Sunday, February 08, 2009

Col. Rex Applegate

"Mr. Applegate contradicts a lot of what I've seen..." Really? Are you sure we're reading the same Rex Applegate? I'd like to deal with this seriously -- though I know it's at my own peril.

Okay, Rex Applegate was the close combat (armed and unarmed) expert assigned to the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. His job was to develop the course of instruction for special commandos, spies, saboteurs, and other special operatives of the United States. His work was originally based on the work William Fairbairn performed for the United Kingdom to teach the Special Operations Executive and the British Commandos.

In a sense, Applegate is the grandfather of the reality-based martial arts. You know, the guys who often claim to re-invent the wheel, or is that invent a better mouse-trap? I don't know... I can't tell them all apart in those street clothes...

Applegate's curriculum does NOT contradict good martial arts technique. I've got the three books authored or co-authored by Col. Applegate -- pictured at the top. I've taken a few interior photos to demonstrate what I mean. Immediately above is Applegate's "Japanese Strangle." It probably looks very familiar to the BJJ and Judo crowd. It's the basic Rear Naked Choke, sometimes called a triangle choke or Mata Leao.

Oh, look here: a basic outside wrist throw. Actually, this photograph indicates to me that Applegate and his team weren't especially advanced martial artists. It doesn't utilize several of the principles of martial arts as laid out in Pearlman's Book of Martial Power. (The spines aren't aligned, for one...) But while this is crude, it will work.

Here's something Applegate labeled the Cross-Arm Choke...

...and here, in Kyuzo Mifune's book The Canon of Judo, is pretty much the same front choke. Mifune was one of Jigoro Kano's original students, and the last Judan in Judo. The Canon of Judo was writen in the late '50's -- it was the summation of the art he had been learning since the earliest part of the 20th Century. Once again, Applegate has nothing new; although he has chosen a particularly effective technique. That was his real talent.
Now, it might seem as if Applegate was cherrypicking from Judo. Not really. This is a good time to point out that all martial arts exhibit a sort of convergent evolution. Despite the cosmetic and cultural differences people see at first, all good martial arts have more in common than they don't.

This, for example, is a sequence from the book I have on Medieval and Renaissance Dagger techniques. Pay special attention to the key lock illustrated in the lower left hand corner...

... Because it reappears on this page from Applegate's Kill or Be Killed. The arm key lock itself is nothing special. It appears in Taijutsu (as onikudaki), Aikido and Judo as variations of ude garami, and BJJ as the Americana. Incidentally, BJJ calls this the "Americana" because it was "borrowed" from Catch Wrestling as practiced in the US, which has its roots in folk wrestling from England... You get the drift.

Two more knife defenses, first from Applegate on the left, and from the Rennaisance on the right. Again, the relative sophistication of Applegate's team is evident in comparison to the experienced Western Martial Artists on the right. Note how Applegate's man is still square and close to the opponent. The other defender has utilized his space to create distance, and has bladed his body to present a smaller target.
I'm not digging against Applegate and his team. Given the situation, their product is actually pretty good. They learned and adapted quickly.

Oh, Applegate's curriculum even included pressure points; something many (but not all) modern reality based martial artists don't put much stock into.
The point of all this -- and there is a point -- is one we've seen a million times before: there is nothing new under the sun. All martial arts lead to the same destination.


noviceninja said...

All the rest is fluff.
Bujinkan only basics.
It will be right then

gene simmons (no relation) said...

Dear teacher, I did not mean to offend. I only ment to say that from what I have seen in my travels I have seen a couple of blade fights. Not trained people but people on the street.Trained from life on the street I guess. They tend to carry blades and when they fight with them there does not appear that they are using the complicated moves that this guy is showing. No twisty hand grabs or sneaky sneak come from behind chokey chokes. It is very quick and savage and clumsy. I have been forced to really defend once and for the life of me, I just didn't think of one single grapple to use.Even though I have been taught several. I just hit and hit hard to my attacker's soft spots then ran away.

I have heard and read that all we will have to use in the moment of truth is moves that we already know how to do. Like.. stuff that our body already does without thinking. So, how does training fit in to that and what should I be training to?

noviceninja said...

Well Executed
Sanshin more than a warmup
Much study will show

noviceninja said...

always begin open
embrace sanmitsu budo
make instinct alive

mlk said...

relax gene. if you win you are doing fine. jrf and his jammy wearing kung foo buddies might suggest that you thumb wrestle in the park or mall while wearing a kanji necklace. don't believe the hype my are doing just fine. train for real life stuff, not 900 year old yari attacks from the shogun's henchmen and you will be ok.