TAG | combatives
In Martial arts and combatives, pt. 1 I mentioned some of the instructional stuff on combatives that’s out there.
A few weeks ago I rented a teaser DVD for the Defendo program, and right now I’m working my way through the Kevin O’Hagan’s Special Forces Close Combat System series I got through a used DVD sale from
I love the video age. Before videotapes if you didn’t have access to training in different arts and styles, you had to rely on books. There are good books out there, but they’re limited. The authors either had to go with lots of photos or drawings, and light on text, or fewer pics, which sacrifices continuity of technique.
Many of the books, such as those by Fairbairn and Dempsey, often show only the end or mid-point of a technique. How you get there is described in print, which doesn’t help much if you aren’t an experienced fighter.
And, in some of the classic stuff I cited in part 1, you get a curiously stiff and posed look in the photos. The line drawings in Fairbairn’s ‘Get Tough’ actually convey more of a sense of movement than the photos in ‘Defendu.‘
I think this has to do with the photographic technology of the time. Cameras then weren’t as good at taking action shots and required longer exposures. Which meant they had to hold a pose rather than capture an action shot. And the process for printing photos in books made the end product more expensive and often of poor quality.
It was worse in earlier times when illustrations were printed from woodcuts, though those illustrations were often marvelous. But there were very few of them in the fecthbuchen (manuals,) which is what makes recreating early European fighting arts from surviving manuals so dicey.
In the case of the Second World War-era manuals, I think they were writing for an audience of young men more prepared by their upbringing to learn from them.
Men grew up fighting then: on the playground, at work, on the streets and in bars. Brawling and recreational fisticuffs may have been considered kind of low-class, but it didn’t evoke the horror and calls for “intervention” that it does today. (Not to mention the legal consequences, both criminal and civil.)
What the manuals and training did was to teach “dirty tricks” and “low blows” that lethalized the brawling skills of recruits.
For anybody with boxing experience, this is fairly straightforward. Everyone who’s studied boxing as a sport has been taught the fouls and illegal moves. To weaponize boxing you start by practicing the fouls.
My point about this is, “combatives” teachers sometimes like to cop an attitude of “this isn’t martial arts, this is the real thing.” However, looking at these videos I see an awful lot of martial arts techniques. If you know something about bunkai (application) of traditional Karate kata for example, you see them in combatives DVDs: palm heel strickes, fist hammer, knife hand, ridge hand, and that rising outer forearm strike usually mis-called an “upward block.”
The difference is how they’re practiced. There’s something in the energy of the O’Hagan and the Defendo demonstrations that’s hard to describe, but you could call it intent. Though they’re pulling the blows, they actually look like they’re intending harm rather than trying to look good for an audience.
So what can you get out of them?
If you’re a practicing martial artist; application of techniques you’ve been taught but perhaps didn’t realize how to actualize, new ideas about how to chain them together, and a reminder of what martial arts is at base – a learned viciousness.
I say “learned” because though men are combative by nature, we are not lethally combative by nature. The so-called “animal” part of our nature is actually not geared to kill, but to fight for dominance. The “killer instinct” is that part of us which is specifically human.
What can you get out of these resources if you are not a skilled martial artist?
I don’t know. I haven’t been a beginner since I was a boy, and I’ve been pretty skilled for a while now. I’ve got some ideas though.
The goal of this kind of training is “maximum results in minimum time” as my friends at the International Police Defense Tactics Association put it.
But, police and military are teaching recruits they’ve already put through a lot of physical training. For civilians whose idea of PT is doing forearm curls with a beer stein…
Marc “Animal” MacYoung has some interesting things to say about “Dango Jiro Karate” (an inside joke, it means “Mulligan stew Karate” -or what my wife might call “bigos* Kung Fu”) but to my regret has not yet added this to his indispensible set of books and videos.
The goal for most of us is, 1) to have a system of self-defense relevant to our needs, 2) with a training regimen that doesn’t seriously screw with our lives, time and money-wise, and 3) has rewards beyond competence in self-defense (which we may never need,) and 4) teaches skills which can be maintained as part of a solo exercise regime.
Anything I missed? How about world peace and a cure for cancer?
Next: How this sedentary desk commando trains solo.
* Bigos is the national dish of Poland, a hunter’s stew made from saurkraut, mushrooms, kielbasa sausage, other meats, etc. It’s delicious and filling, take my word for it. But if you’re making it in an apartment, the whole building knows it…
I’ve written here about the study of one of my two primary martial arts styles Pekiti Tirsia Kali , and about the new fad for the study of “combatives” based on the training for soldiers and OSS operatives that evolved in the Second World War.
Pardon the length between posts on the subject. What I’ve been doing in my copious free time is reviewing classic and modern texts on military combatives, and modern videos on the subject. It’s a very limited subset of what’s out there, but I think I’ve go a representative enough sample.
One of the classics I was already familiar with from the well-equipped library on the Navy base I grew up around, such as Rex Applegate. I read Fairbairn’s Get Tough years ago, and recently read his more detailed
I got the set of DVDs from a used DVD sale at Goldstar Video Rentals, a treasure beyond price for serious martial artists wanting to research different approaches to the age-old philosophical problem of, “How do I get out of this $#!+?”
Another treasure for the serious martial arts researcher is SmartFlix. Go to both, there is a difference in emphasis in what they carry and not a lot of overlap. Rental fees are very reasonable, especially since you’re probably only interested in watching most of them once, and Goldstar has a buy option.
I should mention Nakayama and Draeger’s, ‘Practical Karate’ series. Though this is not “combatives” per se, it’s about the practical application of Japanese Karate with scenario-based illustrations.
Scenario-based training is something I’m going to develop further. If you’ll have a look here, you’ll find a kind of scenario-based training that is very intriguing, in a terrifying sort of way. I’ve trained a very little bit in Russian Systema and will have more to say about it.
An example of scenario training in Systema for a more likely scenarios can be found here.
Please note I am not trying to slight anyone by omission. There is a lot of interesting-looking product out there I simply do not have the cash to check out, or the time for that matter.
One warrior I’ve heard referenced with respect and awe is Geoff Thompson of the UK. I haven’t seen his videos or books, but I’m dying to.
When I win the lottery. First thing. Him and about a hundred other DVD sets.
Next: Martial arts and combatives, Part 2: What can you get out of it?