Saturday, April 26, 2008

American Combat Judo: Nostalgic Review

When I was in elementary school (2nd grade, I believe), the boy in the desk next to me brought in a book called American Combat Judo by Bernard J. Cosneck. As a timid youngster who was teased and pushed around, I was immediately captivated by the idea that a book might teach me how to wreak mayhem on my tormentors. It even had a couple of pages dedicated to instruction in the delicate art of gouging out an eye. I wanted that book.

A few years later, when I was in Jr. High (Middle School to you moderns), I used to go into a stationery store (Ulbrich's) and covet items in their book rack. On one occasion, a strangely familiar cover caught my eye. It was my old friend, American Combat Judo. I think I had to wait until the next trip -- after raiding my piggy bank -- to plunk down the cash for the slim volume. I fearfully approached the cash register wondering if the clerk would permit a minor to even purchase such a book.

My 1959 edition did not contain the information on eye gouging that my friend's 1943 edition had -- a disappointment, to be sure -- but it was my first self defense book, and it became a personal treasure. It did not turn me into a formidable fighter, but it was a comfort to know that the potential was there.

A few of the techniques seemed to fit me, and I could see myself doing them. For example, the photos of middle-aged brutes in speedos showed me how to apply the Rear Naked Choke, and I even used it (unwisely) once or twice. Most of the techniques, however, required a practice partner to learn effectively, and it's probably a good thing that at that age & stage of my life I did not have someone to practice with. One of us might have maimed or killed the other.

Many years later, after I had trained in Goshin Ryu Jujitsu, I once again picked up the book, and understood how the techniques worked that had once seemed so impractical and out-of-reach. As with many books on the subject, some techniques are more practical than others, but on the whole, there are a lot of workable suggestions.

Bernard Cosneck was a collegiate wrestler in the early 1930's who served in the Coast Guard during WWII. He wound up teaching hand-to-hand combat alongside former heavyweight champ, Lt. Jack Dempsey. Cosneck's style was eclectic, taking elements of wrestling, jujitsu, savate and "police tactics".

American Combat Judo has been reprinted by Paladin Press, and it's available from It should not be your first --let alone your sole -- book on hand-to-hand, but if you're into WWII combatives and/or self defense classics, this one should be on your list.

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Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

Thanks, I'm definitely interested in the book now!

I have a book that's basically an army manual on the same sort of thing. I don't think I know where to get it (it's just a manual, like I said) except this military surplus store way far away.... (And one of my favorites from the book is an eye jab move as well! I also felt good learning a neck breaking technique.)

On the theoretical side, have you ever read Miyamoto Musashi's The Book of Five Rings of Sun Tzu's The Art of War?


Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

BTW, sorry to double comment but you're going to want to read my latest blog post.

Gravelbelly said...

I've read the 5 rings. Never finished the Art of War -- It's on the list though.

Thanks for plugging my blog on yours. Here's your blog's URL for any of my readers who read this comment:

Books, Bones, Bricks, and Bullets:

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

Hey, thanks! I appreciate it.

The Art of War I have is the Dover Publications edition, translated by Samuel Griffith I think. It's like four dollars, and also has an introduction on Chinese history to help you understand the backdrop. It's really good, and the book itself, though mostly dealing with large-scale war, can, in theory, be adapted to personal combat. It's good either way.