Monday, March 31, 2008

Jack Dempsey, Boxing Legend, Hero…Martial Arts Instructor?

In 1917 nobody thought that Jack Dempsey would win the title, but with a 77 inch reach and his unorthodox stance he would destroy heavy weight champion Jess Willard. In the first round alone he would knock Willard down seven times, and by the third Willard was too badly hurt to continue. Over his professional career he would amass some 60 wins (51 by knockout) and of those 51 knock outs, 26 happened in the first round He only had 7 losses, 8 draws and 5 no decisions over his career. While that was impressive, Dempsey understood that boxing was only a combat sport and real fighting required you to abandon any sense of fair play. He proved time and time again in the ring that he was a great athlete, but in World War II he would show the Navy what real fighting was all about.

Jack Dempsey was born William Harrison Dempsey on June 24th 1895 in Manassa, Colorado the 9th of 11 children. By the age of 16 he was fighting for drinks in local saloons. Before settling down in New York City, he bounced around the country doing everything from digging ditches to cutting timber. He even worked as circus roustabout (workman or laborer). During this time, he still managed to refine his art. In addition to a powerful punch, Dempsey could also move fast enough to dodge an opponent’s blows.

Dempsey treated every fight like a street fighter not a boxer. He didn’t fight dirty, but he knew he had to end things quickly or he would only increase his chances of getting hurt. Dempsey had an outstanding career and would even do a number of exhibition bouts after his retirement, but finest moments would not come in the ring, but wearing a United States military uniform.

In 1917 when Americans were going off to fight World War I Dempsey kept boxing and working in a shipyard. After the war people accused him unfairly of draft dodging despite several attempts to enlist in the army and being told to keep fighting. Even though he was vindicated, it still bothered Dempsey personally. So when World War II rolled around he jumped at the chance to serve. He was first commissioned as a Lieutenant in the New York State Army National Guard, but he resigned and took a commission United States Coast Guard and would advance to the rank of Commander. He was made Director of Physical Education at The Coast Guard’s Manhattan Beach training facility in Brooklyn New York.

Instead of just teaching physical fitness Dempsey taught the new recruits how to fight. He worked with B.J. Cosneck, who was the Coast Guard’s hand-to-hand combat expert and a college wrestling champion. Dempsey and Cosneck would prepare the recruits to fight it out on the battlefield or in a barroom brawl. They would teach recruits self defense techniques from come-alongs to strangles.

During his time with Cosneck, Dempsey would write his first book titled appropriately How to Fight Tough. The book was easy to follow guide that told soldiers and sailors how to fight. It included boxing, wrestling, and jujutsu techniques. B.J. Cosneck would write his own book called American Combat Judo after the war which is also another less known but no less important work in the field of martial arts and close combat.

Training countless sailors would have been enough for Dempsey to silence most critics, but while serving as a morale officer in the Pacific he would achieve heroic status. During the invasion of Okinawa the last Japanese strong hold before Japan Dempsey was serving on the attack transport USS Arthur Middleton as the morale officer which was a non-combat assignment. When Dempsey then age 49 saw men he trained going into combat he insisted he go along and join the fight. For that act he would make himself a Coast Guard hero. After the war he would continue to serve with Coast Guard Reserve until 1952. As a solider and a world class competitor, Dempsey understood the difference between sport combat and real combat, and made sure every man he trained knew it.

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Which is More Important for Self Defense, Firearms or Martial Arts Training?

The plain simple truth is that martial arts have their limitations, and anyone who tells you differently is a fool. Remember, if fighting with empty hands was all it was cracked up to be, we wouldn’t have the need for any weapons. On the other hand, just because you carry a weapon doesn’t mean you’ll ever have the opportunity to use it. Many people, especially in law enforcement, think that because they have firearms training they will have no need for hand to hand tactics, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Statistics indicate that a police officer is more likely to be physically assaulted well before they have the opportunity to deploy their weapon. There is only one sure answer to this debate; to be successful in close combat you need both.

One of the most persistent myths about martial arts is that they remove the need for weapons training. The fact is outside of three feet you're dealing with a gun, and inside of three feet you have a real fight on your hands. Many people genuinely believe that they have to choose between gun ownership and martial arts, self defense training, but they're wrong. Historically, martial arts and weapons training have been proven to work together to create an effective form of self defense and close combat.

When primitive muskets were introduced to the samurai by Dutch and Portuguese traders, they didn't abandon their bows or swords, but they began issuing the new weapon to their infantry. Even Saigō Takamori, who led the Satsuma Rebellion that was depicted in the film The Last Samurai, taught firearms training in his martial arts schools. In actuality the rebel samurai all carried firearms in addition to their traditional weapons, and the new imperial army had many samurai serving as officers. The combinations of firearms and martial arts led to many brutal close combat fights between the rebels, and government forces before the fighting would come an end in a bloody charge.

The pioneers of close combat in World War II, who brought martial arts to the military didn't neglect weapons training. To the contrary, self defense expert William E. Fairbairn who studied various martial arts, and had a black belt in Kodokan Judo was also a great proponent of realistic firearms training. During his law enforcement career he taught his students how to survive actual combat by using guns, knives, and martial arts. When Fairbairn met up with Rex Applegate during the war he was already teaching similar shooting techniques. Both men understood that in order to be ready for combat, a warrior had to be deadly with and without weapons.

You would be surprised how many dedicated martial arts own firearms. Some carry them because they regard their sport martial arts training for what it is and have no misconceptions about surviving and assault. Real fights are simply unfair, and if you're dealing with multiple attackers, a firearm can quickly deter them, giving you time to escape.

The world is not a perfect place and chances are you will be taken by surprise. Training in martial arts you will be a better able to protect yourself when your weapons are out of reach. You can't take your weapons every where, but you can still be ready for close combat.

For a long time there has been a rift between "gun guys," and "martial arts guys," and it is unnecessary. To be effective and survive in close combat you need both good weapons and self defense training. Neither one replaces the other so divide your time between the range and the martial arts school. Both martial arts and shooting are about being in the right mindset, to do what you need to do to survive. By understanding both, your odds of survival only improve. If done correctly, your martial arts and self defense training should fall right inline with your firearms training.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

How Would Today’s Martial Artist Stack Up?

How Would Today’s Martial Artist Stack Up in a
True Warrior Society?

By Damian Ross and William J. Pehush of The Self Defense Company
Not long ago the public was reintroduced to the Spartans and their warrior culture thanks to the film 300 based off of Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name. This latest retelling of events that happen in Greece in 480 BC shouldn’t be considered historically accurate; it was never intended to be that way. None the less, the real Spartans even without their “Hollywood Personas” still remain impressive to this day. They were truly a martial society. They understood that in order to remain free you must always be ready to fight. Love of country and each other along with disciplined training made them an unstoppable force. They claimed to be descended from Hercules, but they didn’t just talk the talk they walked the walk. Ancient Sparta had no need for walls; it relied on its fighting men alone to protect her.

The historical Spartans descended from the Dorian tribe who were one of the founding tribes of Greece (the great general Alexander the Great shares the same tribal heritage). Strategically located in Southern Greece Sparta was a local power and bitter rival to the city state of Athens. In Spartan society, military service was treated as a privilege and was only open to citizens.

From their first day of life, a Spartans faced a life or death situation. When a child was born, it was examined by city elders to ensure it was strong and healthy. If the child was determined to be unhealthy it would be thrown in a nearby gorge. A Spartan boy would be primarily raised by his mother until the age of seven. She would prepare him for the tough road ahead. Spartan women’s reputation for child rearing was known throughout ancient Greece and to the point that many wealthy families sought after them as nannies to their own children. The Spartan mother had to be strict and demanding to prepare her child for what came next.

At the age of seven the Spartan boy would enter in the “Agoge”, a state run military school. There he would learn how to be a man and a warrior in environment that can only be described as a twelve-year Boy Scout camp from hell. Here he would learn social skills, military training and hunting along with other necessary survival skills. He would also learn the importance of loyalty and team work. The boys were divided up into troops or “Ageles” and supervised by an “Eirena”, thirteen year old Spartan. The young recruits were given little in the way of supplies and food. They were expected to endure pain. Hardship, hunger, thirst, cold, fatigue and lack of sleep forced them to become resourceful, self reliant and live off the land. No blankets were issued and each child was given one piece of clothing for a year. All training was done barefoot and if you wanted a bath it would be in freezing cold water.

Every aspect of the training was designed to test your physical and mental toughness. Everything was a challenge. The young recruits were only given broth to eat while the instructors would encourage them to try to steal their food. If you were a success and stole the food undetected it was yours to enjoy, but if you were caught, you could expect a whipping. Then when you were in your teens, you would be left in the wilderness in the winter without weapons or even proper clothing. This was your final exam. If you survived great, if not it was your own fault and there would be no rescue.

In addition to tough training the Spartan’s also understood the importance of good tactics in a close combat situation. Because teamwork was emphasized from day one of training they were able to form the phalanx, a tightly packed formation of spearmen with interlocking shields. The spears would stop any advancing cavalry, and the shields would protect the troops from arrows and other missile weapons.

Every warrior was expected to hold his own in personal combat as well so he would train relentlessly in various forms of martial arts. Boxing, wrestling, and “fencing” with swords, each soldier had to become proficient. Each Spartan was expected to give his all and do everything possible to support your comrades in arms.

Then on his 20th birthday, the Spartan would officially begin his military career. As part of your service, he had to join a mess or club with fifteen other men. These men would become his friends, comrades, and training partners for the rest of his life. During this time he would be allowed to marry, though you probably spend most of your time at the barracks. Spartan males were on active duty until the age of thirty when they became full citizens. At that time, you could choose to remain in active service or join the reserves and remain on call until you were sixty.

On active duty during peacetime a Spartan warrior’s service largely consisted of constant training, patrolling of Sparta’s borders and keeping a vigilant watch over Sparta’s serfs or Helots. Other units worked as police officers or personal protection of government officials. In the reserves you were expected to stay in shape and maintain your equipment. For the Spartan, every day was a day to train and prepare.

Though Spartan women saw it as their duty to give birth to more Spartan warriors if you were a woman in ancient Sparta you would enjoy many rights and privileges more so than any other woman in all of Greece. The Spartans were extremely progressive in this manner. As a woman of Sparta you would have the same educational opportunities as the men and you would also train as an athlete as well. You could own property and you could even divorce your spouse! Since the men could be called into action at any moment, women often took control and made sure the city state continued to run during wartime.

A Spartan warrior aspired to die in battle fighting among his friends and family. Prior to the invasion of Greece, Xerxes King of the Persians asked a Spartan exile named Demaratos if the Greeks would submit to his will. Demaratos replied “Yes, all but Sparta.” Xerxes asked why and Demaratos replied that the Spartans only fear the law and the law says no retreat no surrender. At the Battle of Thermopylae and many other battles to follow, the Spartans showed how a few can defeat many with the right mindset, the right training, love of country and love of family.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Martial Arts and The American Spirit: The 1964 Judo Team

By Damian Ross and William J Pehush of the Self Defense Company

In United States during the 1960’s the civil rights debate raged on around the country, but a handful of men put aside their petty differences and banned together to chase a dream. Under Olympic rules, the host country can add a sport to the games so in 1964 when Japan was selected to host the games, Judo was added to the events. Though this was the first year Judo was an Olympic event the United States still fielded an experienced team made up of Americans from a variety of ethnic, religious and economical backgrounds.

From the beginning, Dr. Jigoro Kano Judo’s founder taught anyone who wanted to learn. It was the first time this type of training, normally reserved for nobility, was made available to the masses. Kano sent instructors all over the world to teach people the martial art and expose them to Japanese culture. Unlike before, students of any nationality were welcomed and encouraged to train at the Kodokan Judo Institute in Tokyo. A special section was eventually set up to help teach foreigners this amazing martial art. Among these foreigners was British police officer William Fairbairn. He would go on earn his black belt in Judo (2nd degree) and would go to teach other police officers and soldiers practical close combat and self defense techniques based of what he learned. Kano would travel the world teaching and lecturing and in 1938 he even sat on the Olympic committee in an effort to bring the Olympics to Tokyo.

The American team embodied the true spirit of Judo and as well served as a snapshot of American society of the day. The team to head to Tokyo in 1964 included African American George Harris, an Air Force veteran who had won a number of important tournaments around the world. In addition to military competitions and he trained at the Kodokan in Japan several times. Another Air Force veteran to join the team was Native American Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who was first introduced to Judo by Japanese friends growing up in California. Like Harris, he continued to practice Judo in the military and trained bomber pilots in combat martial arts as part of their survival training. Also on the team was James Bergman, a Jew who’s Asthma forced him to stay inside so he trained in Judo to keep fit and be able to fight off bullies (an added benefit of this martial art). His dedication would bring him to the Olympics. He would even train with martial arts legend and author Donn Draeger. Finally, veteran Judo instructor Yosh Uchida a Japanese American would coach the team.

The competition was fierce at the Olympics in 1964, but the Japanese would still dominate three of the four weight classes. The one exception was the 6'7" 320 pound Anton Geesink of Holland who won a gold medal bye defeating Akio Kaminaga in the open weight division. Though victorious Geesink would behave honorably and prevent Dutch fans from fighting with Japanese fans who were shocked by the defeat. James Bergman would be the only American to medal with a Bronze. Though American didn’t bring home the Gold Meda,l the team made a good showing and earned the respect of other nations. The United States would not win another medal in Judo until 1976 when Allen J. Coage an African American won the Bronze Medal. Though the United States has yet to win a Gold Medal in Judo, American teams remain competitive in the Olympics and other competitions.

The original members of the 1964 team still continued to contribute to the sport today. George Harris continued to compete though he would not compete in the Olympics again. He also helped found the United States Judo Association and remains active as a board member. Though he has been ill in the last few years he continues to train which he credits with keeping him strong. Ben Campbell also worked to promote Judo with Harris in the USJA and is on the board. Campbell would also work as a police officer, teacher, and be elected as Senator for Colorado from 1993 until 2005. Bergman also teaches, writes, and continues to promote Judo. He remains proud to be a member of America’s first Olympic Judo team.

In a time when society was demanding equality for all and that a man be judged by his ability not his race a group of athletes stood up and became a symbol of America. For many the team meant another step forward for civil rights, but to the team it was just being true sportsmen. Sports don’t build character, they reveal it and in 1964 the United States showed what could be done if everyone worked together.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

What is the Opposite of Fear?

Most people’s first reaction to this is bravery or heroism. These are the result of what the real answer enables us to be. Fear is an emotion so the opposite of Fear must to be an emotion. If you read Stephen Pressfield’s “Gates of Fire” you already know the answer.

The answer lies in your heart. The opposite of Fear is Love. Love of family, love of God, love of country. It is what ever justifies your existence. Whenever you teach someone new, and you show them how to attack with ruthless intensity and to do whatever it takes, by any means necessary to survive, most regular, law abiding person cringes at the reality of biting or gouging and eye. Their reaction is “I could never do that!” Oh really, what if you came into your daughter’s room and saw strange man standing over her bed? Well, the answer is quite a different one. Fear and apprehension disappear and all you’re left with is seething range and contempt (this is good).

When we talk about self defense and fighting to survive, even though we approach it from a practical point of view, you will be placed in completely impractical, unimaginable and outrageous. Even combat veterans attacked is civilian life have the same reaction, the thought of the person or the thing you hold dearest being ripped away from you will put you into a state of mind that can not be replicated.

No matter how real your training is, that fear cannot be replicated. So you have to plan and prepare for it. Simple, repetitious techniques practiced in a variety of situations. Conditioning the body and hardening your natural weapons. Being in better physical shape and learning how to use weapons that fit into your gross motor skill set.

When the rage hits, you’re probably not going to be able to remember a thing. Most times you simply “black out”. This is why sport and complicated methods of fighting don’t work. You can train; practice until you’re dead exhausted. You can make your techniques look sharp and pretty. Your training should put you on auto-pilot. Your training has to allow you to channel that anger and that adrenaline into the assailant.

You can create scenarios in your mind and have your training partners try to rip your head off. This is all excellent, but it’s not the real thing. The real thing happens faster, is ugly and is brutal. Its not pretty. We have a saying, “If it looks good in the dojo, it won’t work in the street.” Keep it simple and work within the realities what you will be mentally and physically able to do when your worst nightmare is knocking at your door. Fighting for a parking spot or over a few dollars may not be worth it, but standing up for the person you hold dearest always is.

If your job deals with violence you know what happens when it all goes south. Training for these situations is about doing simple tasks in extraordinary or unimaginable situations. This is why and where the majority of self defense methods taught fail under real world conditions.

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