BOOK REVIEW: Arwrology: All-Out Hand-To-Hand Fighting, by Gordon Perrigard, MD. Privately published by Renouf Publishing Company, Montreal, Canada — 1943 (Reprint available from Paladin Press)
Until Paladin Press reprinted this WWII era book, Arwrology was one of the single hardest-to-find volumes on individual combat and self-defense in existence. Original editions were — and still are — harder to find than original editions of Fairbairn’s Scientific Self-Defence. The last copy of Arwrology that we saw for sale by a bookseller (years ago) was priced at $1,000. And it sold within two weeks!
This is a fairly good book on the subject. We first saw a copy, and first learned of its existence, many years ago during a visit to Col. Rex Applegate’s home in Scottsburg, Oregon. It was among his collection of wartime references, and in fact was one of the numerous books that the (then) Captain Applegate pored over at the instruction of William J. Donovan, when he was ordered to “learn everything there is to know about close combat”. Subsequent to our seeing this book in our mentor’s home we feverishly attempted to secure a copy for our self, and succeeded — finally, after years of searching.
The title “Arwrology” is, no matter how much we say it, write it, or use it, irritating and annoying. It might just as well have been called ju-jutsu, because, for the most part, that is pretty much exactly what “Arwrology” consists of. Dr. Perrigard was a physician and a black belt in ju-jutsu/judo, apparently. When world war two broke out he undertook to organize and teach the most viable elements of close combat that he could cull from his studies, to Canadian and American servicemen. An admirable undertaking, and the work that he produced (if we can overlook the damn title) is not that bad. (“Arwrology” derives, according to Dr. Perrigard, from the Welsh word for “warrior” — i.e. “arwr”. Hmm…)
It appears that Dr. Perrigard developed an interesting approach to calisthenics, in which more “combatively relevant movements” were recommended as exercise, instead of the customary P.T. regimen normally administered in basic training camps. Whether the Canadian or any other service actually utilized the good doctor’s recommendations, we cannot say. But there does appear to be some logic, if not to the use of Perrigard’s exercises as a substitution for the usual calisthenics done by military trainees, then to their being added on, as a part, perhaps, of a hand-to-hand combat program.
Certain recommendations of Dr. Perrigard’s concerning how to crawl and how to arise from the ground — or strike out at an enemy from the ground position — are interesting. In reality these skills are taught in certain ju-jutsu systems. So are virtually all of the other skills that are offered under the “Arwrological” heading. The throws are ju-jutsu throws, and the holds are ju-jutsu holds — most notably that naked choke attack from behind, recast by Dr. Perrigard as the “Arwr lock”.
The techniques are pretty good. We just wonder why the term arwrology is used to describe them. Dr. Perrigard himself made it clear that his were judo/ju-jutsu credentials, plain and simple. Possibly it was the wartime climate in which so much anti-Japanese sentiment was aroused, that prompted his gravitating to a Welsh term for Japanese ju-jutsu techniques.
Dr. Perrigard designed a kind of “bulky F&S style dagger”. It is shown in the book, along with some basic techniques of defense against a knife. He also describes some knifework that we wouldn’t feel too keen about training in, or about training others in. More suggestions of a fairly complicated type, for handling a too narrowly-specific situation, than generally usable knifework principles and all-round, general skills.
What we really do like is Dr. Perrigard’s analysis and explanation of the edge-of-the-hand blow to the carotid artery. Being a medical doctor he really understood how efficient an action that blow is! And he emphasized it — much to his credit as an instructor.
Weaknesses in this book (aside from the title!) include a much too great emphasis upon throwing than is desirable when training men for hand-to-hand combat; the failure to really describe and stress the use of other natural striking weapons — especially kicking techniques , which are all but completely neglected — except for the knee-to-groin; and a not-all-that-practical rendering of knifework.
As far as the desirability of obtaining a copy of this book (in the original) as a collector’s item, we say: Definitely get a copy, if you can find one! Purchasing one of the reasonably priced reprints from Paladin Press makes excellent sense if you are not a book collector, but merely wish to explore this arwrology text for yourself.
For whatever it’s worth, when we asked Col. Applegate about the book, his response, as we recall, was lukewarm. “It was one of those we looked at,” he said simply.
You might wish to do the same.
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