Very rarely do you get the opportunity to meet someone who is genuinely passionate about what they do. Geoff Thompson is genuinely passionate. Over the past few weeks, through this interview, I have taken a journey with a man who is steadfast in all that he does, and whose passion is overwhelmingly contagious. Emma Robins
Questions by The Shotokan Way
(Emma Robins) How and why did you become involved in the Martial Arts?
(Geoff Thompson) Like many people I was bullied as a kid, so I decided (after watching Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon) that I was going to become a fearless master of all things Martial. After thirty-seven (or so) years of diligent practice I am neither a master nor am I fearless. But I have been around a few corners and trained with some amazing people, and I have learned a thing or two about fear and physical confrontation. The Martial Arts transformed me from a young man that was frightened of pretty much everything to a very happy alchemist (and a weathered and seasoned lover of life), who no longer lives under the dominion of fear. I have learned to transmute that latent energy (fear) into gold.
(ER) You have been training, as you said, for 37 or so years. What has kept you training? Why do you continue with your own practices?
(GT) The simple answer is I still love it. I am still excited by the training and by the challenge. There is not a single day that I do not love training. And of course I am still growing, not so much in the physical game these days, although I still train physically every day, more in the internal game. Writing this article is an extension of my Martial Arts, making the films is an extension, managing my very prolific life is merely an extension of the Martial Arts. It informs everything I am. So these days it is not just what I do it has become what I am. And man I do love the people. I did a residential course recently with Peter (Consterdine) and had four days working and sharing with some of the best Martial Artists in the world. I am in a privileged position Emma; most of my best friends are world-class Martial Artists.
(ER) You did all of your Dan gradings with Enoeda Sensei, and trained with many of the KUGB greats. Would you be kind enough to share some memories and stories that you have of your training with these karateka?
(GT) Well, now we are talking. Man, I trained with some wonderful people. I can still remember the awe of Kawasoe as he (seemingly) glided through the dojo in his crisp white gi, and how karateka would travel from across the country to grade under him. I was probably about 12 years old (I still have my original licence) and training at the Longford Shotokan Club under the auspices of Mick and Rick Jackson. These two men were amazing athletes, and certainly pioneered karate in the Midlands. I actually used to walk a six mile round trip (chips on the way home) to train in what was probably the toughest karate club I have ever trained in. It was full of very large men and one or two equally scary women. To my youthful (fearful) eyes it felt a bit like walking onto the set of Monsters Inc. I loved the club, but it did terrify me. The training was relentless, the standards very high and if you didn’t block, something got broke; that was a given. It terrified me at the time. But retrospect has shown me that the grounding was perfect. I can remember that long walk as though it was yesterday, and how every step tempted me to stop and go back home. How, when I did arrive, I would peep through the high dojo doors before every session to see who was in attendance. And there were always several people who scared the breakfast out of me. Of course I realise now how important fear is in training, and that if there is no fear, if there is not difficulty and if there is not doubt and uncertainty you are sure to be at the wrong club. Those early ‘inferno sessions’ in Shotokan absolutely and unequivocally made me; they gave me a foundation that, later standing on violent Coventry nightclub doors, literally saved my life.
Mr Kawasoe was the epitome of power, but I always remember him as a very gentle and shy man. Of course when he moved it was like someone had thrown a live match into a box of fireworks. He was very dynamic. A very explosive Martial Artist. All of my early kyu grades were taken under Mr. Kawasoe. Then later, my first and second dans were taken under Enoeda Sensei. My best memories from that period are of Mick and Rick Jackson, they were so talented. I mean everyone looked up to Rick, he was just such an incredible man, but I was particularly taken by Mick, who was an amazing kicker. All I wanted to do back then was kick and Mick was (for me) the best technical kicker I have seen. I used to watch him warm up before sessions, lifting his knee almost to his head height then very slowly pushing out the most perfect kekomi. I dreamed of being able to do that. Then later of course I trained under, and was very influenced by, legends like Terry O’Neill, who became a hero of mine. He was actually responsible for publishing my first ever piece of writing, an article I penned for Fighting Arts International called Confrontation, Desensitisation (about gaining desensitisation to fear by confronting it). He actually rang me up to congratulate me on the piece and gave me great inspiration. I was just a club second dan in those days, whilst Terry et al were in the very highest echelons of Martial Arts, so I was really delighted and flattered that he rang. His phone call and subsequent support of my writing and training was what enabled me to add some heady ascent to my writing and my Martial game. And many, many years later when I was promoting my book Watch My Back I actually got a telephone call from Dennis Martin (another hero of mine) saying “Terry said, do you fancy a brew when you’re next in Liverpool?”
Tea with Terry!
It was like getting signed up for United. I was thrilled.
Let me tell you Emma I have met some of the very best folk over a cup of tea, in fact tea has become a bit of a theme for me; I first met Peter Consterdine over a tea in Huddersfield when he interviewed me for Martial Arts Illustrated and he showed me his devastating double hip punch on the services car park. I have had many teas with my JKD friend Rick Young in an Edinburgh hotel café overlooking the castle. I have tea twice a year with Australian grappling supremo John B. Will in Coventry where he tells me about his training with legends like Don Draeger. I actually had tea at my house just last week with Thai legend Master Sken. I have to tell you that you meet the best people over a pot of tea. I even found myself having tea with Chuck Norris in Las Vegas, Nevada some years ago (thinking to myself ‘how did I end up here?’). He had taken a real liking to my work on fear, the fence and posturing and invited me two years in a row to teach for his group in the US. It was a great honour, I was teaching with Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez and the Machado brothers (of Gracie Ju-Jitsu fame). It was amazing and quite surreal, because I was sat with Mr Norris in a Las Vegas Hotel, talking about the times that he used to spar with Bruce Lee.
(ER) You work very closely with Peter Consterdine. Can you please tell us how this friendship first started and what was it about him that made you want to work closely with him?
(GT) Peter Consterdine pretty much made me. When I met him I was a gnarled, knotted, working doorman that had some good innovative ideas on how to train for honest reality but not much idea on how to get that into a respectable teaching format. I’d written a book called Watch My Back and was trying to promote it through the Martial Arts magazines. I sent it to Bob Sykes at MAI magazine and he’d directed me to Peter, his ‘reality guy.’ I met Peter in a café where he interviewed me (tea again) and talked all things Martial. Peter was a really big name in Martial Arts, an established, high-ranking former international and I was completely un-known but we really hit it off from the very first meeting. He showed me his double hip, I showed him my line-up (the fence and pre-emptive strike) and we went from there. Peter liked the book so I was very cheeky and said ‘will you do a foreword for me?’ which he duly did. As soon as the book was released to the shops I sent him a copy and then one day, some months later and out of the blue he rang and said “I’m thinking of starting a self-defence association, do you want to join me as joint chief instructor?” And that is how the British Combat Association started. Peter became a real mentor to me, still is. He really helped me to refine and develop my art from something very rough and uncouth to what it is today. He is the kind of mentor that you dream of having, he was amazing to me. I don’t want to sound too self depreciating because I am aware of how hard I have worked and the time I have invested in training and developing myself, but I sincerely believe that if it wasn’t for Peter I’d probably still be working doors and lumping people. And man is he impressive! The first time I held the strike pad on my chest and he demonstrated his double hip I felt as though I was separated from my spine. I actually felt as though I had been knocked out of my body. I think there might still be bits of me on that services car park In Huddersfield. It was massively impressive. What I love most about him though was the fact that he had trained with everyone, he’d started with karate, but then he went heavily into Chinese forms even training in China with Yip Chun. He’s looked at wrestling, boxing, heavy weights, bouncing, body-guarding, he is one of those people that has (as they say) rode on wheel-less trains and lived with jealous women. He is extremely charismatic and erudite. When he walks into a room, you automatically know just by his presence and aura that he is someone. And that is what good solid honest sapient Martial Arts should deliver.
(ER) I understand you have written a Foreword to Dennis Martin’s book Working with Warriors. How did you get to know each other?
(GT) I was actually weaned on Den’s column in Terry’s Fighting Arts International Magazine. I think I was a brown belt or a first dan back then, training with the KUGB. Den and Terry were big heroes of mine. This was way before I ever worked a nightclub door. His was the first column I always turned to every month. It was a cup of tea and FAI (great days). Later after I’d got a bit of experience myself I wrote my first article for FAI and then later still, when I started working with Peter and we formed the BCA I got to know Den on a personal level, me and Peter used to invite him down to teach on the monthly courses we held. It was a great honour to write the foreword to a book written by (in my opinion) the best defence teacher in the world today.
(ER) How much of your Shotokan roots do you still use and develop in your system?
(GT) My training has changed massively now, I no longer do physical animal days, I have moved onto the internal jihad, the metaphysical animal day if you like. But all of my physical reality training (in fact ‘all’ of my training) has its roots in Shotokan. I had twenty amazing years in this beautiful system and was blessed to have trained with the greats like Terry O’Neil and Andy Sherry, Bob Poynton and Frank Brennan, to name but a few. My first ever grading was under Kawasoe when I was training with Rick and Mick Jackson, and all my dan grades were taken under Enoeda Sensei. It was incredibly hard training and a great foundation for me. When I later went out to study wrestling and judo and Thai and catch and many other systems, I was delighted and surprised to find that everything I learned in these Arts I could trace back to the bunkai of Shotokan kata. The only problem was it was not being taught openly on the curriculum, or if it was it was just a few repetitions of a popular bunkai – I wanted more, I wanted to master all the ranges. If they were in the kata I wanted to know what they were and to be able to perfect them. I went into judo and studied it deeply. As well as training privately with Wayne Lakin, British Judo champion, I also spent 18 months under Neil Adams at his full time International class. I was amazed at how much of the tachi waza, the shimi waza, the ashi waza and even the ne waza was, again, nesting in the kata of Shotokan. It was interesting for me because at the time I took a lot of criticism from my peers for training in different arts, many even said that I abandoned my art. I actually felt the opposite, I felt that I was being brave enough to explore my art.
(ER) You speak about how you were delighted to find that everything you were learning from the other Martial Arts, you could find in the kata. Does kata have a place in your current study and practice?
(GT) Not any more but I did enjoy it very much. People often talk about the fact that kata is unrealistic, just as they say that the patterns in Gung Fu and Judo are unrealistic, or the Ram Muay in Thai. But I don’t agree. I don’t actually think the critics know what they are looking at or talking about. Personally I never imagined that kata was meant to be the schematic for a real fight. Outside the chippy, people do not put down their haddocks and queue up to attack you one at a time in a set format. It would be naïve to believe that, even more naïve for the critics to think that experienced karateka would imagine it to be true. I think kata is much more than that. It taught me movement, co-ordination, balance, power, timing, momentum, projection, intent, distancing, Kime, breathing, visualisation, stamina, musculature, a sinewy mentality – I could go on. Kata was my grand foundation for when I later expanded into different arts, different branches of the Shotokan tree. I let got of the formal practice of kata but the benefits are rooted in every single thing I do. Many great Martial Artists find their way through kata, and I respect that.
(ER) What was your favourite kata?
(GT) Sochin probably. I liked the sheer power, the deep stances, the breathing, and even sitting here now I can still feel the satisfaction of that last kiai point. I loved it. It suited me very much. But I have to tell you here and now that I was not a great karateka. I was keen, I trained hard but it was only later, when I gave up my job and trained full time with world-class people that I took my art to the higher echelons. In the early days I was a good solid club player, that’s all. I was very powerful because I was committed and able to captain and direct my fear, but I was not very pretty to watch, the aesthetics were not splendid like Frank or Terry, my control was not the best either and my competition was pretty awful. But even with all my inadequacies, I used to scare the shit out of people with my very strong intent, especially my kiai. Later on the doors I developed this spirit to the point where I could defeat a dance floor full of potential attackers just with my voice.
(ER) You mentioned that your training has become more of a metaphysical animal day now. Can you explain what you mean by this? How has your training changed and developed over the years?
(GT) Yes, of course, but if I could first explain why and how I got to that place I think it might help. When I got to 5th dan many years ago, what they call the master grade, physically I was there and I was happy. I had taken my bones into the forge and had them tempered. But emotionally and spiritually I did not feel like a master. Actually I did not even feel like a master physically and physiologically because I was still struggling with real basics like palate control, and I was still carrying more addictions that you could shake a stick at. I was no more a master of myself than I was an astronaut. All of my training career I had been searching for self-sovereignty, and the physical animal days had taken me a long way towards it, but at that time all I had mastered was the ability to handle combat and combative fear. Outside of that I was still a neophyte. This was a hard realisation. I felt like a bit of a fraud. So I took my animal training to the next level (the internal Jihad) where my opponents were the addictions that sapped most of my power. I had always considered myself to be (what the Sufi poet Rumi called) a night-traveller, in that I went outside, into the night, in search of my fears in order to face down and overcome them. I intended to master myself. And I did do this. But now it was time for the real battle, the internal wrastle. I reversed the process. Instead of going out, I started to go in. I hunted down all my shadows; anger, greed, envy, jealousy, lust etc. and I faced them one by one until I mastered them. I unearthed my addictions, and I took a hammer to them also. I hunted all the pornography in my life (and it might be said that anything outside of homeostasis is pornography) and battered in back into moderation. This took a lot of self-honesty, because most addictions hide themselves under the warm cloak of denial and rationalisation. It is easier to say ‘I drink moderately’ than it is to say ‘I have a problem with drink.’ It is deliciously tempting to say sexual pornography is natural than it is to admit that - physiologically speaking – any pornography acts as a damaging caustic on the body and mind. (I know that this might seem peripheral to Martial Arts, but to me it is integral. Could you call yourself a master mechanic simply because you have learned how to put petrol in your car and drive from A to B?) Also, what you ingest (food, drink, drugs, conversation, environment etc) has a huge effect on the adrenals, and if the adrenals are constantly triggered it makes you predatory. And if you are predatory you are aggressive. And aggressive people attract aggressive people and aggressive situations. That, from my experience is fact. When I look back to the days that I was fighting in nightclubs on a weekly, sometimes daily basis, I can see that the reason I was fighting so much was not because I was a victim, or that the world was conspiring against me, rather it was because I was a beacon that attracted fighting. All I thought about, all I talked about, all I read about and watched and lived and breathed was violence. It was my raison d’être. I had weapons in every room of my house, even the smallest room. Violence was not happening in spite of me, it was happening because of me. I was creating it. Whether you read the Testament, the Guru Guran Sahb, the Upanishads, or the Divine Comedy they all tell you the same thing; what we think about emotively and consistently we will create. My life is testament to that, my experiences are my gospel and they cross reference with all the great tomes. Metaphysical self-defence then is realising this and doing something about it. Learning to understand the basics of personal creation (like mastering Kihon) and then learning to direct and mould personal creation. So instead of thinking, talking and reading about violence, I started to think, talk, read and live peaceful thoughts, creative anabolic thoughts, emotive thoughts that add to the world, not take away from it. The subject demands a book in itself really so I won’t go on, but suffice to say that what excites me most about Martial Arts, what inspires me to explore and investigate it is not becoming a good fighter, what really excites me is the challenge of learning to know myself and my massive, massive potential, and then capitalising on that potential. If it was just about the physical I’d have lost interest twenty years ago.
(ER) In Watch My Back you ask the question “Was it ethical to butcher an art that had been developed over hundreds of years by many Masters, just to suit my own needs?” How would you answer this question now?
(GT) Same answer really, only I perhaps would not use the word ‘butcher’. I would perhaps use the word adapt.
(ER) The following is a quote from Watch My Back.
“Now that I understand training, I realise that if you’re not getting hit, or if there isn’t at least the danger of it, it becomes unrealistic and impractical as a form of self-defence.”
Quite often people who train in Martial Arts do not attack to hit, for fear of causing injury, and being impolite to friends. How do you break through the barrier of ‘being polite’ in a dojo?
(GT) You (yes you, the reader) have to take the initiative. If you are doing partner work, one step, three step, ippon kumite or free sparring you have to be brave and actually try as hard as you can to catch your opponent with your attack. If you don’t the training becomes a lie. It is no longer honest practice. Most people say that they don’t attack for real because they don’t want to hurt their opponent, but from my experience they don’t try and hit their opponent because they are scared that if they do, they might get one back. You have to admit that fear, own that fear and then face that fear. Otherwise you might as well be practising dance for all the good it is going to do you when it kicks off outside the chippy on a Friday night.
(ER) In the current society of ‘no win no fee’ suing junkies, do you think some instructors are afraid to teach certain elements of the Martial Arts for fear of being sued, or closed down?
(GT) That’s absolutely true, and even more so in the USA, where largely they still have not embraced, and do not teach pre-emption. But if an instructor does not have the courage to teach the truth then he should question himself; why is he an instructor in the first place? My job is to teach people empirical truths, so that they can survive a violent encounter, also to teach them the legal ramifications of their actions should they choose to use what I have taught. Understanding the law is imperative because in self-defence the law is the second enemy. Many people who legitimately defend themselves find themselves convicted and sent to prison because they did not understand the law, and did not defend their actions on their statement sheet. People are convicted for what they say, not what they do.
A bigger problem Emma is not that people are frightened to teach the truth, rather it is that they either do not know the truth or they are frightened to look at the truth, so they keep teaching people a safe-bet, handed-down version of it. One that does not challenge their comfortable paradigm. I would encourage them to look unerringly for the truth (it will set you free) and then unhesitatingly teach the truth.
(ER) You have written many motivational books as well as books on the Martial Arts. You seem to have an incredible grasp of human emotion. What peaked your interest in motivating others to think more positively, and to face their fears?
(GT) Thank you very much. It happened by accident actually. I have always been interested in motivation and self-sovereignty and personal growth, and because of this I naturally taught what I had learned to my classes. It proved, even in embryonic form, to be incredibly popular. Then I started doing courses, locally, nationally and then internationally and I realised that everyone wanted (needed) to be inspired, irrespective of race or language. It became a big part of my teaching. The books naturally flowed from the classes, I just wrote down on paper almost verbatim what I had been teaching to students and it worked, the books have been very successful. I realised while I was teaching that my gift was for communicating the joy of struggle, the power of the forge, and I loved teaching it, I found this kind of service incredibly rewarding – and I wanted to do it more. But I was aware that there is only one of me and I am limited to 24 hours in each spin of this blue planet and that bothered me. I felt that I wanted to offer more, much more. Then I got this wonderful idea. If I could write my motivation down in a book, or books, or plays, or films or articles (etc) I could clone myself, so that at any time of the day or night my message could be ringing out. So far there are about 3-400,000 versions of me (books mostly) working 24 hours a day, somewhere on planet earth. I intend with God’s grace to break into the millions within the next few years.
(ER) You are a very spiritual person, and are not the archetypal bouncer that we see in the media, or even on the doors of our locals. How do you balance the violence in your life with your spirituality?
(GT) I have no violence in my life Emma. I left that behind me ten years ago. All my training now is about art, it is all directed toward higher consciousness, a union with God. But I have to say that I needed all that violent pornography to get here. As Blake says - the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
(ER) What made you decide to stop working on the doors? Was there a specific moment when the decision was made, or did it happen gradually?
(GT) When I started to the doors I’d have worked for nothing. I loved it, absolutely, I was so hungry to learn about combat and I was surrounded every night of the week by some of the best realists around who were as eager to school me as I was to be tutored. But the job is demanding, and the violence is always prolific and the temptation of that world is profligate. It pretty much ruined my first marriage (or I should say that I pretty much ruined it). I will not lie to you, I went into the job to hunt the dragon and (I stole this from Nietzsche) I became the dragon. I became extremely violent, I became a criminal, and I would say that I probably broke nine out of the Ten Commandments, and the only reason I did not do all ten was because the people who I nearly killed miraculously woke up and I was divinely saved. I did not like the man that I saw in the bathroom mirror. It was after one particularly bad incident – a match fight on a pub car park with another karate man at one in the morning – that I finally found my senses and kicked the job into touch. This man had been goading me for a few months and I was desperately trying to talk the talk with him, but he was not a man that would listen to reason so we did what all unintelligent men do when dialogue hits an impasse (and Kissinger is no where to be seen), we took it to the cobbles. As I said he was also a karate man, a dan grade, but he was not seasoned for the pavement arena, so he did not last beyond the first three seconds. By the time the ambulance came we were all sure that he was dead. When I got home from work I thought that my life was over, I was sure that a long prison sentence stood before me and my place in the hereafter was also in jeopardy. I knelt by the bed, my wife was fast asleep, and it was as though a veil dropped and I was able to see her very clearly for the fist time. She was so beautiful. And I was losing her. I touched her skin, it felt like silk. I know that this might all sound a little poetic, but it is how it happened, it was epiphanous. A moment of clarity. Frightened that I was going to lose her and lose my children I unashamedly got down on my knees and I asked God for another chance. I promised that if He let this guy live I would turn my life around. It was – I have to tell you - a very long, dark night of the soul. The man did live, and I kept my oath, I gradually let go of the doors and took a new path.
(ER) Have you always been a spiritual person, or is this something that has developed in your character more recently?
(GT) It was always in the background, I was brought up as a Christian but – like the Martial Arts that I was first exposed to – I would find myself scrutinising the teaching and the teachers and asking myself ‘is this going to work in my life?’ Usually I was disappointed because what was taught was somehow not congruent, and certainly the teachers (priests etc.) did not seem to be living their gospel. It did not fill me with inspiration, but it did offer me a foundation for my own learning. You’d think that you might need to go to a church to find God (and many people do find Him there), actually I found God in bloody car park match fights, on beer-sticky nightclub carpets and outside late night eating establishments. I also found Him in animal day where I accidentally found higher consciousness emerging from the blood and the snot of harder contact. And the God I found was real, and what He intuited to me I could work in the direst of situations.
(ER) Professionally I am an English Teacher in a Young Offenders Institute, and I am sometimes shocked by the acts that some human beings are willing to commit. In our culture, it seems acceptable to go out at the weekend with the sole intention of getting into a fight. Would you say that in today’s culture violence could be considered an addiction?
(GT) Violence - from my experience – can become an addiction and of course it is heinous. But it does not surprise me that there is so much of it, why wouldn’t there be? It is advertised in every magazine, newspaper, film and soap. And it is always glamorised, usually inadvertently but it is glamorised none the less. Listen, I lived a violent life for ten years and it was weak and it was self-perpetuating. It solved nothing, even well intentioned violence always re-bounds on its self. What you read, watch, listen to etc. does have an effect because it manipulates the adrenals and leaves you feeling predatory. I defy anyone to watch sexual pornography and not want to have sex immediately afterwards. Violent pornography is no different. It creates a physiological release of hormones for fight or flight, and if they are not behaviourally used the body will hunt high and low for a surrogate displacement. People may deny it, but it is true.
I think if violence is going to be portrayed perhaps the filmmakers should be more responsible, show the effects of violence, show that there is no honour in it, that it is the language the ignorant and that actually it is pretty ugly.
(ER) Was that one of your goals as a filmmaker, to show violence as it is, not as people imagine it to be?
(GT) My aim has always been to show reality, the pre-fight, the in-fight and the post fight consequences. As we know violence is often romanticised on screen, it is made to look very attractive. That was never my experience of violence, I always found it ugly and frightening, I really wanted to try and capture that, and show people that there are better things we can do with out life than roll around the beer sticky carpet with some Neanderthal.
(ER) Do many people give you feedback on your films? What kind of feedback do you get?
(GT) Yes they do Emma. They can’t stop themselves. And rightly so, that is the entitlement of a free society, and we should celebrate that. Mostly the feedback is good, often gushing, sometimes personal, occasionally nasty and vitriolic. My latest film Clubbed, inspired by Watch My Back, has created a real polarity of opinion, some people love it to the very bones, others think it is violent or terrible. I try to stay objective to both views, if you allow yourself to be flattered by the good reviews, you’ll be flattened by the bad ones. Polarity is good for me, it tempers me, and it is good for the film, because no one wants to see a film that does not stir up emotion. I do love to observe though; the most vitriolic criticism (of my books, of my films, of me) is very interesting, it tells me a hell of a lot more about the critic himself than it does about me or my work. It is like a character x-ray, and it does not show much character, I have to say.
(ER) As I said, I work with Young Offenders, and the biggest challenge I face is encouraging change. Where do you feel society is failing in a culture of increased knife, gun and gang crime?
(GT) I feel slightly inadequate to answer this question because it is a global problem and great minds have been trying to solve the problem of war since time began. And kids on the street with knives, family feuds, and internal crises are all just a microcosm of what is occurring in world affairs. The world out there is representative and reflective of what is happening in the galaxy that exists inside all of us. The sages and the swamis and the seers have been telling us this for millennia, but it is taking its time to catch on with the majority of people. Partly I am not concerned, because I think that nothing out there is wrong. It is ugly and it is violent but I am not sure that it is wrong. We are simply observing a species in its evolutionary climb. We are currently standing on a rung of the consciousness ladder that still feels that violence is necessary to survival. In the evolutionary hierarchy we are probably at about yellow belt stage (but often thinking that we are fifth dans). I am sure that in a few hundred years time we will look back and be horrified at how destructive mankind was, just like we look back in wonder now at some of the atrocities that our ancestors enacted in the name of God. I have thought about this question a lot, and pondered it for years. What my experience has taught me is this; if I want to change the world the best place to start is with me. What I do has an effect on mankind. Leonardo Da Vinci said that when a bird lands in a tree the whole world changes, because everything affects everything. So I work very, very hard at removing every aspect of violence from my own orbit, from the violence I create in myself when I abuse my body (with wrong thoughts, wrong food, wrong beliefs) to the violence I create in my family when I mistreat them, deliberately or inadvertently. Everyone wants to change the world, but not many people seem in a hurry to change themselves. I personally think that you will have a more positive effect on the world if you change yourself than if you walk around London with an angry protest banner.
The people demanding ‘no violence’ are not often congruent.
It goes back to what I said earlier. The people – government, officials, teachers, priests etc – are not congruent. St. Francis of Assisi advised that we should all teach the gospel, and if we really had to, use words. So people can talk all day long, but their gospel will always, always, always be who they are and what they do. If you tell kids that violence is wrong, and then send troops out to war, or kill prisoners on death row with a lethal injection, what are you really telling them? It is a confused and ignorant message. Listen, I struggle with this stuff myself, but, as a teacher and a father I have learned this; if you want people to listen to you, stop speaking. Become what it is that you want them to be and do and they will follow. Demonstrate the sheer power of non-violence and forgiveness and altruism with your courageous and massive actions and they’ll be racing to follow suit. This is not going to happen over night. As I said we are an undeveloped species, a work in progress and our evolution is going to take time.
PART 2 OF THIS SUPERB INTERVIEW WILL FOLLOW IN THE 2009 NEW YEAR EDITION