So How Do You Train for Self Defence?

The scene that got me so pumped, the following day  I joined a Karate club!

The scene that got me so pumped, the following day I joined a Karate club!

Only a couple of weeks left until I put on my other hat.

Most of the time you read my blog posts or attend my gym for the fitness info, but before I was getting people strong, I was training like a maniac in the martial arts.

I got pretty good at it too!

A huge part of my own training motivation revolves around being fast, strong and agile enough so that if shit comes to shovel, I’m well prepared.
And while I have accumulated somewhere in the region of 25 years worth of training under a variety of instructors in various martial arts systems I don’t teach any of this, other than to a handful of private students. Basically because being able to effectively apply many of the martial arts tactics in the real world requires hours and hours of practice.

In my life, I run a business, coach a stack of classes, clients and groups and have a family to spend time with. So I don’t have the motivation to put in the hours any more. I’d rather be home mucking about with the kids!

So what do I train and what is it I’ll be teaching on the Self Defence Course in a couple of weeks?

In short, when I train for self defence, I hang the bag and I drill heavy hits. Really heavy hits. I focus on the body mechanics required to create the best leverage and get my bodyweight into every strike.
I have three strikes that I train with umpteen variations that can be applied from each of the three.
I train a couple of kicks too, but not as much as the hand/arm strikes.
I also practice two defences.

And that s about it.

But most of the time, this is all that’s needed.

Self defence is about stopping an attack. It’s not about scoring points, it’s not about punishing the attacker. It’s about getting the most effect in the shortest time frame and getting home to cuddle the missus.

There’s no medals.
No glory.
No refs.

Simplicity is the key to getting out of trouble quick.

And that’s what I train.
It’s what Mick Coup, founder of the Core Combatives (C2) system teaches, and it’s the essence of Pat O’Malley’s Rapid Response system. Two lads that I’ve spent time with and hold in high regard. Both teach from experience and their core methods revolve around the idea of simple, effective principle based training.

Mick Coup talking about the punch

Mick Coup talking about the punch

If it’s principle based, it has universal applications.
If it’s simple it can be kept sharp even without regular training, although the more training you do, the better you will become. Simple techniques built upon solid body mechanics and supported with simple tactics.
And that’s exactly what I’ll be teaching on Sunday 29th July.

One question that always comes up is “why don’t you kick more?”

This was asked when I taught the Rapid Response knife defence module in Tramore a while ago, the guy I’m using to illustrate the point is a classically trained dancer and also a Thai Boxer, so he can kick.

I’ve given him my arm to hold onto and all I’m doing is moving him around while he attempts to carry out my simple instruction:

Kick me as hard as you can!

Here’s what happened:

That doesn’t mean kicking doesn’t work, just that hand strikes are far more efficient.

And in the one day course, we’ll break down the strikes and rebuild them to ensure that when you hit, you hit with everything you have,

The course is running on July 29th at Wild Geese from 1000 – 1600.
Get further details and book a spot CLICK HERE


See you there


Dave Hedges


Fighting Back – How to Stop Back Pain & Improve Your BJJ Game

It’s finally here!

It gives me great pleasure to finally announce the release of

Fighting Back – How to Stop Back pain & Improve Your BJJ Game

Click the image to Purchase

Click the image to Purchase

If I was marketing savvy, I’d have a really long sales pitch lined up for you here with testimonials and before and after pictures.
But I’m not, so I don’t.

What I do have is a line of BJJ players coming to me every day at my Gym for training. And amongst the GFT BJJ team that train out of Wild Geese Martial Arts, those that come to me for supplementary fitness work are the ONLY ones that don’t suffer with any form of back pain.
They also recover faster between rounds of rolling.
They pick up fewer niggling injuries.
They are simply tougher, which in a bout where skills are equal or even stacked against. This toughness can become the deciding factor in who comes out on top.

Personally I find BJJ fascinating.
I don’t train it myself, my martial preferences lie elsewhere, but from a strength coach / movement therapist point of view, watching the guys roll is fascinating.

Ok, I said fascinating twice there, but I can’t think of a better word.

The fluidity with which they move about on the ground, the agility they display and mad positions they bend their bodies into is incredible to watch. But the cynical coach in me is constantly wincing as their spines are loaded and flexed to degrees that they really shouldn’t.

Watching them train multiple times per week, and on the odd occasion getting in and rolling with them has had me thinking of what they need to train in order to simply survive the rigours of their chosen sport.
What movement patterns dominate the sport?
What muscles and lines of force (I love Thomas Myers Anatomy Trains thinking) are being prioritised by the sport?
What are the potential ramifications of emphasising these elements?
And what can we do about it.

This is my thought process for developing athlete specific training programs.
This eBook lays out pretty much the whole thought process.
If you read and digest the information in the book, you will be able to take it, and the sample training programs laid out in it and start to figure out how best to apply this to your own training.

I’ve given you details on how to warm up in a manner that will target all the common BJJ problem areas, there’s an equipment free bodyweight workout and gym workouts for training, 2,3 or 4 days per week.
These are carefully considered workouts that if work diligently, patiently and progressively will help you develop a strong body that is resistant to injury while becoming faster and more enduring.

Once you’ve toyed with them and the other information and exercises laid out, you’ll then be able to adjust these programs to make them more specific to your individual needs.

And that’s about as much of a sales pitch as I can stomach to write.

You can read more and purchase the book from THIS LINK


Dave Hedges

7 Exercises to Increase Punching Power

There are a few things I really love doing.

They are (in no particular order):

  • Playing with my Boys
  • Playing with my Dog
  • Playing with my wife
  • Seeing my clients reap the rewards of their training
  • Lifting heavy things lots of times
  • Hitting stuff, really hard.

Lets talk about that last one.

I like hitting stuff really hard. I’ve been around the martial arts my whole life, starting Karate at the age of 11 and studied a variety of arts in the 25 years since that day.
I also spent a good bit of time working on Doors and did the odd Private Security job.

These days I co-own Wild Geese Martial Arts and have a fair amount of scrappers come to WG-Fit to get their physical attributes built up in order to become more efficient at their chosen means of hurting people.

So for strikers, those that prefer to punch their opponents into submission, here are a few of my top training drills to get maximum power into every strike.


The squat may be lauded as the king of all exercises, but for real full body strength, the deadlift trumps it.
All strikes come from the ground via a powerful hip extension and tight core. What does the deadlift train?
Oh yeah, tight core and powerful hip extension.
Load that bar and lift it off the floor. Stick to sets of 1-5 reps, around 3 is ideal and do several sets.



Power Clean

This is the deadlifts little brother.
Power that bar from the floor and catch it on the shoulders. This is a little technical, so get someone to take you through it (remember I said “Power Clean”, don’t let some Oly lifting purist convince you to do anything else!”
We’re training the same things as the deadlift with this, but with the addition of some serious speed and explosion.
Again, around 3reps for a few sets is good.

The Power Clean just before the catch

The Power Clean just before the catch

One Arm Push Up

While many talk about sports specific training and try to replicate a punch with dumbbells and bands, I prefer this. Personally I’m not a fan of replicating skills in a gym environment, but I do believe we can replicate force vectors and the OAP is as close as you get from a strength perspective.
I tend to work these to technical failure, ie when stop when form starts to break down. But if reps start clocking up, try elevating the feet or adding a weight vest.

A "do anywhere" drill for striking power

A “do anywhere” drill for striking power

Standing Russian Twist

All strikes, and for that matter all combative techniques involve a huge amount of rotary strength from the spine. There are few exercises that trump this beauty for strengthening this pattern.

Also called the "Twisty on your belly" by one of my black belt members!

Also called the “Twisty on your belly” by one of my black belt members!

Circular Cleans

This is a little known kettlebell exercise that can also be performed with clubbells or sledgehammers.
Again we are looking at the rotation but also building a lot of stability through the shoulder.
High reps on this will leave you exhausted for days.

oooh look, a video!

One Arm Clean & Jerk

Again, we’re talking force vectors, and the One arm long cycle pretty much hits it all. High reps with a heavy weight feel just like you’re slogging it out in a scrap. This is one of the most effective drills for building that power endurance to get you through those later rounds.

Sledgehammer Slams

Pure combat conditioning. Get a big old tyre and beat the crap out of it with a sledge hammer. Go for time with this and use it either as part of a circuit or a finisher.
In fact, a great conditioner for any fighter to end their workouts with is a combination of Kettlebell swings and Sledgehammer slams, occasionally I set the two stations apart and have the poor bugger sprint (often dragging a sled) between the two.
Yeah, they always love me after that one.

Myself on Swings, Dave G (our Muay Thai Coach) on the hammer

Myself on Swings, Dave G (our Muay Thai Coach) on the hammer

This is far from a comprehensive list, but if you do nothing but the exercises listed, then you’ll notice your striking power and endurance will skyrocket.

Here’s a wee power circuit combining a few of the above exercises:

Have fun.

For more on how to arrange these into circuits and power circuits, check out the WMD manual, written specifically for Martial Artists and hard charging folk.

Click Here to begin Training like a Combat Athlete

Click Here to begin Training like a Combat Athlete


Dave Hedges


Workshops for 2013:

Bodyweight Training
Wild Geese, Dublin
Sun 18th August, 1000 – 1600

Kettlebell Training – The Basics (Levels 1 & 2)
Wild Geese, Dublin
September 8th, 1000 – 1600
This workshop is a prerequsite for those attending:

Kettlebell Instructor Certification (yes, the inaugral certification!)
September/October. Details TBA

One more workshop to be added in November and possibly one in December (I’m thinking a two day self defence course in December due to the seasonal increase in alcohol related violence.)

And that’s it!

If you want me to come to your place to run an event, you can book me for Nov/Dec or it’s a wait till next year.

Knives and Glutes

Happy Friday!

The week is almost over, unless of course you are joining me for the weekend training, our regular Saturday Bodyweight/Kettlebell class, the Squat session and of course this Sunday, the Rapid Response Knife Defence course.

Sunday is going to be fun, the Rapid Response is one of the few self defence courses I find genuine value in as well as the fact that it’s always great fun working with people and seeing how they respond as we ramp up the pressure!

On Saturdays, we usually take the time to work on some bodyweight and agility drills. We usually open with 15 to 20 minutes of animal movements and maybe some rolling.
This week we are going to try out a new drill that Max Shank has shared with us courtesy of T-Nation.
Here’s a link to the article:

Click the image to read the article

Click the image to read the article

I can see massive value in just the basic level of this, as thoracic mobility and glute function suck in a huge portion of the population.

I’ve written about glute function before in THIS POST, I’d recommend you have a look over it and see what you can take for your own training. The chances are, your glutes are not working to their potential and as a result you are losing power and increase the risk of back and/or knee injury.

And of course, you can’t mention Glutes without mentioning Mr Bret Contreras, AKA the “Glute Guy”
His website is full of great info, much of it about his favourite bodypart, get over for a look.

Thats it from me.

See you over the weekend


Dave Hedges



1 Day Self Defence / Knife Defence Rapid Response Course

Why do we train?

Well for me personally I took up lifting heavy stuff and challenging my body with endurance challenges as a way to improve my performance in the martial arts.

I took up martial arts because I took a beating or two at school.

Later in life as I took to travelling, I began working on nightclub doors, where I not only got to test my training but I also got to see why it was necessary in the first place.

I’ve seen people dropped by ridiculously obvious punches. I’ve seen people get dragged into a brawl that they could have ended quickly if they had the skills to do so.

And I’ve seen people get hurt simply because they fell apart when it came to crunch time.

People like this motivate me to train like a beast

People like this motivate me to train like a beast

This is why I train.

For a few years I travelled solo, backpacking across the globe. I never had a worry, I knew that between my self defence skills and physical training, I could get myself out of a tight spot, even when going places that weren’t recommended for people to travel to.

These days I don’t travel much because I have a young family. Nor do I have the time to spend hours each day training as I have a young, yet busy, business to run. So when I do train, it must be to the point and effective, I don’t train for anything fancy, just to ensure that if anyone attacks my wife or kids. If anyone attacks my kids father or my wife’s husband (yes, I mean me) I wan to know that I can sort the situation as quickly as possible.

So I have looked long and hard to find the simplest methods of training and achieving the biggest bang for the buck.

Two men have provided me with pretty much everything I need these days. Yes I have over 25 years of training under a variety of people, but I firmly believe the information I have learned of these two men is worth more than most of what I’ve previously done.

Mick Coup talking about the punch

Mick Coup talking about the punch

The two men are Mick Coup, the founder of Core Combatives and Pat O’Malley founder of Rapid Arnis and the creator of the Rapid Response System.

Pat showed the Rapid Response system several years ago as a short syllabus for dealing with a knife attack. I liked it, so much so that it became my primary unarmed combat method.
Mick Coup ran his Foundation Course at WG last year, 4 days of intensive training, some theory, some science and a whole lot of common sense wrapped up in some of the highest quality training drills I’ve come across.

Between these two, you really don’t need much more to deal with most of what’s out there.

Simple, effective, proven techniques that are underpinned by rock solid and irrefutable principles. The principles are the key here, techniques are just that, but the principles behind them can be applied anywhere, in any situation. It’s the principle that tells you how to apply the correct technique.

So a week on Sunday I’ll be running a one day Rapid Response course. My method of teaching is heavily influenced by the Core Combatives system and so is slightly different to the way Pat originally showed it and teaches it today. He likes the way I teach it and has implemented some of  my info to his version of the course.

If you want to take part in the course, drop me an email to, title it Rapid Response. If you click the email address it’ll open your email client for you.

Some of the info we will cover on the day:

  • The Flinch Response
  • Parrying and trapping
  • Body mechanics
  • Power generation for striking
  • Controlling the knife
  • regaining the initative
  • testing

There will be more if time allows.

Now for some details:

Location: Wild Geese Martial Arts & Fitness, Magennis Place, Dublin 2
Date: Sunday 30th June
Times: 1000 – 1600
Cost: €50 pp

Places are limited.

Here’s that email address again:, subject “Rapid Response”


Dave Hedges


Building Real “Functional” Strength in a Hurry

What do you do when you’ve a limited window of opportunity in which to make strength and conditioning gains before an event?

I know this sounds like poor planning and preparation but this is exactly what happened to a Bjj fighter recently.

He’s been training pretty hard at his Bjj for the upcoming event and also using taking advice from the Guy who runs the “functional fitness” out of the place he trains.

This coach had the fighter swinging light kettles badly but seems to centre everything else around the TRX straps.
I’ve nothing against the TRX but I really don’t believe it can be used as a primary training tool. Especially if the goal is to increase speed and explosive power for a fight.

So the fighter was brought to me where we had a discussion about his wants and needs and put a plan together.

Turns out we only had three weeks until the fight date, that means two full weeks before a taper into the event. Far too late to use any of my normal methods. I usually insist on an 8-12 week commitment.

So in two weeks what can we do?

Simple, train as often as possible, daily if possible.
Instead of targeting the muscles, we’re going straight to the control centre, the central nervous system.
Each day we use the same lifts for the same sets and reps, the weight however will change according to how the body feels.

The lifts are:

1A : Deadlift x 5 x 2
2A : Clean & Press x 5 x 2
2B : Pull Up x lots x 2


Deadlift - as functional as it gets

Each time you train warm up and go to your minimum training weight. If this feels good, keep working up heavier, if you feel sluggish from the Bjj practice, stay at the minimum.
This is a style of auto-regulation where you go by feel rather than following set parameters. If your training daily, especially if your preparing for an athletic performance where the specific skills training is your priority, this style of training allows for progress but will allow you to monitor your fatigue.

In two weeks with high frequency work on the big lifts, you should notice significant improvement in your strength and athleticism.
Just be sure you always hit the daily minimum and whenever possible go over it.


Dave Hedges

Top 5 Exercises to Become a More Explosive Fighter

This week I’ve been on a bit of a rant about the role of Strength and Conditioning in the Martial Arts.
By the term martial arts I include everything from Boxing to Ba Gua, MMA to RBSD, Kung Fu to Kickboxing and Karate.

I don’t really care what system or style you follow, I do care about how effective you are at putting it into practice. And to get the most out of the arts, regardless of your goal, you need a physical body to back you up.
In  my gym on any given day I may have guys training for the ring or the octagon, others training purely for the Art and others who train because it may one day save theirs or their families lives.
This last one is my favourite  I spent ten years working various nightclub doors in a variety of countries. Now I have two small boys, 5 and 2, who need their Daddy, and god help anyone who threatens them.

Anyhow, before this gets a bit intense…..

Physical training is of vital importance I spoke about this in the last two posts.
Getting stronger in my youth is the only reason I was able to attain my black belt and bring home several trophies.
It’s the reason a former member of the Wild Geese Kickboxing club went from a string of losses to a string of victories.
It’s why a man in his mid 30’s with a list of health and physical ailments was able to fight two professional rules MMA bouts, one of which was against a much younger and more experienced opponent.
It’s the reason why one of our BJJ blue belts could go to the European BJJ championships and come back with a bronze after only a year of training.

Anyhow, you get the idea. Being strong is good.

So what are the top lifts for a fighter?

In my opinion the list is as follows:

      1. Deadlifts
        Without a shadow of a doubt, the deadlift is king when it comes to preparing for combat. You need a powerful hip extension for punching, kicking, throwing and bridging. This brings it. Keep the weight high, but not so high it becomes and extended grind. Multiple sets of 3 reps with a 5 rep max is a good start point.
      2. Kettlebell Swings and even Snatches.
        Much the same action as the deadlift, but now we’re working for reps and building the ability to generate power over and over. These ballistic type exercises activate the stretch reflex and have been attributed to strengthening the elastic fascia in the body. That means you can develop that spring like power that all those wiry old men that seem to be carved out of oak. You just don’t have to get old first!
        Do swings single handed and you’re working the rotation of the core as well, which is no bad thing.
        Use a fairly heavy bell and go for reps or time with these.

        The Kettlebell swing - feel the burn!

        The Kettlebell swing – feel the burn!

      3. One Arm Push Ups
        The king of upper body exercises for fighters.
        Granted the load is limited, it is a bodyweight exercise, but the benefits are great. You gain pressing strength, shoulder and core stability and get to work the same force vector of a punch, the diagonal line from hand to opposite foot.
        As strength increase we can elevate the feet or even work to doing plyometric versions of this already tough exercise.
        Multiple sets of 3-5 reps are best here.
      4. Pull Ups and Chin Ups
        I’m not interested in what grip you use, just do them. A lot.
      5. Clean and Push Press.
        I can’t get enough of this lift, nor can my fighters. This is not an upper exercise, it’s more like an exercise in total body power that is merely expressed in the upper extremities.
        With strikers I tend use a single heavy kettlebell, grapplers tend to get more out of double kettlebell lifts. For comabatives and MMA, mix it up.
        The clean portion of the lift requires the hip snap, same as the swings above, dialing in that posterior chain. The push press comes through the quads, into the back and out through the shoulder and arm.
        Put it all together and it even sounds like a punch!
        Vary the rep range on these, but keep them snappy!

Centre your supplemental training around these five lifts and you’ll find yourself becoming faster, stronger and more powerful than you thought possible.
You’ll also be harder to hurt!

I’ll be in Tullamore at my friend Kieran Dolan’s place, Dolan Fitness where I’ll be teaching all the above techniques and more in our “Kettlebell & Bodyweight training workshop – Developing the All Round Athlete” Workshop  on June 2nd.

The workshop will look at:
-Fundamental movement patterns and how to load them
-Core strength, developing and learning to use it
-Power endurance, because getting tired is for other people!
-Mobility drills for freedom of motion and injury prevention
-Breath control for power, recovery and endurance
-Implementing bodyweight and kettlebell drills into a wider training program

Places are limited so drop me a line to get involved: