Raw to the core

If the still-thick Northern English accent doesn’t give it away, Jim Armstrong is still as much a Geordie as he is one of Australia’s foremost instructors in the field of reality-based self-defence. And even if his look — strong build, bald head, goatee beard and a unique ability to mean-mug for psych-out purposes — might not say so, he is much more interested in teaching proactive ways to keep the peace than producing human weapons. Blitz caught up with the Raw Combatives chief instructor to find out how his search for reality in training led him on a parallel journey down the path to inner peace. 

Jim Armstrong and Raw Combatives

“I don’t teach dangerous things to people I don’t know. When you know somebody, you should know what you can teach them.”

He cites the principle of ‘Cylinder Theory’ as an example.

“It states that when you’re striking, it’s like you’re feeding those strikes toward an opponent through a cylinder. Using that, we can get guys punching harder within minutes, both trained and untrained. The way of explaining it is relatively simple.”

With a name like ‘Raw Combatives’, it’s safe to assume that physical contact is a significant feature of training. And acting out realistic scenarios is a key part of what makes it effective.

“You’re never going to have everything, but you can certainly prepare for it,” says Armstrong. “You need to get your brain right, get your body right, get some skills and then you’re sorted. The mind drives the body. Mindset is the number-one thing.”

As with technique, a scenario must be tailored specifically to the psychology of the student, he reasons.

“There’s no point in doing a bar-fight scenario with someone who doesn’t go to bars. It has to be specific to that person. It has to make sense to them and their life. As an instructor, you need to understand who they are and what they do.”

It seems logical that the closer a scenario resembles reality the greater the risk, both to participants and instructors.

“We don’t do scenarios every week. The harder you go, the more the chances of injury go up; not only for the person in the scenario, but for the people attacking. We’ve had a couple of guys go too far over the years and I’ve had to jump in. You’re offering your body, and if they go too far, they’ll wreck you.”

Safety is paramount, both physically and psychologically.

“It requires proper safety procedures, just like any other job. You have to start with a full risk-assessment. You have to know [the student] and the environment to make it ‘safe’. And we always debrief, whether it’s in class or afterwards.”

Armstrong has developed a reputation in reality-based self-defence circles as being particularly convincing as an attacker when he is in character.

“My point of reference is that I was that angry dude. I’ve been there and done it. It’s easy to access that part of my personality.”

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