November 29, 2021 11.41 am This story is over 24 months old

The Lincolnite Tries: Streetwise Defence’s psychological glimpse into staying safe

Brad Pitt’s former bodyguard teaches the keys to self-defence survival

An ex-Royal Marine from Lincolnshire who has been a bodyguard for Russell Crowe, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie is hoping to break the stigma around self-defence and protect society from unprovoked attacks.

Dene Josham, 50, from Louth, set up Streetwise Defence around 15 years ago after years of being trained to deal with combat and aggressive situations, both as a doorman and a bodyguard for some of the Hollywood elite.

He has always taken a keen interest in boxing and martial arts, having fought at Lincoln Drill Hall in his earlier years, before pursuing a career as a Royal Marine.

Dene has been running Streetwise for around 15 years. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

His time in the marines was cut short after he was hit by a car, which prompted a rethink for Dene, who then went on to do body guarding courses, before being trusted to protect local authorities, and eventually movie stars.

Dene’s most notable clients were Russell Crowe, who he chaperoned during the run for 2006 film A Good Year, and then Hollywood power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Dene has looked after some very famous people as a bodyguard, including Brad Pitt. | Photo: Streetwise Defence

“When Angelina was pregnant with the twins I was called over to work for the family,” Dene told The Lincolnite. “There was an $8 million reward for the first pictures of the twins to be captured, and it was my job to stop that from happening, which was a lot of responsibility.”

Dene on the red carpet with Russell Crowe. | Photo: Streetwise Defence

After a few years away in Libya and Iraq during his body guarding days, Dene had a rethink about Streetwise Defence and how he could better hone in on his craft, and that started with breaking a pretty important stigma surrounding self-defence.

He has huge plans for Streetwise, and hopes it can help people feel safer in everyday life. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

He said: “Various incidents over the last couple of years in local and national media prompted me to develop the brand differently, but it’s important to show people the reality of what we are dealing with.

“99% of social violence can be de-escalated, so long as the psychology of someone is understood, so we focus more on addressing and noticing the red flags. A physical response is often the last resort.”

Dene showed us a few techniques, including palm striking and something called shredding, which can distract attackers for long enough to plan an escape. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The Lincolnite met up with Dene to try out some of his techniques and learn a bit about what his classes can show you about the potential risks of an attack and how you can be better prepared against them.

Dene’s self-defence classes don’t focus heavily on martial arts techniques, but are instead centred around the emotion behind incidents like unprovoked attacks, or how the target can respond in the face of danger.

Dene ran through some really handy tips for reporter Ellis Karran. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

As well as detailing criminal law and ensuring people who come to his classes understand their rights, Dene also looks at using everyday household items that could come in handy at an urgent time of crisis.

Part of the session looks at prevention methods from items that can be carried in a bag, such as spray, alarms, lights and pens. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Dene told us during this session: “If we can understand human nature and behaviour, we can understand the reasons behind why things happen.

“It is also about being aware of your surroundings. Red flags to look out for include gestures, body language and how close someone gets to you, as the threat level naturally rises the closer someone gets to you.

“It’s sad that I have to be here doing these sessions, ideally people wouldn’t need my knowledge, but the fact of the matter is these things happen and they can happen to us all, so we need to be prepared for that eventuality.”

Dene explained to us that 90% of attacks come from people we know. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The sessions are for both men and women, but Dene recommends booking sessions for the same gender due to the sensitive nature of the topics that can be covered.

They last around three and a half hours with comfort breaks, and look into the mindset of an attacker, adrenaline switches, improvised weapons, how to stay safe and role playing scenarios, all to increase your self-defence skills.

A series of very handy tips and tricks to help prevent attacks, whether they are provoked or not. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

When asked about the ultimate goal and mission of Streetwise Defence, Dene said: “Ideally we want to go into more schools and educate children on how they can keep safe in these situations.

“It’s all about dispelling the notion that people have, a preconceived idea on self-defence. Despite what others may teach, it’s more about human psychology than physicality. Everyone is driven by emotion, so it is important to understand that and take it into consideration when facing a scenario.

“Ultimately it can happen to anyone, so we want to teach you to investigate risks, and focus on awareness and avoidance, because these are survival skills that mean you don’t need to walk around feeling intimidated all the time.”

Streetwise Defence is available for all people, young and old, to better educate society on the dangers that criminal attacks can possess. | Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Streetwise Defence has teamed up with Rob Fulton and Andy Parr at Lincoln Grappling Coalition on Wavell Drive, offering their facilities as a space for lessons. They can also travel to companies, universities and schools for group classes.

For more information or to get in touch with Dene, visit the Streetwise Defence website.