SELF-DEFENSE, by Wesley Brown, Jr.

Published in 1951 by The Ronald Press in NYC,  and included as a volume in the Barnes Sports Library.

This book is well worth studying. Its flaws are minor, and if the reader is a collector, then he will certainly want this no-nonsense text for reference, and to add to his bookshelf.e

This book is well worth studying. Its flaws are minor, and if the reader is a collector, then he will certainly want this no-nonsense text for reference, and to add to his bookshelf.

WESLEY Brown is one of the “big names” from the WWII hand-to-hand and close combat stable of master instructors. Along with his colleague, Joe Begala, Brown organized and taught the U.S. Naval Aviators’ program in hand-to-hand combat. The two men, under the auspices of the U.S. Naval Institute, produced one of the all-time great books on the subject of personal combat: Hand-To-Hand Combat, as part of the wartime “V-5 Physical Education” series of training manuals. All of these books are rare collector’s items today in the original editions, and the ones on boxing, wrestling, physical conditioning, and hand-to-hand combat stand out as being “essential references” for the student of close combat. This is most particularly so in the case of the boxing and wrestling books, because the objective in producing those manuals was not to encourage playing the sports which they covered for their own sake, or for recreation; but rather in order to enhance the aggressiveness and fighting capabilities, and combative readiness of wartime Naval aviators.

The V-5 Hand-To-Hand Combat manual is reviewed in this Section, elsewhere.

Following world war two Wesley Brown wrote this small but outstanding work on self-defense for the Ronald Press in New York City. Titled simply Self-Defense this book has become, like its wartime predecessor Hand-To-Hand Combat, a collector’s item. It is among the better books on practical personal defense.

Our readers will appreciate that we strongly disagree with Brown’s (rather surprising) statement in this book that following world war two “. . . there existed no adversary such as an enemy”. Possibly, the fact that he wrote this book during the benevolent start of the 1950’s accounts for this silly sentiment. However, we rate street scum, gang filth, muggers, home invaders, rapists, and assorted other variants of troublemaking baccili which we all confront today, in the 21st century, as being — if anything — worse than the military enemy who was a member of one of the Axis forces, and we see defending against such disease as presenting a challenge no less dangerous and formidable as that confronted by the U.S. Marines who won the war in the Pacific.

Oddly enough, Bruce Tegnér, another instructor with whom we have always substantially agreed and who we admire, had a similar attitude. We wonder just how much either of these men knew about bloody street violence — really?

In any case, although the rather disappointing comment made by Brown in his book’s foreword would suggest otherwise, Wesley Brown does not dilute the techniques and tactics that he presents in his book, in the least! Instead, he describes and illustrates a terrific course of instruction in no nonsense self-defense, using essentially the same techniques (albeit fewer of them) that he and Begala described in Hand-To-Hand Combat.

Beginning with a chapter on fundamentals, Brown goes into a description of some useful, effective, and helpful moves that can be applied by just about anyone. Unfortunately, he illustrates some high kicking (not included in Hand-To-Hand Combat, thankfully!), but in the later chapters there is no emphasis upon such questionable doctrine. Like Robert Carlin’s teaching some absurd “flying drop kick”, we wonder what could have possessed Brown — a man who, like Carlin, was a deeply and deservedly respected instructor to the military — to go “off” in the direction of high kicks. While such kicks are certainly possible, they are most definitely not practical or desirable for actual individual close combat and self-defense.

Chapters following include The Unarmed Opponent, The Armed Opponent, Club Maneuvers For A Police Officer, Control Over An Adversary, The Ladies’ Angle, and a Program Of Training.

The techniques are largely sound, although some — like the first frontal pistol threat counter — are awful! One does not “scissor strike” the gunhand of an armed enemy while remaining in the direct path of the weapon! Rule number one for all firearm counters: GET OUT OF ALIGNMENT WITH THE WEAPON’S BARREL!

The police club techniques are not bad, and — interestingly — Brown advocates some simple outward blocks against crude punching blows in his chapter on “control over an adversary”, which were not included in Hand-To-Hand Combat. And while blocking per se is not something that should be emphasized in any practical training, Brown’s dose of it in this book is just right, leaving the reader with a knowledge of how an unskilled punching attack might initially be handled.

The instruction for females is brief and not bad. The only thing we’d take strong exception to in that chapter is teaching a diminutive women to attempt an overshoulder throw against a mugger’s strangle from behind. It might be doable, but we’d recommend against it. There are better measures that can be taken by anyone — male or female — in such a situation (although for well-conditioned men, an overshoulder throw against this type of attack should not be ruled out completely).

On balance this is a fine book, and deserves a place — if you can locate a copy — on your bookshelf, if you are a seriously dedicated student of self-defense.

Wesley Brown’s forte was wrestling. Thus, Self-Defense does include a somewhat heftier dose of wrestling/ju-jutsu type actions than we’d personally advocate. But this may be very compatible with some students and teachers. Like all authentic and knowledgeable close combat and self-defense men, despite Brown’s enormous level of expertise in that side of it, the groundwork of wrestling (the submissions, matwork, and pins) are completely omiitted in Self-Defense.

Check on line. If you’re interested. you might be able to locate a copy of this book. We certainly recommend the work.

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