In the netherworld of prison, life is far removed from life on the outside in so many ways it is difficult to choose an example of normal life to compare with prison life so I will write about what I know – and that is martial arts and its use in prison.

To quantify and qualify my blog I must tell you that I have seen the inside of eleven European prisons. I am a Yondan (4th dan) black belt in Ju-jitsu and Karate and an ex-professional soldier (Combat Engr Class 1; Anti-interrogation/indoctrination instructor, SASC Small Arms instructor and other qualifications ‘Confidential’). I do have documentation to uphold my qualifications.

Anyway, getting back to prison and martial arts: For most people the processing into prison; entering your first cell, experiencing contact with other prisoners and screws (prison officers), experiencing your first xenophobic verbal confrontation, taking your first communal shit, taking your first shit in your cell with your cell-mates looking on, trying to sleep during your first night with all the strange new sounds of screams and door banging and on and on I can go. But fuck all that – you are going to be stressed out big time anyway.  So, what about martial arts?

I am not taking you down the old dusty road of: ‘Which martial art is best for prison – or anywhere else?’ No, there are a million arguments about that old chestnut; I am telling you about the way it is and how being a martial artist sets you aside from other prisoners who are not so lucky to be a trained martial artist… regardless of style.

The first realisation when the big iron gates clang shut behind you is that you are in a very dangerous place – and guess what? There ain’t no getting out. I can only speak as a martial artist so in my case it was instant mental re-adjustment; a phenomena lacking in many men entering prison. It would take too many pages to adequately explain this, but I have witnessed many men lose their belongings and teeth in the first few hours of prison life. Your mental awareness is the very first weapon in your martial arts armoury; blocks, kicks and punches are a very close second.

We can talk about styles all day, but in my opinion they are all great because they all provide the very first weapon in the armoury: mental awareness. You can have all the techniques in the world up your sleeve, but lacking in mental awareness always ends with you waking up with a crowd around you.

On my first day in the prison yard a Spanish gypsy tried to shank me. It ended badly for him… and his tribal brother, who like most Spanish gypsies, think they are Bullfighters. Had I not been mentally alert I would most certainly have been injured, scarred for life, or even worse.

There are no rules in prison; no romantic notions of codes like the warrior’s code, the black code, the white code. No, there’s none of that old crap – just the gypsy code of ‘sneak up behind and shank his kidneys,’ God should have given us a rear view, like wing mirrors or an eye in the back of our heads. Or better still… no, I shan’t say that.

Moving on from mental alertness, blocks are the next most important weapon because unless you are doing the pre-emptive strike, you are the one receiving the first blow and because you are a trained martial artist, you will naturally (hopefully) deflect it and respond with a nerve wrecking, bone crunching demonstration of merciless violence for all to see – providing the very best deterrent for the on looking sociopaths, cannibals, paedophiles, rapists and the odd gangster. Believe me, you are a foreigner trespassing in their land and that is how most of them think of you. You will soon learn to be aware of that and it will live with you long after you gain your freedom.

Another aspect requiring contemplation is that you are alone and everyone else seems to belong to a tribe; either Spanish gypsy; Moroccan Arab, Algerian Arab or some other African lunatic group. Consequently, you need to prepare for multiple attackers. In my case, I soon had lone foreigners joining me at the ‘English’ table in the comedor (dining hall, canteen) because safety in numbers is the key to survival in foreign prisons. How this happened to me is written in detail in my book, ‘Carabanchel’.

That’s all for now but I will continue this blog in a few days time.

Walk in peace.


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