Bob Breen 4D Combat Seminar

The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemy’s. Napoleon Bonaparte

When chaos strikes—you need a plan. 4D Combat is the solution to chaos. Be in at the beginning. Hit harder, hit faster, work less, stay calm and don’t get hit. Come and see the new evolution! Guro Bob Breen (Publicity material for 4D launch event.)

At this intensive, packed two-day launch event (held on the 14th and 15th of last month, with the next one in July see below) Guro Bob showed us that the sky’s the limit if you want to master yourself, others and the threat of chaos – and simplicity is the key.

Bob has been training for 50 years and teaching for 47, spanning a full breadth of styles and approaches. At this seminar, it was obvious that he’s spent a rich, intense lifetime tackling complexity and chaos in search of the answers; and finally reaching a place where those answers seem stunningly clear and simple.

Now he has a burning need to share that hard-earned simplicity with others -as widely and with as much impact as possible.

Guro Bob’s desire to develop the 4D system arose from noticing that however hard people train, in the heat of a fight they generally don’t use what they know. Instead they tend to revert to what Bob calls some kind of crap hybrid. For Bob, what the mind does in a fight is often even more important than what the body does. He wanted to find a way to help students master both and prepare them to control the chaos of a real fight.

The 4D system

So what is the 4D system all about?
Well ‘system’ really is the operative word here. Guro Bob has taken a number of logical typologies and integrated them all into one system, which somehow appears both simultaneously very complex and yet very simple. Or as Bob himself puts it: Simple stuff; really deep!

It all comes together as a single code or a map, which in essence can be seen as a timeline. These typologies include:

  1. The four dimensions which give 4D its name: striking, clinching, weapons and group attack.
  2. The five instincts which people (trained or untrained) naturally display in a fight: fence; fight; flight; cover; clinch.
  3. The five ways of attack as defined by Bruce Lee (SDA; ABC; ABT; ABD and PIA).
  4. Five types of box(split, broken, folded, half-guard and evasion).
  5. Mapping the next steps of a fight as a sequence of binary decisions, including the initial choice between fight or flight.
  6. The Pareto (80/20) principle.
  7. Breen’s own four principles of teaching: fun; function; game play and sparring
  8. Basic physics, such as centrifugal force; or the constant ratio between load and distance within a lever.
  9. Basic geometry, with lots of focus on triangles and timelines that define what your opponent can or will do and when. Also what you should be doing to have the least risk and most effect.

With such resources at hand, Bob is able to confidently proclaim that 4D is an attribute-free zone. By this he means that even those with limited fitness, flexibility, strength or fine motor skills can make use of the system. Above all, it’s about making the most of what you’ve got.

How is the 4D system taught?

The system is extremely logical and carefully constructed at every level. Bob brought his team of right-hand men up to the front of the room and told us that they had all been giving up their early mornings for the last two years to develop the system together.

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The system now includes:

  • A training pack, available online at 4D Combat from 17th June covers all the most basic elements of the system. This weekend was a crash course to teach the contents of this pack.
  • A further instructor course and grading in July on the 16th and 17th to test students’ readiness to teach the material and upgrade their knowledge even more.
  • Then the online instructor launch in twelve weeks’ time then another seminar to make sure that everyone can deliver it really well.
  • Monthly webinars, weekly clips, online training, supporting documentation etc for ongoing support.

Focus on the basics

To those looking to discover the hidden “secrets” of the martial arts, it’s sometimes said: but they were all laid out for you in the first lesson; and Bob certainly takes this as a key principle. He focuses fiercely on the basics throughout the whole weekend, correcting people relentlessly.

One of his 4D instructors explains to me that, He’s reteaching the basics because higher grades can get sloppy so it’s no longer functional and you don’t get the results; and he’s teaching them how to teach them. It’s putting first things first and getting that right then building on that. Or as Bob himself says: When you teach, don’t let them do shit. Correct everything. Don’t let anything off the production line that isn’t perfect. In 4D we test everything anyway in games so you know everything works. Done randomly, like in real fighting it just works even better.

Bob also says, you can’t do a PhD if you’re not even up to GCSE level. Get it down. Get the angles right. You want your fighting to be boring! You’re always winning. Your form is going to drop under stress, so you need to perfect it on the basics.

As part of this, Bob runs through core drills at various points. He explains that as well as being excellent for standardising students’ technique and reinforcing the basics, drills also build camaraderie and spirit. He also shows how to integrate elements of stress training into drills, and puts the class through a quite taxing example to show how it feels: It’s good to know you’ve tested yourself ahead of real combat.

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Taking control

This is a fundamental principle for Guro Bob. He explains that simply blocking and/or trading blows is poor fighting, as it makes you more or less equal to your opponent, or at worst just the reactive recipient of their attack. What you really want is to get ahead of him or her – and do less. For Bob: Work is a four-letter word. You want him to be doing four things while you’re just doing one – controlling him. Entering strongly is the key which will allow you to take this control. Bob also advises to block your opponent as a physical entity rather than blocking individual blows.

As part of this, Bob in one phase of 4D Combat heavily prioritises a strong, aggressive, forward-oriented stance (underpinned by basic geometry and body mechanics), so that you are always the hunter not the hunted. He attacked you but now he’s the one who’s scared – that’s good!

Again, integration is the key, whether it’s punching with your skeleton and gravity – not your arm; or pointing your finger, to create a psychological and physiological sense of purpose and unity.

Bob says, I don’t go in 50/50 or hoping I don’t get hit! I’m going in to beat him.

Another key principle for Bob is to use what you have – It’s like people who buy a fancy camera when they can’t even use the one they have. Use the one you have! An example of this is to use minimal footwork, and instead just shift your weight around to reach different stances.

Monetisation of martial arts teaching

Bob has a refreshingly forthright approach to the often emotive topic of making money from the martial arts. His simple attitude is: it’s a good thing to do, because it enables you to reach more students; and spend more time focusing on the higher levels of your art and personal development.

So it doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game between maintaining the ethics of your art, or selling out.

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To this end, Bob invited his longtime friend and student Matt Chapman to give a talk on the Sunday afternoon about how to run a profitable martial arts school. Matt gave away free copies of his book: Black Belt Biz: More Students, More Profit, More Fun and talked through key areas such as location, target market, space, marketing and growth. He also talked about his own success in generating passive income, notably through his MittMaster online technical pad training.

One interesting point Matt made was his view that maintaining your own dojo building tends to be burdensome and unprofitable. When you can so easily use leisure centres and other venues nowadays, the only reason to have your own dojo building now is often ego – it’s just not efficient.

Bob also shared his thoughts on teaching in general. He spoke thoughtfully about how to make your students into independent learners and develop their individuality. One of his female students told me: As an instructor, you can feel him willing his people to succeed – you can feel the intensity.


The weekend overall was a genuinely exciting and challenging experience. While it’s clear to see that Guro Bob makes a formidable fighter, he also comes over as incredibly cerebral, personifying TojuNakae’s view that Warriorhood without culture is not true warriorhood. For example, it’s very natural for Bob to quote the poetry of Shelley to illustrate his explanation of Bruce Lee’s five ways of attack. The pace was super-fast and unrelenting both mentally and physically and never let up the whole time.

The second course is on the 16th and 17th of July at the City of London Academy Islington (Prebend Street, N1 8PQ) and is open to all whether they want to qualify as instructors, or just participate as students.

Find out why so many people are talking about Guro Bob’s unique 4D Combat system on Facebook

You can also check out more about Guro Bob Breen via his website and Facebook page.

Kai Morgan

Kai Morgan is a martial arts blogger who focuses on ways in which we can become better people through practicing martial arts. Check out her stories and articles at - a number of these focus specifically on women's participation and experience of the martial arts.

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