Donn Draeger on Jeff Cooper



Reading through my collection of back issues of Hoplos, the newsletter of the International Hoplology Society (IHS), I re-discovered a piece from Donn Draeger. For those not aware, Draeger was a WWII-era combat Marine who embraced Japanese martial culture to the fullest, becoming a force within the koryu bujutsu (classical martial arts), in Kodokan Judo, and other disciplines. He introduced much in the Japanese martial ethos (and south and southeast Asian systems) to the international martial arts world through his writings and his work with the IHS studying “the evolution and development of human combative behavior.”

While the IHS was generally focussed on conventional”martial arts,” early offerings such as this one seemed to seek to expand the parameters of intended study beyond the wheelhouse of most conventional martial artists, even those of a serious scholarly bent.

In the November 1979 Hoplos, Volume 1, # 6, “Hoplology and the Bang, Big or Small,” Draeger wrote of defensive pistolcraft and Jeff Cooper . Now, Cooper was also a combat Marine, and a seminal writer and trainer in the realm of modern pistolcraft – interestingly in juxtaposition, apparently also coining the phrase “hoplophobia.”

Cooper is also famed for his “Color Codes” of awareness, and his book Principles of Personal Defense is as much a collection of martial wisdom as any of the classic works of the masters of yore; in my view it makes the concept of handgunning-as-martial-discipline perhaps more accessible to those in traditional martial arts.

In Hoplos, Draeger specifically addresses the hoplological study of explosives and firearms among other “engines of war,” stating that making them a lower priority of study would be “a serious mistake” for hoplologists.

It should be noted that some of the ideas expressed are now the subject of much debate. Defensive handgunning has continued to evolve…mostly… to embrace various shooting positions and revisit the concept of”stopping power;” even now we are seeing another leap in that realm with the advent of optics for handguns.

Still, this was a remarkable start for a scholarly martial arts organization, with what at the time was the cutting edge of pistolcraft.

Draeger further wrote:

“Substantial effort must also be made to cope with the ever-widening developments surrounding the use of firearms taking place in our modern times, and to record these events while they are still fresh in our minds. One of these important developments embraces international popularity in the form of pistol shooting.

Exemplary in the matter of modern pistol shooting are the efforts and the American Pistol Institute (API) in Paulden, Arizona. The founder of the organization, Jeff Cooper, is the world authority on defensive pistolcraft. Cooper, a master shot, insists that the wholesome social individual has a right to self defense by means of the handgun. A salient objective in all of Cooper’s teachings is to furnish the individual exponent of the handgun with sufficient skill in order to prepare him mentally to dominate his immediate environment. Though sometimes Cooper’s pistolcraft may be referred to as “sport,” it must not be confused with ordinary competitive sport shooting. Cooper’s code reveals the mental outlook and stand he wishes to impart for the good of world society.

ATTENTION (and here it’s Cooper writing – Kit)

Here is a weighty matter for the wise to ponder.

Practical pistolcraft is a defensive art, the elements of which are the equal control of accuracy, power, and speed (DVC).

Diligentia = Accuracy

Vis = Power

Celeritas  = Speed

The purpose of the defensive pistol is to terminate instantly the hostile activity of an armed aggressor. Therefore, second only to reliability, STOPPING POWER is its most elemental attribute. Its (the pistol’s) continuity of fire is subordinate to its stopping power.

Any practical pistol contest must simulate the defensive use of the handgun. If the structure of a contest is such as to give a scoring advantage to continuity of fire over stopping power, that contest is flawed.

Practical shooting competition must remain PRACTICAL, at all costs. If we forget that, even momentarily, we have lost the reason for our sport. We endeavor to be both realistic and fair, but if there is a conflict we must be realistic first and fair second. Those who make a fetish of fairness should play chess.

(signed) Jeff Cooper

Whereas Cooper’s dictum stimulates us to discuss a wide range of subjects, there is one area in particular that is relevant to the overall strategy of hoplology. I will make that the subject of some future article.”

Donn Draeger pic                                                   Jeff Cooper Pic

One comment

  1. Trainer DR Middlebrooks commented on this at TPI. I’ve edited the original blog to avoid the confusion it may have created for some people.

    “Thanks for posting Kit. But at the RISK of being condesending, this is a quote from that article:

    Defensive handgunning has continued to evolve…mostly…, to include the Modern Technique (now most combative shooting has moved on to Modified Isosceles) and the concept of ”stopping power;” even now we are seeing another leap in that realm with the advent of optics for handguns.

    OK, so we NOW have just (2) shooting technqiues? Weaver & Mod Iso??

    What about Chapman, ISO, and then there’s the Reverse Weaver, the Reverse Chapman, then Guard, Partial & Full Extension shooting positions?

    Or how about High Guard, Low Guard, Side Guard and ALL the rest?

    Talk about a 1 or 2 Trick pony? That’s it? Is that all we got?

    Back in ’98 I realized just how stagnant Traditional Shooting Techniques had become.




    having no current or flow and often being “One Dimensional” in concept & design as in a “stagnant shooting technique”

    I have always believed that Handgun Shooting Techniques should follow the path of MMA and maybe EVOLVE ? DUH?

    “…with liberty and justice for all…”
    (Must be 18. Void where prohibited. Some restrictions may apply. Not available in all states). – D. Stanhope

    D.R. Middlebrooks – Head Coach
    Tactical Shooting Academy & Custom Shop

    Even THAT doesn’t go far enough…how bout this from the superb Gabe White:


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