How many times have you thrown a jab in training? 1000 times or never before?  Defence Lab’s Virtual HQ makes you question such a simple move. Perhaps you can throw it accurately one on one. But how about when you’re surrounded by 5 different people hitting you?

Defence Lab is a global self-defence and fitness organisation that takes a scientific-approach to reality-based combat and self-defence. With its founder, Andy Norman, at its helm, Defence Lab’s programs have over 30 years of pressure testing in combat.

Andy Norman was the co-founder of the Keysi Fighting Method – a self-defence system touted in many circles to be highly street-effective. Moreover, he was involved in several Hollywood blockbusters as a fight consultant. The most notable of all was Batman Begins, where his defensive move features.

Defence Lab Virtual HQ – An Online Platform

Andy Norman and his team
Andy Norman and his team

On October 18, Defence Lab will launch their online platform – Virtual HQ. This platform distills the long-time experience and findings of Andy and his team, and reveals pressure-tested self-defence concepts to the masses. As with Defence Lab’s face-to-face classes, the focus is on what technique, tactic or mindset truly works.

Skepticism over learning self-defence online

As with all martial art video programs, I was skeptical over the effectiveness. I do not believe that online videos are a suitable medium for teaching martial arts. By extension, any martial art online certification is highly suspect and serves only for vanity purposes.

Here are the reasons for my skepticism.

Martial arts and self-defence skills are more than just fancy calisthenic moves. They are designed to overcome a non-compliant opponent. As such, without training against another person, you will never know if your skills are effective. Secondly, there are nuances in a technique that makes a self-defence move work. Most people will not catch these nuances and will make mistakes. Only an instructor can spot these mistakes and prevent you from forming bad habits.

Therefore, there is a real risk of your defensive techniques failing. This is exacerbated by people who know the moves but do not train in distancing, timing and rhythm. At best, online programs can serve as a useful supplementary guide.


Upon reviewing Defence Lab’s free access of Virtual HQ, I immediately see immense value of their online platform for people who already train in some form of self-defence.

It is clear from the content that Virtual HQ seeks to get trainees to rethink what they know and investigate concepts to make their self-defence options realistic. In other words, it makes you think more deeply on what you already know. The beauty of Defence Lab is that there are no absolutes and the system is ever evolving and developing to meet the times.

As such, I believe Virtual HQ will be beneficial to augmenting your self-defence effectiveness and will provoke a deeper understanding of common street attacks – whether you are an instructor or student. Use it as a supplement.

Some things they cover are:

  • Stages of incident
  • Mass attack
  • Sticks
  • Knives
  • Seated combat
  • Close Quarter Combat

4 Folders of Defence Lab’s Virtual HQ

Virtual HQ has four folders (categories) of content within their platform:

  1. Weekly Investigation
  2. Talent Code
  3. Architectural Framework
  4. Primal Reactions
Defence Lab Virtual HQ - Four Folders
Defence Lab Virtual HQ – Four Folders

Weekly Investigation

The Weekly Investigation folder forces you to explore different facets and scenarios in self-defence and then provide drills that can help condition a mental an physical response.

For instance, in the free access version, Virtual HQ talks about multi-directional striking – to be struck by several people all at once.

I was initially stunned when I saw the video. Four attackers were striking an instructor relentlessly with striking pads, but the “victim” remained in the middle to defend and strike back in practiced drill. This contradicts what most people would do – to get of the of the circle of attackers and run.

However, Andy later explains that the drill was to simulate the tremendous stress from being attacked by a group. It forces you to be familiar with the adrenaline surge and react appropriately even if you cannot find a way out to escape.

This is certainly a solid training concept that takes into account of the mental aspect of self-defence, and to condition the trainee to move correctly. Not many martial art classes train you to react to a simulated situation of losing.

Talent Code

The Talent Code gives you the foundation of your self-defence tool box, which is relevant to the weekly investigations. The free access version discusses street punching and explains how the body reacts when punched. Defence Lab’s uses the body’s reaction to the defender’s advantage.

Architectural Framework

The Architectural Framework is the basis of Defence Lab’s self-defence system. Opt in for the free access to find out more.

Primal Reactions

This is another folder that supports the Weekly Investigations and cultivates instinct in self-defence. Again, opt in to learn more about it.

Check out Virtual HQ

Defence Lab Virtual HQ Online Platform
Defence Lab Virtual HQ Online Platform

Want to know if Defence Lab’s Virtual HQ is for you? Check out their launch page and sign up for free access. While I think this is a great supplement to anyone’s self-defence training, this platform should not replace training with an actual instructor and partners. Distance, timing and intuitive prediction of attacks are skills you can acquire only when you train with another person.

I would like to thank Dan Holloway, a fellow Aikidoka and friend for letting me know about the Virtual HQ launch. If you are interested in training with an actual instructor from Defence Lab, Dan is also instructor at Lincoln (UK). These are other locations (around the world) for anyone who prefer face-to-face training.

Again, check out the Virtual HQ launch page for more details on the online platform.

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