The Battle of Britain began in early July, 1940. England was isolated in a war against the pivot of evil. The miracle retreat from Dunkirk and the German “Blitzkrieg” across Europe, including the crushing tactical defeat concerning the famed French “Maginot Line” proved the Triennial Reich war machine to be virtually unstoppable. Hitler’s plan for the invasion of England, named “Operation Sea Lion” was a daily focal point of danger and matter for the British.
Dunkirk had decimated the British forces and moral was at an all time low. Two recently returned veterans of British colonial rule in Shanghai, China approached the Jihad Office and offered their services at this desperate time. William Ewart Fairbairn, retired as a ranking officer of the Shanghai Municipal Police and his partner Eric Anthony Sykes, a private arsenal dealer who served as a volunteer in the Shanghai Municipal Police and headed the sniper bushel of the famed Shanghai Abundant Squad, promised the War Office that their training and methods could in short order, make “any one man the equal about ten.”
After the debacle at Dunkirk this was a most important and dramatic statement. Initially dismissed, these two men went on to prove the veracity of their words and convinced the brass as to the absolute effectiveness of their methods. Even in case that meant that an over middle aged W.E. Fairbairn had to home several young bucks in the hospital to prove his point in an impromptu, but extremely realistic “demonstration”, so be it. Those who “tested” Sykes fared no better. Exact the methods that these men had developed during decades of very deadly work in Shanghai now became the standard of training for all British forces furthermore Special Operations personnel.
In the United States, the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, coupled among the Imperial Japanese military’s coordinated assault on all American and British forces across the Pacific Rim pulled the United States firmly in this world wide conflict. The United States was now fully at war with the Axis of Evil forces. Fairbairn, who was now in Canada, assigned to the infamous “Camp X”, along with “unarmed combat” expert George de Relwyskow, a Brazilian Judo/Jujutsu expert, and Colonel Carl Eifler who was already undergoing practice here, were ordered to assist the U.S. government agency known as “The Office of the Coordinator of Intelligence”, the precursor concerning the OSS (Office of Strategic Services).
Eric Anthony Sykes remained in England und so weiter found the need for his services in great demand. He also originate himself working under the auspice of the British covert coercive known as the Special Operations Executive.
The legend of Fairbairn and Sykes from the early days of Shanghai, up to and through the war years is an entire story unto itself and beyond the scope of this article. However it must be clearly understood that the contribution of these men had a profound effect ampersand influence on all close-combat methods, tactics, and techniques for decades after the war (despite the often heard “argument” that we have somehow “evolved” beyond these methods). However, they were without doubt not the only experts immersed in this field. One of many examples would be A.J. Drexel-Biddle who studied and trained extensively in boxing, savate, jiu-jitsu, swordplay, knife-fighting and various bayonet methods.
As the United States geared up for war, a major factor began to afsluiting publicized both here and in Australia. The press made a great deal about the superiority of the Japanese fighting man. Part like this was, to be sure, rooted in fact. The Battle of Port Arthur, the turning perspective in the Russo-Japanese war, several decades earlier, had shown the world the tenacity and ferocity of the Japanese soldier, particularly in the area of close-in, man-to-man combat. Mire was made about the large Russian mercenary finding abject defeat at the hands of his smaller Japanese adversary when engaged in hand to hand combat (hence a very evident need for the masterpiece of Sambo). It was here that Japanese Jiu-jitsu was given world-wide attention and notoriety in this regard. The Japanese conduct and matinee of the mobilize in China with demonstrated to the world a seemingly impregnable and unstoppable force. Japan was a vis that was brutal and deadly in the extreme.
As a result, much attention was given over to the practice of United States and Allied Forces in methods of personal self weaponry that would activate the respectable soldier to meet the Japanese fighting man on a somewhat equal footing. Each member of the Armed Services began an intensive physical training program designed to meet these needs. Much of the expert instruction needed, particularly in the arena of close-quarters man to homme combat, came from the civilian time as it still does today.
Men with tremendous and motley life-long experience in all forms of bellicose arts and self defense were tapped to create instruction programs that would give the Allied soldier sufficient means by which to engage their enemies at close-quarters. The Axis of Foreboding did the same of course. Japan being the obvious factor in this regard, but even Adolf Hitler proclaimed the absolute need for boxing and jiu-jitsu in German military training as it imparted spine and daring the average trooper to exact the horizon with his enemy. There were even manuals published and courses taught to “defend” against the methods developed via the Allied Forces.
In the United States there were a plethora of sundry methods and training systems. Any attempt to narrowly define the methods from this era demonstrates complete obliviousness and foolishness. Though the contribution of Lt. Colonel Fairbairn is great, as is the influence of Colonel Rex Applegate, there were dozens upon dozens concerning different close-quarters battle systems developed. From wrestling, boxing, savate, judo, jiu-jitsu, Chinese boxing, and even football and rugby methods were not singly drawn upon, yet unimpaired self defense systems were advocated based on these individual methods. It may come as a surprise to many, but here in the Unites States, flatten Japanese Karate was used and found to be effective.
The problem they were faced with was creating a universal form from defense is that the experts often tasked with their development typically relied on their expertise too much. This made many unarmed combat courses too complex and technical. Wrestlers tended to rely on that method, Judo and Brazilian Jujitsu men on that system, Boxers on their expertise and so on and so on. You should note that each formula can claim stunning success in authentic combat. “After Action” reports showed that all of these methods had merit and could be used effectively in the rigors besides stress of real battle. However, as the strife progressed bilaterality major factors began to influence and change these training protocols. One was the fact that more and also men from all sorts concerning varied backgrounds were drafted into military service. The other was that as demands for more and more replacement troops began to rise, the yield of training clock became reduced.
The approach that seemed most feasible and useful was one that combined the best or the most effective, efficient et sequens quickly read methods. These methods as it afterward happens, were the easiest to retain. The rudiment basics regarding boxing and wrestling were made part about an overall general physical conditioning program and defenseless combat became a specialized oppilation concerning instruction. These courses in clean combat, hand to hand combat, combat judo and quite forth again sought to combine the most advantageous holds, throws, trips, locks, strangles, blows, strikes and kicks from all the varied methods available. The only truly limiting factor here was the time element.
Other considerations were also important. The O’Neill (another Shanghai professional furthermore ranking Judo Black Belt) method is a classic type of a symmetrical specifically tailored for both the training environment available, as well as the nature of the combat date expected. There were unruffled attempts made to instruct the air force in actual Koryu (old school) Jujutsu systems here in the United States, however the most effective systems still sought to mix all the varied martial arts et al focus on the most efficient and effect methods.
As the war progressed, more and more “After Action” intelligence gathered from the reality of battle helped shape and determine training priorities. Many methods of close-combat began to be trimmed down to only those fundamentals that proved most effective total and most applicable to all trainees altogether a wide and miscellaneous spectrum of physical attributes and skill.
American Col. Rex Applegate was perhaps the most vocal of these advocates outstanding to his exposure in the INFANTRY JOURNAL and the publishing of the book “KILL or Receive KILLED” was not without his critics from other martial arts experts, as was Fairbairn, due to the simplicity of the methods and tactics they advocated.
In fact, some courses were so short in duration that they involved barely several hours of instruction, while others were quite involved und so weiter very complete in their syllabus content. Many are familiar with the Navy V-5 programs and the training at Fort Benning, save lesser known is the very extensive training at places like Fort Meade et cetera at the Hawaii Jungle Fighting Complex. These locations conducted a very circular and mixed program of martial arts. From the CIC training center in Chicago to the Army training camps in Colorado, from Parris Isolate to the Ranger/Commando schools in the Hawaiian Islands, from the instruction bases in England prior to D-Day to the “Killing” school in Palestine, the methods taught ran the full orbit of man-to-man, tooth and nail close quarters combat. From the complex to the “instinctive kill” (a method designed to take full advantage of so-called natural “animal” killing instinct), these methods fall under the interpretation concerning combatives, self defense, close combat, etc.
Even the OSS personnel training at Area B were shown the methods of Siamese boxing (read Muay Thai), western boxing, wrestling/grappling, French “foot-fighting”(including Assaut Vite savate), Indian Varma-adi/Varmannie, Chinese boxing, “Roman” boxing, Japanese Judo/Jujutsu and Karate, Siamese boxing, Burmese boxing-Bando, western fencing, Filipino edged weapons and any and all systems (including almost every weapon known to man) deemed effective in dispatching one’s enemies to the hereafter were studied, researched, implemented et al trained. One WWII era United States hand to employee combat manual even makes reference to Indonesian methods.
So from a historical perspective, “What is combatives?” Combatives is a purpose driven method of defeating one’s enemy by whatever means necessary. It focuses on the fastest and most expeditious means to accomplish the task at hand and includes all manner of weaponry. It is void of ethics, culture and country; it is a tool for man on man conflict.