As a child, I was a big fan of martial arts movies, anything starring Bruce Lee in particular. When my parents finally had enough of my brother and me reenacting scenes around the house, they sent us to karate lessons. My mother was a very successful practitioner herself.
I studied karate for about 10 years, on and off, and felt confident in my ability to defend myself, despite never having pressure-tested my training in the real world. I was bullied at school but treated it as a point of pride not to retaliate. Besides, my hands were registered as lethal weapons, so it would be unfair and irresponsible to turn that huge advantage against an unwitting assailant, right?
At 16 years old, I had my rude awakening. I was badly beaten up by the jealous, older ex-boyfriend of my then-girlfriend. The only thing my 10 years of traditional training had armed me with was the misguided confidence that simply prolonged the beating. It was clear that the skills I had developed in the dojo were not transferable to self-defense.
A friend of my dad's was a high-level Thai boxer, and after telling him about my identity crisis, he invited me to his gym. I couldn't believe my eyes. People were punching and kicking each other. Hard. There were no ritualistic forms or 'katas.' You practiced a few skills, and then you put on your gloves, put in your gum shield, and tried to make those skills work under intense pressure.
Lewis Kemp-Sloan, Owner
I was way out of my depth and I loved it. I knew that I would be far better physically and psychologically prepared for conflict in the future because we were immersing ourselves in it every time we stepped into the gym. From there I was introduced to the grappling arts, such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo and Wrestling. I loved the 'human chess' aspect of it; the way you can draw your opponent into a trap and then use technique and leverage to throw or submit them.
The natural progression from there was Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), in which the striking and grappling arts are combined to give the closest thing to no-holds-barred, real-world hand-to-hand combat in the sporting world. The most exciting thing about this sport from my perspective was the way in which practitioners develop their own styles, which was far more pragmatic than the approach I was used to in traditional martial arts. During a successful competitive career in MMA, I was approached with the opportunity of teaching close quarters combat to law enforcement overseas. It was a dream come true. I was tasked with developing a programme that was functional and effective. I managed that project for almost 10 years, during which time the emphasis always centred on our core tenets; practicality and effectiveness.
When I returned home to the UK I was determined to keep teaching and developing my approach to martial arts and self-defence. I had friends who worked as school teachers and social workers, and it was clear from conversations with them that bullying amongst children was not only more prevalent but more unpleasant. Remembering the distress I had myself experienced due to bullying as a child, and the prolonged effects it can have, I decided I would use my knowledge to empower young people with the confidence that comes from refusing to be a victim of bullying. That's when I founded the 'Bully-Proof Programme'.
The Bully-Proof Programme aims to deliver practical solutions to the most commonly experienced scenarios that youngsters face when being bullied, or confrontation in general. We cover situations such as what to do if being shoved, headlocked or pinned up against the wall. If they have had their own experiences with bullying we can unpack the specific circumstances and look at solutions for them. This has the added benefit of making distressing memories less overbearing, as the individual feels more prepared for such a situation in the future.
The Bully-Proof Programme has been a huge success (you can read more about this in the 'Testimonials' section), and empowering young people is one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.
Aside from my work with young people, I continue to train adults of all ages and experience levels, from complete beginners to seasoned competitors.
Whether you want to learn to defend yourself and build confidence, to compete in combat sports or simply improve your fitness and conditioning in a more fun and functional way; Exeter Self Defence Academy will get you there.
20 YEARS OF MARTIAL ARTS STUDY
10 YEARS OF TRAINING INTERNATIONAL LAW ENFORCEMENT
10 SANCTIONED MMA BOUTS AND NUMEROUS OTHER COMPETITIONS