The Sunday Times

‘The most realistic self defencesystem on the UK today’

Combat Magazine

‘Krav Maga has more self defence cred than any other system we know about – and we know quite a bit about the subject!’

GQ Magazine

‘Best in the world for self defence. Totally practical, no flashy kicks or great spiritual angle.’

Self Defence Classes in Bristol

This article was originally written for those looking for self defence classes in Bristol. However, the lessons learned are valuable and can be applied to self defence classes taught anywhere.

About me

I am a lifelong martial Artist, a multi black belt instructor, a National Coach for the British Krav Maga Instructor Development Programme  and a professional trainer for over 20 years.

I started out as a Psychiatric Nurse specialising in the management of challenging and aggressive behaviours in a range of custodial environments. I moved on to Control and Restraint training, Riot training, and later still, I began teaching as a Home Office approved trainer.

Some 15 years later I was responsible for auditing the use of Force in a range of settings for a Government commission, often writing or amending training programs in light of a serious incident. So it’s probably fair to say that I was considered an expert in my field.

I went on to train external agencies and the general public how to manage conflict or physically intervene in violent situations, often teaching those going into situations where violence was inevitable rather than probable. This experience and training gave me a different perspective on training than my fellow martial artists who had not been exposed to violence as part of their occupation.

Martial Arts training vs Occupational training

The training I received in my occupational occupational setting was markedly different than anything I experienced as a martial artist. The trainers were more experienced, the training more realistic, (often set in cells, corridors and escort type environments) and the role-play scenarios that were both stressful and intimidating. Although this training was continually watered down from the early 1990’s (Health and Safety), the training at that time was excellent – tough – realistic and professionally done.

As a martial artist, self defence training was rarely pressure tested, involved fanciful techniques, and was taught by a Blackbelt with no real-world experience. This training was both ill-informed, impractical and at times downright ridiculous.

Little has changed.

So I wrote this article to share the benefit of decades frontline experience dealing with real violence and teaching others to do so.

My hope is that when you have read through this article you will have a clearer understanding of what to look for if you are trying to find good self defence classes in Bristol or where ever you live.

Paul Grey. National Coach. British Krav Maga.

Martial Arts and Self Defence are not the same

An important point the novice needs to understand is that self defence training and martial arts training are very different.

Confusingly, martial arts schools claim to teach self defence but typically, martial arts instructors are conditioned to teach their martial art and do not understand the difference between sparring and violence. From my own experience the main problem is that martial arts instructors learn martial arts in a hall or dojo, some spar and compete, but typically all confuse this with realworld violence.

Without the experience of stress innoculationand coaching under pressure, people trained this way quickly succombe to the effects of stress and adrenaline often freezing in the face of an aggressor.

One of the main reasons martial artists do not fair well in street violence is the confusion between martial arts training and the intensity of real violence.

There is also a plethora of research showing that martial artists often perform worse than the untrained public in real altercations due to overconfidence and attempted use of complex, unrealistic techniques.

Many have neither the life experience nor training experience to equip them to teach you the realistic self defence skills you need based on sound knowledge of what will actually work under stress. If you are looking for self defence training, look for either a dedicated self defence system (like Krav Maga for example) or a combat sport where people actually hit each other realistically – boxing, mauy thai, MMA.

Find the right instructor

The most critical factor in learning effective self defence is the Instructor. Look for someone with occupational experience of violence and dont be impressed by Blackbelts – it means nothing.

The martial arts industry is completely unregulated. Anyone can set them self up as an instructor, irrespective of lack of training or experience.

Firstly, look for an Instructor with real-world experience of violence and aggression. No non-sense training with an Instructor with a lot of real world experience dealing with violence will always pay dividends.

Look for an occupational experience such as:

  • Security work
  • Door Work
  • Some military roles
  • Prison Service
  • Police

Look for a long-established Instructor teaching consistently and recognised by a large credible organisation. Beware though, many credible sounding organisations are simply websites that you pay and then, will list you as an instructor.

Training under an instructor with real-world conflict management experience is markedly better for you than one who’s sole experience is dojo based.
A good self defence instructor will have relevant real-world experience to share with you and relevant training to structure an effective programme to help you quickly learn the self defence techniques you need.

Self Defence Classes in Bristol: Find the right system

Look for a Reality Based system like Krav Maga. It’s the worlds most popular  reality based self defence system. And with good reason too…

My initial advice would always be to look for a Krav Maga school first and foremost. Irrespective of where you are, Krav Maga is the worlds most popular form of Self Defence training with good reason. It’s simple, effective and fast to learn.

Unlike pretty much every other martial art, or self defence system out there, Krav Maga was battlefield evolved and aimed specifically at training people to defend themselves effectively in a short period of time. Krav Maga excels at this and is still taught to thousands of military and law enforcement personell to this very day because it’s been repeatedly proven to work. With a good Coach, you can learn to be effective in Krav Maga fast – really fast.

On the 2013 BKMA performance surveys, we pressure tested Krav Maga students by pre exhausting them and then placing them in high stress scenarios facing the 8 most common street attacks. Within just 12 weeks almost 70% were able to defend themselves effectively against unknown realistic attacks.

After 16 weeks just over 90% could effectively perform against similar attacks under stress.

If there is no Krav Maga local to you look for either specialist Self Defence classes with an emphasise on simplicity and realism, or look toward a combative sport based system that actually involves physical contact.

Recommended systems would be:

  • Krav Maga
  • Muay Thai
  • MMA
  • Boxing

If there is a focus on physical contact and physical intensity sport-based programmes can work well in the absence of Krav Maga.

Self Defence Classes in Bristol: What to look for

When self defence gets complicated – it’s no longer self defence.

We have already discussed finding an Instructor with real world experience, of violence and identifying a system to train in, now we look at what to look for in a class.


Humans don’t perform well under stress.

To be reliable in realistic conditions, self defence training should utilise simple, gross motor skills with the least number of steps. Techniques requiring multiple steps or complex moves fail very quickly in training let alone whilst you are tired, injured or afraid.

Look for training that utilises a small number of techniques over a broad range of scenarios.


Violence never occurs in a vacuum. Both the victim and the attacker will experience the effects of stress and the person best able to control their adrenal responce to a threat is most likley to prevail.

Look for training that incorporates a degree of role play and a range of scenarios designed to elicit a stress responce.

Training that lacks any element of stress innoculation will quickly fail when faced the the overwhealming emotions experienced in an attack.


Look for dynamic training that stresses hard striking and controlling of pads and shields. Expect hard work punching, kicking and striking pads often and hard. A fundamental caveat of violence is that the person able to most effectively strike the other in a vulnerable area and keep doing it is most likely to terminate the encounter.

Expect to be trained to strike the groin, throat and other vulnerable areas.

Self Defence classes in Bristol: Signs of Good self defence training

Look for a Reality Based system like Krav Maga. It’s the worlds most popular  reality based self defence system. And with good reason too…

If you are looking for Self Defence classes in Bristol or elsewhere there are a number of other things to look out for.

Does the Instructor emphasise ‘Awareness and Avoidance’

Good training will help you identify conflict indicators, and pre emptwhat follows. Awareness and avoidance should be seen as the fundamental skills of self defence. Instead, we tend to regard technique training as fundamentals. This is an error.

Good awareness and avoidance skills often make physical skills redundant – remember the objective is to escape unharmed – not to have to fight for your life.

Are pre-conflict skills taught

In simple terms are you taught how to respond to threatening behaviour – what to do if someone encroaches your personal space and importantly how to hold your self in the face of impending conflict. Posture and non-verbal communication are critical in avoiding conflict and de-escalating potential violence.

Is there an overarching set of simple principles.

In Krav Maga, the model is robust and proven. Stop the threat (if launched) apply aggressive combatives to vulnerable areas and disengage as soon as possible looking out for further threats. Good self defence systems demonstrate ‘joined-up thinking’ everything should be systematic and consistent.

Are sessions well structured and progressive

As a trainer you are most often faced with a crossectionof the

I recently saw a video of a ladies self defence session run by an Instructor in Bristol. It featured games, lots of giggling ladies and everyone appeared to be having fun. That’s a great recreation class with fitness benefits.
It was however a terrible self defence class.
Participants had not been taught to strike effectively, they were performing in a low stress, agreeable environment and were learning to apply a range of poorly executed low impact strikes against a fully compliant “attacker” remaining on the spot with low hands. To compound the issue, they were being congratulated on their technique and their confidence was going through the roof.

This was a problem.

Confidence without competence is a recipe for disaster. You’ll make decisions you wouldn’t have made previously based on skills you don’t actually possess.

Remember the research that put martial artists worse off than the untrained public?

What courses and events do Krav Maga Bristol offer

Krav Maga Bristol offers a wide range of courses and training events at both a national and International level.

International Seminars

We host International instructors with Instructors of note. Recent International Instructors have Avi Nadia, Amnon Darsa and most recently Amit Porat – IDF Krav Maga Instructor

National Seminars and Krav Maga Gradings

We host specialist seminars and events at Clifton College Sports Centre. These may include master classes, specialised training events and national gradings for British Krav Maga.

Courses for the close protection Industry

Specialist courses for close protection officers. These include 1, 3 and 5 day intensive Hand to Hand courses for SIA certified individuals.


We host a range of Krav Maga Bootcamps and events throughout the year. The immersive boot camps come in 2 or 3-day formats and are available in Bristol and across the UK.

Starting Krav Maga

Krav Maga offers a unique training experience for those interested in participating. Krav Maga best be described as the Crossfit of the martial arts world. By this we mean it offers functional, intense training in a supportive community atmosphere.

‘Our objective was simple.

Provide ordinary citizens with a level of training and experience more commonly found in elite military and specialist policing units than civil self defence training’

Krav Maga in Bristol Today

Krav Maga Bristol amalgamated with the other British Krav Maga Schools in Bristol to launch Bristol Krav Maga Schools.  Bristol Krav Maga Schools offer Bristol based members the opportunity to train with one of the UK’s largest and most credible teams of professional Krav Maga Instructors with a single membership.

Krav Maga Bristol amalgamated with the other British Krav Maga Schools in Bristol to launch Bristol Krav Maga Schools.  Bristol Krav Maga Schools offer Bristol based members the opportunity to train with one of the UK’s largest and most credible teams of professional Krav Maga Instructors with a single membership.

Krav Maga classes in Clifton College Sports Centre

Clifton College is the home of the original Krav Maga Bristol school with British Krav Maga Head coach Paul Grey.  Paul is a professional Krav Maga Instructor. Paul has decades of coaching and training experience (more than he would admit), at the highest levels alongside several Blackbelts, and numerous Instructor certifications.

Paul has trained more people to Krav Maga Instructor level than any other Krav Maga Instructor in the UK.

More details can here Krav Maga Bristol

Krav Maga in Kingswood and Speedwell

Krav Maga classes in the Kingswood area are taught by Professional Instructor Jim Halton. Jim is another multi Blackbelt Instructor with decades of training behind him. Jim has special interest a grappling and coaches this alongside the Krav Maga.

If you’d like to train with Jim Halton click Krav Maga Kingswood for more information.

Krav Maga in Bristol City Centre

Krav Maga classes in central Bristol are provided by Instructor Cheuk Lai. Cheuk has decades of martial arts training, is a multi Blackbelt instructor and gifted martial artist. Cheuk trained with Pau Grey for 5 years and is a senior Instructor under British Krav Maga.
Cheuk runs regular classes in the Templegate, Redcliffe area of central Bristol.

You can book a class with Cheuk by visiting Krav Maga Bristol City Centre.

Krav Maga in North Bristol

Krav Maga classes in North Bristol are run by Professional Krav Maga Instructor Will Bayley. Will teaches Krav Maga in the Patchway and Filton areas as well as running a large school in Swindon. Will’s claim to fame is that he is one of the only Krav Maga Instructors anywhere to have been flown across the world to teach Krav Maga.

To find out more about training with Will, click Krav Maga North Bristol.