I think I can make here a very small contribution to the study of history. I hesitate to say a coup, but I do find it a little exciting. I think I have found some video of Donn Draeger that has hitherto been unknown to people who are interested in Draeger as a historian and martial artist rather than a film credit name.
Donn Draeger was the well-known US Marine Corps captain who did much pioneering work in the study of budo. For people who are interested in the history of Japanese martial arts, his trilogy of books called The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan has to be famous.
As everyone must know, Draeger was a stunt coordinator on the set of the James Bond film You Only Live Twice, starring Sean Connery. Draeger attempted to give Connery’s action sequences a flare of authenticity, as though James Bond could master sojutsu techniques in just an afternoon. There are a lot of black & white still photographs of Draeger giving Connery advice on the grounds of Himeji Castle, where Bond’s “ninja training camp” was filmed, and there are also photographs of Draeger showing Connery around Tokyo: a lot of both of these can be found at a website called ChingChic.com and tend to look like this:
In the spirit of Aikido Journal, I tried to colorize this one. I know it’s not very good (especially the skin), but I have to preface this by saying that I have absolutely no training in graphic design and just teach myself GIMP image editor as I go along…
In addition to these photographs, a few videos of Draeger performing martial arts have survived on YouTube. There are some films of him doing demonstrations in gymnasiums, and also a documentary on Katori Shinto-ryu, in which Draeger had a menkyo. Unfortunately, these are almost all dark with low resolution, as though they are taken off VHS tapes.
Recently, I was doing the YouTube thing here in Kyoto, aimlessly deadening my mind by looking at 1-2 minutes clips of You Only Live Twice, when I found some behind-the-scenes footage. Called “Filming YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE In Japan, 1966 (No Sound),” it shows the actresses cavorting in swim suits, Connery making whiskey advertisements, film outtakes, sumo, Tokyo… When I started watching it, I thought it looked pretty boring, but I fast-forwarded because I wondered if there was film of Draeger, and sure enough there was!!
I don’t know what the origin of this YouTube clip is, but I am guessing that it’s from the extras on one of the DVD releases of the movie. As far as I can tell, no one else has picked up on the fact that this footage of Draeger exists on the DVD (if that’s where it’s from). Probably there is not a lot of overlap between people who are interested in budo history trivia and people who are interested in James Bond trivia.
Anyhow, it’s about one minute of Draeger trying to explain to Connery how to use his spear. The quality is not very good, but there are some closer shots of Draeger than what we normally see.
I excerpted the Draeger footage from the rest of the above clip and tried to enhance the color quality of the video. I also zoomed in and slowed the footage down to try to make it easier to see Draeger’s technical form. I am most interested in his deep hip rotation, which looks like a shotokan karate punch circa 1966 too.
I wish someone who had access to the original film footage would have the film remastered so it would be better quality. Until then, this is the best we can probably do. Without further ado, Donn Draeger at Himeji Castle…