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  • Pamela Armitage

My Journey Into The Self Defense World - Updated!

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

Originally published on Rich's website and Senshido's website in 2018, I wanted to re-blog this with a few tweaks and updates as 5+ years is a long time and ALOT has happened since then!


Over the last 4 years, Rich and I have dove deep into research using every available source we can. From documentaries such as Forensic Files, to Departments of Justice, WHO, Stats Can, FBI, INTERPOL, Women and Child Advocacy Centers etc. (some countries provide sources, some have none) and of course books on trauma such as Bessel van der Kolk's The Body Keeps the Score, Judith Herman's Trauma and Recovery and Pete Walker's Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving.


Rich has been very vocal on the critical role I have played in the self defense industry over the last (almost) 7 years. He often talks about how he had always been looking for the "missing link" when it came to violence prevention and self defense. He had tackled (lol) the physical side with his BRILLIANT 5 Principles of Physical Retaliation aka "The Shredder", and brought pure gold to communication and de-escalation, along with understanding what kind of person you may be dealing with. To him, there was still something missing to answer WHY all of this would be necessary in the first place. He always wanted to find a way to out birth violence, however daunting that dream may be.


Then we met, I told him about Trauma Sensitive/Trauma Informed Education and my training within this field and particularly by working with these approaches in yoga. Our meeting and merging of minds is what helped us develop our world renowned Masterclasses. From "The Foundations of Violence" 4 day Masterclass to "The 5 Principles of Physical Retaliation" 3 day Masterclass, these Masterclasses are a huge hit and the testimonials support this. Trauma plays a vital role in what we teach and why it is the core root of violence. For more reading on that, please see this blog article I wrote: An Uncomfortable Reality: Trauma is at the Core of Violence Prevention and Self Defense Education. (yourselfdefenseexperts.com)


It's not easy being a woman in this industry. Especially one who has zero martial arts background, talks about "our feelings" (ewwww!), unresolved trauma, rejects macho/alpha male/mansplaining BS unapologetically and works alongside one of the top experts in the world, often dismissed and left in the shadow. Ask Rich how much it bothers him when he is the only one given credit and thanks for OUR work? Or how people ask HIM if I am available. As though they're asking permission to speak to me, like it's 1645 and I have zero rights and can only speak when told to lmfao (it hurts, it physically hurts lol). It bothers me too, of course, how can it not?! I am human, a woman in a male dominated industry and work very hard with Rich at what we do. But we are a team and he wouldn't be where he is without me and I wouldn't where I am without him (I can especially recognize that I really wouldn't be where I am without his established reputation and work). Anyways, below you will find the blog article from 2018, a few updates and notes. How I started in this industry, how Rich's brilliance changed my life and what lead to the present moment. This is my origin story. Man, I couldn't WAIT to say that!


It’s difficult to describe the thoughts and emotions that run through you when checking your phone first thing in the morning only to discover a 3am text from a close friend confiding that she had just been raped. Add to that the fact you had an intuitive bad feeling about the date she was going on; and you find yourself searching for answers. What could she have done? What could her friends have done? How could this have been prevented? WTF?! So began my journey into the self defense world…


This certainly wasn’t the first time someone close to me had been victimized. My sister was sexually abused at a young age by one of her best friend’s brother (he was a young teen at the time), I had friends that were in very physically abusive relationships, a friend’s mom was raped at knife point in their own home…I could go on and on with worse and worse but you get the point. The difference in this particular case was that I had a bad feeling about this guy, without having even met him. But I felt I was being paranoid so of course I just told her beforehand to be safe and to leave at any point if she’s uncomfortable or feels off. Sigh.


In the days following the assault, our conversations about it ranged from the hospital and police experience, to the events leading up to the assault, to the things he said to her during the assault and after his arrest etc. But they all lead to the topic of self defense and prevention (the 2, I would later come to find, are intertwined). So I began my search into self defense...

To say I was overwhelmed and confused is an understatement. Most, I came to understand later on, weren’t self defense at all, although they were selling themselves as such. There were traditional martial arts, mixed martial arts and combatives; all claiming self defense in their marketing but very few if any actually focused on actual deterrence, they were all 90-100% physically oriented methods with every method being different than the other in terms of handling attacks while focusing on different aspects of fighting, barely paying lip service to prevention, awareness, de-escalation and the like ("let's assume de-escalation has failed!"). And then there was that pesky intuitive bad feeling I had that was nagging at me about her date, like it was trying to tell me it somehow plays a role.

Frustrated and confused by all of it, I messaged a Facebook friend who I knew was into the whole martial arts and self defense scene. He immediately told me to be wary of what’s out there, that the large majority of it is not realistic to real world violence and has little to no psychology and human behaviour in relation to violence in their curriculums, not anywhere near the level they should.

Wow. That alone was eye opening and made sense considering the results of my lack of knowledge on the subject matter and recent personal research. He began telling me what to avoid and why.  Him simply telling me what they're lacking, told me exactly what we needed to be looking for. He then referred me to Richard Dimitri and Senshido, the system Rich founded in 1994. I befriended and contacted Rich on Facebook, as it turned out he was actually living 3 hours away from me at the time. Unfortunately, it would never work out that I could train with him while he was so close and a couple years later, he headed back east to Montreal.

And so my self defense interest slowly went to the back burner as life took over again. And boy did it take over! Over the next 3 years, my dad went through heart failure but survived, my husband at the time was diagnosed with cancer but kicked its ass, and my grandmother, sister, dog, and grandfather all died within a year of each other. To top it off my marriage ended, which was actually a good thing, but still difficult. A good thing because through therapy I became fully aware of how emotionally abusive that relationship was (if you think you know abuse, do yourself a favour and deep dive into what emotional abuse looks like. I was quickly educated on how in the dark I was in therapy), yet difficult because there was alot of trauma to work through from the aftermath of that emotional abuse.


I was reeling but found inspiration and strength in all of it. I took my yoga practice further by becoming a certified yoga teacher with a special focus on Trauma Sensitive Yoga. I wanted to help heal people suffering with PTSD which I felt was the root cause of substance use disorder aka addictions (the disease that took my sister) and other mental health issues. To quote Gabor Mate, “The question isn’t why the addiction? The question is why the pain?” I wanted to help others heal from their pain.

Then one day in October of 2016, I watched a "self defense" video on FB posted by a BJJ instructor. Marketed toward women, it demonstrated what appeared to be a very impressive choke hold using the attackers own shirt in the event of being on the ground or back seat of a car during an attack. To the inexperienced, uneducated eye like mine at the time, it appeared to be simple and effective so I shared it.

“Bing” goes my inbox! Richard Dimitri has sent me a private message to warn me of the info in this video being promoted as self defense. He explained briefly why which was perfectly logical, and sent me a drop box link to his rape prevention video free of charge. To say the least, I was impressed. Immediately he speaks of our psychological tools being the most important tool in a self defense arsenal and situation. Not “hit hard, hit first and ask questions later”. Not even close.


I could listen to this man talk for hours” I think to myself while watching this video. Talk about foreshadowing.

Fast forward 4 months and Rich and I are now talking on a regular basis and falling for each other. I come out to Montreal and learn more about him and self defense. I travel with him to Germany and France where he is teaching seminars. What I learn is enlightening and I realized there and then, just how deeply self defense is connected to my goals and my passion of helping people heal. But on a whole other level because not only does self defense have the ability to empower people, including survivors, it also prevents victimization and trauma. Not only can I help heal those with trauma, but I can help prevent it too?! SOLD!


(please note: at the original time of writing this, it was naive of me to think that successfully fighting off an attack is preventing trauma too. It's preventing worst case scenario, sure. But even successfully fighting someone off is still fucking traumatizing! PREVENTION means avoiding any and all violence, physical and non physical violence like emotional abuse.)




Come July of 2017 and I am certified with SAFE International (and rocking a broken hand as a souvenir lol) and I am working full time for SAFE as well as working on my Senshido certification, and living in Montreal. Since then, my full time work with SAFE ended when the pandemic hit but we still do what we can with Chris and highly recommend his certification program!


During my time working for SAFE, between Rich and I, we have had approx. 44 girls come forward with claims of abuse or assaults and we’ve been able to get them the help and the justice they deserve. Don’t even ask me to describe what that feels like because there are no words.

Self defense is NOT even close to what I thought it was or what most of the general population think it is. Most have no clue how to tell the difference between self defense, martial arts and fighting is. I mean, you can’t blame the general population, including those involved in martial arts for believing they are the same thing. We’ve all been told for so long from movies, sports and traditions passed down that self defense is all about techniques and moves. But it’s not; not at all.


Moves are incidental. Rapists, muggers, pedophiles and murderers don’t attack people with martial arts, techniques or moves. There is nothing technical about rape, assault or murder. There is no art in violence.


The things you are defending against in those anti-social type of violent situations (yes, there are types of violence and they’re very different from each other. Again, who knew?!), are things like rage, jealousy, racism, insecurity, fear, drug use, mental illness etc. These are powerful emotions, including the intent to take the life from another human being.


Moves? Choreography? Sport? No! Survival. Reality. Fight, flight, freeze, fawn, collapse responses. Adrenaline. Awareness. Intuition. INTUITION! The very thing that was warning me of my friend’s date when she was raped! As it turns out its VERY important and a big part of the preventative side of self defense.


There is SO much important information in what I have learned from Rich that is missing from traditional, mixed martial arts and combatives.


Self defense has no style and is not systematic. It is not culture specific nor is it “ownable”. It is HUMAN and it is predicated on powerful human emotions, behaviour, mental illness, abuse, addictions, substance abuse, psychopathy etc. Rich has made this connection unlike anyone I and from my understanding, the vast majority who has trained with him, anyone in the self defense world has. He has spent decades learning, researching, testing and evolving this information with real people from all walks of life, cultures, ages, gender, beliefs etc. He has opened thousands of minds to see this important difference.  A difference that can literally be a matter of life and death for many.

As someone who can attest first hand that I, like most, thought self defense was all about training to be a bad ass, a ninja or Wonder Woman, Buffy or Nikita! However, I have had my eyes opened, my mind enlightened and my self-confidence and security soar since being educated on what self defense really is. I can’t stress enough how important this information is and would urge, borderline BEG, everyone to learn what Rich and I are teaching. I would urge every woman on earth to learn this information considering the following statistics:


In North America, 1 in 3-4 women will be a victim of sexual assault and/or rape at some point in their life, whether as a child, teenager or adult woman. Men and boys are no stranger to violence either. 1 in 6 will be a victim of sexual assault and we all know how often men get into fights with other men that can lead to tragedy. Approximately 65% of men who die in violent situations, die in stupid fights, not anti-social predatorial violence.

For a moment, think of how many women and girls as well as men and boys you have in your life that you love and care about and apply that statistic to them. Apathy and denial are victim mentality. Apathy being “this will never happen to me. I live in a nice neighbourhood, I have good relationships etc.” Denial being “I can’t believe this happened to me, no they aren't abusive, they've just had a bad day...again” when it does happen or is ongoing. As a survivor of domestic abuse, I know allllll about the excuses and looking past bad behaviour with excuses. There is having a bad day, and then there are patterns and living on eggshells. Vastly different.


Police stations, sexual assault centers, prisons, morgues and cemeteries are full of people who had apathy and denial. We have smoke alarms in case our house catches fire, we have car insurance in case of an accident or theft, and we have life insurance in the event of death. Self defense is no different than these safety measures. We don’t constantly worry our house will catch fire or that our car will be stolen. But we know if it happens, we are prepared. It is better to know this information and not ever need to use it than it is to need it and not know it at all. Make sense? Good! Now, as Rich would say “DO SOME SHIT!”

 

** Side note: The yearly economical cost of sexual violence is $4.8 billion, compared to gun violence at $3.1 billion. This is from Department of Justice Canada, 2009. An Estimation of the Economic Impact of Violent Victimization in Canada, 2009 (justice.gc.ca) Tables G.5E and G.5F.



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