Combatives is a term popularized by the US Army for hand-to-hand combat training. It now encompasses various hybrid martial arts, which incorporate techniques from several different martial arts and combat sports. Unlike combat sports, such systems usually have limited sport application and often focus on simple techniques for use in self-defense or combat.

As defined by US Army FM 21-150 Combatives:

Hand-to-hand combat is an engagement between two or more persons in an empty-handed struggle or with handheld weapons such as knives, sticks, and rifles with bayonets. These fighting arts are essential military skills. Projectile weapons may be lost or broken, or they may fail to fire. When friendly and enemy forces become so intermingled that firearms and grenades are not practical, hand-to-hand combat skills become vital assets.

Military history Edit

Military organizations have always taught some sort of unarmed combat for conditioning and as a supplement to armed combat. Among the samurai of Japan, such combatives were known as Bujutsu (jujutsu, tantojutsu, bojutsu and so on). Like weapon arts such as kenjutsu, yarijutsu and naginatajutsu, these often were adapted in later stages to cultural or sport forms such as kyudo, judo, aikido or kendo.

Even through major technological changes such as the use of gunpowder in the Napoleonic wars, the machine gun in the Russo-Japanese War and the trench warfare of World War I, hand-to-hand fighting methods such as bayonet remained central to modern military training.

Sometimes called close combat, Close Quarters Combat, or CQC, contemporary American combatives was largely codified by William Ewart Fairbairn and Eric Anthony Sykes. Also known for their eponymous Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife, Fairbairn and Sykes had worked in the British armed forces and helped teach the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) [1] a quick, effective, and simple technique for fighting with or without weapons in melee situations. Similar training was provided to British Commandos, the Devil's Brigade, OSS, U.S. Army Rangers and Marine Raiders. Fairbairn at one point called this system Defendu and published on it, as did their American colleague Rex Applegate. Fairbairn often referred to the technique as "gutter fighting," a term which Applegate used, along with "the Fairbairn system." In practice, such military systems are the fruit of dozens and even hundreds of dedicated instructors and personnel, known and unknown.

Other combatives systems having their origins in the modern military include Chinese San Shou, Soviet Bojewoje(Combat) Sambo (martial art), and Israeli Krav Maga.

The prevalence and style of combatives training often changes based on perceived need, and even in times of peace, special forces and commando units tend to have a much higher emphasis on close combat than most personnel, as may embassy guards or paramilitary units such as police SWAT teams.

De-emphasized in the United States after World War II, insurgency conflicts such as the Vietnam War, low intensity conflict and urban warfare tend to encourage more attention to combatives. The general discipline of close-proximity fighting with weapons is often called Close Quarters Battle (CQB) at the platoon or squad level, or Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT) at higher tactical levels. The current Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) replaced the Marine Corps LINE combat system in 2002. The US Army adopted the Modern Army Combatives (MAC) program with the publishing of the 2002 field manual (FM 3-25.150), written by Matt Larsen. MAC draws from systems such as Brazilian Jiujitsu, Muay Thai and Kali which could be trained "live" and can be fully integrated into current Close Quarters Battle tactics and training methods.

Modern army combatives program (MAC)Edit

Template:Main article In 2001, Matt Larsen, then a sergeant first class, started the US Army Combatives School, located on Fort Benning. Students are taught techniques from the 2002 version of Field Manual 3-25.150 (Combatives), also written by Matt Larsen. The regimen focused on small, easily repeatable drills, in which practitioners could learn multiple related techniques rapidly.

For example, Drill one teaches several techniques: escaping blows, maintaining the mount, escaping the mount, maintaining the guard, passing the guard, assuming side control, maintaing side control, preventing and assuming the mount. The drill can be completed in less than a minute and can be done repeatedly with varying levels of resistance to maximize training benefits.

The Combatives School teaches four instructor certification courses. Students of the first course are not expected to have any knowledge of combatives upon arrival. They are taught fundamental techniques in a series of grappling drills. The basic techniques form a framework upon which the rest of the program can build and are taught as a series of drills, which can be performed as a part of daily physical training. While the course is heavy on grappling, it does not lose sight of the fact that it is a course designed for soldiers going into combat. It is made clear that while combatives can be used to kill or disable, the man that typically wins a hand-to-hand fight in combat is the one whose allies arrive with guns first.

Subsequent courses build upon the framework by adding throws and takedowns from wrestling and Judo, striking skills from boxing and Muay Thai, weapons fighting from Eskrima and the western martial arts, all of that combined with how to conduct scenario training, refereeing the various levels of Combatives competitions.

There are several reasons that the combatives course is taught:

  • To educate soldiers on how to protect themselves against threats without using their firearms
  • To provide a non-lethal response to situations on the battlefield
  • To instill the 'warrior instinct' to provide the necessary aggression to meet the enemy unflinchingly

Civilian instructors Edit

The very things which make combatives well-adapted for military training (simplicity, ease of use, modest physical demands) also make it suitable in many ways for civilian self-defense, and the world's military forces train thousands of combatives instructors every year. Frequently emphasizing their law-enforcement, corrections or military background, many combatives instructors also offer training to law enforcement agencies, the military, private individuals, security guards or companies. Regulated in the United States much as private tutors, health clubs, private gun shops or private security agencies, some combatives systems are expanding into other markets and niches worldwide.

Criticisms Edit

Combatives is frequently criticised by a variety of people for a number of reasons. Active soldiers or military personnel look down on civilian practitioners as posers or "wanna-bes" or assert that the modest techniques it introduces are inadequate for real-world battlefield conditions. Traditional martial artists may object to it for its acultural and amoral lack of any spiritual aspect for self-improvement. Other martial artists may object to the "bullshido" of macho marketing as "McDojo" chicanery, which preys on the gullible and insecure. Although a wide variety of people may have trained individual military units, usually these trainings are supplemental to standard military training, and this is not necessarily made clear to potential students, including commercial or law-enforcement agencies.

Books of interestEdit

  • Combatives : FM 3-25.150 Commercial reprint of 2002 US Army manual. ISBN 1-58160-448-3
  • Basic Field Manual: Unarmed Defense for the American Soldier. FM 21-150, War Department, June 1942.
  • Get Tough! by William E. Fairbairn, 1942. Details basic commando techniques. Reprint ISBN 0-87364-002-0
  • Kill or Get Killed by Rex Applegate, 1943, 1954, 1976. Widely redistributed within the USMC from 1991 as FMFRP 12-80. ISBN 0-87364-084-5
  • U.S. Army Hand-to-Hand Combat: FM 21-150, June 1954.
  • US Army FM 21-150, 1963.
  • Combatives Field Manual FM 21-150, 1971.
  • In Search of the Warrior Spirit: Teaching Awareness Disciplines to the Green Berets by Richard Strozzi-Heckler. 3rd edition ISBN 1-55643-425-1
  • FM 21-150 Combatives: Hand-to-Hand Combat, US Army field manual, September 1992. ISBN 1-58160-261-8
  • Fleet Marine Force Manual (FMFM) 0-7, Close Combat, USMC, July 1993.
  • Close Combat (MCRP 3-02B), USMC, February 1999. Commercial ISBN 1-58160-073-9

External linksEdit