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Post  Guest on Wed Mar 05, 2008 10:06 am

“Anything is possible but not everything is probable, and I only deal with what is.” Mick Coup

Within what we loosely call the ‘reality-based self defence' sector, Mick Coup is one of the most well-known and respected names, constantly sought out for seminars and courses, with an international client-base. He has been regularly interviewed and has written numerous insightful articles on his chosen field, so I made a conscious decision to steer away from questions about his past history to concentrate more on his personal thoughts on key issues within the ‘RBSD’ world. In the flesh Mick is an imposing physical specimen and this reflects the way he teaches, as he is conscious of the fact that the person who needs his help is seldom built as impressively and rarely has the myriad ‘tools of the trade’ that he has at his fingertips. With this in mind he dispels self-defence myths with a brutal honesty and during the course of this interview another myth was clearly dispelled, namely the old-chestnut that you can’t have brains and brawn - so here is Mick Coup in his own words on...

Self-Defence and Martial Arts.

“Personally, I’m not a martial artist, not any more at least, and I'll go on record as saying that. It (self-defence) doesn’t have to come from martial arts but it’s not a bad thing when it does, if it’s done properly. Martial artists will decry a guy and say “he’s not trained”, but in truth, so ****ing what! The hospital is full of victims put in there by people who haven’t trained, so using force effectively is most certainly not the preserve of the martial artist alone.

The reality-based self defence tag that gets put on everything these days - they miss out on the ‘reality-based’ element all too often - learning how to defend against a martial arts assault rather than a street fighting assault, and looking at unrealistic attack formats that don’t actually occur. They still train in a manner that limits what they’re doing as opposed to expanding it into another arena. For a basic example, people practice punching heavy-bags and target dummies and become extremely proficient at it, but if you watch CCTV footage of actual fights, a couple of simple fact stand out - people put their arms in the way and they don't stay in one spot, they don't like getting hit and will try to stop it happening. This needs to be dealt with and in doing so it gets messy, it doesn’t look as good as the drills worked on the bag or pads, but that’s what the situation dictates, it can't be avoided - unless you've worked out some special deal beforehand! Train all you want against compliant and receptive targets that give a clear shot each and every time, but stand-by to get a big surprise when they change their minds…

If you look at John Smith in a street fight it's not much different to the pro-MMA fighter in the cage. Obviously the level of technical skill, physical ability and tactical delivery cannot be compared - this isn't what I'm getting at, not at all. The similarity lies with the basic tactical models utilised. Look at the following template as an example - closing the distance fast, using a barrage of blows against the other guy to force him into a defensive mode, then either take him to the ground or immobilise him against a backdrop and then hold, control and repeatedly strike him to finish. Ever seen that outside a club at 3am? Same as in an octagon cage, barring the previously mentioned huge skill and attribute disparity of course. I'm most definitely not using this to down-sell training hard, or to take anything away from trained fighters - quite the contrary, but it's a good thing to be shown which direction to take. If you want to go the furthest, you swim with the current - not against it.

It's no surprise, to me anyway, that even the top combat sport athlete's fights never resemble their training sessions - all the combinations and complex drills are replaced in the heat of the moment with the most basic and simplistic high-percentage tactical formats, that their unfit, unskilled and untrained street counterparts also adopt under stress. To a point, humans will fall back to a base default level of fighting with many common denominators, these being those techniques and tactics that fit in with our physical and psychological make-up the best, which are ergonomic. You can learn a lot from an untrained man because they will default to the most efficient means because they haven’t trained (in martial arts) with this as inspiration, you can refine and fine tune it as a concept.”

The different interpretations of ‘reality-based’.

“I hate the term ‘RBSD’ because I think it’s irrelevant. You can have a reality-based martial art certainly, but self-defence can only be based on reality if it's to be called self-defence at all. It’s becoming an extremely political style-based environment just like the martial arts that it sometimes tries to look down upon. For instance, I use the term ‘combatives’ as an adjective, just a descriptive word, but other people use it rather over-zealously as a style, a noun, as in “I don’t do Karate, I do Combatives” but you can have Karate that is combative in application, in the same way you can have Karate that is sportive or creative, so ‘RBSD’ or ‘Combatives’ should really be a descriptive term, not an entity in itself.”

Structured regular classes or intensive courses?

“I teach (initially) a very small skillset and any successful operationally-based model out there will use virtually the same small skillset, it’s no surprise that groups such as the military use as few techniques as possible that are capable of as much versatile application as possible in turn. I do believe there’s room for both the weekly training and the intense course although I prefer the latter personally, along with private tuition - I prefer to teach not train people - the training is best done by the person, he's got more time available and ultimately this is what it's all about.”

Drilling multiple techniques or drilling few techniques.

“The best analogy I can use here is with owning guns. A gun collector might have forty or fifty guns - several of the same gun with different finishes, various grips, all kinds of calibres - he’ll collect them and love them but he’ll never shoot them 'properly' apart from on the firing-range. An ‘operator’ on the other hand will probably only have two guns, a pistol and a carbine - all the finish will be worn off of them and they'll be ugly and functional in form, there will be little to no gadgets attached but they will fit him perfectly - because he uses them all the time, for real as tools not ornaments. There is a very real and distinct shift in emphasis to what is outwardly the same thing. A street fighter doesn’t have a problem with technique that a martial artist has - a martial artist has too many techniques, he’s spoilt for choice and that’s why he falls victim to street fighters all the time.”

Human beings generally want to learn more and more - but only those that aren’t putting their necks on the line every day really follow this approach with regard to fighting - the guys that are in the thick of it want to learn less and less. Look at MMA fighters, boxers, Thai-boxers; they’ll consistently use the same techniques, devoid of frills save for individual specialities and, dare I say it, these are 'only' sports. In class you add and add, and add even more, but when you need to use it you take it away and boil it down, whatever survives the heat, whatever is left in the bottom of the pan - that's it, that's what you need.

When faced with a dangerous situation-mad dog or calm and collected?

“I weigh in at about 110kg and I look the part - I can scream and growl at people and they’ll believe bad things are about to happen! If I was to teach that to the average guy and he was going to use it on some scumbag on the street there's a very good chance that they're not going to believe him - he’s very likely to be writing a cheque his body can’t cash! I don’t ever think you’re going to be in a position to intimidate someone whose business it is to intimidate you, especially when they've started first. There’s a huge myth that’s grown from doormen teaching from their experiences - if I’m a law-enforcement officer or a doorman, someone official, then I can say “stay back” and certain factors back up my words and actions. If you’re John Q Public being sized up on a Saturday night by a couple of nasties that are going to mug you, then forget about committing everything to this approach - it's dangerously flawed in my opinion.

A lot of the stuff that has come out of the doorman template doesn’t apply to the average guy walking the street at night. Working on the door is looked at in some fields as being the highest point of combative experience but in reality it's a very limited form of exposure to violence and conflict. I worked the door for seventeen years near enough and I’ve worked with men who’ve been doormen for twenty years and counting, who can’t fight at all - it really is no guaranteed badge of experience. First off, what are the criteria for being in an actual 'fight' as opposed to just using force? If you're manhandling someone or knocking them out clean - these don't count as fights in my mind, only when it's a real struggle with two-way traffic that there is a very real chance of not walking away from - that's what I call a fight. Personally I’ve had very few 'fights' as such - I avoid them because I find them extremely unpleasant and I've never been a fan of giving someone any kind of chance - but I don't avoid using force, violence, when necessary - I just don't call such instances 'fights'. On the door you’ve got that bit of authority on your side, you’ve got the benefit of being sober, it doesn’t mean anything to me when I hear about people 'working the doors' as an endorsement - most of the people you can bang out easily don't need banging out at all, it's simply unprofessional.”

Last edited by Mick Coup on Thu Mar 13, 2008 2:37 am; edited 2 times in total


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Post  Guest on Wed Mar 05, 2008 10:07 am

Part 2

What to look for from a self-defence instructor.

“First of all, be objective - don’t be blinded by hype, by a name or reputation - including mine, rather look at what is being taught and ask yourself if you could have applied it to the last real fight you were in, or the last one you saw, don’t listen to what anyone else tells you just ask yourself will it work in an actual fight, not in a demonstration.

In the world of science for instance, proof is everything - nothing else matters. If the most highly respected scientist in any field releases a new paper, his reputation counts for nothing - absolutely everything has to be proven under highly critical and objective scrutiny. This isn't often the case with our 'thing' - if a 'name' invents something it can become 'law' all too easily and is never challenged - having a reputation gives credibility no matter how flimsy the theory, and I strive to avoid this situation at every turn. Faith and belief count for little to nothing when the stakes are so high, proof is all that matters. My seminar introduction takes no time at all, no long recounting of daring deeds designed to elicit trust and admiration - simply 'My name is Mick, don't believe a word that I say unless I can prove it' and I prefer it this way.

Everything will work in a prepared environment, but this can't be said once the situation becomes unexpected, or when the required preparation is absent. I won’t teach anything that won’t work spontaneously, because it's a lie to do so and claim to be teaching for reality. I teach on three levels - combat management, that’s the actual fight, the 'hard skills' and I teach it first, to everyone. I don’t care if they’re from Delta Force, a housewife or a policeman, the first thing I teach is how to manage combat and survive a fight. Once that’s in place at a default level, the next level is termed contact management and this is how to handle confrontation with other people who could be potential threats to your safety, how to minimise risk and if it doesn’t work, you can default back to combat management and save your neck. The final level is threat management and this is the most important, but I teach it last with good reason, and it's all about managing the threat of actual violence, how to plan to avoid being in a conflict situation, using what I term 'soft skills'. If it fails - and everything does on occasion - then you fall back on handling the contact with the threat, and if that fails you default to managing the combat that can result. If it all works? That's a bonus! All the above falls into what I term protective tactics, and is relevant to everyone - beyond this I teach to defensive tactics applications for those involved in security and law-enforcement, and offensive tactics for military personnel.

I'm blunt when I tell people what actual fighting really is - why? Because it's a tough subject - it's about battle not ballet, and if your approach doesn't reflect this, you should be wearing a tutu! I've never seen nor been in a non-violent fight, but I've seen plenty of approaches to personal combat that have violence conspicuously absent, but still claim to be reality-based.

I’m in good shape, have good technique, been in my share of fights and yet why do I seem to be the only one out there saying that fighting’s really difficult? Everyone else seems to have it all worked out - I must be missing something crucial! This is what’s putting people on the wrong foot, they’re being told it doesn’t matter if they’re a little guy, or if there's a weapon involved, or more than one adversary - there's no end of wonderful techniques that will ensure their safety, backed up by being super-positive obviously, but I tell them straight that it does matter - cats can’t fight dogs, so they avoid them, they’ll only fight if they really have to. If you’re a smaller guy fighting a bigger guy it's going to be hard work, period. Sometimes there is no perfect answer that people want, no matter how positive you try to be - often you’re stood upstairs in the window of a burning building, you’ve got a tough decision to make - basically which way will hurt the least, because not getting hurt at all is an option that you don't have. As soon as you meet that guy who isn’t going to go away, who is intent and capable of hurting you, your life just took a turn for the worse.”

Bursting the self-defence bubble.

“Some like it, some don’t, it’s like a version of the X-Factor sometimes, they’re sat at home, they think they’re great and been told so by their mates and peers, they stand in front of a panel of experts that tell them objectively that they’re not as good as they thought they were and it's the last thing they expect - which is the instant record deal, such is their self-belief. Some people take it on the chin and ask how they can improve, others stamp their feet and say you’re wrong and move on until they find someone that agrees with them.

A lot of people hate to be told that they’ve got a small percentage chance of winning but this is meant to be reality based after all, some battles you can’t fight and it’s best to realise your limitations first, that’s more important. You don't take on a tank with a rifle, no matter how romantic the notion may seem, you either get a bigger gun or you stay away completely.”

The government debate over giving householders more self-defence rights in their own home.

“This is a double-edged sword. Laws are in place for a very good reason and although some are ridiculous it’s better to have them than no law at all. I find it amazing that those that rebel against the law are those that need it the most, because they are those that, should anarchy take over, would become food for other people. In America where you have your ‘castle’ and are allowed to use deadly force against intruders, innocent people have been killed as a result.

There is always that hypothetical question, what happens when you hear noises downstairs? You get your baseball bat, go downstairs and have a look-around, but what if you find three guys like me down there? You are going to get killed and then we are going upstairs… You don’t want to hear it but the reality of the situation is that you don’t have a clue who is downstairs – best place you can stay is upstairs, protecting your family. Having that bravado, tooling up and going downstairs because the law is on your side - that’s a problem. I would never advocate cowardice to anybody but I would never advocate a ‘Hollywood’ stance to anyone either.”

Mick’s physical size as a hindrance to teaching self-defence.

“As in I don’t need self defence because of my size, or it works for me because I'm strong etc? This can be a problem when I teach and the way I alleviate it is to not demonstrate things myself too much. During the introduction I make it a real point to tell people that this isn’t about me and what I can do - you will very rarely see me demonstrate - after all it's an instructional course not a presentation - so I'll get guys on the course to actually do the demo’s with minimal coaching to show how simple it can be. That gives people confidence in the material itself rather than just being impressed by my performance of it. I can make most things work in truth - but again it’s all about high-percentage use and I define that as being what will work for most people against most people in most circumstances. Anything is possible, absolutely, but not everything is probable and I only deal with what is.”

The Seni Seminar 2008

“At the very least you’re going to leave knowing that you can hit a man hard enough to put him down- 99.9 percent of people I teach could knock me out if they knew how. What I teach is what I fear the most, I will teach you what will work against a guy like me. I don’t teach beginners arm-locks, hold-downs, weapons even - to be honest they don't really need them, not yet anyway, if they ever do. I teach what they can do on that day (when they’re attacked) in the car park and the base level of that is impact, heavy explosive and repeated impact - for when it all boils down to workable high-percentage stuff you can't beat good old-fashioned blunt trauma to the head. In two hours you’re never going to be an expert in anything but what I want is to give that person enough information to go away and practice it proficiently with a view to ultimately becoming combat proficient in that technique. [/size]I teach the same small skill set to everyone but I teach it in layers - the guy with a lot of experience is working on the same stuff but on a deeper level. I build foundations, I don’t build towers, I build bunkers. If you’re going to build a functional structure you don’t need a lot of rooms, what you need is for those foundations to be as deep as possible and that’s what I teach people.

The one bit of feedback that I continually hear is how it all makes sense - which I like obviously, but to be honest….shouldn't it?”


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Post  bobwright on Thu Sep 03, 2009 12:49 pm

Good stuff, very informative cheers

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