ENHANCED CLOSE QUARTERS COMBAT FOR SELF-DEFENSE
by Ari Kandel
Left to Right: Eric A. Sykes, William E. Fairbairn, Rex Applegate
In pre-World War II Shanghai, then an internationally controlled beacon of commerce, culture clash and criminality, a British officer of the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) named William Fairbairn saw a need to drastically improve the training given to those tasked with bringing order to deadly chaos.
The organized criminal gangs of Shanghai brought massive commitment, discipline, manpower and firepower to bear in their all-out war against the forces of law and order. Along with other men such as Dermot O'Neill and Eric Sykes, Fairbairn examined the actual extensive experience of himself and other SMP personnel (for Fairbairn alone, personal involvement in over 600 deadly encounters) in formulating new training plans. They did not base their ideas on theory, tradition or the results of unrealistic "tests" or sporting competitions. Fairbairn and O'Neill were, in fact, among the first Caucasian black belts in Judo and had extensive experience in other Eastern and Western martial arts and sports (e.g. target shooting, wrestling, boxing, fencing, etc.).
Survival Self-defense for Average People
However, when it came to devising training that would allow their officers to survive at close quarters against some of the most brutal criminals in history, they did not let any pride in their sporting prowess cloud their judgment. Their primary teacher was real lethal violence, what really happens when men go at each other for keeps. Ambushes, gang attacks and handheld weapons on urban streets, alleys and rooftops were the norm, not duels or matches in clean environments.
Further, the training methods had to account for what normal people--not supermen, stone killers or top athletes--naturally do under the stress and fear of lethal assault. And, the training had to work NOW. It had to increase the survivability of officers already on the job and encountering potentially lethal situations on an almost daily basis. It couldn't be a year-long, full-time program designed to "peak" the trainee's performance in time for a planned match.
The Absolute Essentials for Close Combat
Over time, Fairbairn and his contemporaries honed and refined (not padded or expanded, but pared down) their training programs based on observed results in the field. When World War II began, these men were called on to lend their expertise to the Allied war effort. Rex Applegate carried on Fairbairn's work in the U.S. They optimized and further refined their programs to meet the needs of spies, special forces and shock troops. Compliance holds and arrest methods, necessary for police work but seldom needed in total war, were largely dropped from the syllabi. What emerged were the most simple, quick and efficient close combat survival training programs in history. They would eventually become collectively known as "World War II Combatives" or "Close Combat".
Several glaring differences separated these programs from conventional martial arts and sports:
- The WWII methods were all about attack--what Bradley Steiner later summarized as "ATTACK THE ATTACKER." No specific "defenses" against specific attack methods were emphasized. Instead, a ruthless, reflexive, determined attacking mindset was inculcated in the trainee, through various effective training methods (e.g. Fairbain's "Mad Minute" drill using six or more heavy hanging man dummies). The idea was to DISABLE and KILL THE ENEMY as quickly as possible, regardless of what he did or might be about to do. The real-life experiences of the SMP officers (even those well trained in various martial arts) showed that this strategy offered the best odds of survival versus trying to learn and execute "defenses" against attacks.
- A small, simple set of easily executed (even under severe stress) and lethally effective physical methods was taught with which the trainee was to carry through his all-out attack. These included a crouched combat stance, as humans naturally duck when shooting starts; stomping footwork to keep the trainee upright on any terrain; simple point shooting methods with pistol, submachine gun, carbine and rifle emphasizing speed, target focus and movement; fighting and assassination methods using the knife, bludgeon, garrote and other purpose-built and improvised implements; and chops, palm strikes, elbow smashes, knee strikes, stomps and all manner of "foul" methods such as eye gouging and biting, applied to the most vulnerable targets of the human body (accounting for the likely uniforms and protective gear the specific trainees would likely be wearing and facing). Overall strategies and movements were kept consistent across the full spectrum of weaponry, from firearms to improvised weapons to bare hands.
- Trickery, subterfuge, surprise and ambush were emphasized, particularly for the trainees who would be going undercover. Ruthless determination, versatility and vehemence were the order of the day for the shock troops who might find themselves in the middle of a lethal close quarters melee in the jungles of the Pacific theater of operations.
Spectacular Success Under Fire
These training programs were spectacularly successful, as after-action reports from the resistance underworld of occupied France to the jungles of the Pacific underscored. Undercover operatives on the verge of discovery were able to turn the tables on their enemies to avoid capture. Under-armed resistance raiding parties were able to take down enemy headquarters with lethal speed and stealth. Allied recruits routinely bested their hardened, veteran foes in nose-to-nose combat. The training programs, methods and principles developed by Fairbairn and his contemporaries helped to create confident, attack-minded soldiers and operatives whose survivability was drastically increased thanks to the mindset and easily retained methods they learned. Tests of surviving veterans administered decades after the war showed that they had nearly perfectly retained the combative skills they had learned so long ago, thanks to the training methods used and the effective simplicity of the teachings.
More Training Time Means Making Great Methods Better
When your or a loved one's life is threatened by criminal violence, the situation is far more akin to total war than it is to a martial arts class or competition. Logically, then, in order to increase your survivability against criminal violence, you should train in the methods proven to be successful against the worst criminals and in total war, adapted slightly to accommodate the exact situation of a modern non-sworn citizen.
Whereas a police officer or soldier must seek out and engage trouble, a non-sworn citizen wants to avoid trouble and disengage from it as quickly as possible. Crime prevention awareness and avoidance strategies and methods must therefore be taught as a precursor to the combative aspect that will be called upon if all else fails. Also, the average citizen usually has the luxury of more time to dedicate to "polishing" his or her training than did the World War II era recruits going overseas or the SMP officers already in the midst of criminal gang wars. The best use of this additional training opportunity is to add dynamic balance, adaptive footwork and close-in striking power principles to the simple close combat training. Usually associated with more advanced and esoteric "internal" martial arts such as Tai Chi, these additional principles do not add any complexity or additional technique to the optimally simple close combat paradigm. Instead, they can potentially increase greatly the trainee's ability to execute the simple close combat movements effectively under chaotic conditions, regardless of size, strength or athletic prowess.
These fighting "enhancements" can be added not only by modifying the original close combat techniques slightly to make them more adaptable to chaos, but also by adding new drills and exercises. To increase balance under stress during the chaos of extreme violence, a regimen of exercising proprioception and core stabilizing muscles is essential. In addition, a way of delivering strikes at close range with full power from chaotic foot positions without winding up or "chambering" can save your life when nose-to-nose with a vicious criminal.
Many years of Tai Chi training can develop this but since the goal is to become as effective as possible in as short a period of time as possible (in keeping with close combat's original intent) there are ways of compressing and distilling out these "internal" attributes, such as in Guided Chaos Combatives (GCC). They also serve as a springboard into additional training should the trainee eventually decide to make effective training a lifetime endeavor with the full martial art of Guided Chaos, above and beyond the purpose-driven, short-term efficiency of the GCC program.