INSTANT SELF-DEFENSE, by Bruce Tegnér
Published by Grosset and Dunlap 1975 (In the USA and Canada)
BRUCE Tegnér’s Instant Self-Defense is an excellent little work (large format, but only 64 pages). In typical Tegnér fashion, the author clearly and logically presents some no-nonsense techniques and excellent counsel for anyone seeking realistic and practical no-frills self-defense. The recent resurgence of interest in and (we are delighted to say!) respect for this well ahead-of-his-time, much maligned teacher of personal protection and martial arts is encouraging. When Tegnér first appeared on the scene — around 1960 — with his Karate: The Open Hand And Foot Fighting, the smirking, and infantile criticism struck like a deluge. Every classical/traditionalist “knew” that any modernizing and demystifying of the martial arts merely destroyed their effectiveness. After all, these unreasonable fools “reasoned”, how dare anyone argue with tradition, and with that which is already established? (Sound familiar?) The fact that mistakes can be carried on for hundreds or even thousands of years, just as well as worthy doctrine, never entered the alleged “minds” of those in the flowing robes (Rex Applegate’s term!). No, Tegnér was widely appreciated and successful, but only because there are millions of people who desperately wanted common sense and effciency, and who disdained bullshit. Regrettably, only a tiny minority of martial arts teachers and students fell into that category in the 1960′s, 70′s, and even throughout the first half of the 80′s.
Tegnér, to his great credit, simply ignored the asinine critics (as we ourself do, and as we advise others to do, also) and proceeded to offer the martial arts seeking public some refreshing, for that time new, ideas regarding the Asian martial arts and self-defense. Among them were:
• Self-defense and sport are entirely different
• The very people who need and want practical defense training the most are the least likely to be sporting/competitive participants
• Self-defense is simple, and virtually anyone can learn it. One needn’t be a black belt expert, and one needn’t train for years
Tegnér made other points (some of which, we must confess, we do not agree with at all) but if he had made only those three he should be remembered forever as a great pioneer in Western martial arts.
Instant Self-Defense carries a title that, unfortunately, is reminiscent of those “learn-ju-jutsu-at-home-in-ten-easy-self-taught-lessons” courses, which peppered the men’s magazines and many physical culture and outdoor periodicals during the post-war 1940′s, and throughout the 1960′s and early to mid-70′s. It would be a terrible mistake to dismiss this book by assuming that it belonged in their category, however. It does not!
The contents begin with very wise and helpful counsel from Tegnér regarding why the skills to be described work, and the attitude that the reader must have regarding his study of self-defense. The “six best hand and arm blows”, and the “six best kicks” are then clearly described and illustrated. Targets to be attacked — both when one’s opponent is annoying, and when one’s opponent poses a potentially deadly threat — are shown. Tegnér goes into “stances”, something we personally question as being of value when they are of the square off and prepare to fight type, as some of Tegnér’s are. But he also illustrates a couple of good ready stances that do not betray any intention to fight to a troublemaker.Versions of the straight leg throw (taiotoshi), the leg-reaping throw (osoto-gari) and a simple leg hock takedown (unarmed combat) comprise the instruction in “throwing”. These are good throws, to be sure; but our preference would have been for the cross buttock reverse version of the hip thrown, and a stabler and more destructive version of the leg-reap. We suspect that Bruce Tegnér’s personal background in judo (he was California State Champion at one time, according to what we were told, and his family was trained by the fabulous Kodokan judo/ju-jutsu man Theodore Shozo Kuwashima) accounts for his judo style of throwing, and what we would opine tends in some of his teachings to be an excessive emphasis upon throws, per se.
The efficient little work then goes on to what is its most important instruction in self-defense: handling street fighters’ attacks, punching attacks, attacks from behind, weapon threats, and multiple assailants. (By the way, Tegnér describes one of the finest all round knife defenses, almost exactly as it was taught during WWII to commandos). We ourself teach this technique as the very first, when students in our System begin knife defense work. Good stuff!
As we have plainly stated elsewhere, we like Bruce Tegnér’s books dealing with practical self-defense and the combative aspect of martial arts. We’d leave his works on classical methodology and sport alone. Just our opinion.
Instant Self-Defense is a good instructional book on practical self-defense; which is exactly what its author intended it to be. Its strengths by far outweigh whatever weaknesses we could nit-pick about, and so we’d recommend the work to anyone seriously involved in the combat/self-defense sphere of martial arts.
The book is out of print, but it pops up now and again on the internet. Well worth securing.
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