Fundamentals of Unarmed Combat (Volume 1)
(Reproduced by Tekkenryu Bujutsukai)
Review by Phil Elmore.
For quite some time I've heard in World War 2 Combatives circles that the instructional videotapes by Carl Cestari were incredibly good and impossible to get. Cestari is spoken of very highly by those who know him and his material. I was pleased, therefore, when Zenshin Martial Arts, Health, and Fitness in New Jersey made the first of Cestari's tapes available once again.
The tape is simple and straightforward. A single long take focusing on two black-clad, booted men standing on a training mat, the video is dimly lit and slightly fuzzy. Overall production values are mediocre, but, to be honest, on par with many of the tapes produced by companies like Paladin Press. There are a few tape jumps and garbled frames, the sound is somewhat hollow (but intelligible), and if I didn't know the man speaking was Cestari I'm not sure his image would be recognizable.
Buy the tape anyway, if you can find it.
With regard to actual content, this is one of the best videos on self-defense I've ever seen. Following the Close Combat philosophies of WW2 instructors Applegate and Fairbairn, Cestari describes -- comfortably, smoothly, and confidently -- the basics of combatives.
The intent of these techniques is to teach you to defeat an aggressive attacker, maximizing your efficacy while minimizing the training time required (not to mention minimizing the potential for injury to you). The combatives student learns to use axe-hands (the edge-of-hand blow) and palm heels (the heel-of-hand blow) because it is much harder to hurt one's hand using them. (Punching effectively, by contrast, requires a great deal more training to be done safely -- and even then the potential for injuring the clenched fist is greater.)
Cestari explains that attacking the torso is much less effective in harming or unbalancing the opponent than is attacking the head, neck, groin, and legs. Emphasizing distance, momentum, and balance, he points out that the weakest point in your enemy's defenses is the imaginary and direct line perpendicular to a line intersecting the enemy's feet.
After elaborating on the target areas of the head, neck, groin, and legs, Cestari speaks on the importance of distance and positioning. He also emphasizes the need to strike first in a physical encounter, for you cannot possibly anticipate everything the opponent will throw at you if you allow him to strike first. Move first, Cestari urges -- for once you perceive a credible physical threat, you must take the initiative.
Cestari is a joy to watch. His teaching is concise, effective, practical, and worldy. The man himself is incredibly fast. More than once I had to rewind the tape to watch a segment again, as Cestari moved through a series of the repetitive, explosive movements that characterize close combat. I've heard Cestari described by at least one individual as "the best martial artist I've ever met," and after seeing him in action I don't doubt that description.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the tape is Cestari's explanation of the drop step, the stomping movement that accompanies one's strikes. (Stomping movement, Cestari explains, is the only effective way to move on uneven terrain. He dismisses the sliding, gliding movements of many martial arts as ineffective.) One's weight should be placed aggressively on the front leg, and Cestari works through a brief series of exchanges with his training partner to show the benefits of this. Your blows should land before your drop step lands, he explains, which enhances the power and momentum of your strikes.
After discussing the drop step, Cestari explains the edge-of-hand and palm-heel blows in more detail. There is no chambering, no circling, and no tensing of one's muscles. Cestari refers frequently to the teaching of Applegate and Fairbairn, insisting that the movements snap out naturally, quickly, and directly.
Cestari has much good advice to offer. Keep your hands higher than your opponent's hands. Repeat your blows quickly and viciously. Keep those elbows up. Don't wind up past your body. Hit the opponent's shoulders to stop his blows. As Cestari moves calmly and efficiently through his training agenda, tips like this fall fast and frequently.
At a bit less than an hour in length, this tape left me wanting more. I can only hope that the rest of Cestari's videos will be made available. If not, I'm extremely glad I was able to obtain this one. As a concise treatment of Close Combat fundamentals, this tape rivals all others on the topic. It is worth your time and money.
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Also, be sure to check out the New Jersey Close Combat Association.
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