Don Draper Judo: Unarmed Self-Defense From the Mad Men Era

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As I was browsing through some old magazines the other day, I came across a fantastic issue of Popular Science from 1962 that contained a feature on unarmed self-defense. The article was adapted from a book entitled Modern Judo and Self-Defense by Harry Ewen, a “police judo” expert. The best part of the multi-page article are the fantastic mid-century illustrations by Dana Rasmussen, featuring a well-dressed judo expert who looks like he might work with Don Draper when he isn’t throwing ruffians over his shoulder. Even the “thug” in the article is pretty dapper, proving once again that everything was just swankier back in the day — even the bad guys.

Below you’ll find step-by-step illustrated instructions on how to defend yourself from chokes, bear hugs, kicks, and knife attacks when you’re unarmed, all while still looking incredibly handsome. Enjoy.

Three Ways to Defend Yourself from Chokes from the Front

Finger Lock

fingerlock1 Grab the thug’s little fingers, with your thumbs under the tips (fig. 1). The knuckles of your index fingers should be over the the second joints of his little fingers (fig. 2). Move your wrists in a circular motion down toward your hips. Applied pressure will force the thug to his knees to avoid broken fingers. As he goes down, strike him in the face or jaw with your knee (fig. 3).

Nose Break

nosebreak First, clasp your hands (fig. 1). Then, with fingers locked and elbows bent, swing hard from the waist and strike the thug’s forearms with the bony parts of your arms. Follow through until your clenched hands are above your assailant’s head and the choke is broken (fig 2). Finish by bringing down your still-clenched hands, with all the force you can muster, on the bridge of his nose (fig. 3). Stop short of this, naturally, while practicing this move.

Basic Arm Lock

armlock1 Grasp the thug’s right forearm with both your hands (fig. 1). Holding his right wrist firmly with your left hand, slip your right thumb under his right palm and pull his arm toward you to ensure that it is straight (fig. 2).

armlock2 Keep on turning until you are almost at your assailant’s side (fig. 3). Keep his hand elevated above the level of the rest of your arm (fig. 4). Now put all the weight of your body behind your left upper arm and elbow, pushing down on his right arm just above the elbow (fig. 5). Unless he submits, he will end up with a dislocated shoulder.

How to Break a Grip from the Front That Pins Your Arms

frontarmpin Force the thug to move back by giving him a couple of sharp jabs in the groin with your thumbs (fig. 1). As he draws his hips back, pivot on your left foot and move your right foot across in front of him (fig. 2). You should now be facing the same way he is. As you turn, slip your right arm behind his back and grasp his right sleeve with your left hand to keep his body close to yours (fig. 3)

Keep your knees bent slightly, maintain a steady pull on the attacker's slleve, and keep your right hand in the small of his back (img. 4). Straightening your legs will now raise his feet off the ground (img. 5). Your opponent is now balanced on your right hip, and you can toss him by turning him over as you continue to pull on his right sleeve (img. 6). Keep your knees bent slightly, maintain a steady pull on the attacker’s sleeve, and keep your right hand in the small of his back (fig. 4). Straightening your legs will now raise his feet off the ground (fig. 5). Your opponent is now balanced on your right hip, and you can toss him by turning him over as you continue to pull on his right sleeve (fig. 6).

How to Break a Bear Hug from the Rear

bearhug1 This defense works as well against an overarm grip as against an underarm one (fig. 1). With your feet apart, bend your knees, stoop down, and grab your assailant’s right ankle with both hands (fig. 2). Pull his ankle forward and upward to throw him on his rump (fig. 3).

Defense Against Kick Aimed at Face or Stomach

kick Trap the thug’s foot by bending your knees and crossing your hands in front of you (fig. 1). As the kicker’s shin contacts your wrists, turn your left hand (fig. 2) so that you have a firm hold around his calf. Assuming that the kicker uses his right leg, spin around to your right, throwing him forward on his face (fig. 3). Once he’s thrown, follow up by going down on the ground with him. In the final position (fig. 4), your left forearm is behind his calf, your left hand is on your own right bicep, and your right hand is on top of his foot. Use care when practicing this lock: doing it jerkily could dislocate the leg.

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