Charles Nelson : Profile And History
I was born in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. When I was three years old my parents separated and I was placed in an orphanage under the care of Catholic Nuns. When I was around eight, I was sent to a home run by Christian Brothers, who taught me how to play baseball and how to box. If we got into a fight, the Brothers made us put on boxing gloves and settle it. At the age of fourteen, I was placed on a farm in upstate New York. I ran away a few times and lived on other farms.
When I hit nineteen, I joined the Marine Corps and served for ten and a half years. When I joined in 1934, the Marines were teaching hand-to-hand combat, bayonet fighting and jiu-jitsu - all of which I absorbed. I trained with other Marine and F.B.I. agents under Colonel Biddle. I also met a Sergeant Kelly, who had been attached to the International Police in Shanghai, China in the 30's. He was looking for someone to practice with and I had the qualifications. This is how I came to learn a unique fighting method that no one else in the U.S. teaches.
This method is based on Mongolian wrestling techniques intended to maim or cripple. Combined with other methods that I studied through out the years, these techniques form a complete system. My method combines boxing, jiu-jitsu, karate, principles of Tai-Chi and Aikido, and dirty fighting. Keeping only what is useful and practical for self defense, there is not a wasteful technique. Over the years I have had many students with black belts in other martial arts come to me; all were amazed at how little they knew about real self-defense, despite years of training. They felt my method had rounded out their knowledge of self-defense. Many black belts and other so-called experts in the martial arts have been killed or injured in street fights because their skills didn't work outside the dojo. I am convinced that anyone, even with no prior martial arts training or experience, can learn to defend themselves in any ordinary or life-and-death situation.
Yours in Self-Defense Charles Nelson;
Former Instructor, U.S. Marines

 
Training in hand to hand Combatives at the
Charles Nelson School of Self-Defense
In Woodbridge, New Jersey, USA.
 
I recently spent five days during mid-November in New York City and the state of New Jersey, with the duel purpose of Christmas shopping and more importantly for me training. More specifically training with 6th Dan, and 30+ years in martial arts veteran, Bob Spiegel. Who is now the sole representative of the Charles Nelson Self-defense System.

Ex-U.S Marine Corp hand-to-hand combat instructor Charlie Nelson now in his eighties, taught his method of Self-defense in New York City for more than fifty years. What he taught was made up of ju-jitsu, boxing, Mongolian wrestling, and what Charlie called "dirty fighting". Charlie Nelson is one of the only people alive today who's lineage traces all the way back to the practice of authentic World War 2 Combatives. In the field of hand-2-hand combat the man is legend. Bob Spiegel has trained intensely with Charlie since 1987 right up until his retirement in early 1998. In December 2000 Charlie Nelson designated Mr. Spiegel exclusively as the successor to his street proven system, in order to teach and spread his Self-Defense concepts worldwide. Which I might add, he does admirably well. Bob is a superb instructor and a gentleman. My instruction started with basic stances and footwork.

The stances are every day natural positions much like our variations of the fence, and the footwork follows the concept from Charlie's symbol of the Mongoose and Cobra. When the cobra makes his linear strike, the mongoose will step off the attack line and bite the snake on the back of the head, shaking it until it is dead. This concept is put to use against any forward attack directed at your person, an example is to step off the attack line and chop the attacking limb with an edge of hand blow, follow this with a chop to the neck and a swivel punch to the heart..

Then we looked at the basic strikes of the Nelson System, these are made up of a core of basic blows including sharp low kicks to the shins and knees, punches, chops and arm-bars. Next we looked at restraining holds emphasising the important principle of striking or distraction before restraint. This simple important factor made the techniques extremely functional. We finished with a lot of situational defence scenarios including unarmed knife and gun hold up defences. The latter being very applicable bearing in mind America's gun culture and is also likely to become a vital part of our own Self-Protection teaching syllabus if the U.K firearm statistics are anything to go by.

This pretty much bought a conclusion to my introduction to this basic street proven system. In summary I think the Nelson System is very basic and functional with no wasted movements. Just as any effective method of Self- Protection should be. It's all here, effective strikes for pre-emption and excellent situational defence principles and concepts offering a good back up support system, should you miss the chance of avoiding the situation or ending it quickly by striking first. All in all, I was very impressed and honoured to train with such an excellent representative of the legendary U.S.M.C hand-to-hand combat instructor Charlie Nelson. My objective is to learn the entire system to instructor status, by continuing my training with Bob Spiegel and perhaps get the opportunity to meet the great man himself who now lives in the state of Arkansas.

Anyone interested in finding out more or in looking at some pictorial history of Charlie and his methods and some superb demonstration photos of Mr Spiegel including one of him putting me in an extremely painful Japanese double arm-bar, can check out his web-site.

  • www.charles-nelson-defense.com
  •  
    My trip to Arkansas USA to meet
    Close Combat legend Mr Charles Nelson.
     
    I arrived at Little Rock airport after nearly 14 hours of travelling. I was met by Bob Spiegel the successor and now main instructor of the Charles Nelson Self-Defense System, which he teaches from his headquarters in New Jersey. After training with Mr Spiegel in NJ a few months earlier, I had already had my introduction to the street proven system.

    The purpose of this visit was to meet the great man himself on his 88th birthday and of course to further my knowledge of the system by training with Bob and from some hands on advice from Charlie himself. I arrived quite late in the evening so after a nice meal I made my way to my hotel for a much needed good nights rest. We hit the gym early the next morning for some Self-defense training Charlie Nelson style.

    We started off with the straight arm-bar, the Japanese double arm-bar and the reverse arm-bar. Each of these was applied via a distracting strike with speed and grace. Then we looked at an attack sequence which can be applied as a pre-emptive offensive or in response to a huge variety of situations. Using the principle of the mongoose fighting the cobra, that was used by Charlie as the symbol for his school of self-defense.

    This makes use of an evasive side step that takes you off of the attack line of an attempted grab or strike from your opponent, as you chop down onto the radial nerve of his forearm with an edge of hand blow then continue the attack with a chop to the throat or neck, a sharp low side kick to the knee followed by a swivel punch to the heart or sternum. This sequence is practiced on both left and right sides as a continuous assault.
    Here we see how the attacking sequence can be applied to a variety of situations.

    Side step off the attack line, as you chop the attacking limb.
    Follow up with a chop to the neck and a swivel punch to the heart.
     
     
    The same principle can be applied to a weapon attack.
    Side step and chop against a straight punch followed by a throat chop this time pulling your opponent onto the attack leaving you with the option to follow up if needed.
     
    Here the same tools applied against a two hands choke attempt. Trap one arm and swivel punch to the heart. Follow up by chopping the arm as you turn your opponent into a quick takedown or into a wall or similar obstacle.
    Here are some examples of the basic arm-bars from the Nelson system each restraint is always preceded by a strike or some kind of distraction.
     
    The straight arm-bar.
     
    The reverse arm-bar.
     
     
    This sequence shows how to apply the Japanese double arm-bar.
     
    We followed this with another sequence that started with a swivel punch to the heart and then using the same arm you flow into an elbow strike followed by a chop again using the same arm. From here you grab the shoulder and back of the arm for leverage as you pull your opponent onto a vicious axe foot kick to the inside of the shin using the inside edge of your boot. Finally you can attack the back of the neck with a chop or the thoracic spine with a hammer fist blow.

    We went on to apply the said tools to a variety of situational scenarios dealing with punching attacks and various grabs to the throat and clothing from the front and back, knife defences and multiple assailant situations, each allowing you to bring into play the fundamental arm-bars, punches, chops and crippling low kicks that make up the foundation of the system. We finished up with a workout in the weight training gym.

    Here is the little big man himself on his 88th birthday, Charlie Nelson.
    Here is Charlie Nelson demonstrating his famous straight arm-bar.
     
    Then it was back to the hotel to freshen up before setting off to meet Charlie Nelson on his 88th birthday in the presence of his family including Mrs Nelson, Charlie's son, his lovely daughter Carol and her very funny husband, Buddy whose great sense of humour had me laughing hard all weekend. We arrived at Charlie's to find him in good spirits. I introduced myself and struck an instant rapport with this great gentleman.

    He told me stories about his time in the US Marine Corp, about his experience in Guadal Canal and about his time teaching in New York City. After leaving the Corp, Charlie worked at a variety of jobs until he started teaching self-defense, eventually settling at his school on 72nd Street, where he taught for nearly 5 decades. In that time, Charlie taught many students and had many confrontational experiences, most of which ended up with his would-be assailant quickly floored. Or as in one case running as fast as they could after having their radial nerve struck by one of Charlie's vicious chops, like in the incident when some guy pulled a knife on him. Charlie talked about some of his instructors in the Corp, such as Drexel, and Biddle who taught bayonet and hand to hand combat, and Sergeant Kelly, who trained in Shanghai with Dermot Pat O'Niell in Mongolian wrestling and WE Fairbain's Defendu system. Charlie also talked about his interest in boxing and how one opponent found out the potency of his left hook. Charlie then proceeded to give me a hands-on lesson in how to perform an arm-bar and a Japanese double wristlock, as well as how to lock the thumb from an over-zealous handshake and various defences against grabs. Even though Charlie is now bound to a wheelchair, he is still sharp of mind and can move with speed when he wants to.

    We left Charlie to rest and went off for a bite to eat in a traditional Arkansas restaurant which was in the middle of nowhere, complete with an 'out-house' toilet. This place served the biggest cheeseburgers that I have ever seen in my life. They are so big that they have named them 'Hub Caps'. The next day I worked with Bob Spiegel, putting together some sequence photographs illustrating the Nelson system for Charlie's website and this article. We went back to see Charlie for the last time on our visit. He told us that he had enjoyed his birthday the day before and was in good spirits. May he enjoy many more! Bob and his student Jim left for the airport that day for their return to New Jersey.

    Bob is a great instructor, a worthy successor to continue the Nelson system. He comes across as a real gentleman, but at the same time he has this strong tough-guy persona, that he earned the hard way through twenty plus years of hard training in the martial arts, frequently mixing it up both on the street and on the mat. I look forward to my next visit to New Jersey, as I continue my education in the Nelson Self-Defense system.

    My final day was spent with Charlie's daughter Carol and her husband Buddy, who are truly nice people. They took me out and showed me all of the sights of Arkansas, everything from the landmarks of Little Rock, to the shacks and the honky-tonk bars of the good ol' boys. They fed me well and showed me great hospitality for which I am truly grateful. All in all this was a great trip and I would like to thank everyone who made it possible.

    © Lee Morrison : No text or images may be copied without prior permission of the author.

    Urban Combatives
    Charles Nelson : Profile And History
    I was born in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. When I was three years old my parents separated and I was placed in an orphanage under the care of Catholic Nuns. When I was around eight, I was sent to a home run by Christian Brothers, who taught me how to play baseball and how to box. If we got into a fight, the Brothers made us put on boxing gloves and settle it. At the age of fourteen, I was placed on a farm in upstate New York. I ran away a few times and lived on other farms.
    When I hit nineteen, I joined the Marine Corps and served for ten and a half years. When I joined in 1934, the Marines were teaching hand-to-hand combat, bayonet fighting and jiu-jitsu - all of which I absorbed. I trained with other Marine and F.B.I. agents under Colonel Biddle. I also met a Sergeant Kelly, who had been attached to the International Police in Shanghai, China in the 30's. He was looking for someone to practice with and I had the qualifications. This is how I came to learn a unique fighting method that no one else in the U.S. teaches.
    This method is based on Mongolian wrestling techniques intended to maim or cripple. Combined with other methods that I studied through out the years, these techniques form a complete system. My method combines boxing, jiu-jitsu, karate, principles of Tai-Chi and Aikido, and dirty fighting. Keeping only what is useful and practical for self defense, there is not a wasteful technique. Over the years I have had many students with black belts in other martial arts come to me; all were amazed at how little they knew about real self-defense, despite years of training. They felt my method had rounded out their knowledge of self-defense. Many black belts and other so-called experts in the martial arts have been killed or injured in street fights because their skills didn't work outside the dojo. I am convinced that anyone, even with no prior martial arts training or experience, can learn to defend themselves in any ordinary or life-and-death situation.
    Yours in Self-Defense Charles Nelson;
    Former Instructor, U.S. Marines

     
    Training in hand to hand Combatives at the
    Charles Nelson School of Self-Defense
    In Woodbridge, New Jersey, USA.
     
    I recently spent five days during mid-November in New York City and the state of New Jersey, with the duel purpose of Christmas shopping and more importantly for me training. More specifically training with 6th Dan, and 30+ years in martial arts veteran, Bob Spiegel. Who is now the sole representative of the Charles Nelson Self-defense System.

    Ex-U.S Marine Corp hand-to-hand combat instructor Charlie Nelson now in his eighties, taught his method of Self-defense in New York City for more than fifty years. What he taught was made up of ju-jitsu, boxing, Mongolian wrestling, and what Charlie called "dirty fighting". Charlie Nelson is one of the only people alive today who's lineage traces all the way back to the practice of authentic World War 2 Combatives. In the field of hand-2-hand combat the man is legend. Bob Spiegel has trained intensely with Charlie since 1987 right up until his retirement in early 1998. In December 2000 Charlie Nelson designated Mr. Spiegel exclusively as the successor to his street proven system, in order to teach and spread his Self-Defense concepts worldwide. Which I might add, he does admirably well. Bob is a superb instructor and a gentleman. My instruction started with basic stances and footwork.

    The stances are every day natural positions much like our variations of the fence, and the footwork follows the concept from Charlie's symbol of the Mongoose and Cobra. When the cobra makes his linear strike, the mongoose will step off the attack line and bite the snake on the back of the head, shaking it until it is dead. This concept is put to use against any forward attack directed at your person, an example is to step off the attack line and chop the attacking limb with an edge of hand blow, follow this with a chop to the neck and a swivel punch to the heart..

    Then we looked at the basic strikes of the Nelson System, these are made up of a core of basic blows including sharp low kicks to the shins and knees, punches, chops and arm-bars. Next we looked at restraining holds emphasising the important principle of striking or distraction before restraint. This simple important factor made the techniques extremely functional. We finished with a lot of situational defence scenarios including unarmed knife and gun hold up defences. The latter being very applicable bearing in mind America's gun culture and is also likely to become a vital part of our own Self-Protection teaching syllabus if the U.K firearm statistics are anything to go by.

    This pretty much bought a conclusion to my introduction to this basic street proven system. In summary I think the Nelson System is very basic and functional with no wasted movements. Just as any effective method of Self- Protection should be. It's all here, effective strikes for pre-emption and excellent situational defence principles and concepts offering a good back up support system, should you miss the chance of avoiding the situation or ending it quickly by striking first. All in all, I was very impressed and honoured to train with such an excellent representative of the legendary U.S.M.C hand-to-hand combat instructor Charlie Nelson. My objective is to learn the entire system to instructor status, by continuing my training with Bob Spiegel and perhaps get the opportunity to meet the great man himself who now lives in the state of Arkansas.

    Anyone interested in finding out more or in looking at some pictorial history of Charlie and his methods and some superb demonstration photos of Mr Spiegel including one of him putting me in an extremely painful Japanese double arm-bar, can check out his web-site.

  • www.charles-nelson-defense.com
  •  
    My trip to Arkansas USA to meet
    Close Combat legend Mr Charles Nelson.
     
    I arrived at Little Rock airport after nearly 14 hours of travelling. I was met by Bob Spiegel the successor and now main instructor of the Charles Nelson Self-Defense System, which he teaches from his headquarters in New Jersey. After training with Mr Spiegel in NJ a few months earlier, I had already had my introduction to the street proven system.

    The purpose of this visit was to meet the great man himself on his 88th birthday and of course to further my knowledge of the system by training with Bob and from some hands on advice from Charlie himself. I arrived quite late in the evening so after a nice meal I made my way to my hotel for a much needed good nights rest. We hit the gym early the next morning for some Self-defense training Charlie Nelson style.

    We started off with the straight arm-bar, the Japanese double arm-bar and the reverse arm-bar. Each of these was applied via a distracting strike with speed and grace. Then we looked at an attack sequence which can be applied as a pre-emptive offensive or in response to a huge variety of situations. Using the principle of the mongoose fighting the cobra, that was used by Charlie as the symbol for his school of self-defense.

    This makes use of an evasive side step that takes you off of the attack line of an attempted grab or strike from your opponent, as you chop down onto the radial nerve of his forearm with an edge of hand blow then continue the attack with a chop to the throat or neck, a sharp low side kick to the knee followed by a swivel punch to the heart or sternum. This sequence is practiced on both left and right sides as a continuous assault.
    Here we see how the attacking sequence can be applied to a variety of situations.

    Side step off the attack line, as you chop the attacking limb.
    Follow up with a chop to the neck and a swivel punch to the heart.
     
     
    The same principle can be applied to a weapon attack.
    Side step and chop against a straight punch followed by a throat chop this time pulling your opponent onto the attack leaving you with the option to follow up if needed.
     
    Here the same tools applied against a two hands choke attempt. Trap one arm and swivel punch to the heart. Follow up by chopping the arm as you turn your opponent into a quick takedown or into a wall or similar obstacle.
    Here are some examples of the basic arm-bars from the Nelson system each restraint is always preceded by a strike or some kind of distraction.
     
    The straight arm-bar.
     
    The reverse arm-bar.
     
     
    This sequence shows how to apply the Japanese double arm-bar.
     
    We followed this with another sequence that started with a swivel punch to the heart and then using the same arm you flow into an elbow strike followed by a chop again using the same arm. From here you grab the shoulder and back of the arm for leverage as you pull your opponent onto a vicious axe foot kick to the inside of the shin using the inside edge of your boot. Finally you can attack the back of the neck with a chop or the thoracic spine with a hammer fist blow.

    We went on to apply the said tools to a variety of situational scenarios dealing with punching attacks and various grabs to the throat and clothing from the front and back, knife defences and multiple assailant situations, each allowing you to bring into play the fundamental arm-bars, punches, chops and crippling low kicks that make up the foundation of the system. We finished up with a workout in the weight training gym.

    Here is the little big man himself on his 88th birthday, Charlie Nelson.
    Here is Charlie Nelson demonstrating his famous straight arm-bar.
     
    Then it was back to the hotel to freshen up before setting off to meet Charlie Nelson on his 88th birthday in the presence of his family including Mrs Nelson, Charlie's son, his lovely daughter Carol and her very funny husband, Buddy whose great sense of humour had me laughing hard all weekend. We arrived at Charlie's to find him in good spirits. I introduced myself and struck an instant rapport with this great gentleman.

    He told me stories about his time in the US Marine Corp, about his experience in Guadal Canal and about his time teaching in New York City. After leaving the Corp, Charlie worked at a variety of jobs until he started teaching self-defense, eventually settling at his school on 72nd Street, where he taught for nearly 5 decades. In that time, Charlie taught many students and had many confrontational experiences, most of which ended up with his would-be assailant quickly floored. Or as in one case running as fast as they could after having their radial nerve struck by one of Charlie's vicious chops, like in the incident when some guy pulled a knife on him. Charlie talked about some of his instructors in the Corp, such as Drexel, and Biddle who taught bayonet and hand to hand combat, and Sergeant Kelly, who trained in Shanghai with Dermot Pat O'Niell in Mongolian wrestling and WE Fairbain's Defendu system. Charlie also talked about his interest in boxing and how one opponent found out the potency of his left hook. Charlie then proceeded to give me a hands-on lesson in how to perform an arm-bar and a Japanese double wristlock, as well as how to lock the thumb from an over-zealous handshake and various defences against grabs. Even though Charlie is now bound to a wheelchair, he is still sharp of mind and can move with speed when he wants to.

    We left Charlie to rest and went off for a bite to eat in a traditional Arkansas restaurant which was in the middle of nowhere, complete with an 'out-house' toilet. This place served the biggest cheeseburgers that I have ever seen in my life. They are so big that they have named them 'Hub Caps'. The next day I worked with Bob Spiegel, putting together some sequence photographs illustrating the Nelson system for Charlie's website and this article. We went back to see Charlie for the last time on our visit. He told us that he had enjoyed his birthday the day before and was in good spirits. May he enjoy many more! Bob and his student Jim left for the airport that day for their return to New Jersey.

    Bob is a great instructor, a worthy successor to continue the Nelson system. He comes across as a real gentleman, but at the same time he has this strong tough-guy persona, that he earned the hard way through twenty plus years of hard training in the martial arts, frequently mixing it up both on the street and on the mat. I look forward to my next visit to New Jersey, as I continue my education in the Nelson Self-Defense system.

    My final day was spent with Charlie's daughter Carol and her husband Buddy, who are truly nice people. They took me out and showed me all of the sights of Arkansas, everything from the landmarks of Little Rock, to the shacks and the honky-tonk bars of the good ol' boys. They fed me well and showed me great hospitality for which I am truly grateful. All in all this was a great trip and I would like to thank everyone who made it possible.