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Paradise, Martial Arts, and Magnum PI

Paradise, Martial Arts, and Magnum PI

Just recently we got a new cable setup at the house, and I have been to busy training to learn all the new channels. So just like every other modern man, I have simply resorted to flipping through the channel guide to find something to watch.

Then I hit pay dirt as I came across the 1980’s classic detective series, Magnum P.I.

During this episode Magnum was fighting with some gangsters and one of his opponents pulled out nunchucks and quickly knocked out Magnum’s buddy.

Being the smart guy that he is, Magnum didn’t rush in. Instead, he picked up an ashtray and used the can to block the many blows from the weapon before finally bashing the attacker unconscious with it.

For eight seasons Tom Selleck play Private Investigator Thomas Magnum, a Navy Academy Graduate, former Seal and Vietnam veteran. Magnum lived on the beautiful estate of Tom Clancy like author Robin Masters.

In exchange for living rent free at the estate and being allowed the use Robins’ red Ferrari 308 GTB, Magnum handled security with Englishman Jonathan Quayle Higgins III, an ex-British Army Sergeant Major.

If working on the estate with all the great perks wasn’t enough to keep Magnum busy, he did plenty of other investigative work and had to deal with drug dealers, hitmen, terrorists, spies, and even the more mundane assignments like divorce cases. I can’t think of one private investigator or Navy man I have met who isn’t a fan of the show.

It is important to note that while Magnum may have gotten into fantastic adventures every week, the close combat skills he used in almost every episode were real world self defense. And Looking back on the show Magnum clearly displayed his military martial arts background. After all Magnum dealt with attackers wielding everything from martial arts weapons, to bottles, bats, and of course firearms.

Magnum learned his martial arts when the military was still using the very effective World War II combatives developed by Charles Nelson and B.J. Cosneck for the Navy and the Marines. These men taught martial arts for the battlefield and for street fights, not sports.

But Magnum wasn’t the only one who showed close combat prowess. Higgins a veteran of over twenty years of military service was familiar with numerous martial arts, though he clearly relied on the self defense methods taught by Colonel William E. Fairbairn. Magnum’s buddies Rick and T.C. also showed what they learned in the Marines in countless fights along side Magnum.

Magnum was a member of SEAL Team One which operated out of Da Nang, Vietnam and served under the command of the CIA Chief of Station during the war (Magnum and his buddies can often be seen wearing Da Nang baseball caps). Magnum didn’t learn close quarter combat in a nice clean martial arts school, but on the streets of Da Nang and in the jungles of Northern Vietnam. Magnum never wasted time going into stances or trying to do specific moves. Instead when he saw a threat and attacked. If he had the advantage of firearms or other weapons he used them.

During his wartime service Magnum and his friends escaped an enemy prison camp and had to disarm pursuers with their bare hands. On one case while searching for a kidnapped friend Magnum has to fight an accomplished martial artist from Japan. Though his opponent throws many powerful kicks Magnum keeps attacking until the other man went down.

Even though Magnum was a fictional character there are many lessons to be learned from him. He and his buddies were proud patriots who never regretted their service in Vietnam and understood the real dangers of the cold war and terrorism. They weren’t complacent either. Magnum and all his buddies used sports to maintain functional strength. Higgins even joined the boys on a rescue mission in Cambodia and was still fit for action.

In Hawaii there are many martial arts being taught to eager students, but the style used by its most famous fictional resident is still the best. On an island were the environment is diverse as Hawaii you have to be able to adapt to every possible self defense situation. You cannot afford to be limited in your ability to protect yourself. The smart writers of the TV show obviously realized this and kept Magnum using his military combatives as opposed to joining in the karate and ninja craze of the time.