Lethal Unarmed Combat
by Dr. Malcolm Harris
Published in Great Britain in 1972, this excellent work on practical unarmed combat and self-defense is well worth obtaining and studying. It is a valuable reference, learning source, and addition to any professional’s close combat library.
The author of this book is a genuine expert in unarmed close combat. He is an experienced police instructor who holds black belt ranks in both judo and karate. But what makes this book — and Dr. Harris — so brilliantly credible, is the fact that, unlike so many who hail from a “law enforcement” and/or classical/traditional background, the author clearly understands, appreciates, and makes abundantly clear to the reader, the enormous differences between classical/traditional martial arts and MARTIAL martial arts. Dr. Harris pulls no punches in his criticism of the formalized practices that traditionalists follow, and the practical needs of the person (police officer, or anyone else) who requires effective and reliable hand-to-hand combat abilities. This makes Lethal Unarmed Combat similar in some ways to John Martone’s fabulous little Manual, reviewed previously.
Like all professionals in this field, Dr. Harris emphasizes blows of the hands and feet, straight away. His first chapter on Man’s Basic Weapons gives an excellent account of the proper performance and application of the critical open hand blows, a couple of effective closed hand blows, and powerful, practical kicks. We love Dr. Harris’ description of the side kick (he calls it the “sideways kick”), since — despite the fact that, as a black belt holder in karate, he doubtless has been through the “side thrust” and “side snap” kick formal drills, teaching kicks to middle and high targets — he teaches LOW kicking, and in the world war two era form, not as taught in the karate systems.
In addition to his fabulous chapter one, chapters five, six, seven, and eight are outstanding for any student or teacher of serious close combat and personal defense. These deal with: strangleholds, combat tactics, adverse situations, and truncheon techniques, respectively.
Dr. Harris includes considerable material that in our view has application only for law enforcement. The risky “prisoner handling and control” skills (chapter two) are useless for self-defense and are never desirable for military (save perhaps military police) uses. Private citizens have no responsibility to risk their lives attempting to get an attacking felon “under control”. They only have the responsibility never to agree to fight, never to do anything to escalate or to encourage violence, and never to start a fight. After that, once attacked, their only responsibility is to defend themselves. (At least this is, to the best of our layman’s knowledge and as we understand it, American law).
Dr. Harris’ chapter on “selected judo throws” is, in our opinion, somewhat less than perfect. Such throws as the circle throw (tomoenage) and the floating and outer winding throws are not recommended for hand-to-hand combat, in our opinion. Too risky. Too complex. Too demanding of a MAT upon which to apply them, for the thrower’s safety. And no sacrifice throw makes sense in deadly combat. In our opinion a more decisive version of the leg reaping throw (ie stomp-stepping behind the enemy’s leg, rather than “reaping” per se, and smashing him in the head with a powerful chinjab in order to effect the throw), would be desirable. This, at any rate, is how we teach it. We also advocate O’Neill’s head-twist takedown, and the flying mare (i.e. palm-up over shoulder throw) if one has to use a shoulder throw at all. We are sorry that Dr. Harris does not include these versions of throwing in his book. We have not the slightest doubt that Dr. Harris could apply every technique that he advocates with precision and efficiency in an encounter, but we do not honestly believe that such is within the realm of probability for anyone save a highly proficient black belt judo expert. So, we’d skip the throwing instruction.
The “immobilization holds” that Dr. Harris describes are, once again, judo actions. And while we concede that a law enforcement officer may have practical need of an immobilizing hold when arresting an individual, we would not opt for those used in competitive judo. We’d select one or two from ju-jutsu, and go with them. However — for real world defense and military combat we urge that the downed attacker be handled with kicks, knee drops, and downward smashing blows of the hands , not by attempting to “pin” him. Well, Dr. Harris is an accomplished judo man, and we can forgive him what we would respectfully suggest is an overemphasis upon sporting skills. The chapter on “immobilization holds” does not teach what we would recommend.
Any book in this field that contains 60% or more outstanding material deserves recognition as a most valuable contribution to the literature of close combat and self-defense. And Lethal Unarmed Combat, by Dr. Malcolm Harris is such a book!
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