Video: Martial arts bid to fight muggers

EVER felt terrified walking the Capital’s streets at night? Well here’s the self-defence system for you – no matter how small you are.

Edinburgh martial arts maestro Simon McRobb has designed a unique street-fighting style he says will help even five-year-olds fend off attackers. Aimed at children and petite people, the new system was developed after a spate of muggings in the Meadows late last year.

Now Mr McRobb, 27, who lives near the Meadows, has launched his own classes at St Thomas of Aquin’s High School, with sessions for vulnerable children at risk from bullies and abusive parents in the pipeline.

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Mr McRobb said he put together his unique set of moves after finding that styles based on the fashionable, Israeli-developed Krav Maga system were too strike-focussed and unlikely to work during real-life assaults.

The avid kick-boxer, who has triumphed in UK-wide competitions over a 15-year martial arts career, said: “I’m a small guy myself and I’ve been beaten up – I’ve learned the hard way what works and what doesn’t.

“One of the things I’ve tried to veer away from is the classic strike in the groin.

“It’s understandable someone under attack would want to try that but lots of the time it just wouldn’t be an option if the person attacking you is much bigger or you don’t have the strength to manoeuvre.”

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Called Edinburgh Combat Solution and incorporating Brazilian jujitsu, kickboxing and wrestling techniques, the “independently evolved 
system” works for smaller people because it is less rule-based and teaches them unique holds and evasion techniques to counteract the strength of much bigger assailants.

Mr McRobb said these would enable a victim to escape more easily or launch an attack if there was no other option.

“I was inspired to develop this system because of the attacks in the Meadows last year, when I was teaching a lot of young girls,” he said.

“They almost all lived or worked through in the Meadows and I felt extremely responsible for them.

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“I remember the night the second attack happened. I was actually in the Meadows and practising with a student.

“The next day, I heard there had been another attack and it was extremely shocking for me. I live there too it all felt quite close to home.”

Mr McRobb said he previously ran a club at Edinburgh University, which quickly grew from having a handful of members to well over 200.

He said the benefits of learning self-defence were personal as well as physical. “One of the reasons I’m passionate about is that I’m not the biggest person in the world and I used to be very shy and socially 
awkward,” he said.

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“Doing kick boxing, then martial arts more generally, has really increased my confidence, discipline and focus.

“I think it’s something that helps empower people. They’ll know first of all how to get 
out of a bad situation and also how to strike if they really need to.”

But Mr McRobb’s approach was criticised by other martial arts experts, who said striking quickly was crucial to self-defence during a mugging or assault.

Paul Smith, 47, who runs Combat Arts in Morningside, said: “If a big guy has his hands on a woman’s neck and is squeezing really hard, she could be unconscious really quickly.

“In that sort of situation, she needs to hit him hard and in a vulnerable place – places like the groin or the nose.”