Atemi-Jutsu Live Training is about surviving unavoidable violence. When Sydney Scoop heard that this training takes you from zero assumed knowledge to effectiveness in around 16 hours we decided to find out more. And our Cherry Brearley spoke with self defence instructor Andrew Sunter to do just that.
Hey Andrew. How are you? Can you tell Scoop about your career background, your 'resume in kicking-ass'? How did everything begin?
I'm well and happy, thanks for asking! I spent a few days in Japan almost by accident thirty-something years ago and it blew my mind. I resolved to learn Japanese and go back there. It took a few years but I ended up studying Japanese at university during the day and heading into Osaka evenings and weekends to train in aikido. My Japanese studies ceased after graduation pretty much, but my passion for aikido continues unabated.
I hope you're not disappointed, but I have no interest in kicking anyone's ass! I avoid violence at all costs just like all sane, socialised and sensible people. Violence is ugly, brutal and chaotic and can lead to unintended, sometimes fatal consequences as we see in far too many tragic circumstances in Sydney. On the other hand, I believe every adult has not only the right, but also the responsibility, to be able to navigate unavoidable violence, just like everyone should know how to swim.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the school and what its aims are?
I was asked to start running classes in Sydney back in 1999 by a very senior Japanese teacher. We now have classes in aikido, atemi-jutsu and low-impact martial arts (Lima).
Aikido is a classical martial art of the samurai incorporating empty hand and traditional weapons. We run classes for kids and teens as well as adults.
Atemi-jutsu is our no-nonsense self-defence training. It teaches people how to survive the most critical five seconds of their lives: encountering unavoidable asocial violence. We run the weekend live training courses and regular classes for people who want to take it further.
Lima classes are for people who have decreased capacity through injury or disability, level of fitness or age. People work at their own pace and there are no big hits or heavy falls. Maintaining mobility, stability and coordination is so important to living a long, healthy, purposeful life. We've had remarkable results with older people and people recovering from injury.
As far as aims go, I want to help people live a safer, calmer, healthier life by embracing the spirituality, integrity and physical discipline of a warrior. I'd like to teach every nurse in NSW aikido to use in the workplace and atemi-jutsu to ensure they get home safely!
How light, or in-depth can you go with the courses and classes at the school? I guess some visitors come just for the one-off taster, and some students stay and study with you for many years?
That's exactly right! :) Our atemi-jutsu weekend is carefully structured to teach you how to be effective in using the tool of violence to save your own life or the life of someone you care about when there is no other option. If that's your only interest, that's all the training you will ever need. It's the equivalent of learning how to dog-paddle fully clothed to the side of the pool. It might not be pretty or dignified but at least you don't drown. Our ongoing atemi-jutsu classes are for people who want to learn to be efficient and we have at least 12 years worth of information and training on developing better mobility, stability and coordination in navigating violence. This is like training to be an olympic swimmer.
Aikido classes are quite different. There is much more emphasis on the spiritual and cultural aspects. While atemi-jutsu addresses only the worst-case situation — someone attempting serious harm right here, right now — aikido addresses the full range of life experience and incorporates strategies to minimise the chance that you will ever find yourself in a life-or-death struggle. We offer a two-class trial for people to see if aikido is a good fit for them. People train aikido for all kinds of reasons. Some train until they achieve whatever goal they had in mind, for others it becomes a lifetime pursuit.
Tell us about the atemi-jutsu weekend in your own words. How did you come up for [with] the idea for it, and what's covered?
Firstly, I can't take any credit for it! Our atemi-jutsu weekend is based on Target Focus Training (TFT), which was developed by Tim Larkin in the US. He was excluded from Navy SEAL training through injury but they kept him on and tasked him to source the best close-quarters combat training available. Since then it has been refined over and over again based on extensive research and the latest developments in adult learning and skill acquisition. I first did the weekend myself in 2008 but I was introduced to it by my great friend, colleague and mentor Mike Allen, who is a phenomenal martial artist. Mike travelled to the US to train with Tim Larkin in 2003 and he's currently the only accredited TFT instructor active in Australia.
The program takes you step-by-step through the knowledge and skills you need to survive a violent encounter when you have no other possible option. It's unlike any other training available, so it's easier to talk about what it isn't. It's not about scenarios (he does this so you do that), or fancy techniques, or looking good, because violence is chaotic, brutal and ugly.
The reality of violence is completely different to what we see in movies and “combat” sports and likewise our weekend of training is completely different to most people's expectations.
How should one leave the weekend feeling, and what are the next steps in life, and for those keen to study further?
We hope you will leave the weekend (even more) determined to avoid violence whenever possible, but knowing you have at least an even chance if you have no other option.
One of our participants reported, “I woke up on Monday morning knowing I had a skill I didn’t have when I went to sleep on Friday night. If I had to protect my family, with their lives in immediate danger, I knew I had the knowledge, the intent and the ability to do whatever it took.”
Many female participants are amazed to discover that they can be genuinely powerful despite a lifetime of being told otherwise.
Atemi-jutsu Live Training page (includes links to blog posts by people who have done the training)