It doesn't take much to be able to defend yourself. As the owner and instructor of the Self Defense Company Ozark Mountains in Marshfield, Kip Marsh knows from his own personal experience.

His self defense training goes back to 1974. At the time, he was just a 20-year-old college student at Northwestern University when he saw his first Aikido demonstration.

"Most people know Aikido from Steven Seagal," said Marsh. "That’s what Steven Seagal’s art is. Plus, he’s added to it. Anyway, I saw them demonstrating it in the student union and it was like watching Jedi knights. I thought that was really interesting, so I started taking Aikido."

Marsh took Aikido for a year, but stopped after his instructor left, and with his financial status at the time, he couldn’t afford travel 20 miles on train just for classes. Marsh did boxing and wrestling in college, but when he joined the Marines in 1976, he was exposed to a few different martial arts.

"The Marine Corps didn’t have the martial arts program back then," said Marsh. "Now it does, but back then there wasn’t anything like that."

When he got out of the military after completing his active duty, Marsh’s interest in martial arts resurfaced, but more heavily. He started taking classes in different styles of karate, including taekwondo, a Korean martial art, characterized by its emphasis on physical movements with the fists and feet.

"I went through taekwondo with my kids because it was a big thing," said Marsh. "This was in Arkansas. I was actually training at two schools in something called tahoru, which means ‘one man’s self defense’ in taekwondo."

Marsh explained he progressed in taekwondo, but the school he was affiliated with had to change all of their forms, so just before he became a black belt he was told he needed to learn the forms all over again. Since he wasn’t fond of the forms, he left and discovered Kenpo Karate, an updated system of martial arts (which applies logic and practicality) based on modern-day street fighting.

"Kenpo Karate made sense because it’s all self-defense based," said Marsh. "I got third-degree black belt and I like Kenpo. Then I went to seminars and I saw this Israeli tactical combat called Krav Magna, which is Hebrew for defense."

The Israeli tactical combat impressed Marsh because of its simplicity, effectiveness and lack of forms. Marsh became an instructor shortly after that. He explained at first there were no belt ranks in that system, but as more people asked for belt ranks, the black belt rank was added to it.

"To get a black belt, you pretty much had to get a beat down," said Marsh. "I got mine in 2008. I ended up with a broken jaw and a broken rib."

At that point, Marsh had been running the Ozark Self Defense Company School in Marshfield from 2004 to 2007. He started it in Colorado and reopened it when he moved to Marshfield in 2004. Marsh decided he was going to travel overseas and do contracting there, but it was the day prior to that when he ended up getting injured from his black belt training.

"When I got off the plane, I had two black eyes and a swollen jaw," said Marsh. "My boss said he didn't think I was going to last when he saw me get off the plane. He thought, 'This guy is messed up.' I didn’t tell him what happened and he didn’t ask. A year later, when I was leaving to go up to another job, he told me he didn’t think I would stay. I told him what happened and he was surprised that I stayed."

While overseas, Marsh’s training ebbed and flowed. He spent time with many operators who were involved in hand-to-hand combat and PSD protective services. As he trained with them, he learned more martial arts from some of the other Marines stationed there. During his last year overseas, Marsh discovered Damian Ross, master instructor of the Self Defense Company, a global organization of members and instructors dedicated to the education and training of personal protection, crime prevention and conflict resolution for civilians, law enforcement, military and private security.

"I was online and saw Damian Ross, who was advertising and promoting the Self Defense Company," said Marsh. "The system is more direct and to the point of surviving an encounter. I thought this is something I want to teach, so I got my instructor credentials in the self defense training system and the Self Defense Company."

Marsh said with the self-defense training, it doesn’t require earning belts. Within the first class, students learn a skill that they can take home and use to help them defend themselves.

"What I like about the class is it doesn't require a lot of a person’s time to defend themselves," said Marsh. "It is an effective immediate way to defend themselves."

Once they heard he returned to Marshfield for classes, Marsh’s former students asked him if he was going to do Kenpo Karate again or if he was going to do children’s classes. He said he does offer classes for children every now and then, along with other classes for adults, including Israeli Tactical Combative and Jeet Kune Do Kickboxing. Marsh explained there are some age restrictions regarding the Israeli Tactical Combative and Self Defense Training classes.

"I don’t teach anybody the Israeli Tactical Combative or the Self Defense Training system if they’re under the age of 14,” said Marsh. “For 13 and below, they can learn Kenpo Karate and I think that’s good for kids because they’re learning movements and body movements, along with footwork that they can transfer if they wanted to go into the other classes.”

Marsh pointed out that both children and adults can take away valuable lessons from the classes. He said Kenpo Karate focuses on respect and discipline, while self defense teaches confidence and how to protect yourself.

“You don’t use what you know to be a bully,” said Marsh. “You don’t use what you know to have your way over another. You use what you know to defend yourself or those who are weaker than you. That’s what karate teaches. Self defense teaches you pretty much to take care of yourself. A lot of adults need that because a lot of them feel like they can’t. They’ve never learned that they can defend themselves.”

For more information on the Self Defense Company Ozark Mountains, visit or contact Marsh at 417-763-8864.

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