Country Of Origin: Canada



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Jump to navigationJump to search This article is about the martial art developed by Bill Underwood. For the system developed by Fairbairn and Sykes, see Defendu.

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Also known as Combato, Underwood Systems
Focus Hybrid
Country of origin Canada
Creator Bill Underwood
Parenthood Jujitsu, Western Grappling, Boxing
Olympic sport no

Bill Underwood

Defendo is a Canadian martial art and a self defence system created in 1945 for law enforcement structures by Bill Underwood. Underwood had created Combato in 1910, a “non-boxing or wrestlingunarmed combat system which he taught in Montreal, Quebec, and Toronto, Ontario, and Defendo grew out of this system.



Combato had its beginning in the Liverpool theatres with jujutsu demonstrations by travelling Japanese wrestlers, Yukio Tani and Taro Miyake. As a boy, Underwood idolized these experts, and rapidly established himself as a prodigy.

The name Defendo was created on August 15, 1945, in New York City by Underwood’s daughter, Pat, when Underwood was a guest in the United States training U.S. Army Rangers and for the American FBI for use in unarmed combat. Underwood was frequently requested by American and Canadian Law Enforcement Agencies to teach his Combato system during World War II, but as the war had ended he refused on the basis that Combato was too aggressive. Underwood was asked to modify the system to remove its lethal applications and instead focus on the Law Enforcement applications of self-defence, compliance and control tactics. He realized that he could not call this system Combato, so his daughter Pat Underwood proposed that he call the system “Defendo”.

A new name

From 1945 to 1950 Underwood taught his developing self-defence system in Canada and the USA under the new name. In 1950 he published under copyright “Defendo, Police System of Self-Defence”,[1] which became one of the first open-hand police tactics manuals used by police departments in Canada and the United States[citation needed]. From 1950 to 1969, Underwood travelled throughout Canada, the United States and in the UK (1965), teaching his system. In 1969, under copyright Underwood published “Defendo, Occidental System of Self-Protection”.[2]


From 1969 to his death on February 8, 1986, in Newmarket, Ontario, Underwood was well known for his system and honoured and profiled frequently by the North American media. In 1980 a short documentary film about Underwood’s life and work, entitled Don’t Mess With Bill was nominated for an Oscar at the 53rd Academy Awards in 1981. The film was produced by Pen Densham and John Watson.[3][4]

Between 1980 and 1981 Underwood appeared four times on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He also appeared at that time on all of Hollywood‘s major talk shows including Real People, That’s Incredible, and Merv Griffin; on all occasions, promoting and teaching his system of Defendo.


Bill Underwood, “Police System of Self-Protection”, Toronto, copyright 1950 *Pbill underwood, “Defendo” Occidental System of Self-Protection, Toronto, Copyright 1969 Cressman, Robbie. “Bill Underwood”. Fight Times Magazine. Retrieved May 8, 2012.

  1. “Don’t Mess with Bill”, IMDB
  • Underwood Family’s Archives
  • The National Post: The Art of Defendo
  • Current and past Canadian Forces Persons – Intelligence
  • Toronto Star Publications
  • Canadian Provost Corps.
  • Martial Arts Illustrated, June 2004 Cover and Feature
  • Canwest News Service: Ottawa, 2003
  • British Royal Armouries Museum: 2003
  • Toronto Metropolitan Police Archives
  • The Canadian National Exhibition Archives: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Johnny Carson Archives, Los Angeles California
  • Academy Awards Archives, Los Angeles California

External links

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