During WWII the arts of personal close combat reached a pinnacle in practical evolution. Necessity pressed those on the allied side to produce the toughest and most workable doctrine for their fighting forces.
Most likely the reader knows the names of the key figures of that time: W.E. Fairbairn, Eric A. Sykes, Dermot (“Pat”) O’Neill, Anthony Biddle, Rex Applegate, Moshe Feldenkrais, and a few others. These men were among the few caucasions at that time in history who were expert in the art of ju-jutsu, and to a degree in some instances (i.e. that of Fairbairn and O’Neill) karate-type arts, as well.
These men worked to evolve uniquely Westernized approaches to no-nonsense personal combat. Some, like Wesley Brown, Joseph Begala, and Micky Wood were wrestling—or conventional boxing—adepts.
One of the boxers, (a U.S. soldier) beat a Japanese officer who was a black belt in judo/jujutsu. As reported in the Reader’s Digest article “Yank Meets Jap In Fight To Finish,” it was described how Western boxing in this instance prevailed over what many then foolishly regarded as the “unbeatable art of judo.”
The WWII methods, of course, went far beyond wrestling, boxing, judo/ ju-jutsu, and even karate. They extracted the essence of do or die personal combatives doctrine and packaged it for soldiers, sailors, marines, flyers, and secret agents.
They left us a body of technical doctrine that to this day remains the most vicious and practical for no-nonsense, real world application. But no less important than the technical doctrine the WWII masters left us, they left us principles by which the body of skills they introduced could be enhanced and expanded upon.
Today, those studying “martial arts” in peacetime have enormous amounts of time to evolve and perfect their art; therefore the wartime limitation of, say, six to at the most perhaps 35-40 hours of training need have no influence over how modern combatives students apporach their training.
The following represent the core foundational principles that underlie the best of the WWII systems. Adhered to scrupulously, dedicated students of the martial arts will be able to build upon what the past has given them through these principles, and further evolve modern, effective close combat methods.
We did this with American Combato back in the 1970’s. A few clowns have since copied us and, by adding doctrine that was specifically not taught by the WWII trainers and that violated their war-proven principles of combative doctrine, actually produced watered-down foolishness.
But those serious devotees who possess extensive backgrounds in the martial arts can use the following to draw from their previous experience and training that which meets scrupulously the war-proven standards of the 1940s’ methods.
Principle 1: Offense Is Key. Defense Is A Distant Second.
We teach it this way: Defense ought properly to be your end purpose; but offense must be your means.
Combat is not won by avoiding getting injured. It is won by inflicting injury upon the enemy. In fact the best way to avoid being injured in combat is to knock out, maim, or kill the enemy—before he does that to you.
Politically unpopular if not entirely incorrect to say in today’s softened social milieu, but THE TRUTH.
Principle 2: The Simplest, Most Versatile, Easily-Learned, Readily Retained, Optimally Destructive Techniques Must Be Hand-Picked From Every Known Method of Close Combat.
There is no exclusivity or clannishness in the selection of techniques and tactics. We take them from wherever we find them. In the case of American Combato we even researched methods used by violent incarcerated felons.
If it meets muster, we use it!
Long, long before the sport of MMA came on the scene, and it was considered “mixing martial arts” to include grappling with hitting, the WWII teachers brought real mixed martial arts (i.e. MARTIAL martial arts!) to reality.
“If it worked, we used it,” the late Col. Rex Applegate told us. He was one of our greatest mentors. We do not use techniques or tactics in order to win matches.
Principle 3: Blows Of The Hands And Feet, And All Known Foul, Underhanded, Unsporting, “Dirty” Tactics And Techniques Are Included, And Given The Heaviest Possible Emphasis, Along With Attack Mindedness.
Actual combat proved the above to be fact, and no amount of popular commercial or sporting nonsense, propaganda, rhetoric, or bullshit can or ever will make a dent in this truth.
Ignore it at your peril.
Biting, eye gouging, ear-tearing, nostril and mouth ripping, spitting, and dirt-throwing… all combine beautifully with the war-proven open hand blows, elbow smashes, head butts, knee attacks, kicks, eyes jabs, and every conceivable filthy trick imaginable to comprise the core curriculum of realistic, practical close combat/self-defense.
Principle 4: Very Fundamental Throws And Strangulation Holds Supplement The Material Described in #3, Above.
Fighting on the ground is to be avoided, not embraced as some unfortunately duped followers of a current fad have come to believe.
You learn to throw your enemy violently to the deck, and finish the job with your feet, with knee drops, and with downward hand strikes. You learn to strangle him. You learn to stay on your feet.
Defenses from the ground are taught, as well as what to do in the event you end up going to the ground inadvertently; BUT YOU NEVER EMPLOY GROUND FIGHTING DELIBERATELY, BY CHOICE! Stay on your feet!
Principle 5: No Sporting Or Competition Element.
No Belts, Grades, Ranks, Medals, Titles, or Awards Combat methods must use and conduct training in techniques solely intended to knockout, maim, kill, or control by potentially injurious means (for police). There can be no watering down or altering methods for safety sake.
For safety all blows are practiced against insentient training aids, and whenever anything is practiced with live partners, blows and related actions are NOT carried through to conclusion, but are controlled.
We do make a very small adjustment here. We do have and use a belt ranking system, since American Combato offers a very extensive and comprehensive long-term study for those who want it.
Our training, experience, and background is such that we have brought together just about everything that works in close combat, of a practical and proven nature from any source. Thus, while American Combato has far fewer techniques than some of the classical martial arts, it contains a sufficient number to justify a grading or ranking method for long-term students.
No student is required to wear any specific uniform or belt to class, however. It is understood by professionals that if anything is safe enough to be practiced in a competitive, sporting venue, it is unsuitable for serious combat. And that which is suitable for serious combat must not be played with in any competitive manner.
Principle 6: The Need For And Value Of Strength, Fitness, And Good Physical Condition Must Be Recognized.
These factors make all combat skills optimally effective, and in addition contribute to the individual trainee’s self-confidence and poise.
Physical training commensurate with the age, health, present level of fitness and strength, and possibly the professional need for combative capabilities based upon occupation, etc., of the trainee must be addressed along with technical skills development.
Principle 7: Personal Modern Weapons Constitute An Essential, Integral Part Of A Realistic Curriculum.
The stick, knife, handgun, shotgun, carbine, battle rifle, tomahawk, and improvised expedient weapons-at-hand all are part and parcel of a complete, professional program in close combat and self-defense.
Principle 8: Constant Discrediting Of That Which Is Mythical, False, Absurd, And Untrue About Various Combat Systems, And Regarding Combat Itself Must Be Part Of The Program.
Why this is necessary today should be obvious. Martial arts have become a worldwide phenomenon and multi-billiondollar industry. But as the old saying goes: “All that glitters is not gold”.
Principle 9: Mental Conditioning For Combat, Self-Defense, And Survival Must be Addressed Repeatedly And Very Specifically.
Without conditioning in this regard a person’s genuine readiness to employ that which has been taught is questionable. And quality training in realworld combatives must leave nothing to question; there is too much at stake.
While there never can be any guarantees of success or victory, there certainly can be the assurance that every possible step will be taken in training to see that the individual is as ready as training can make him!
The combat arts trainee whose purpose is self-defense must acquire the proper attitude and mindset so that it becomes a part of him, and is always there, ready to call every ounce of his skill and ability into play. We like that famous U.S. Marine Corps sign at Parris Island: Let no man’s ghost say, “If only your training program had done its job.”
We owe the venerable WWII masters of close combat an enormous debt for providing us the keys to insuring that our own training, and that the training of others WILL INDEED do its job, as we carry on the priceless methods that they taught, and as we utilize the principles that validated those methods to that which we choose to adopt and include in our training in order to further and enhance our present-day studies.