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Book Review:
Complete Book of Self-Defense

by Steven J. Kaplan

Complete Book of Self-Defense
by Bruce Tegner  (Stein & Day 1963; Bantam Books 1965)
In a previous book review of one of Bruce Tegner’s works, this reviewer stated that it may arguably be said that Tegner’s books were probably more responsible for people entering the martial arts world than Bruce Lee (or anyone or anything else). The Complete Book of Self-Defense, and the Bantam paperback edition, is the book that started the trend. Coming from a judo and jujitsu background, Tegner studied a myriad of Oriental and non-Oriental fighting arts, and published approximately 25 books in various aspects of the many arts and systems. Although other works of Tegner were published prior to this one, this is a culmination of his previous books and teachings on basic self-defense, which resulted in a formal 21 lesson "home study course". This course was in essence a jujutsu course, combining, as the book cover states, "The best of judo, jujitsu, karate, Savate, Yawara, Aikido, and Ate Waza...". There are over 400 clear photographs accompanying the easily understood instructions.
The course begins with basic techniques and proceeds to more advanced moves. Beginning with the second lesson, the previous lesson is first reviewed in each new chapter before new material is presented. As the book professes, techniques from many arts (various aspects of jujitsu) are taught, including blocking, striking with hands and feet, throws, and joint techniques. Following the actual course, there are brief sections titled, "Introduction To Teaching Women and Children", "How To Teach Self-Defense To A Child", "How To Teach Self-Defense To A Woman", "Nerve Center Chart", and an "Index of Techniques". There is additionally and answer section to previous test questions found throughout the book. All of this is prefaced by a section explaining the different arts and teaching methods of the Oriental systems, and how and why Tegner changed his style and method of teaching.


The techniques themselves a typical of early styles of jujutsu, with some effective, others not so. The techniques are not the high percentage techniques found in taiho-jutsu, affording the defender a maximum of safety and effectiveness, but are nonetheless valid techniques which are still taught in many dojo. For home study purposes, this is one of the better written self-defense course books for its clarity and ease of reading, despite being published 48 years ago.

This reviewer questions the wisdom of teaching throwing and falling methods in a self-defense course, especially from a book. While this book does in fact teach them, it breaks the instruction down on throws very clearly, and sometimes into two day’s instruction. The author first teaches the throws with two people in gi, and later the throw is shown following an attack, defense, and counter with the individuals in street clothes.

While other books on self-defense courses have been written by others prior to this work, and certainly since, for its historical value, clear explanations, and "modern" adaptation of classic jujutsu techniques (with the caveat of the techniques themselves not being of the same value as those of the taiho-jutsu course), this book is recommended. [Note: a revised edition of this book was published by Tegner in 1992 by Thor Publishing Company. The author did not appear in any of the photographs, and the techniques themselves were very different, with an emphasis on "safer" methods of defense for both defender and attacker. Despite efforts, this reviewer never learned the reason for this change, and does not recommend the latter revised edition at all.)


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