The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Friday, September 14, 2018

The Canadian Martial Art of Defendo!

Below is an excerpt from an article about Defendo, a martial art constructed by a Canadian, Bill Underwood, during WWII for hand to hand combat. The full article may be read here, and includes a video demonstrating the art.

Before getting to the excerpt, immediately below is a video of a more modern interpretation of Defendo.



John Ferris was 15-years-old, athletic and apprehensive, upon meeting Bill Underwood for the first time, at the old man’s self-defence academy in Toronto’s east end. Underwood was in a white undershirt, dress pants and stocking feet. He wore owlish glasses with black frames and looked like an 84-year-old Grandpa, with a stick-out belly, long arms and a kindly way. When he spoke, his accent betrayed his British roots, while his preference for tea — two bags to a cup — did not hint at any internal menace or capacity to cause grave bodily harm.

“Bill was a short old man,” Ferris recalls. “The first time I was introduced to him he came right over, and it was as if he wanted me to know that it didn’t matter that I was young — I still didn’t stand a chance against him. And then he put me down, hard and fast, and I remember saying, ‘Bill, that really hurts,” and Bill said to me: “Don’t worry. Nothing is going to break.””

So began Ferris’ stint as a human rag doll, with suitably flexible limbs and forgiving bones that an octogenarian, in glasses and an undershirt, would wrench and twist and throw about gymnasiums and church basements, demonstrating his craft.

“Bill was a showman,” Ferris says.

He was that, and more.

Robbie Cressman is an amateur historian and the keeper of the Underwood legend. It is a mostly forgotten story about a great Canadian innovator whose homegrown creations, at root, involved keeping the good guys — soldiers, cops, commandoes, spies, citizens and seniors — safe while saving democracy. Cressman’s interest in Underwood has a professional application. The 48-year-old is an elite hand-to-hand combat instructor, working with law enforcement and military personnel around the globe. Part of his mission has been to popularize the Underwood name, by telling Bill’s story to the “deadly serious” people he works with, while the other part involves teaching those same people how to fight like a Canadian, as Underwood once did.


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