While in Shanghai, O'Neill immersed himself in the study of Asian martial-arts. He was a devoted practitioner of Japanese judo, as well as several forms of "Chinese Boxing", these included Tai Chi Chuan, Hsing Yi, and Pa Kua.
O'Neill rose through the ranks of the SMP and was promoted to Detective Sergeant and served as a member and instructor of the famed "Shock and Riot Police" task force of the SMP. He was also considered by many to be the protégé of William Ewart Fairbairn.
In 1938, O'Neill left Shanghai, and traveled to Tokyo, Japan as head of security for the British Embassy Legation there. During this period O'Neill was awarded the Godan, fifth degree black belt by the Kodokan, as well as increasing his martial-arts skills by practicing Japanese style "Kempo". He left Japan shortly before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and made his way to Australia.
O'Neill came to the United States at the behest and recommendation of WE Fairbairn who was at this time involved with the OSS. O'Neill was slated to work for the OSS, but was sent instead to serve as an instructor with the First Special Service Force, a joint Canadian-US commando unit known as the "Devil's Brigade." When the 1st SSF was sent into action, O'Neill refused to stay behind and declared that since he trained these boys he would damn well fight beside them. He held the rank of Captain and one of his duties included the assignment of being the bodyguard to General Fredericks. After he was in Europe was over, O'Neill was tasked with the position of Provost Marshal over Monte Carlo.
As the war with Japan ended O'Neill was sent to Okinawa as a liaison officer. After the war O'Neill served as a consultant on police and security for various Federal agencies, including the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency. In the mid-1960s O'Neill located in the Washington, DC area and began work with the International Police Academy there. This organization was funded by the Agency for International Development and was a cover for para-military operations and training run by the CIA. The Church Committee Hearings on Intelligence Activities brought the close of this academy in the early 1970s.
O'Neill was considered a very tough man in his day and had a reputation for not backing down from anyone. His skill in judo was highly praised even at the Kodokan. O'Neill had studied under Uchijima, renowned old time Kodokan judo instructor. O'Neill was especially known for his grappling skill. The methods of hand-to-hand combat he devised and taught were greatly effective and such was proven in actual battle numerous times. O'Neill greatly influenced military close-combat for both the US Army and Marine Corps.
Dermot O'Neill had been married briefly and had a daughter. He died on August 11, 1985
Origins of the O'Neill Method
The "O'Neill" method is a consistent source of debate and speculation.
Owing to the fact that most people have only been exposed to limited information concerning this method many "false" opinions have been expressed concerning it's value and/or effectiveness.
The Army 21-150 manuals offer little in the way of a "complete" method and the USMC "proposed" manual adds some info but certainly not anywhere near the whole "picture".
Aside from non-fictional works on the First Special Service Force that add bits and pieces to the puzzle, there exist other "technical" sources.
Besides the fairly well-documented Judo background of D.M. O'Neill and his service with the SMP and as a "protege" of WEF, little else is really known about the elements that comprise his method.
Quotes like this: ".........the Office of Strategic Services(OSS) improved version of kick and poke judo. This hand to hand unarmed combat method was developed and taught by a former Shanghai police inspector, British embassy security expert, and OSS contract employee named Dermot Michael "Pat" O'Neill." Offer some more insights into the man and the method.
The system that O'Neill "developed" was born during his time in Shanghai. Charlie Nelson relates that his introduction to O'Neill's method was through a Sgt. Kelly who learned this method from O'Neill during Kelly's tour of duty in China. Since we know that O'Neill left for Japan in 1938, the "training" between Kelly and O'Neill must have occurred prior to that. So we can presume that the O'Neill method came into it's own sometime during the mid 1930's.
Many reference sources containing information on O'Neills method as recalled by Forcemen of the 1st SSF refer to similar phrases as the one quoted above. Terms like "jab and kick", "gouge and kick", "poke and kick" are constantly used when describing this method. Now we KNOW what the elements of the "Fairbairn" system are(though even here there is much misconception as well) and when would be hard pressed to describe WEF's approach as "kick and poke".
Though the O'Neill method may have included elements of Fairbairn's system(though there is documentation to the contrary), it is clear that the O'Neill method is materially different. The difference in "needs" as it relates to close combat between front line rapid assault "shock" troops like the "Devil's Brigade" and the nature of clandestine special operations as waged by the OSS and SOE explains to great degree the dis-similarity in choice of method.
Chinese foot-fighting or Chinese Boxing is mentioned in various manuals attributed to O'Neill. CHI-CHI SHU another reference to Chinese combatives is also mentioned in the AID/IPA manual. Material extant from the WWII era mentions this specifically. Charlie Nelson always said that this method was based on Chinese Guerilla warfare.
So where does the O'Neill method originate from? What may be the original source of this system?
To fully understand the possible connections to Chinese Boxing, we must FULLY understand the complete original syllabus of this method.
We will begin to discuss that aspect in Part II. Hopefully, we will also dispel "mis-informed" opinions concerning the combat validity and effectiveness of the O'Neill "method".
PS. Check out the video S2- O'Neill System:
By Ralph Grasso & Carl Cestari
Carl Cestari began his study of the martial arts with judo at the age of 7 under the direction of Yoshisada Yonezuka. During the past forty plus years Carl has dedicated his life to studying the martial arts, hand to hand combat systems, history and religion. What makes Carl unique is his combination of martial arts, law enforcement and military and real world experience. Carl has been exposed to a multitude of people with a wide variety experience. The following is a list of some of Carl's ranks and honors.
Shinan (Founder) Tekkenryu jujutsu
Ryokudan (6th degree) Koshinkai Karate under John Burrelle
Godan (5th degree) Jujutsu under Clarke of the World Jujutsu Fedaration (now defunct)
Sandan (3rd degree) Nippon Kempo under Narabu Sada
Nidan (2nd degree) Judo under Masafumi Suzuki
Shodan (1st degree) Judo under Yoshisada Yonezuka
Shodan (1st degree) Shukokai Karate under Kimura, Kadachi and Yonezuka
Shodan (1st degree) Daitoryu Aikijujutsu
Instructors Certificate- Charles Nelson System of Self Defense under Charlie Nelson