Become unbreakable: Rob Ho’s student self-defence tips

Britain’s coolest landlord, Rob Ho, offers Bristol students his self-defence tips

Do you ever feel threatened around campus? Perhaps you’ve been attacked in a nightclub, or even on the street. Panicking and terrified, you’ve not really known what to do. 

Don’t worry: The Tab is here to help with some expert advice from a local legend.

Remember Britain’s coolest landlord, Rob Ho? He’s Bristol’s answer to Bruce Lee. As a martial artist, actor, and action film director, he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to self-defence.

Rob’s performed in a number of Hollywood blockbusters – Skyfall, Kick-Ass 2, 47 Ronin and, most recently, 24. He was even punched in the face accidentally by Jim Carrey, though he was gracious enough to allow him to do it (you wouldn’t bet on Carrey if he was fighting Rob!).

Armed and dangerous: Bristol landlord Rob Ho

Armed and dangerous: Bristol landlord Rob Ho

With 27 years of experience in the martial arts, we thought it’d be a good idea to get Rob’s advice on how to stay safe as a student in Bristol. Rob’s techniques mix traditional disciplines and the practice known as Reality-Based Self Defence (RBSD), which he taught for many years.

Once you read his advice, rest assured you’ll feel a lot more confident handling yourself in a variety of dangerous student-based scenarios.

In this exclusive article, Rob takes you through how to defend yourself in a nightclub, on the street and in your own home.

Watch Rob showcasing his fighting abilities in his 2014 feature film, ‘Landlord: Time 2 Pay the Rent’

Rob’s advice

Before I start, I need to refer the reader to the Law of  Self Defence. Read it alongside this advice.

A question I hear time and time again is which fight system is considered ‘the best’. If you can make it work in a street situation, that’s all that matters. Please do not be so arrogant as to dismiss a style.

On the street, you need to accept that these are all possibilities:

  • Your attacker could be carrying a weapon.
  • S/he could be high, which could increase their strength.
  • You could be tackled from behind.
  • Your attacker intends to rape you.

It is almost impossible to determine what mindset you’d be in during an attack. Generally, you either freeze on the spot or you’re pushed into ‘fight mode’. I used to apply a number of pressure tests upon my students in order to inject an element of controlled fear into them. A text I highly recommend is Gavin de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear”.

This advice only touches the surface, but I hope it will make students feel a lot more confident if confronted by these scenarios.

Defending yourself in a nightclub

This is a horrible environment from a self-protection point of view, mainly due to alcohol and the level of crowding. If you can’t get security to help, here’s what to do.

Be aware of who might be ‘eyeballing’ you. Have your hands above waist height so you can easily move them into a guard to protect yourself. Be aware of anyone who’s holding a bottle in a way that’s not conventional to drinking.

In close quarters the head butt is often the weapon of choice for the attacker. Counter this by tucking your chin into your chest and lowering your head. If someone tries to head butt you, then his face will make contact with the top of your head. Any transfer of force would be absorbed into the main upper trunk of your body, so you shouldn’t be rocked so much.

Headbutt defence

Headbutt defence

For ladies – if a guy tries to force himself on you in a club – use your nails. Grab him by the ear (digging in at the back of the ear) and pull him away from you. As an alternative, dig your nails into the soft part of his cheek. Trust me, it really hurts your attacker.

You have nails. Use them. Imagine you’re using your attacker as a climbing apparatus and you’re using grip holds to ‘dig in’.

‘Shredding’ is a term I use for moving your grip ‘to and fro’ , thus ‘shredding’ the attacker’s face. This is an extreme method, which should only be used depending on the severity of the attack.

Don’t be afraid to knee him in the groin. It often works.

In the home

My last few years of teaching RBSD has enabled me to adapt to any situation. I can use any household item as a weapon.

If someone was standing in my lounge about to attack me, and all I had were two mugs on my desk, I could hold them by the handles and use them as ‘punch gloves’. Think on your feet.

Don't mess with Rob and his mugs

Don’t mess with Rob and his mugs

You can use any object to defend yourself. Anything.

In my film, I defended myself against a knife-wielding maniac with a biro pen!

On the street

Please stop texting on your mobiles. Your attention has already gone and before you know it, you’ve been attacked. Same applies to headphones. Don’t create your own blind spots.

Don’t walk with your head down. Walk with assertion.

If you have your awareness about you, no stranger should have the opportunity to be in your personal space.

In the event of an attack, angle your natural foot stance so one is slightly behind the other. Have your arms relatively loose to form a guard if need be. There is something called ‘The Fence’ which is a useful tool in keeping any would-be attacker at a protective distance using simple body language and your fight guard.

The Fence - use your body language to keep people at an arm's distance

The Fence – use your body language to keep people at an arm’s distance


Look out for each other. Watch your back.

Don't mess with this man

Don’t mess with this man

If you know you’re likely to be involved in a confrontation, take precautions.

Rob wearing his stab-proof vest

Rob wearing his stab-proof vest

A property of mine was broken into recently and I wanted to protect my tenants. I dropped by the premises in the evenings to see if the intruder would return. Naturally, I’d be carrying out a Citizen’s Arrest in such an encounter. I turned up with a stab vest, elbow pads and slash proof gloves.

Feeling safer, but intrigued by this legendary landlord? Check out Rob’s website here.