This is the guy Steven Seagal tried to be.
Donald Frederick Draeger was probably the most respected American martial artist in Japan and he is the MOST prolific martial arts author of all time. I know, I know…Bruce Lee wrote one book (well he technically started it, the book was completed 4 years after his death by his wife, a publisher and several students who pieced it together). Donn Draeger wasn’t a Gracie nor did he compete in the UFC, but nonetheless he was a proponent of the “mixed martial arts” concept until his untimely death at the age of 60.
If you consider yourself a student of martial arts, then Donn Draeger is someone you should know.
Draeger joined the U.S. Marines at the end of World War II and served during the Korean War. He retired from military service in 1956.
Draeger reportedly began his involvement in the martial arts while living in the Chicago area, at around the age of 7 or 8. His first training was in jujutsu, but he soon changed to judo and by age 10, he reportedly achieved the grade of 2nd kyu (the lower of the two levels of brown belt).
By 1948, Draeger was ranked 4th dan in judo. This grading occurred before 1947, so it probably occurred while he was stationed in China in 1946. His known judo instructors in Tianjin included Mike Matvey.
In 1952, Draeger was one of the leaders of the newly established US Judo Black Belt Association. This was the first national-level judo organization in North America, and the forerunner of what later became the United States Judo Federation. Draeger’s national-level postings included vice-president of the Pan-American Judo Association and chairman of the Public Relations Committee of the Amateur Judo Association of the United States. He also helped promote judo throughout the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States.
Draeger officially represented US judo interests during international contests held in Cuba and Belgium in 1953, and in 1964, he was named the United States Amateur Athletic Union judo representative in Japan, in anticipation of judo’s inclusion in the 1964 Olympics.
Draeger also participated in judo activities in Japan. For instance, in 1961, Draeger and British judo athlete John Cornish were the first non-Japanese athletes selected to demonstrate nage-no-kata during the All-Japan Judo Championships. Draeger became a member of the Nihon Kobudo Shinkokai, the oldest Japanese cultural organization for the study and preservation of classical martial arts. He was the first non-Japanese practitioner of Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū, achieving instructor status (kyoshi menkyo) in that system. He also held high ranks in Shindo Muso-ryu jodo, kendo, and aikido, among other arts.
Below is video of Draeger instructing Sean Connery on the set of the Bond Film “You Only Live Twice”.
Draeger’s formal martial art ranks included:
Kyoshi menkyo in Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū (Teaching License Katana)
5th Dan Judo (5th Degree Black Belt)
7th Dan Kendo (7th Degree Black Belt fencing)
7th Dan Iado (7th Degree Black Belt Sword Drawing)
7th Dan Jodo (7th Degree Black Belt Staff)
Donn Draeger Books (several of these are co-authored by Robert Smith and others):
Judo Training Methods : A Sourcebook 1961
Weight training for Championship Judo 1966
Asian Fighting Arts 1969
Pentjak-Silat The Indonesian Fighting Ar, 1970
Weapons and Fighting Arts of the Indonesian Archipelago 1972
Classical Budo 1973
Martial Arts and Ways of Japan, 3 volumes, 1973-1974
Modern Budo and Bujutsu 1974
Shantung Black Tiger: A Shaolin Fighting Art of North China 1976
Phoenix-eye Fist: A Shaolin Fighting Art of South China 1977
Javanese Silat: The Fighting Art of Perisai Diri 1978
Shaolin: An Introduction to Lohan Fighting Techniques 1979
Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts 1980
Ninjutsu, the Art of Invisibility: Japan’s Feudal-age Espionage and Assassination Methods 1980
Ninjutsu: The Art of Invisibility (Facts, Legends, and Techniques)
Practical Karate Volume 1: Fundamentals of Self-Defense
Practical Karate Volume 2: Defense Against an Unarmed Assailant
Practical Karate Volume 3: Defense Against Multiple Assailants
Practical Karate Volume 4: Defense Against Armed Assailants
Practical Karate Volume 5: Self-Defense for Women
Practical Karate Volume 6: Self-Defense in Special Situations
Japanese Swordsmanship : Technique And Practice 1982
Judo Formal Techniques: A Complete Guide to Kodokan Randori No Kata
He spent decades traveling, studying, training and writing. He pioneered weight lifting for competitive judo in Japan and it was his life’s work to expose the west to true bushido. There was something about Draeger that captured the spirit of the martial arts. It’s unfortunate he doesn’t get nearly the recognition garnered by many lesser martial artists.
The Self Defense Company