The Man, The Legend: Interview with Richard Dimitri
This interview by Simon Sultana was originally posted on www.personalprotectiontraining.com.au.
Today, I am writing this special blog along side a special guest who has been an important part of the self defence scene globally for the better part of 25 years. Richard Dimitri is someone who I hold in high regard and have always wanted to meet face to face and train with. Today's post would be the equivalent of Graham Norton getting the opportunity to interview Chuck Norris for the first time. I feel that over time just like two college professors discussing theories, we have formed a unique friendship spanning from Australia to Canada. I am truly blessed.
I mention this because I am not a newspaper journalist, I do not work for a TV station, I definitely am not a Hollywood A-Lister. I am just a humble self defence instructor and security officer based Down Under who has a passion for sharing his knowledge and collaborating with those in the industry . I was overjoyed that Rich chose to be interviewed by me and why I felt it is my responsibility to learn more about the man who created 'The Shredder' and the legendary Senshido system.
I knew there was more depth to this man then what I saw on the glossy pages of Blitz Magazine. Australia no longer produces the legendary Blitz Magazine which gave instructors and martial arts suppliers the chance to showcase their products and services to those heavily invested in the scene. If an instructor was visiting Australia, or a particular product or trend was revolutionising the industry, you would first hear about it in Blitz. It was like the Bible of Martial Arts, somewhere you could always find reputable and sage like wisdom.
Following him on Facebook for the last few years now, I had the opportunity to see certain things that I never would of seen. Richard is like an oracle, who often isnt afraid to voice his opinions on a smattering of topics. Combined with his wicked sense of humour, incredible lust for learning and desire to help those in need, I feel that to those who are incredibly judgemental may see him as quite offensive and rebellious. I never have seen him in that light, albeit a slightly misunderstood individual with a very powerful message which is why I wanted to interview him and set the record straight.
Rest assured, by getting to know Rich over our late night Facebook chats, he is an incredibly decent man with a strong sense of justice and is a devoted family man and when you listen to his story, one must simply be impressed with the amount of experience he has teaching, but debunking outdated theories, that are simply preserved for tradition's sake. In today's current security climate and me working in the private security industry, has taught me that if your not growing, you are simply dying.
So please, sit back, get comfortable and lets give Rich a warm welcome.
How long has it been since you started training and working in the industry? What drove you to create your trademark combat system Senshido International?
I began my martial arts training at the age of 6. My dad enrolled me in Kyokushinkai Karate the day after taking me to see Enter the Dragon in the drive-in theater. I became so enamoured and passionate about Bruce Lee (as countless before and after me have) that I devoured anything and everything that had to do with martial arts, combatives, self defense, criminology, the psychology of violence, how serial killers think and the like.
While studying, training and researching everything I could on those subject matters and after the traumatic event of my 4-year-old brother unfortunately, accidently drowning when I was 12, I relentlessly put all of my rage and festering hate caused by the trauma into a volatile life style.
By the age of 16, 17 I had already acquired a few black belts that I began, much like my idol at the time Bruce Lee, forming my own system of combat and teaching friends, local kids in the neighborhood etc. in church basements, garages, backyards and high school gyms.
By the age of 19 and via a fateful event where I proverbially zigged instead of zagged, I began working in the security/bodyguarding/bouncing/private investigation industries and went on to do so till the age of 41 when my son was born.It was mainly contractual work and the like, for various Investigation firms, organizations, businesses, bars, pubs, corporates, bankers, business men that spanned between North America, Mexico and certain parts of Europe.
By 1994, I had found nothing which satisfied my sense of ‘reality’ in the self defense and martial arts world, though many came damn close, to settle on any that I finally created Senshido and opened my own school in the heart of downtown Montreal in April of 1994.
Every trainer usually has a background in some sort of martial art, what martial arts did you study and now your highly experienced do you still train in any arts other then your system?
As stated above, I began with Kyokushinkai Karate, I did that for a few years until I got my green belt, then we moved neighborhoods and couldn’t find another Kyokushinkai school but there was a Hung Gar Gung Fu school not far from where we lived and at the age of 11, I began Hung Gar and went on to do so for over a decade during which I also trained in Sil Lum Pai Kung Fu, Wing Chun, Aikido, Greco Roman wrestling and Tae Kwon Do.
I discovered Boxing, Muay Thai and grappling through Tony Blauer’s then Chu Fen Do, which was for all intent and purposes, Jeet Kune Do with a twist. But, what differentiated Blauer from all the others of his time, was the fact that he incorporated the psychology of human behavior in relation to violence into his system. If he pioneered anything, it was that. No one else was doing it at the time and most still aren’t today as a matter of fact, not at any credible level.
Due to personal and professional reasons we parted ways and I continued my training with various others including Jeff Alexander of Warrior Spirit in Seattle Washington, BJJ with Sylvain Moroney of Bravado JJ, trained with Rorion and Royce Gracie, Boxing in various gyms coupled with the experience I was gaining on the jobs outside of teaching and training.
As time and injuries prevailed, my training and focus shifted to pure and applied self defense. More and more, I derailed from the martial arts and combatives fields and gravitated to strictly teaching confrontation management, violence prevention and defense tactics to anyone and everyone wanting to learn.
I dropped the name ‘Senshido’ as it literally became and still is a fucking burden and a half to be honest, shit like politics, being placed into a faction, arguments of bullshit, names, labels and stylistic interference with growth and reaching those that truly need the materials.
My training today consists strictly of functional strength training, shadow boxing and occasionally sparring/drilling with some students who come to train with me from abroad.
Agreed. My system is called Si-Kyu-Shudo-Kai, and for simplicity sake I have just called it Personal Protection Training. Since doing so I have gained a cult following some interesting areas from around the world. Uganda, probably being the most obscure place I have a following.
I also learnt that you have worked in the security industry also, much like myself. Are you still active in private security and what has been the most difficult job you did which you had genuinely felt concern for regarding your personal safety?
I am no longer active and haven’t been since 2012 which is months after my son was born. I ended up working in those fields via an ill-fated incident at a Gold’s Gym back in 1991 which gave me a platform to exorcise my demons and inadvertently creating many, many new ones along the way.
As for memorable ones I felt concerned for my safety, in retrospect, too many to tell. But at the time, no concerns whatsoever. I didn’t truly and honestly didn’t understand or possess an ounce of fear until my son was born. Between the ages of 19 and 36, I lived 24/7 full tilt boogey, 1 million percent adrenaline and literally fundamentally believing at the core of my being, that I was indestructible.
I had been and continued to put myself and go through so much shit and hell and came out relatively unscathed considering, and sometimes miraculously so, that truly believed, I had become one of the action heroes I was mesmerized by from the early 80’s to the late 90’s. I grew up smack dab at the birth and rise of the action hero. Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Stallone, Arnie, Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis, Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, Van Damme, Seagal, the brooding muscular hero with a dark past who beat all the bad guys and always got the girl…. Except I was never very muscular, and I rarely got the girl lol….
Most notable about your Senshido system is the 'Shredder'. Tell us more about what it is?
Such a misunderstood concept, lol…. From thinking it’s a tiger claw to scratching the face to simply a ‘system of eye gouging’ lmfao…. Ignorance isn’t malice, stupidity fucking is. These aren’t ignorant statements, they’re fucking stupid.
Basically stated, the Shredder is nothing more than 5 principles of physical retaliation used in conjunction with each other. These are, in no particular order:
1) Striking my opponent using my most appropriate tool to the nearest and most damaging target available based on the gravity of the situation of course.
2) Aiming first for the primary targets on a human being which are debilitating, and these are strictly speaking, the eyes and the throat. They are the only two targets on the human body that cause retreating defensive disengagement. No one moves forward and through an eye gouge or windpipe crush/strike; followed by secondary targets, which are anything and everything else you can get to in order of importance.
3) Using non telegraphic movement and economy of motion, Musashi said, ‘do nothing of which is of no use’… though some seem to think telegraphing is not only fine, but encouraged… they’re also flat earthers though lmfao… these 2 are interrelated and so I put them into 1 principle leaving only the next step.
4) Understand and apply tactile sensitivity, the ability to interpret an individual’s movement through the sense of touch when the hand is quicker than the eye and contact has been made between opponents.
Now, apply these 4-5 principles at close range, and it appears like you’re mauling someone if, of course, if one is able to think out of the manufactured and proverbial box from whatever system or style they train in which limit them…. the tools I teach are quite diversified and not limited to strictly physical applications either. They are taught in a way that allows the individual to use any part of their body as well as their environment in conjunction as a potential tool/weapon to cause damage, distraction, hesitation, unbalance, defensive flinching and disengagement while most are looking to either submit or knock out with the limits of their style.
‘The Shredder’ performed at kicking or boxing range looks nothing like ‘Shredding’ at all, but all 5 principles still apply and are just as functional. The name is a deterrent. It limits the vast application this concept offers and only those who have experienced first hand have come to truly understand it. It is the fucking Equalizer.
I know you are focused on training alongside Chris Roberts of SAFE international. How did you guys meet and what makes training in this system different to Senshido?
Chris and I met while I was working with 3 international women’s movements in Cairo, Egypt back in 2010. He took a seminar with a brother who was teaching his version of the Shredder he called the Jungle Cat or something or other, and Chris found the concept so functional and easily adaptable that he asked the brother if he could incorporate it into SAFE. The brother told Chris he got it from me and that Chris should hit me up, which he did, and the rest is history.
Why do I work with Chris so closely? Several reasons. Let me clarify. For starters, the man has no emotional attachment to any system or style, all he cares about is providing the best damn life saving self defense information he can to his clients, hence the name of his company is not the name of a system or style, but a direct testament to his mission statement of keeping people SAFE in the face of violence. That alone was baffling. He was the first and to date, the only instructor in the self defense industry that I have met, and I have met tons including several of the ‘big names’ out there and Chris is the only one who cares more about his students than systems, styles, politics, who created what, lineages, etc.
Chris also devised a way to teach and reach the general public, those with absolutely no experience whatsoever in martial arts and self defense, those who attend these workshops because they have to for work or school, those who have already been victimized, in a way no one else has been able to including myself in the self defense world. Not just that; what he is able to impart in literally 4-5 hours tops, is functional and countless teenage girls, health care workers, real estate agents etc. have successfully defended themselves in all kinds of situations from violent rapes to domestic abuse to attempted murder. The testimonials have been and continue to come regularly.
Chris adopted whatever aspects of my materials/information/experience with my full blessings to SAFE he didn’t already have as he deemed it to be the most factual, realistic and sound materials of its kind he had come across to date and Chris had not only trained with several of the top reality-based guys in our field already but got certified with a few as well. Today, he teaches nothing of what he garnered from any of these people….
By 2012, I had sunken into a major depression due to PTSD and a sudden halting screech to my lifestyle which went from a million miles a minute to being a dad living in an isolated town in a valley between the Rocky Mountains out west. My depression manifested itself as dark cynicism and total isolation. Frustrations with the politics of Senshido and the bullshit that dragged along with it, along with my shift in focus from teaching self defense to teaching conflict management and violence prevention and the fact that I felt that nothing I was doing was amounting to anything coupled with my ex suffering from post partum depression and becoming incredibly emotionally abusive towards me, I shut off. I quit it all, didn’t want anything do with teaching self defense or Senshido anymore, and I dropped everything handing over Senshido to my team (a mistake I regret till this present moment as I should have shut that fucker down for good and moved on but that’s my fucking cross to bear).
I got myself a regular job for the first time in my adult life. And since I had no experience in anything other than the fields mentioned above and not much of that is needed in a small touristic town anyway, I did anything that would make me a buck and keep me close to my boy. I delivered pizza, worked at a video store, worked at the Source, landscaping, bouncing gigs for special occasions like Christmas, new years and Halloween parties at the local pub all the while sinking further into my depression.
As I was desperately trying to kill the legacy I nearly died and went to prison countless times to bring to the world for, Chris wouldn’t have any of it. He believes me to be the very best in the world at what I do…. He’s either insane, bias or wants to have sex with me. I’m still not sure which. But that brother kept my career alive for 4 years by posting clips, memes, vids, all kinds of anything that had to do with me teaching…. He was literally advertising and marketing me more than himself for those years…. He thought, and by his own words, that the world needed me to teach this as it’s a gift I have - and not to share it, well… would be a low down, dirty shame.
When I finally got treated for my depression, I came back to teaching and Chris, knowing that I had a boy at home and that travelling the 4 corners of the globe kept me away from him for weeks, sometimes a month and more at a time, offered me to teach for SAFE closer to home where I can be with my boy every single weekend, holidays and the like as well as travel the world, but less frequently.
SAFE teaches pure and applied self defense, so I didn’t have to change anything in the materials/information…. I just had to learn how to transmit it to teenage girls, elderly, house wives and the like as opposed to fighters, martial artists, cops and soldiers.
Senshido has more of a combatives RBSD reputation than SAFE does, each caters to a specific market though both dabble in the others as well, in the end, everyone is free to teach who they want.
Chris and I also collaborated together on what we call the Rich and Roberts Show as the chemistry between he and I is amazing, we work super well together, we both have the exact same vision, which is reach and teach as many as we can in the hopes of saving, changing, improving lives and by proxy, communities and he’s also fucking great at the business side of things which I could give a rats fuck about to be honest…. If I wanted to be a business man, I would have gone into business administration, that’s not my strength, passion or desire….
Chris and SAFE have been and still are one of my best sources of reaching people as the man is incessant with his work which has strongly derived from his unfortunate neurologically caused loss of voice over the last decade. And so, I am also his surrogate voice for many gigs he sadly till present day, can no longer teach by himself and so I help him with his certifications and international work as well.
So in essence, I work on a contractual level for SAFE, I teach under the Senshido banner when it’s for any of my former team members, and under Rich Dimitri’s Self Defense services on my own. Frankly, I teach the exact same materials and information wherever I go, under whatever fucking banner as I don’t give a shit about banners or names be it SAFE, Senshido or anything else for that matter, the only difference is the method and delivery based on the clientele that changes. It’s a fluid thing….
The fact you have been to the brink and back, shows true strength. Conquering those issues, and having the support of a friend like Chris is truly a blessing. Thanks for sharing that so openly with my readers.
I have followed your journey in the now defunct Blitz magazine which finished in March this year. I respect the fact you have demystified self defence and focused on practicality. What is your opinion of other RBSD systems out there in these modern times compared to say 20 years ago? Have we evolved per se?
Well, violence has evolved so by proxy so has what I teach. It's only natural as is with most things, that self defense evolves as violence does. I have always said and continue to maintain that a 75-year-old grandmother or an 11 year old daughter or son can't successfully "perform" or manage to perform over 90% of what is being passed off as self defense these days especially in anti social violence.
Most people in our industry can’t differentiate between pure and applied self defense, martial arts and combatives. These are 3 distinct animals. It’s like comparing ping pong, tennis and badminton. What most people are teaching as self defense today is either martial arts or combatives, it is rooted in strength, aggressivity, technical applications, fine motor skills, athleticism of some kind and are mainly rooted in physical work. No way any of that works for the average civilian who takes a 3-5-10 hour workshop who never trained before and probably will never train again.
Over 95% of what I see being passed off as self defense would only work for exactly the clients they are getting; already experienced martial artists and practitioners, cops, soldiers, bouncers, defense tactics instructors and even them, over half of these people couldn’t make over 75% of what they learned in these seminars and workshops function in real time, real speed, real life violent confrontation. Works great on pads, on consenting and willing partners who are dressed for the occasion and training one on one in a large empty room with no obstacles, no weapons of opportunity, no threat of life, no grounding in anything that even comes close to resembling what real world confrontations look like and how they happen.
My research rarely, if ever, came from learning from others in our industry, quite the contrary, when I did watch them, I did so in order to learn what not to do and do the exact fucking opposite.
My main sources of research comes from real life, real people, who survived or sadly and unfortunately perished in violence and in every form of social and anti social from every individual’s perspective including the defender, the attacker, the bystanders and witnesses, the law, etc. I research and watch loads of criminal investigative shows such as Forensic Files, Fear Thy Neighbor, Kenda, etc. I read books on criminology, the criminal mind, the MO of the most notorious serial rapists and killers, etc. I keep myself updated on international stats, news, changes in laws, legal cases, things regarding rape, domestic abuse and other situations that have anything to do with real world conflict or violence.
I could give a fuck what Krav, JKD, MMA, Combatives are trying to pass off as self defense to be honest…. These are styles and systems based on cultures, ideologies, certain environments, frames of time and mind, etc. they are fragments of truth distorted by what Bruce Lee prophetically referred to as the classical mess…. No different from any religion or political party, segregating and stylizing something human which no longer maintains a ground in our ever-changing reality but solidifies what is fluid and should remain as such…. Self defense is human.
That is why with all my years of training in 5 different systems, I have filtered my training syllabus to just a few pages of practical techniques, that I have repeatedly drilled and pressure tested. I am fortunate that one of my students who has ASD can follow the concepts and throughouly enjoys my teaching. Do you have any client success stories you are willing to share of any of those who you have trained to become instructors or students?
I’ve got countless. I can tell you that I have, over the last quarter century alone received tens of thousands of testimonials from people all over the world. Ranging from “thank you for saving my life” to “thank you for changing my life”. The latter being so vitally important because that’s how we lower incidents of violence and suffering, by changing our lives and ourselves for the better.
The most recent have been from the over twenty five teenage girls my life partner, Pam Armitage who also works with me and for SAFE International, through working high schools for SAFE for that matter, have gotten over 25 teenage girls between the aged of 14 and 16 to come out and divulge the fact that they were presently being abused and every single one of these girls knew their attacker either intimately or via acquaintance.
These girls were being either sexually, physically, emotionally, psychologically, economically or even spiritually abused, some a combination of 2 or more of the above and by family members, coaches, bosses, a best friend’s brother, a boyfriend, a doctor, a teacher…
Through their divulgence, we were able to pull them our of their hells, provide social care and therapy as well as legally intervene with the predators who victimized them.
Pam and I also just returned from a trip in Quito Ecuador where we were working with a Christian organization to help the victims of human trafficking. Our 1 week trip there already changed lives and got the ball rolling for countless others… This will be a yearly trip for us to go help out there.
The fact you are making a change in the lives of those who often are forgotten about in today's society is commendable. I feel that as a self defence instructor that we all share a common goal and that is personal safety for those we teach. Have you much like myself irritated traditional martial artists by so called 'bastardising' the arts?
Bro, I’ve pissed everyone off at one point or another, the traditionalists, the purists, the mixed martial artists, the reality-based guys, the sports fighters, the street fighters, the religious, the left, the right, the fucking center, my mom, the Dalai Lama lol….
The thing I have always liked about you is you say whats on your mind, and you always back your reasoning with sound logic and evidence. Has there been times when you were surprised why someone would try to discredit the valuable work that you do?
Frankly nothing anyone does surprises me ever. And I am used to the haters, they are amusing and honestly make me laugh because I know beyond the shadow of any reasonable doubt the value of my work, I see and hear about it first hand all the time, to this day and by professionals the world over no less.
So frankly, the stupid and the jealous entertain me, they don’t upset me and I never, ever bother engaging with any of them ever, I just usually reply with sheer nonsense and immaturity as it entertains me to no end lol…
Finally, I know that you have been busy working hard to build your brand over many years. What is your plan for the future? What do you see yourself doing in the next say 5-10 years?
See, that’s the thing, I don’t have a typical brand anymore really…. I define myself by my work, my work is evolving, and so crystalizing it with a brand does it a huge disservice…. I suppose the dove logo I’ve been using since 2008 is ‘branding’ of sorts, and the dove is a representation of both peace and freedom from oppression which are 2 of the core benefits of what I teach, a way of self awareness through peaceful self actualization.
My goals for the next 5-10 years are to continue evolving forward, steering away from the reality based self defense, martial arts and combative fields and more towards conflict management and violence prevention. Pam and I are on the verge of releasing an online course unlike any of its kind which will be available within the next six months.
I had stopped certifying people since 2011 pretty much and had abolished my certification program due to personal reasons at the time but recently revamped it entirely and put together an extremely detailed and comprehensive certification course for professionals only. I am no longer interested in certifying people who do nothing with the materials, certificate collectors, instructors looking to gain a cool new trick or gimmick and the like. This course is designed for professionals ready to implement the information and materials immediately into their current professions whatever they may be.
Chris and I are also working on a new members website where we will be providing courses, clips, breakdowns, articles, anecdotes, information, etc. on conflict management, violence prevention and self protection to its members
My goal is to be closer to home more often so I can be with my boy and family more so working on several things to allow this to become a reality. As always however, I will always travel to wherever I am needed…
That is just terrific Rich. I am certain with your drive and passion for the work you do, you will reach those goals. You will always have support from those at Personal Protection Training and I am humbled you chose to partake in this interview. Keep up the good work, and please keep in touch.