Reality Training for Children


Photo by Phil Shirley

Back in 2006 I produced a four-part series on training children in self-protection. I had started my own club the previous year and it struck me that a huge area was missing in the so-called reality-based world. Adults had been woken up to the big problems in martial arts training, which had seemingly been addressed by a new tribe of martial arts going under the banner “Reality-Based Self-Defence”. However, children, who made up the majority of martial arts classes to address fears about interpersonal violence, were still being the fed the same obscure nonsense. In fact, children’s classes were becoming part-crèches with often very little martial content whatsoever. Therefore, I decided to put my principles to the test. The systems and methods extolled by my mentors – Geoff Thompson, Mo Teague and Peter Consterdine – would prove their worth if they could be adapted for training our largest vulnerable area of society. Children deserved access to techniques that could save their lives. I believed they could be empowered with responsibility and, in fact, self-reliance became the core of my teaching message. This idea developed into what became a course and my new e-book, “When Parents Aren’t Around”. As I worked with my students, I soon discovered a huge number of problems with my teaching, and it became a real challenge to develop a method I would be happy to teach my own child, knowing they would have a better chance at survival should they be left alone in a dangerous situation. Furthermore, certain assumptions I had made and taught adults were found wanting during pressure tests and I had to readapt them for children. Feeding back to the adults, I developed several combat-specific games that children found fun and adult found to be a harsh reality-check!

Another area I noted was that I needed parental support if I was going to be serious about teaching realistic self-protection. There was no point in teaching life skills if these skills were not understood by a child’s parents. I needed them to both approve of what I was teaching and to help reinforce these lessons back home.



Photo by Phil Shirley

Here are links to the original four articles that were run in Martial Arts Illustrated magazine in 2006 and Iain Abernethy still kindly hosts on his website.


Reality Training for Children Part 1

This article features an image of a very young Aaron Bowen – who was once a student graded under me. Years later he trained in boxing and won the 75kg division at the 2017 Commonwealth Games.

Reality Training for Children Part 2


Reality Training for Children Part 3


Reality Training for Children Part 4


front cover

These articles were re-written and edited into chapters for my 2014 e-book, “Mordred’s Victory and Other Martial Mutterings”.


My new children’s self-protection book was first conceived in 2007 when I was at a meeting in Disneyland Paris to discuss the promotion of The Martial Arts Festival that was to be held at that prestigious venue the following year. Summersdale Publishing’s then head of production was at the same meeting and, having had a lot of success with my DVD documentaries, put it to me to write what became “When Parents Aren’t Around”. They gave me my word limit and target audience, and I pursued this on the understanding that they would be publishing it. However, Summersdale ended up taking an abrupt new direction and their head of production left the company just prior to me submitting the manuscript. No contract had been signed. I was left with my completed work and nowhere to go. At the time I befriended anti-bullying expert and author Robert Higgs who had contacted me with the idea to combine our teaching knowledge into a complete package to be offered to schools. He offered his support in touting the work to publishers and also received letters of support from luminaries in the child-protection/education world as the Kidscape charity, TV child psychologist Stephen Briers and teacher-turned-author, Francis Gilbert. The book wasn’t accepted by any of the mainstream publishers. Eventually other commitments got in the way and the book got shelved. Years later, when I found a publisher for “Mordred’s Victory” I decided to dust the manuscript off and try again. This time it was accepted and is currently doing very well with both children and parent readers.


robert higgs

Robert Higgs – author of “What Have I Ever Done to You”


Stephen Briers – TV clinical psychologist and author of “Superpowers for Parents”

francis gilbert

Francis Gilbert – author of “I’m a Teacher, Get me Out of Here” & “Yob Nation”











“When Parents Aren’t Around: A Young Person’s Guide to Self-Protection”

When Parents Aren't Around front cover


Courses based on the book


Diary Entries on these courses:

Teenage Edition Part 1

Teenage Edition Part 2