The Art of the Handshake — a new kind of self defense study

One shakes the hand of someone extending a hand to be shaken.

That’s the rule of etiquette I was taught firmly by my mother when I was about twelve. We were going over to suburban Philadelphia’s Main Line Baldwin School to which my cousin from Chicago had just enrolled.

I had never before met my cousin, and there she was on a stairway of the school, extending her hand. I was shy, and hesitated. My mother said, in the most polite and smiley way, “Shake Brett’s hand Susie. She is greeting you.”

In other words, it’s a social requirement, and one learns such things whether one is shy or not. Whether she is twelve or not!


Happily, I eventually got to know and love and admire my cousin and we are still in touch even after all these 67 or so years!


A handshake can mean so many things: a kind of refined hug; a caress; a salute; an agreement; a goodbye; a gesture made by a shy person because it is required. It can be too tight to be friendly. A lot of things.

But we have seen in the throes of the 2016 election and ensuing months a kind of handshake that is tantamount to a duel!


Foreign powers are readying themselves for the new US Presidential handshake!

Those who are innocent of the body language of power are surprised, and even literally knocked off balance by certain handshakes documented on our current news media. We started to watch when we saw our American President congratulate the newly appointed VIPs and then even some foreign dignitaries with a kind of squeeze and yank —a strength-against-courtesy challenge, not unlike the beginning of an arm-wrestling match!

As the images came through we saw, repeatedly, variations on this handshake being met in different ways by increasingly ready heads of state, some of them smilingly bracing ahead-of-time for the yank by the big hand, and using stance and a friendly looking clasp of our President’s shoulder to appear unmoved. You could see it. The effort failing.

What a public display of gauntlet tossing! The younger men did better with their lithe bodies more toned to be immovable gracefully, the handsome smiles steady on their faces and their eyes crinkled in a loving way as they stared directly into the face of the Powerful One. One technique I noticed working well was when the “mark” did a better job of hanging on tight, requiring our President to wrench his hand back out of the vice grip, his outstretched, trapped fingers looking sort of starved for blood in the effort.

Why are we watching handshake techniques? The President has taught us to. He is very body aware and he KNOWS his retinue is watching to see how powerful he looks. This is a man who knows his stage presence and how to use it.


Where was his mother when it came to handshakes?


I’ll get in trouble for this observation being made in public. There are those I hold dear who will think it is partisan pickiness.

I declare loud and clear that this little huff has nothing to do with politics!


It has to do with territorial , public behavior better befitting a defensive species lower than the species of our current Chosen Leader — a two-legged, upright-standing homo sapiens that is supposed to represent me to the whole wide world.

Commentary and art by Susan G Holland ©2017