All Terrain Fighting Methodology​

People come to train in martial arts for various reasons. For some their main motivation may be to improve their health, or compete. These are all worthy goals, but at the end of the day one should never lose sight of the fact, that it still remains MARTIAL arts training. As such, while training martial arts can be focused on achieving many different goals simultaneously, one should never lose sight, or be out of touch with the self-preservation aspect of what one trains.

I have always felt, that at the heart of one’s martial arts training should be the ability to deploy those skills in the ultimate arena of self-preservation. I don’t see much point to be honest in spending time honing martial arts skills, if those very same skill sets wont come to bear in interpersonal violence.

I believe that everything I teach on the mat, must have the ability to be converted to the self-preservation arena. As such, the way I teach my combat athletic base (often referred to as the ‘sport base’) always considers its application in real world interpersonal violence.

The School of Crazy Monkey teaches an

all-terrain combat athletically based self-preservation Approach

All Terrain

What value is a ‘self-preservation’ system of unarmed combat if its utility is limited? I have been lucky to test many of the techniques, and concepts of my programs where it matters most, in surviving interpersonal violence. Over the past two decades, I have had the privilege and honor to have taught for example the Crazy Monkey System to special force military operators, law enforcement officers, and close protection teams. Crazy Monkey Defense therefor has been successfully deployed in various environments, from the battlefield, to steaming jungles, to city streets. The ability to do so, not only speaks to the functionality of the system to morph and cross-platform to various ecologies, it also defines how it was developed, and continues to be improved upon.

In my experience, complexity kills. In a physical fight, in a life and death encounter, you want what you had previously trained to be recalled easily. In other words, it needs to remain simple, but highly tested. The truth is, your cognitive functions in high stress experiences is easily overloaded, and when it comes to performance fighting skills, you want your body to be in the drivers seat. The more complex the system you trained in, the more likely cognitive overload will occur, as you scramble for the best possible solution to the unfolding experience you now find yourself in. As most military operators will tell you, they survived life and death encounters, because they trusted their training. 

Empty hand fighting skills are no different. Trust will be developed through training those skills in the closest realistic training environments possible, and seeing the success of those actions first hand. This trust is then transferred to the reality of the fight. A moment, where you trust in your training, could mean the difference between life or death. Further, you have to trust that those skills you have been training will show up in multiple environments, not just in the ‘Dojo’. While of course one needs to adapt one’s training approach from one environment to another where possible, at its core, the fight concepts should be easily transferable, regardless of environment.

As such, as I developed my martial arts programs, and continue to do so, it has been shaped by my desire to have those skill sets be applicable to the widest range of interpersonal conflict experiences. Having students for example in Crazy Monkey Defense (and my other programs) from so many various professional backgrounds has made this goal even more crucial.

Combat Athletic Base

There are key attributes in developing self-preservation skills that I believe can only be developed in what is often referred to as ‘combat sports’ and by extension through contact sparring.

Attributes such as distancing, timing, keeping calm under attack, and landing techniques against a moving, resisting, uncooperative opponent to name a few — can only be experienced and developed in sparring.  While there is a place for ‘self-preservation scenarios’, this isn’t the place to develop these attributes. Much of the reason for this is that going hard, all out, with anything goes, just isn’t that safe with the current protective gear on the market. But in addition, self-preservation scenarios, are exactly that: scenarios, set up to give a person a frame of reference to explore applying certain skill sets. A scenario is never an actual fight, just like a map isn’t the actual terrain. Sparring, like it or not, is the closest a person can come to, and consistently repeat the execution of their fight skills over and over, against another opponent who fights back. In other words, it is one of the most repeatable and tested ways to access the terrain of the fight game.

Now of course, when I say sparring, I do mean within the parameters of safety for both parties concerned. I am not of course going to kick my partner between the legs (Although we may simulate doing so in a scenario drill). But here is the thing, if you can land that front kick to his leg, or the round kick to his thigh in sparring when his moving, trying to counter, or fight back — placing it when you need it in a street environment to someone’s groin isn’t going to be that difficult. As noted above, done with respect, with safety, sparring is repeatable. You can spar every day if approached properly.

Each time you spar, you are honing those key attributes I mentioned earlier, each of which is going to be required when you actually have to defend yourself for real out on the street. Do enough sparring, and you are able to develop those attributes, like timing, distancing, speed, power, and so forth, to a very high level. These attributes become ingrained, second nature, and easily brought forward when needed by your body’s natural intelligence and in doing so freeing up your cognitive stream for other matters, such as inner game management.


I prefer the term ‘self-preservation’ rather than ‘self-defense’. I see the idea of ‘self-defense’ as something you do to keep yourself safe the moment it happens to you — whilst ‘self-preservation’ is an concept you live by. Self-defense in other words, at least to me is reactionary, while self-preservation is preemptive.

Here’s an example: Imagine for a moment you are walking to your motor vehicle late at night. For some odd reason, you parked on a dimly lit street corner, in a not so safe part of the city. As you are walking to your car you are distracted by answering messages on your mobile phone. Blissfully unaware of your surroundings, as you get to your car and begin to open the door you are held up at gun point. In that moment, you are in a ‘self-defense’ situation.

Conversely: if we play out that whole scenario again, but this time, knowing that you parked in an unsavory part of the city, you decide to pack your phone away before walking to your motor vehicle, fully aware of your surroundings. Now, because you are so much more aware, you see a couple of guys lurking around on the street corner, and you stop, noticing them from a distance. Because you are aware, your spidey sense, the alarm bells in your body go off telling you something isn’t right with this picture. Something looks out of place, and you know it. The guys on the street corner, realizing that you are aware, decide to turn around, and walk down the opposing street in hopes of finding an easier mark. That’s self-preservation!

In other words, self-preservation should be part of every aspect of your life. Now, I don’t mean in some kind of paranoid reality based self-defense ‘there is an attacker on every corner’ kind of way. Rather it’s about knowing when to be switched on, aware, awake and preemptive. For example, if I am going to be in a part of the world I am unfamiliar with (which is often), I then want to have some idea on what the crime trends are in that part of the world, and what to watch out for.

Sadly, I knew someone who didn’t do this, and paid the ultimate price. A good friend of mine who was a reporter was killed right outside a hotel in a North African country because she failed to wear her bullet proof vest that day. Now, she knew before hand that they were frequently targeting journalists, and assassination attempts were common, yet she decided to ignore those warnings and stood outside in the open foyer of the hotel without her vest that day. The rest as they say is history!

As such, preserving the self, is putting a self-preservation mindset to work, even  before we have to worry about defending the self. But, if we find ourselves in a situation, where we have no choice but to go hands on with a human threat, what is going to aid us in getting through that experience is going to be the time we spent on the mat developing our combat athletic base. The truth is, what saved me working as a doorman outside some of Johannesburg’s roughest nightclubs for several years was my combat athletic training such as boxing, not some self-defense technique sequence I was taught in some self defense class.

Multi-Tool Approach

There is a belief both by practitioners of martial arts, but forwarded by those who teach that in order to successfully defend oneself more knowledge is better. In other words the more techniques a person knows, and in turn the application of those techniques to the widest possible array of potential attacks will allow the user more efficacy in their defense against a threat. As such, the analogy here of creating a toolbox of techniques is applied.

There are so many problems with this approach  – not least that interpersonal violence is a complex phenomena that doesn’t lend itself neatly to reverse engineering. You can of course in a controlled environment break down a potential threat problem, for example someone attacking you in a certain way, and then successfully demonstrate your defense thereof.  This however doesn’t mean you will be able to do the same in a non-controlled environment.

For the sake of brevity, lets just say there are a multitude of problems you will have to contend with in the moment you are attacked. Not least your ability to recall exactly what you had been taught to defend that exact attack. This doesn’t of course take into account that you have no access to your attackers next move (i.e., you not a mind reader), you find that you have to deal with your own inner turmoil from potential negative self-talk, the emotion of fear, along with the physiological changes in your body that make it difficult to execute complex movements and so on.  Seen from this perspective, having more techniques, that ‘toolbox’ approach becomes a liability leading to inaction.

What I propose and what I teach in the School of Crazy Monkey is rather a multi-tool approach. In this sense, while a multi-tool cannot of course answer every DIY problem that arises, with some adaptability it can answer most. In the same light, what you really want is a multi-tool of fight techniques that are able to answer the largest possible array of interpersonal violence. For those instances that you don’t have the exact tool to meet the threat you can apply adaptability (achieved in correct training) to then circumvent and solve the problem you are facing. 

This approach adheres the law of parsimony, a principle that says that the best answer is the one that requires you to make the fewest possible assumptions about what should be done. In the end it’s not merely less is more, but equally what that less should be. This is what we teach at the School of Crazy Monkey!