HOW well we remember the years when, as a boy, just beginning to satisfy our desire for knowledge about and ability in judo, we scoured sources of very questionable value (booklets and “courses” advertised in comic books and in men’s magazines, etc.). This was when we were about eight or nine years old . . . we had never yet heard of “karate”, would have thought “kung fu” was something you ordered with chicken chow mein, and hadn’t a clue that judo and ju-jutsu (we spelled it ju-jitsu or jiu-jitsu, back then) were two different arts.
We bought all of the claims: “You don’t need strength”, “Size is unimportant”, “Learn this and you can beat anybody”, “These are secrets not known outside the Orient”, “G-men use these tricks to overcome the most dangerous criminals — easily”, “Easily defeat and disarm men twice your size, even if they are strong and tough”, “Beat boxers, wrestlers, and anyone when you learn these secrets”. and on and on. We suppose there may be some other “old timers” out there, like ourself, who similarly recall the plethora of spectacular nonsense that served as part of the Asian martial arts’ introduction to postwar America.
It really wasn’t until the 1960’s that schools of karate began appearing. Then, around 1970, Chinese “kung fu” . . . and by the mid-1970’s the martial arts of Asia were integral to American society. Not everyone trained in ju-jutsu or karate; but it would have been very, very difficult if not impossible to find anyone of adult age in the 1970’s who did not instantly know what arts those words referred to.
Unfortunately, American cultural familiarization with the Asian martial arts as popular activities, especially among teenage boys and young men in their 20’s, did not include an adequate degree of familiarization with the facts regarding the various martial arts, their actual capabilities, the requirements for practical success in using them, and their true place in the overall scheme of world methods of close combat and self-defense. To this day, in 2016, many teach, practice, and study Asian martial arts for personal defense and even military combat, without having a realistic perception of the weaknesses no less than the strengths of these many systems. Misconceptions and dangerous falsehoods are often unwittingly passed on to new students whose objective is self-defense; and the result becomes tragic —— or at least potentially tragic. That old idea that “you don’t need strength” and in fact the process of defending yourself —— even against weapons or multiple attackers —— is “easy” providing you know your ju-jutsu (or judo, or karate, or hapkido, or taekwon-do, or whatever) still infects many schools of thought, courses, and approaches that are popular today.
The plain truth is that, even if we assume that you learn the finest and most reliably war-proven techniques — such as those we teach in American Combato, and our colleagues teach him their respective programs, YOU NEED TO BE PREPARED TO EXERT 100%, ALL-OUT EFFORT AND CONCENTRATED STRENGTH should you ever be pressed to defend yourself.
Our first exposure to this idea came about a year or so before we were fortunate enough to discover Charlie Nelson’s “School of Self-Defense” in Manhattan. An aunt of ours who had lived through the blitz in England gave us a copy of Get Tough! by W.E. Fairbairn. That was the blow across the head we needed to wake us up and to point us —— finally —— in the direction we had always wanted to go. Only the subtlest factor nudged us into doubting the fallacy of this “you don’t need strength” thing: In Fairbairn’s introductory comments to Get Tough! His concluding bit of advice was: “Once closed with your enemy give every effort you can muster and victory will be yours.” (Our emphasis). Reading that, as a boy in elementary school who had been already exposed to years of being taught that effort was essentially unnecessary if and when you possessed the knowledge and the skills and the secrets of judo/ju-jutsu, rocked our whole belief system. But it was a belief system built on questionable ground. We had, after all, already come to appreciate that, in our judo classes and in ju-jutsu training, it was always necessary to really exert force in order to accomplish a throw, or to grapple effectively with a training partner. Most boys were stronger and more athletic than ourself to begin with, and so we had to struggle, even when applying authentic judo or ju-jutsu! Theory was one thing . . . reality proved to be something very different!
Get Tough! led us to Kill Or Get Killed, the Navy’s V-5 Hand-To-Hand Combat, to Scientific Self-Defence, to Do Or Die!, and so on; and eventually to training as suited our purpose and goals best, and to the formulation of our System, American Combato (Jen•Do•Tao) in 1975. Courses we took in Tae Kwon Do, Indian Varmannie, Jakata, the Sigward System, Kenpo-Karate, end so on, were all integrated into this growing body of doctrine, all based upon and rooted in the WWII methods, and carrying on —— in technique and in spirit —— their war-proven principles.
In Kill Or Get Killed we read for the first time that the idea that an enemy could be defeated “easily” is a mere illusion! And while that put the lie to an awful lot of what we had been learning in some of our ju-jutsu classes, it certainly rang true! We saw fights, and occasionally got into a scuffle ourself as a boy and as an adolescent . . . and while we could employ the training that we had received, it was not easy to do so. We also received some minor injuries, and by no means —— even with years of training —— was overcoming a contemporary “easy”. A marvelous friend whom we associated with throughout high school, a fellow by the name of Jesus Garcia, was a fabulous boxer. And we learned initially from him, in a friendly, cooperative context, that just about everything we had been taught in ju-jutsu and judo about “defending against a boxer” was rubbish. So long as the “boxer” was a fellow student in ju-jutsu, and so long as he was pretending to box, our “defenses” went beautifully. But once the opponent was a real boxer, like Jesus, three or four punches generally whizzed close enough to prove they would have landed well had he delivered them for real, and had our silliness amounted to an effort on our part at “defending against a boxer”! In fact it was a combination of our exposure to boxing, our learning some basic atemiwaza, and/or in-depth study of the wartime classics and Charlie Nelson’s influence that pushed us completely into the “karate camp” of self-defense training, as we realized, without question, that blows comprised the last of real combat doctrine. Throwing, strangling, and holding supplemented blows; but blows were the heart and soul of real world personal combat. And using them effectively demanded lots, and lots of concentrated effort. It required all-out commitment and drive, and —— in real combat —— nothing is “easy”!
We are always hoping that we can spread the truth to more and more people whose purpose is self-defense and who want only effective self-defense and combat training . . . leaving the sport and the classicism (all of which is worthy and valuable) to those who are looking for that. The difference between the various approaches to “martial art” is tremendous.
In self-defense you must count upon dealing with a SUPERIOR FORCE. That is, an attacker who is stronger, more athletic, dangerously more experienced in violence, and larger than yourself. Further assume that he will likely be armed, even if you do not immediately perceive that he is holding a weapon. Add to that the likely presence of cohorts who will join with him in an effort to maim or to kill you. Finally, assume that maiming or killing you is definitely going to be the prospect that you face when subject to a violent, extralegal attack. Forget about halfhearted punks who run the second you begin to resist. Don’t fret “smart asses” or “wiseguys” or “showoffs”. These types, admittedly obnoxious, should simply be shrugged off and avoided. Never get into fights. Fighting is stupid, dangerous, and could lead to troubles for months and years to come. Avoid any conflicts that you can avoid.
If you need to defend yourself, and if you realize that no option is now open to you but to act and act fast in self-defense, then DO SO, AND DO SO WITH EVERY OUNCE OF STRENGTH, DETERMINATION, WILL, DRIVE, AND TOTAL COMMITMENT YOU POSSESS! AND DO NOT STOP GOING AFTER YOUR ATTACKER(S) UNTIL YOU ARE SAFE. Do not expect your skills to work like “magic”. There is no “magic”. Never mind how skilled, knowledgeable, experienced, and in-shape you may be. You will need everything you are capable of to protect yourself, and assume no less.
That’s the right way to assist your mental preparation and tactical strategy for handling genuine, dangerous criminal violence.