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A note about US Army FM 21-150

PostPosted: Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:43 pm
by HanshiClayton
As part of the Heian project, I had occasion to consult military manuals, looking for techniques used to disarm a soldier who was holding a rifle with bayonet. I opened US Army Field Manual 21-150, Unarmed Defense for the American Soldier, published in June of 1942.

I found the bayonet applications I was expecting, but I was surprised to discover that many of the other Heian applications are in this Army manual, too. After a moment's reflection I realized why. US Army drill instructors and the Shuri bodyguards had the same problem: they had to turn raw recruits into fighting men as quickly as possible. It should not surprise us to discover that hand-to-hand combat techniques look a lot alike, even across cultures.

I have located four editions of this manual. The manual has been heavily revised over the years:

For our purposes, the older manuals are the better ones. The 1942 manual was devoted to unarmed defense, which makes it highly relevant to the situation at Shuri Castle. It shows how to fight using a big, heavy rifle with a wooden stock and a lengthy bayonet. The recent manuals attempt to substitute the M16A1 assault rifle, which is a fragile plastic toy in comparison. In fact, the 1992 manual cautions the instructor to keep the recruits under control so they don't break their rifles during training.

In addition, the 2002 manual is controversial because two-thirds of the manual is devoted to unarmed grappling and groundfighting, allegedly based on Gracie Jujutsu. You can decide if you think that is appropriate for a combat soldier. The pictures are hard to follow because the two models wore identical camouflage uniforms. Every picture looks like a pile of leaves with boots sticking out.

I have been through these manuals page-by-page, taking pains to point out where "official" combative skills are visible in the Heian katas. Given that there are only 120 moves in the Heian katas, and less than half that many application clusters, the links back to FM 21-150 are surprisingly frequent.

Re: A note about US Army FM 21-150

PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2011 2:30 am
by AnnDempsey
Great sources you have there..
i was interested with the topic you posted as my husband is also a military man and so I've come to read the frst source you have there.
Half of it actually i read.

“Take things as they are. Punch with x large sap glove when you have to punch. Kick when you have to kick.”

Re: A note about US Army FM 21-150

PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2011 5:29 am
by HanshiClayton
(Note to participants: Ann is interested in studying the martial arts, and has some questions for us.)

Ann, the Field Manuals depict "combatives," which is a special set of techniques intended to turn a recruit into a soldier as fast as possible. They have been taught in a similar fashion to every army since the fall of Troy. Every combatives manual is different, and yet they pretty much follow the same outline across time and culture.

If you were to look for similar content in a civilian martial art, you would find a lot of it in Krav Maga and some versions of the jujutsu family. Both Krav Maga and jujutsu used to be combative training, but have evolved into more general self-defense.