Little known in North America, Geoff Thompson is a man of many talents recognized for his street fighting credentials and self-defense advises among the most influential martial artists in the world. He is an example of self-improvement and dedication, of how a man can turn his life around for the better. However, he wasn’t always successful and like many other admirable men, his journey was very difficult.
Geoff Thompson started out in this world as a scared little kid. He grew up in the poor working class during the 60’s in Coventry, a violent city in the UK. Bullied and beaten at school, he remembers crying when the holidays ended, because he was afraid of going back in the school yard. When he took karate classes to learn to defend himself and gain confidence, he was raped by his martial art teacher of the time. Needless to say it totally ruined his teenage years and made him angry and weary of society in general.
Most people around him worked in factories as floor sweepers or construction brick layers. He thought that’s all he could do, so he listened to what society told him to do and did the same. Workers around him would bitch every day that they hated their job to death and would say that was what they deserved, that there was nothing they could do about it.
In his twenties, he married a woman who nagged him and didn’t respect him. You could say that he was trapped in those typical beta marriages of today, only he was not very educated and he was poor.
Evidently he hated his life and often thought about suicide. All the odds were against him, from his background and personal experiences to his upbringing and social class. But something inside him was telling him he could do a lot better, although he was too scared to change.
Until one day, when he hit rock bottom in his mid-twenties. He hated his job, didn’t get along with his wife and didn’t see any hope of anything changing in the future by itself. He was so depressed, unhappy and stressed that he couldn’t sleep, and his life was simply unbearable. He claimed he was in such distress that he was too scared to move forward, and too scared to stay in the status quo. He was in constant restlessness. He decided he had enough: instead of killing himself, he decided to change.
He thought that what kept him from achieving success in life was not his lack of abilities, but only fear. He was scared of everything: of his wife, of spiders, of failure and even of success. He decided to face his fears once and for all, starting with the smallest going to the biggest and toughest. He wrote them down on a pyramid, with the easiest fears on the bottom and the toughest at the top. He climbed the pyramid by beating his fears one by one. He found that facing a fear gave him confidence, little by the little.
As he was gaining some control over his life, he realized that his biggest fear at the time was being involved in violent confrontations. One of his main belief was that there is no growth in comfort: if you stay in your comfort zones, you will remain the person you are forever. To grow, you need to be comfortable with discomfort, as he would say. That’s when he decided to become a night club bouncer to face violence on a daily basis.
Becoming a bouncer
Bars and pubs in England were very bloody places at the time. Angry and drunk guys would sometimes carry box cutters or knives, or simply take a beer glass and stab you in the face with it. You had to worry about women too, who would stab you in the back if you ever fought on the floor with their boyfriends. Bouncers would be killed on the job, and some friends of Geoff Thompson indeed died on their shift. Even being off duty wasn’t safe: customers you threw out the previous week sometimes came back to your house to play baseball with your face. It was a very difficult challenge to take for Geoff Thompson at the time, especially considering he hadn’t been in many real fights before.
Therefore, he really had to learn to defend himself properly. He started practicing practical martial arts like Muai Thai, boxing, wrestling and jujitsu. In addition, he started learning the dirtiest and deadliest street effective techniques he could find in other traditional martial arts. He chose to train in the gyms and where the guys were the most scarred and rugged, because he said these are the most intimidating and honest no-nonsense places.
Geoff Thompson, on the bottom, showing “dirty” fish hooking technique
What’s interesting with Geoff Thompson’s approach to self-defense is the many parallels that can be drawn with picking up girls. First, both subject matters are highly distorted and constantly filled with bullshit that must be deconstructed. Outdated advice like “buy her flowers” and “be a nice guy” have their equivalent in self-defense: “don’t hit someone first” or “wait for the guy to attack first”. If you do, according to Geoff Thompson, you have already lost.
Furthermore, he broke down into details human interactions that occur right before a fight much like we break down interactions before a hook up with a woman, and not so surprisingly, the qualities that make you win a fight are similar to those that make you win a woman. Being dominant and “holding your frame” are relevant concepts that he talks about, but in different terms and words. Several other psychological elements are also talked about, like how to lead the interaction with an opponent, how to subconsciously control him without him knowing it, or how to make yourself look more dangerous than you are. He often said: “when ignorance is mutual, confidence is king”. In addition, there are certain phases that always happen before a guy attacks you, and learning about those phases will help you know when to fight, when to scare off your opponents, or when to walk away with confidence.
His favorite technique was the pre-emptive strike, as his observations and participation in hundreds of real fights showed him that was the only effective and relevant self-defense attack. Once you had exhausted other peaceful options, the idea was to hit your opponent first, hard and unexpectedly, to either knock him out or to create an opportunity to walk away. That was done with a punch or a head butt. Geoff Thompson found that a lot of what other self-defense instructors taught, like “block and counters” or arm locks, makes for a good show but does not work in real life. Your opponent is often right in your face, inches away, with buddies ready to back him up. He advises that learning how to punch hard and fast is the best option for the general public, who can’t afford to spend 40 hours a week into training. His book The Fence is a good introduction to his techniques and mindset.
Eventually, after years of studying martial arts and getting in real fights, he mastered the art of knocking people out with one punch. His street fighting credentials and martial art success allowed him to start teaching self-defense classes. He became, in the eyes of the industry, a world-famous martial artist and self-defense instructor.
However, being a bouncer, while very good at forging a man’s character, was a detrimental and stressful job. Geoff Thompson was transformed into a very violent man, often getting into fights even outside of his job. He needed to keep a weapon in every room of his house to feel safe, fearing the reprisal of his night club battles. He was starting to realize that maybe it was time for him to move on to another challenge. His lifelong dream was to become a writer, which he had yet to achieve.
Becoming a writer
All his life, his school teachers, neighbors, friends and family, would say “people like us – poor working class people – can’t become writers. You should be happy with what you’ve got”. They would shut down any ambition one might have to move up classes, and they would do so constantly from the day one was born.
Therefore, Geoff Thompson doubted a lot and was petrified he could never make it. What’s more, he didn’t really know how to write and he had never written seriously or even as a hobby. However, having conquered a lot of his previous fears, he figured that becoming a writer would work the same way. He figured that only fear was again playing with his mind, making him doubt himself. Courage and work would be again the answer for obtaining greater glory.
In this line of thought, he started to read a lot of books at the library to educate himself on various subjects, varying from psychology to philosophy, science, religion and writing. He starting creating his first book, Watch My Back, during his breaks at the factory, sitting on a toilet bowl with a pen and a paper. It was about the interesting life stories he had as a bouncer. He started sending the manuscript to editors, and they were all refusing it. But he didn’t give up: he contacted every editor he could find, asking for help and feedback whenever he got rejected. Seeing potential in him and his determination, some people in the industry helped him better his craft. He learned from the critics and comments the publishers gave him and polished his work little by little. Eventually, after constant dedication and persistence, he finally got it published and it became a bestseller.
He wrote many more books, ranging from self-defense to self-help and novels. He also became a script writer for a few award-winning short films. One of them, Roman 1220, is about a violent raging bouncer who encounters an unexpected acquaintance from his past. His movies are brutal, realistic, and honest, much different from what you’re probably used to see at the theatres. They talk and depict realities that most film makers shy away from. All his books, films and scripts can be found on his website, geoffthompson.com
Finally, Geoff Thompson gained enough recognition and made enough money to live an upper class life style, with his own house, a new wife and his kids. Only, instead of cleaning floors 8 hours a day, he’s a writer and a teacher, traveling around the world. He often says he’s a free man, working when he wants to, how he wants to and with whom he wants to. By constantly fighting his fears and his demons, against all odds, he has achieved his dreams and became a successful man. He has also developed a non-violent and peaceful personality over time. So, if you’re not where you want to be in your life right now, what’s your excuse?
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