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  1. Jack Rusher is offline
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    Posted On:
    10/12/2009 11:32am


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    Hell yeah! Hell no!

    Western Tigers in Old Shanghai

    What follows is a bit of martial arts history research that could just as easily belong in the JMA or WMA forums, but I'm putting it here because most of the action takes place in the old Shanghai International Settlement (SIS).

    Shanghai

    Shanghai was partitioned from the mid-nineteenth century into multiple foreign-controlled sub-sectors. The SIS was the part controlled by American and British interests from 1854–1943. It was a crowded dockside section of the city with well over one million inhabitants (including 30K Japanese) that, like other colonial concessions, became an extremely violent, criminally active place. The Shanghai Municipal Police — a force of ~6,000 — was tasked with maintaining order over this sprawling, opium-fueled disaster.

    The SMP was an international force with members from all over the world, though most of the commanding officers were British and most of the front-line foot soldiers were Chinese. Oddly, traffic wardens were mainly Sikhs.

    W.E. Fairbairn

    Much has already been written about W.E. Fairbairn, more or less the inventor of modern combatives, who served as chief close quarters combat (CQC) instructor for the SMP (and, later, trained soldiers for WWII), so I'll summarize quickly:

    Fairbairn was an English soldier who joined the SMP in 1907, received a terrible beating at the hands of a Chinese gang, then devoted himself to martial study in order to avoid a repeat of that experience. He took Judo lessons with an instructor called Okano, a newaza specialist who had came to Judo from Takenouchi Ryu and Fusen Ryu. Fairbairn also traveled to Japan to train at the Kodokan, ultimately receiving his 2nd degree black belt in February 1931. All of his certificates are signed by Jigoro Kano.

    He also trained Chinese Boxing with Cui Zhendong, the instructor to the retainers of the Empress Dowager. Cui was a bagua student of Yin Fu, the primary student of the system's founder, Dong Haichuan. Cui's bagua is called wuji baguazhang, and featured — in addition to the usual focus on palm strikes — an usual emphasis on the claw hand shape during palm change movements. One sees this reflected in Fairbairn's books, where the palm to the chin/claw to the eyes combo is featured quite prominently. Oddly, given his diverse background, Fairbairn dedicated his book All In Fighting (1942) to Cui Zhendong (which he spelled Tsai Ching Tung), calling him a man of "terrifying prowess."

    The SMP was, in addition to a law enforcement organization, the first line of military defence against Chinese uprisings. By the mid-20s, large riots were becoming a significant problem in Shanghai, which led Fairbairn to create the "Reserve Unit" (a.k.a. the Riot Squad) — the world's first SWAT unit. Those training sequences that involve shooting popup targets in dark buildings? They invented those too.

    There are plenty of books about Fairbairn and the SMP. The above is really only meant as an introduction so I can write a bit about three officers who served in the Reserve Unit. These fellows are like gifts from early 20th century history, so perfectly molded are they to fascinate those of us interested in the history of modern martial arts.

    O'Neill, Poole and Robinson

    Gentleman and Warrior, a W.E. Fairbairn biography, mentions that "besides Fairbairn there were three other SMP officers in particular, who also found great fascination and practical use in training with the Chinese officers. They were Dermot (Pat) O'Neill, Jack Poole and J. Robinson. These three were great pals, working, socialising and training together," and that "Robinson had been a catch-as-catch-can wrestler," "Poole had been a useful professional boxer winning 67 out of 69 fights, and had been at one time sparring partner for the Italian heavyweight Primo Camera."

    Jack Poole's son, Mick Poole, confirms this: "My father, P.J. (Jack) Poole, Pat (Dermot) O'Neill and James were best friends all through their time in the Shanghai Municipal Police, and shared a house for most of that time."

    In Robert Smith's Martial Musings he quotes a letter from Donn Draeger dated Feb 16, 1966: "[ O'Neill ] is currently a rokudan by Kodokan and is a contemporary of T.P. Leggett. O'Neil began his judo in Shanghai during the early 30's. As he progressed he gained a reputation of being an aggressive fighter and willing to take on anyone. In Japan, as a godan he had the good fortune to study katame-waza with Ushijima Sensei, the teacher of the famed Masahiko Kimura and perhaps the best katame teacher in japan."

    What? A pro boxer, a catch wrestler and a judoka living and training together in the 20's and 30's while working for the SMP and crosstraining Chinese boxing? Why is there not an awesome action movie about these three? But wait, it gets better.

    They all studied Judo with the aforementioned Okano of Takenouchi Ryu and Fusen Ryu as well as Professor Yamada of the Japanese Consulate-General, and traveled to Japan to train and compete there. Here's a clipping from the North China Herald, May 15, 1935:



    ... about how the three of them defeated the Yokohama Police force at an impromptu tournament. It also mentions that O'Neill was the only foreign non-resident of Japan to receive his 3rd degree black belt at that time. In the end, the least accomplished judoka of the three, Jack Poole (the former pro boxer), received his 3rd dan from Mifune at the Kodokan; O'Neill his 5th dan; Robinson his 7th dan.

    Mick Poole goes on to say that his father, in addition to his career as a pro boxer, had been a fencer for the British Army. Jim Robinson, who was from Wigan, had practiced both his region's traditional wrestling and a kicking game called 'Greensleeves' that was somewhere between Savate and Purring (they wore steel-toed wooden shoes). Paddy O'Neill had grown up boxing in Cork, Ireland, until he ran away to the Far East. They were also on the SMP Rugby team.

    [ Weird aside: Jack Poole's identity was stolen by a fraudulent Aikidoka who made use of the other Poole's 3rd dan registration to forward his own agenda. There are ample sites debunking his claims for any interested. The real Poole taught CQC in Malaysia, then returned the UK and remained active in the Judo scene there after the war. ]

    Courtesy of a long thread on JudoForum, we have some more information about Jim Robinson. He was born 12 January 1902 in Wigan, Lancashire, England. We hear from some who knew him that "Mr Robinson and the others were students of Tatsukuma Ushijima famed Kodokan Grappling instructor and also Sensei to Judo legend Mas Kimura. Mr Robinson specialized in Ouchi Gari and O Soto Gari and from what I was told was a pretty good boxer as well."

    His own mini-bio appeared in an issue of NSW Judo Magazine (Robinson ultimately settled in Australia), from which here is a lengthy extract told in the third person:

    Jim Robinson was born in 1902 in the north of England and is now a resident of Sydney, Australia and his first exposure to the art of Judo was as early as 1912. One day while on his way to school he spotted a copy of S. K. Uyerzishi’s, “The Text-book of Ju-Jutsu as Practised in a sports store window. It cost 2/6d; expensive when considering his weekly pocket money was only 6d. To earn the extra money he soon found a job peeling potatoes in a local fish and chip shop from 5pm to 10pm. After buying the book, he earnestly applied himself to the practice of Seoi-nage (shoulder throw), Koshi-nage (hip throw), O soto-gari (outer reap throw) and O goshi. He concentrated on O goshi more because it matched the hip throw that was common to wrestling of the north and this proved beneficial to him as he recalls he was able to “bring off quite a few O goshi to the consternation of his opponents” in schoolyard fights. In 1925 he successfully completed the British Civil Service examination and a month later he was posted to Shanghai. After arriving and finding the presence of some 30,000 Japanese living there, he not about to pass up this golden opportunity of starting formal Judo practice, He began a search for a dojo and eventually was told of one in the Han Kew district of the city, behind the Japanese Club in Boone Road. Robinson describes his search, “That night I took a Rickshaw to Boone Road and entered a long, dark alley way, which led to the rear of the club, where the dojo was situated. Nearing the end of the alley I heard a noise of bump-bump-bump, of people being thrown. After 12,000 miles I knew I had arrived.”

    The training at the Budo-kai, as the dojo was called in Japanese, was from 7pm to 9pm, six nights a week, and as can be expected training was hard. Six months after starting he remembers his Judo had improved, “...especially break falling, which I had plenty of.”
    One night some students from the Tung Wen College Judo Club came to practice and seeing Robinson there invited him to their dojo to train. Robinson agreed making a date for the following Saturday. The college located about 10 miles to the north of Shanghai was affiliated with Kyoto University in Japan, and the students were very proud of their training in only newaza saying that standing techniques were “too sissy.”

    Robinson arrived at 2pm on the appointed day. Practice began with warm-up exercises, which lasted 15 minutes. He thought the Judo practice would then start. But this was not the case. Without pausing they did 40 “scoop—type” push-ups, of which Robinson could only manage 30, then, onto their backs with legs extended out and raised 6 inches off the mats, they vigorously kicked out some 400 times. Robinson remembers, “the stomach muscles seemed to be gripped by a giant hand, a most peculiar feeling, you are afraid to stop as then you get the spasms in reverse. By this time we were wet through with sweat and you feel you have had enough, but this was only the beginning for you, then commenced two hours hard newaza.”

    The newaza that were most popular there included the Sankaku-jime (triangle choke) and Juji jime (cross collar choke). It must be remembered that in southern Japan at this time it was not uncommon for Judo tournaments to be held allowing only newaza. These contests began from a grounded position.

    After a few years Robinson’s Judo had improved. His best throw was osoto maki komi and his method of executing this technique by coming down on the opponent with the throw was not generally popular. However, as practice in the junior ranks was very rough, no one seemed to really care. The newaza was also practiced with great enthusiasm, “... you got your man on the ground and tried to pull his head off if he didn’t tap, “they usually tapped”, after all, you can’t prepare for war by playing noughts and crosses.”

    It was not long after that he started thinking about going to Japan. He had heard so much of its natural beauty and about Judo. After three years training, the last six months of which was a self-imposed period of hard training never missing a session and with four weeks annual leave, he left for the island of Kyushu in southern Japan during the spring of 1927.

    He arrived at Nagasaki, checking into a hotel and quickly began chasing up a dojo. He found one a few streets from his hotel called the Bushu—Kan located in an old temple that practiced from 6pm to 9pm. It was on this first day and undoubtedly the many that followed, that he was grateful for the time he had devoted to learning Japanese, as English was of little use in that part of Japan. He arrived at the Bushu—Kan at 6pm ready for practice. Almost immediately he was surprised to see a brown-belt called Kobayashi whom he had seen in a tournament in Shanghai. Kobayashi introduced Robinson, as being in the same tournament as himself and that he was very strong in newaza. This of course embarrassed the young Englishman who thought this was not the right way to start his Judo career in Japan. Not giving it another thought, he applied himself to training. His first bout was with Kobayashi who threw him with a couple of good foot sweeps. Robinson responded by taking him down in newaza and holding him. Afterwards everyone in the dojo wanted to challenge Robinson. He was thrown quite a few times but his Shanghai Judo experience had prepared him well. Of course when he did throw some of the players he would naturally follow through by landing on top of them much the same way he had done in Shanghai which seemed to take the enthusiasm out of a few. This was his very first workout in Japan and Robinson thoroughly enjoyed himself. After training finished everyone enjoyed a bath Japanese style, an experience that Robinson continuously records, followed by dinner of grilled eels, a Japanese delicacy.

    His next practice was in a dojo located at the side of a local police station. There were about ten young policemen, most of them white belts mixed with two brown belts and one black belt. He was invited to train, and the ease with which he handled dojo etiquette surprised the Japanese He trained with the white belts first and then with a brown belt, who kept throwing him. Robinson amusingly recalls, “During my practice with the white belts, I tried uchimata which I thought I could do because my opponent had adopted a defensive stance, and I thought it might come off but instead my leg slipped up a little high and I got him where I shouldn’t have done with my leg. He gave a howl and grabbed his private parts and all the others broke into a loud laugh, and there was much laughter in the place including the villagers who sat outside. But anyway, he took it in good part and sat down, but the black belt said to me this is how you uchimata, and turned in with a devastating one and up in the air I went and down.’

    He spent a week at Shimoburra and was able to pursue Judo at the dojo of a 5-dan. Here he found he was able to give the black belts “quite a battle” especially when it came to newaza, but he did have a lot of respect for the Tomoe—nage and Seoi-nage that were specialities of the old teacher. He took a ferry along the inland sea to Kobe. Here he asked a policeman where he could find a hotel and a dojo, which was very surprised to meet a Japanese-speaking foreigner looking for of all places a Judo dojo. One was located a mile away in a temple that had once belonged to the Zen sect of Buddhism. Training was from 2pm to 5pm and the teacher Kato, was very strong in newaza. He spent a week here training and enjoying the town of Kobe. He found that his defence was getting stronger and reactions becoming quicker. Others must have noticed this improvement because on the Saturday he was asked to come along the next day at l0am for a special temple celebration. Little did Robinson know that he was being lined up to represent Kobe in a tournament against another prefecture. He arrived on Sunday morning at l0am and was very surprised to see hundreds of people milling about the temple. Just as he was wondering how in heaven he could see anyone he knew, a waiting member of the dojo took his arm and he was led in to the middle of the temple. Here he immediately noticed two twelve-man Judo teams lined up. Robinson was then urged to get changed, which he did off the mats and in front of the waiting crowd before he realised that he was representing Kobe as twelfth man on its team.
    The scene was very noisy as the spectators crowded into the dojo. The Judo men too gave it their best kiai when each was called up to fight. Robinson remained calm. His opponent was very strong and as he found out later lived in the mountains. They were very evenly matched and nothing exciting was happening until Robinson went in for Harai goshi, and just as he thought he had the mountain man over, he collapsed under him. Immediately his opponent took a sidelong hold from which Robinson was able to turn out of it and managed to take Kesa gatame. The referee called Osae komi and the uproar from the crowd was deafening. As the seconds ticked away his opponent frantically threw a leg over Robinson’s rear leg and broke the hold. The matched ended in a draw but that was enough to give Kobe the tournament. His achievement was loudly acknowledged by most there and many came to pat him on the back and to congratulate him with “very good” in English.

    From Kobe he took a leisurely passage on a ship back to Shanghai instilled with a fire for more Judo and a deep inner self—promise to make it to the Kodokan next year. He threw himself into hard practice and never missed the monthly Budo-kai tournaments. He wanted to improve and to improve quickly he knew what was needed. At this time he was still a white belt, and from the way he describes the ranking situation common at that time, with many white belts being equal in skill to the black belts, but refusing to take promotions, it would seem that being a white belt was considered more desirable. In 1928 he took his annual leave in Tokyo, at the Kodokan, the Mecca of Judo. He arrived by ship at Yokohama, went by train to Tokyo where he booked into the Kanda YMCA. Training at the Kodokan was from 2pm to 6cm and it was conveniently located within walking distance.

    He arrived at the Kodokan to find a 5-dan guarding the entrance and checking who came in. Robinson explained it was his first time, and after paying 5 (a considerable sum when the monthly salary of a schoolteacher was 35) was allowed to enter. There were between 100 and 150 people all doing Randori, many of them were 2-dan and 3-dan from Meiji University.
    He quickly changed and asked the man nearest to him to play. He explains, “I hardly had taken hold of him and I hit the mat. Robinson thinks the technique may have been Seoi-nage, a throw commonly used by Japanese on foreigners at that time. As he got up he took hold of his opponent’s collar high up and when he turned to throw again, Robinson’s right arm went across his opponent’s throat and he quickly inserted his left hand inside and under the armpit and grabbed his opponent’s lapel and wrapped his legs around him for Okuri Eri—jime, a rear strangle. The Japanese did not want to give up to a white belt and they rolled around the floor, but he soon tapped out. One of the instructors, who had been watching the fight, came along and gave Robinson’s opponent a loud lecture so that everyone could hear. This embarrassed the Japanese who eventually bowed out and walked off. Revenge was taken on Robinson by the following five or six opponents who threw him with everything except Seoi nage.

    At the end of training while wiping himself of sweat he noticed an oldish man leaning against a wall watching him. Robinson decided to ask the man for a fight thinking that he would a bit easier than the young bulls he had just finished with. He went over and asked politely. Robinson recalls the rest, “He looked at me, smiled, stood up straight. He was nearly my height and slightly broader shouldered. I thought he must be a teacher. We went on the floor and I always seemed to be off balance. I was thrown with Uki-otoshi, Sumi—otoshi and various Kokuyu-nage in every direction. I always seemed to be off balance. I thought this fellow knows his stuff, so I asked him in my best Japanese what grade are you because I thought there was something queer about this bloke. He only smiled and said in perfect English ‘Never you mind but keep on trying’. After a while I got tired of floating around the air and as I said thank you very much I noticed his English was nearly perfect.”

    Afterwards a Japanese came to Robinson to ask him if he knew who the oldish man was. When he said no it was revealed to him that he had just challenged Mr Mifune, champion of all Japan. On the faces of all those watching was a big smile for they knew that the joke was on him.
    Another friend of Robinson's says that he spoke highly of Okado's skill in newaza, "that his armlocks, leglocks, strangles and holding techniques were devastating," and that Professor Okado taught them many different sacrifice techniques as an entry form into newaza. Plus ça change...

    Robinson retired to Australia, where he remained a force in Judo until his death.

    Nazi Scalps

    The third of the trio, Dermot Michael (Pat or Paddy) O'Neill, is the most famous because of events that followed his time in the SMP, where he served as a Detective Sargeant. He wrote a number of books and trained a great many persons in CQC, most of which was a mix of judo, jujitsu and "Chinese Boxing," which in his case included taijiquan, xingyi and bagua (probably the same wuji baguazhang that Fairbairn trained).

    O'Neill left Shanghai in 1938 to work as head of security for the British Embassy Legation in Tokyo, during which period he received his 5th dan at the Kodokan and crosstrained in a bit of Karate, then left for Australia just before Pearl Harbor.

    During WWII, Fairbairn and some of his top officers ended up training Allied forces in CQC and pistol shooting. O'Neill, at Fairbairn's recommendation, ended up training the first special forces unit in the world (1st SSF), a combined Canadian-American commando unit known as The Devil's Brigade.

    O'Neill refused to stay behind when the Devil's Brigade was deployed, saying that he trained them, so he'd damn well fight beside them. He was given the rank of captain and served with distinction on a series of daredevil missions involving parachuting at night behind enemy lines for sabotage and assassination. About their first mission in Italy:

    During Anzio, the 1st SSF fought for 99 days without relief. It was also at Anzio that the 1st SSF used their trademark stickers; during night patrols soldiers would carry stickers depicting the unit patch and a slogan written in German: "Das dicke Ende kommt noch," said to translate to "The Worst is yet to Come", placing these stickers on German corpses and fortifications.
    When the war in Europe ended, he was made Provost Marshal over Monte Carlo, then — after Japan's defeat — became a liaison officer in Okinawa. O'Neill continued to teach his brand of MMA to CIA and special forces teams at least into his 70s.

    A large number of films were inspired by the original special forces unit, including one simply called The Devil's Brigade — in which O'Neill was depicted as Canadian — that helped serve as inspiration for Tarantino's latest film, Inglourious Basterds. In fact, Aldo Raine — the Brad Pitt character — wears a patch indicating that he's a member of the Devil's Brigade, one of O'Neill's boys.

    Mr Poole passed away in 1982, Mr O'Neill in 1985 and Mr Robinson in 1988. RIP.
    “Most people do not do, but take refuge in theory and talk, thinking that they will become good in this way” -- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, II.4
  2. DerAuslander is offline
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    Posted On:
    10/12/2009 12:17pm

    supporting memberstaff
     Style: BJJ/C-JKD/KAAALIII!!!!!!!

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Dude, I want to see that movie.
  3. Jack Rusher is offline
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    Posted On:
    10/12/2009 3:03pm


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    Quote Originally Posted by DerAuslander108 View Post
    Dude, I want to see that movie.
    Me too. And I want Guy Ritchie to direct it. Not just because Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels are such good lad flicks, but also because he did knockdown karate for 14 years and currently trains BJJ with Roger Gracie.
    “Most people do not do, but take refuge in theory and talk, thinking that they will become good in this way” -- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, II.4
  4. 1point2 is online now
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    Posted On:
    10/12/2009 5:19pm

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    Wow. Awesome read.

    Challenging Mifune. Different randori etiquette from dojo to dojo. Tachiwaza versus newaza. Beautiful.

    Thanks, Jack.
    What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. -Xenophon's Socrates
  5. Matt_Werk is offline

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    Posted On:
    10/13/2009 11:50am

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     Style: Judo, SubGrappling, TKD

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Rusher View Post
    Me too. And I want Guy Ritchie to direct it. Not just because Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels are such good lad flicks, but also because he did knockdown karate for 14 years and currently trains BJJ with Roger Gracie.
    Actually his wiki page says he did shotokan, and judo at the budokwai, which is probably where he met roger.

    http://http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Ritchie

    I followed the link in the Chin Na Fa thread to this thread. Are you saying the few ground techs in that book come from judo?
  6. Jack Rusher is offline
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    Posted On:
    10/13/2009 12:14pm


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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt_Werk View Post
    Actually his wiki page says he did shotokan, and judo at the budokwai,
    He talks a bit about his karate and BJJ training in an interview printed in this month's US edition of Esquire. Strangely, he didn't mention judo at all. (Shrug).

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt_Werk View Post
    Are you saying the few ground techs in that book come from judo?
    I'm saying that the jujutsu-like techniques in this Shanghai Municipal Police Manual are very likely to have come from the judo/jujutsu instructor at the Shanghai Municipal Police department during the period in which it was published, namely a Fusen Ryu practitioner with excellent newaza called Professor Okado.
    “Most people do not do, but take refuge in theory and talk, thinking that they will become good in this way” -- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, II.4
  7. 1point2 is online now
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    Posted On:
    10/13/2009 12:25pm

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    Is this an accidental Okano where it should be Okado:

    Quote Originally Posted by Our friendly neighborhood grappling scholar
    Fairbairn was an English soldier who joined the SMP in 1907, received a terrible beating at the hands of a Chinese gang, then devoted himself to martial study in order to avoid a repeat of that experience. He took Judo lessons with an instructor called Okano, a newaza specialist who had came to Judo from Takenouchi Ryu and Fusen Ryu. Fairbairn also traveled to Japan to train at the Kodokan, ultimately receiving his 2nd degree black belt in February 1931. All of his certificates are signed by Jigoro Kano.
    ?
    What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. -Xenophon's Socrates
  8. Jack Rusher is offline
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    Posted On:
    10/13/2009 1:07pm


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    Quote Originally Posted by 1point2 View Post
    Is this an accidental Okano where it should be Okado:
    There are three versions of the name in the sources: Okano, Okado and Okada. This last one is the most common in Fairbairn's own writing, so it's probably correct.

    Bonus (26MB!) PDF action: Shanghai Municipal Police self-defence manual from 1915.
    “Most people do not do, but take refuge in theory and talk, thinking that they will become good in this way” -- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, II.4
  9. chiangmaiwolf is offline

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    Posted On:
    10/15/2009 10:25pm

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    Thank you for this very detailed and interesting article. Obviously you are very knowledgable in martial arts history. I was defensive tactics instructor at New York corrections and now retired and living in Chiang Mai. I work here as volunteer police and was commisioned to devise defense tactics program for local police. However in New York I just taught the required official curriculum (which was useless as far as I am concerned but that is another story. I always admired the Fairbairn methods and read the book Get Tough but no longer have it. Is it possible to obtain this Shanghai police manual or something equivalent?
  10. Jack Rusher is offline
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    Posted On:
    10/16/2009 7:09am


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    Quote Originally Posted by chiangmaiwolf View Post
    Is it possible to obtain this Shanghai police manual or something equivalent?
    It is not, so far as I am aware, in print, but you can download it free via this link. Fairbairn's other material can be had from many new and used booksellers over the web.
    “Most people do not do, but take refuge in theory and talk, thinking that they will become good in this way” -- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, II.4
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