Two to Tango… 1953 Strategic Air Command combative measures footage

Taking another break from wildlife to look at budo, this came my way as a post on combined with information from an electronic book sample I happened to stumble upon.

Ignoring the cheesiness of the commentary and the patriotic corniness of the presentation, the tile of the video is misleading on two counts.

American airmen of the Strategic Air Command learn the ancient art of judo from Japanese instructors in Japan.

The YouTube description goes on to say:

American airmen of the Strategic Air Command learn judo in Japan to be in top physical condition. The airmen learn self defense methods of judo. They learn the basics of the ancient art of judo from Japanese instructors. They practice judo in a hall. Location: Japan. Date: May 28, 1953.

First of all, judo is not an ancient art.  Judo was developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and much of what is passed on today bears little resemblance to the judo developed by Jigoro Kano.

Secondly, the video clearly shows arts other than judo.  The karate is very distinct, and this video is interesting in that one can see Gichin Funakoshi supervising paired work.

Some aikido is also demonstrated, but neither it or karate are mentioned in the commentary.  As far as the film makers were concerned, it was all judo.  (I hate it when different martial arts are lumped together by the media)

It was later that I was able to fill in some of the gaps when I encountered a digital version of TAIHO-JUTSU: The Art of Arrests by Steven Kaplan.  The opening chapter contains some notes by U.S. taiho jutsu pioneer and early SAC instructor Larry A. Lent:

Finally, after long anticipation, we boarded a plane for Japan….. After we landed at Tokyo International Airport, we were taken to Army Hall which is located just across from the Imperial Palace.  This was to be our home for the next two months.  However, we did not see too much of it.  Our schedule went something like this:

0745 We departed for the Kodokan. After an hour of warm-up exercises, we studied Karate under Obata, Nishiyama, Okazaki, and Terada.

1200 We took a break for lunch.

1400-1500 We had Combative Measures.

1500-1645 We had Judo under Kotani, Otaki, Takagake (all Eighth Degree Black Belts), Sato, Shinojima (Seventh Degree Black Belts), and Yamaguchi (Fifth Degree Black belt).

…..This schedule went on for the first, third, fifth, and seventh week.  The second, fourth, sixth, and eighth weeks we studied Aikido under Tomiki (Eighth Degree), Yamada, and Inuzuka.  These same weeks we also studied Taiho-Jutsu under Hosokawa (Seventh Degree), and Kikuchi (Seventh Degree). 

From this description it appears that all the SAC Combative Measures classes took place at the Kodokan, the home of judo.  Maybe the film makers can be forgiven for thinking everything they saw was part of the Kodokan’s program.

The video itself stands up to repeated viewings as long as the sound is turned off.

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