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Hand-to-hand combat sometimes abbreviated as HTH or H2H is a physical confrontation between two or more persons at very short range grappling distance, or within the physical reach of a handheld weapon that does not involve the use of ranged weapons.
Combat within close quarters to a range just beyond grappling distance is commonly termed close combat or close-quarters combat. It may include lethal and non-lethal weapons and methods depending upon the restrictions imposed by civilian law , military rules of engagement , or ethical codes.
Close combat using firearms or other distance weapons by military combatants at the tactical level is modernly referred to as close quarter battle. The United States Army uses the term combatives to describe various military fighting systems used in hand-to-hand combat training, systems which may incorporate eclectic techniques from several different martial arts and combat sports. Hand-to-hand combat is the most ancient form of fighting known.
A majority of cultures have their own particular histories related to close combat, and their own methods of practice. There are many varieties within the martial arts , including boxing and wrestling. Other variations include the gladiator spectacles of ancient Rome and medieval tournament events such as jousting.
Military organizations have always taught some sort of unarmed combat for conditioning and as a supplement to armed combat. Despite major technological changes such as the use of gunpowder, 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 common in modern military training, though the importance of formal training declined after By some German rifles were being produced without bayonet lugs.
Also known for their eponymous Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife , Fairbairn and Sykes had worked in the Shanghai Municipal Police of the International Settlement — of Shanghai in the s, widely acknowledged as the most dangerous port city in the world due to a heavy opium trade run by organized crime the Chinese Triads. CQC was derived from a mixture of judo , jujutsu , boxing , wrestling and street fighting. After the May Thirtieth Movement riots, which resulted in a police massacre, Fairbairn was charged with developing an auxiliary squad for riot control and aggressive policing.
After absorbing the most appropriate elements from a variety of martial-arts experts, from China, Japan and elsewhere, he condensed these arts into a practical combat system he called Defendu.
He and his police team went on to field-test these skills on the streets of Shanghai; Fairbairn himself used his combat system effectively in over documented encounters, including over lethal-force engagements.
It was also a system that, unlike traditional Eastern martial-arts that required years of intensive training, could be digested by recruits relatively quickly. The method incorporated training in point shooting and gun combat techniques, as well as the effective use of more ad hoc weapons such as chairs or table legs. During the Second World War , Fairbairn was brought back to Britain, and, after demonstrating the effectiveness of his techniques, was recruited to train the British commandos in his combat method.
This became standard combat training for all British Special Operations personnel. He also designed the pioneering Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife , which was adopted for use by British and American Special Forces.
In , he published a textbook for close quarters combat training called Get Tough. Army officers Rex Applegate and Anthony Biddle were taught Fairbairn's methods at a training facility in Scotland , and adopted the program for the training of OSS operatives at a newly opened camp near Lake Ontario in Canada.
Applegate published his work in , called Kill or Get Killed. Army Rangers and Marine Raiders. The prevalence and style of hand-to-hand combat training often changes based on perceived need.
Elite units such as special forces and commando units tend to place higher emphasis on hand-to-hand combat training. Although hand-to-hand fighting was accorded less importance in major militaries after World War II , insurgency conflicts such as the Vietnam War , low intensity conflict and urban warfare have prompted many armies to pay more attention to this form of combat.
Hand-to-hand combat is the principal form of combat during skirmishes between Indian Army and Chinese People's Liberation Army soldiers along the disputed Himalayan border between India and the People's Republic of China. While Chinese and Indian soldiers carry firearms, due to decades of tradition designed to reduce the possibility of an escalation, agreements disallow usage of firearms along this border. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
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Today, you still see these ads, though the names and faces of the instructors have changed. As to what I am saying:. To the average citizen, the military is an impressive and sometimes even frightening organization. Soldiers are looked upon as awe-inspiring or frightening, especially combat hardened vets. Of all soldiers, the special branches are the scariest ones. So if you want to sell a combat system, it sounds so much better to claim it comes from such an elite unit than from the program taught to basic grunts.
Commercially speaking, claiming your system is taught to these units or comes form them makes perfect sense. To the best of my knowledge, special units like those mentioned above never divulge operational procedures. These are typically classified information because otherwise every mission would be easily compromised by the enemy. So why on earth would they allow somebody to teach the entire curriculum of their hand-to-hand combat system to the public at large?
Sure, when asked they might answer certain questions about certain topics but giving you an entire, detailed handbook on how they perform combatives during missions? I doubt it. Nor can they divulge details of their missions as these are also classified. So why would they let civilians and in this age of information being readily available worldwide the second it hits the internet therefor also their enemies, know all the details of how they fight?
The only thing I do see making sense is teaching declassified systems. Systems that were used once upon a time by these units but are no longer current practice. Or they are the systems somebody taught to such units as a guest instructor, which they then modified to suit their operational needs.
In either case, what is commercially available is not by default exactly what those units are doing now. I could be wrong about this, I readily admit that.
As an aside, I find it hilarious that so many practitioners of modern combatives systems are extremely critical of traditional martial arts and their emphasis on lineage. I find it funny that those very same people then feel the need to claim special forces units as their own lineage, as if that increases their skills in any way. But I digress…. Military hand-to-hand combat systems in action. There is no doubt that members of military special units kick ass and take names.
No doubt at all because they have proven just that for hundreds of years. The underlying attraction of the hand-to-hand systems they practice is rooted in that fact. But does that mean they are the best hand-to-hand fighters in the world? If you look at the total amount of training hours for instance the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program requires to reach their black belt level, you end up with about hours. A while ago, I asked a bunch of former and active military personnel how many hours they trained hand-to-hand combat during their service.
In all fairness, some of the feedback I got was about how soldiers train on their own in both combatives as well as shooting. But actual scheduled training time?
Without exception, the total number of hours was extremely low. For some, there was only a few hours of annual training. Others had weekly training but only a couple hours. For pretty much all of them, the training of other skills took up way, way more time. It was generally looked down upon in the office for Officers to participate in things like combatives.
In other words: even in this specialized part of basic training was next to no room for hand-to-hand combat. I guess it was two or three hours out of three months with little sleep. And finally, a quote from perhaps one of the deadliest soldiers I know. Somebody who will remain anonymous for obvious reasons:.
The image of an elite soldier spending all his time doing hardcore combatives is just wrong, no matter how much the ads want to make you believe it. Like I said above, other training and duties take up most of the time. About 30m per day on weapons maintenance, manipulation and dry fire; with hours per week live fire mostly done at my own expense… PT is about 2 hours per day, split into 1 hour sessions, 3 on 1 off 2 on one off.
So why on earth would anyone consider him a hand-to-hand-combat specialist? He specializes in being an insanely effective and deadly professional soldier. Hand-to-hand combat systems are only a very small part of that job description. But primarily because of his mind-set, experience and professionalism. Not because the combatives techniques he learned in the military are superior to all other systems. The reasoning is that if these techniques are used in gruesome missions during a war, then they must be the best thing since sliced bread for self-defense.
First up, context. The context in which these techniques are applicable are completely different from your daily life: military operations have rules of engagement and operational parameters that vary from one mission to the next. A civilian self-defense situation however has to be resolved following the law.
Look up the self-defense laws of your own country for the details, but civilian law is generally pretty clear in that you need specific components to be present before you can use lethal force or any force at all for that matter. A soldier has to complete his mission, whatever the objectives may be. But as a civilian, this is usually the best option for you as far as the law is concerned: if you have a means to escape, you should use it.
If your mission as a civilian escape and be safe is not the same as that Seal take out the target , then why would you use the exact same tools? Second is teamwork. A while ago another friend of mine former special forces and extremely experienced soldier made a bunch of people arguing about self-defense go quiet.
Unlike you as a civilian, soldiers do not go out by their lonesome selves to kill enemies; they go as a team. This means their entire mindset is completely different from a civilian like you or me who has to defend himself with a force of only one. Their techniques and tactics reflect that. Soldiers do not use hand-to-hand combat techniques unless they absolutely have to. If they do; it usually means they either fucked up or something went wrong.
Some examples:. In all of the above scenarios, something happened that prevented them from using their tool of choice: a high-performance firearm. So why would they choose a tool hand-to-hand combat techniques that offers inferior performance and reliability over another firearms that is readily available to them?
But when exactly does a civilian need for instance sentry removal techniques for self-defense? When you read those book and video advertisements, the ad copy suggest you get the authentic combat system as taught to that particular elite unit.
If you think about it in light of what I wrote here above, that should strike you as strange. Why would a civilian learn techniques that were never meant to be used outside of a military context?
To illustrate this context, take a look a this video featuring W. Fairbairn , who is one of the fathers of modern combatives.
As a civilian, you are only allowed to use lethal force under very specific circumstances, as I explained above. If your first instinct in a self-defense situation is to cripple or kill your aggressor, get ready to spend time in jail. Would military hand-to-hand combat systems be useful then?
Yes they would, they work real well for that. Because the vast majority of self-defense situations do not require lethal force. Lethal force is not justified in those cases, so using it would be murder. Which is exactly what those combatives techniques are for, remember? Many but not all instructors do realize this and water down what they teach. Some do so because they understand the difference between civilian and military contexts.
The most effective techniques are taken out or are changed to make them less lethal, adapting them to civilian needs. Then the curriculum is spread out over time to make sure you come back for more.
But are you still learning an authentic military combatives system? Another aspect of this is how the military sometimes uses outside experts for its training needs. These experts have certain skills the military finds interesting and valuable so they get invited to teach those special units. So in a literal sense, that expert can then claim his system is used by that elite unit.
Other experts get invited too and can make the same claim, so which system is that elite unit using then during its missions? Probably a blend of all the pieces they liked and tested, along with modifications they figured out themselves.
Let me repeat that I have absolutely nothing against military hand-to-hand combat systems. They are great and work impressively well for their intended goal.
It just strikes me as wrong to think these systems can be transposed from a war zone into daily civilian life without problems. Combative techniques and systems are tools. Tools that need to be used appropriately, which is exactly what elite soldiers do: they prepare their missions extensively and select the tools they need for the job. You could do worse than follow their lead and ask yourself these two questions another highly trained professional friend of mine would suggest you ponder:.
My answer: a mix of awareness, avoidance, evasion, de-escalation, non-lethal techniques and a small fraction of lethal ones. Do not abandon the mission, even if you have the coolest tools to do so. Military combatives systems are cool tools. They absolutely work to take out an attacker.