Some years ago, Garry Smith in the UK asked for some thoughts about what it would take to create a University-level (and ideally fully accredited) program for self-defense instructors. What would be included? What left out?
I wasn't sure. Still not sure. But I told him about my SMEs, my Subject Matter Experts. I have a list of people I go to when I have questions. Smart people with extensive experience, they all have unique points of view (no one needs people who just agree with them). The one thing they do have in common is that none of my SMEs are sure. They respect that the world is nuanced and complicated, they know what they don't know, they are learning all the time...
I have a couple of lists. For straight-up martial arts, Jeff is my go-to for Chinese and Thai; Scott for the CMA/performance cross over; Maija for certain blade stuff; Guy for historical firearms... it's a long list. The self-defense list was shorter. Ten people:
Clint Overland. You can't understand solutions if you avoid the problem and, as far as violent crime goes, Clint spent his early life as part of the problem. One of the few people with his experience who ever got out of "The Life." Intelligent, sarcastic and funny as hell. But when he chooses to be serious he's dead right. He tends to see things strictly from the criminal's point of view and came up believing that it was the 'right' point of view. Which may balance my choirboy tendencies.
Kathy Jackson. The Cornered Cat. An experienced handgun instructor and the one I trust to call me on my bullshit. She knows stuff about teaching women that I simply don't, and she lets me know. Kathy's backed away from teaching, and as such from CRGI, but she's still a good friend and advisor to the group, when she has time.
Terry Trahan. Martially a silat player. Professionally, at one point he was the highest-paid and most sought-after bouncer in the Mountain States, and designed knives (among other duties) for a major blade company. I like and respect him, for experience, knowledge and physical skills. He's both a true friend and an Honorable Enemy. He will tell me if he thinks I'm wrong-- and I will listen.
Marc MacYoung. As far as I know, Marc was the first person to write a book saying that martial arts and self-defense were not the same thing. His was definitely the first I read. Highly intelligent and twisted mind with an interesting background. Marc challenges me. We always disagree in very interesting and useful ways.
Teja Van Wicklen. Teja showed up at one of my first seminars in Boston with some serious shoulder injuries and a four-year-old. She was putting into words some things I was just coming to understand. What does self-defense even mean when you are carrying a baby or pushing a stroller? What is it like to start every day with almost every threat twice your size and maybe three times your strength? She was asking the questions and pushing for her own answers, because she didn't see any good answers in the self-defense community at large.
Erik Kondo. Erik is Not Me! Self-defense and he teaches from a wheelchair. He knows being targeted and working from positions of disadvantage in a way very few ever will. On top of that, he's smart as hell and of all of us, he's the only one who really understands business. He also likes to think in diagrams, and since I don't (and I hate complications) he can reach people that I can't.
Toby Cowern. Might seem the odd man out. He is a Kapap instructor and former Royal Marines Reserve, but his primary metier is teaching survival. But you know what? Turns out the way he teaches survival in his specialty is very similar to the way I teach it in mine. Kind of cool. And he's fun to hang out with.
Garry Smith. Former football hooligan with an advanced degree in sociology. Probably the smartest man in a given room hiding behind a working class accent. I blame him for starting all this.
THE NEW ONE. Jayne Wharf, added to the team by Garry Smith. Jayne is our business and systems manager. She is a senior instructor with the Academy of Self Defence and a second dan black belt in Ju Jitsu. Jayne is currently leading on the development of our online learning programme. (you can tell Garry wrote that-- "programme.")
Teja Van Wicklen
Yep. Me. One of this motley lookin' crew.
Together we're accumulating and vetting hard lessons, combining experience and insight. Information that is hard to come by outside of some very specialized professions.
Together we've created the Conflict Research Group website (actually, that was almost all Erik) and the Conflict Manager magazine (and that's almost all Garry and Jayne). It's a worthwhile investment.