afterwards. Suffice to say the looks we received on gambolling into the pub afterwards were far from complimentary. I’ve been working on the Shredder for a while, but the day really honed my skills further. It was well worth the money, and even worth driving around London totally lost.

All in all a great training day. Many thanks to Rich himself, and to Les and Adam for putting it together. I am a fussy sort and not easy to please. But, if Rich comes over to the UK again, I will move mountains to be there. It was informative, fun and great training.