Bill Underwood (The Little Giant Killer) was Canadas top Unarmed Combat Instructor in WWII. It was Bill who created the basis for Canadian Forces Unarmed Combat by way of his system known as Combato (1910). His system known as Defendo (1945) became a foundation for many Canadian and American Law Enforcement Agencies. All things considered his life work is truly Canadas contribution to the world of unarmed combat and the martial arts. No other fighting system even dating back to Canadas Native Indians was created and developed in Canada, was used in defense of the nation and played a significant role in its Law Enforcement history. Underwoods Defendo even played a noted role in Canadas pop culture. Little Bill was a guest on The Johnny Carson Show 4 times, once as an 85 year old controlling the Incredible Hulk himself, Mr. Lou Ferrigno. Bill was also the subject of a short film which in 1981 was nominated for an Oscar at the 53rd Academy Awards. Mr. Underwood was a fascinating and talented man with an incredible story. Who was Bill Underwood?
The five foot, 2 inches, gentle looking man called the "Human Atomic Bomb"- "Mighty Atom" - "Little Giant Killer" as a 12 year old boy in 1907 Liverpool England, made after school pocket money selling programmes at the Vaudeville Pavilion Theatre. As a child Bill was a friend of great performers like the legendary Harry Houdini, Buffalo Bill Cody and Charlie Chaplin. Most are unaware of the fact that it was Bill Underwood who was standing at Harry Houdini's side on McGill Campus in Montreal in 1926, when Harry received the punch to the stomach that would soon after end his life. Periodically on the Vaudeville circuit Japanese Jiu-Jitsu experts would demonstrate their incredible abilities on the local stage. Crowds would be amazed while watching small Japanese men nightly throwing big muscle-men around the stage like rag dolls. Between acts backstage Bill developed a friendship with world famous Jiu-Jitsu experts Yukio Tani and Tara Maki and they began to teach him in a short period of time some of the basic techniques of their craft. Unbeknown to anyone, Bill was a prodigy in the making. With limited exposure to his instructors he began to develop and build immediately upon some of the techniques he had learned and evolved them into what would become a unique, improved system.
The thing about the Underwood method is that it was intended to take your opponent out quickly, it was based on breaks, locks and attacking pressure points.
Just practical stuff, the SOE that Underwood taught to didnt have time for years of study, they just needed quick and effective.
The military system is still taught mainly in Canada one or two clubs in the UK teach the civilian version called Defendo.
Fairburns system Defendu was similar and probably better known.
Poorly ironed uniform? That was de-rigueur in those days pal.