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MARTIAL DIRECT- The Directory of Martial Arts Schools & Instructors

Richard Dimitri

Richard Dimitri


(September 2003)

         Richard Dimitri is the owner and founder of Senshido. Based out of Canada, Mr. Dimitri is a reality-based instructor who has taught law enforcement officers, security personnel, film stars, bodyguards, amateur fighters, as well as people from all walks of life.

        He has been published in Black Belt magazine as well as producing 25 instructional tapes to date. His personal protection manual In Total Defense of Self has been heralded as one of the best works of its kind.

        Richard Dimitri is considered one of the top instructors in his field.

        To read more about him, visit the Senshido website at:

[Martial Direct] What's been the biggest obstacle in starting and maintaining your business full-time?

[Richard Dimitri] At the beginning, it was my lack of business knowledge. I am primarily a fighter and teacher but definitely not a business man. I had no idea what to do to bring people in, how to advertise, how to market my system etc. I didn't know what to do with a computer, let alone turn the thing on.

As things progressed, I was blessed with certain great people in my life who believed in what I was doing and believed in me. One of them was an already extremely successful business man who helped restructure my entire company. He taught me so much about business, more than a university or school could ever do, because it was based on experience and not books or an individual's perceptions as to what it takes to run a successful business.

I went from almost declaring bankruptcy in 1997 (3 years after I opened) to literally quadrupling my student enrollment and expanding my school in less than 2 years. The system or my teaching was never the problem.

My friend, after watching me teach a free seminar to over 80 women (due to a rapist that was preying on the women of Montreal at the time), saw what I was doing and was amazed at my passion and abilities (his words, not mine). He said I was sitting on a gold mine and that we had to get this priceless information out there. At the time I had no website, no instructional tapes, no books, nothing on paper.

He sat me down, night after night, and picked my brain, got everything down on paper with me (we churned out half a dozen thick binders full of double sided notes). Then we came up with a business plan, a 5 year progression chart. Everything we set out to do to date, we did. If it wasn't for him (and a few others as well), I wouldn't be where I am today.

[MD] Tell me about your student base right now. How many local students, how many distance students, how many instructors, etc?

[RD] Our student base is so diversified. Locally, I have over 300 students which range from ages 13 to 80 years of age. People from all walks of life; university students, business men, lawyers, cops, nurses, actors, stuntmen/women, you name it.

I would classify long distance students as people who have not only purchased our materials but also either trained with me personally through travel or correspond with me through phone and email via 'virtual' and 'video' level instruction. Based on this description, I would say that there are maybe 50 to 100 correspondent students worldwide (including Brazil, Greenland, China, Kuwait, Dubai, the US, England, Germany, Greece and Ireland - I may be missing a country or two though.)

I don't consider people who have purchased a few or bunch of our tapes long distance students. If that were the case, I would have thousands of them as we sell over 150 to 200 instructional tapes worldwide per month.

As for instructors, locally at our Montreal location there are currently 9 certified Senshido instructors which teach both at the Senshido school and around the city at various universities & colleges.
[MD] If you could offer some advise to martial arts instructors that would help them in their business dealings, what would it be?

[RD] That's tough to say because it depends on the nature of their business. Is it strictly a local affair (a school with students), what type of students do they have, what age groups are predominant, what style or system do they teach etc., or is it also an international business where they travel and teach seminars, sell instructional materials worldwide etc?

My best advice is simply teach from the heart. Do it because you care for your clients, students and people in general. There's nothing wrong with making a good or even great living out of it but don't let that be your primary motivational inspiration. Do it from the heart. Don't do it to validate your self-worth, to boost your ego, to make a name, do it genuinely.

There are so many people out there bitching and whining about who started what first, who trained with who, who taught what first, who ripped off whom, hierarchies, sifus, gurus etc. that they have lost sight on what is important... why they are doing this in the first place.

In the end, it's about improving and saving people's lives. If your passionate, you'll succeed and attract similar and like-minded people who will share your passion.

[MD] You say "In the end, it's about improving and saving people's lives." Do you think that "saving people's lives" should be an emphasis in all martial arts schools?

[RD] No, not necessarily. My beef is with those that preach it but don't teach it. If you're teaching a martial art that involves traditions and such, state its benefits like discipline, peace of mind, stress release, health, mastery of the self etc. but don't also tag on 'Self-Defense' in the mix.

For example, our main focus is enhancing survivability. If someone walks into my school and states he wants to compete in the UFC one day, I send him to a more suitable school for his needs. If someone is looking for tradition, forms, and artistic weaponry, I send them to the nearest and best suitable school. However the local Karate/TKD/MMA school down the street won't send someone who walks in to their establishment looking for personal protection skills for him and his family my way. Their ego won't allow it.

Stick to what you know. Work on what you're good at. Market yourself accordingly. If teaching self-defense is an issue for someone whose system doesn't adequately cover it, then find someone who does and learn from them in order to add a new facet to your current curriculum. Don't freakin' lie about it, you're playing with people's lives. It is simply socially irresponsible.

[MD] In regards to "Reality Based" systems, you've made the analogy of the difference in going to a surgeon that has successfully performed many operations and going to one just out of med school. In other words, you recommend going to a "Reality Based" instructor that has had to use the skills he teaches?

Could you explain your reasoning for this?

[RD] There's a saying that goes "Ask the experienced, not the learned." I tend to agree with that.

Virgins teaching sex just doesn't cut it in my opinion. There's a big difference between a rubber knife and a real knife. You want to preach about surviving a knife fight yet you have never had to survive one yourself? You want to teach someone about the effects of adrenaline, stress and fear when faced with 3 punks determined to rip you apart, yet you've never experienced those emotions or physiological changes in the face of violence yourself?

Really? And what qualifies you? The books you've read or tapes you've studied? Ok, so by that logic, someone can get a doctorate's degree by reading a few books and watching a few tapes and now he's not only ready to perform brain surgery but he's also fully capable of teaching anyone to do it as well, right?

However, if you've studied under someone whose performed brain surgery successfully, and went through the process yourself, then this qualifies you much more than the dude who didn't. Doesn't mean that every one wishing to teach self-defense out there should go out and get into fights, not at all. However there are a handful of reality based guys out there who've already done the leg work... put your ego aside and go study with them. They did the work, they've been there and done that so you don't have to. You can learn from their experience and teach based on what you've learned.

And once again, stick to what you know. Winning a few no-holds-barred fights doesn't make you an authority on self-defense, it makes you an authority in no-holds-barred fights. The arena is different. The state of mind is different. Just because I have a drivers license doesn't mean I can fly a plane.

It is crucial to understand that in a real fight, there are three elements missing that are forever present in a sporting event like a mixed martial arts tournament as well as in training (sparring). These three elements are:

  1. Consent: The approval and go ahead by 2 parties that they have engaged this day to ‘fight’, train, spar etc.
  2. Awareness: Both parties are there by choice and through previous agreement.
  3. Preparation: Both parties through consent and awareness are prepared for the event and have been so for hours, days, weeks or even month’s prior.

In the street, you do not have the luxury of either of the three. If you do, then let us be clear from the start that it is not a personal protection or self-defense situation anymore, you have somehow participated in the escalation of the confrontation.

[MD] I'm glad to hear you say that it doesn't mean that you have to go out and get into fights to teach self-defense. You were starting to concern me.

There's a big difference between brain surgery and self-defense.

The surgeon who performs a thousand surgeries is considered a professional.

The self-defense instructor who has been in a thousand fights is considered a thug. Unless it was performed in a professional capacity, that is.

How many altercations have you been in Rich? And in what capacity? You don't strike me as the "thug" type.

[RD] Can't really say how many exactly, but over a dozen. Some involving armed attackers, some involving multiple attackers and some involving multiple armed attackers.

I am really not a thug at all. The confrontations I've been in were largely due to my line of work (undercover security, bouncer, bodyguard) and those that didn't involve work involved me helping out people who were being victimized. For example, four summers ago, I got to an intersection approximately 2 minutes away from my home when I saw 2 women crossing the street. One woman was quite drunk and her friend was just helping her up and walking her (I’m assuming) home.

As they were crossing the street, a car with two guys (approximately mid-twenties) drove by and slowed down. I saw (my windows were closed as I had the air on in my car) the guys shout something to the two women out their window and begin to laugh. The drunken girl turned around and I unmistakably saw her mouth the words "Fuck you!" to the two guys. The guys retorted something back and the drunken girl replied by giving them the finger.

The driver of the car got out and stormed towards the two women. He walked over and shoved the drunk woman.

That’s when I stepped out of my car. I quickly headed over to them and placed myself in between the two. I told the guy that it was alright and that the girl had too much to drink and she didn’t mean anything by what she said or did. The drunken woman’s friend confirmed my words as they began to walk away from the scene.

The guy turns to me and tells me to fuck off and that this is none of my business. I tell him I’m sorry and that this is getting out of hand, and that we should both just head on home as it is late.

The guy shoves me and tells me that I now have his full attention. I immediately get my hands up and take a passive stance. I tell him that this is not worth it and that I’m sorry for whatever I may had done and he decides to pull a knife out. His friend then steps out of the car and heads over towards us. The women are now a safe distance away and watching along with a few other by-standers and a cab driver who is sitting in his car at his post.

Of course, no one’s doing anything about this. I’m the only idiot who figures he should intervene in someone’s trouble. The guy takes a swing, which I evaded , and he goes again with a backhand slash. I jammed his arm and trapped it, then “Shredded” him, which disoriented him enough for me to disarm him and grab his knife. From there, I stuck the guy's knife into his thigh.

He drops to the floor screaming in pain. His friend stands there completely uncertain of what to do. He seems to be contemplating whether to finish what his friend started or taking care of him. While he was in his self-inquisitive state, I decided it was time to make myself scarce. I got into my car and went home.

Things like this happened frequently. I stopped a guy harassing an 11 or 12 year old girl on a metro which led to him pulling a knife out on me.

I intervened when some “nut case” during a huge melee outside a bar was beating on a woman something fierce.

I was also mugged twice. Once at gun point and once at knife point.

So no, I'm not a thug and I have never started a fight in my life.

In contrast, I have defused three times more potential fights then the actual physical altercations I got into.

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