Research Paper: History of the Modern Army Combatives Program

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History Of the Modern Army Combatives Program


Hand-to-Hand Combat

This is a deadly or non-deadly physical encounter between two or more persons at grappling distance without the use of weapons (U.S. Army Combatives, 2012). It refers mainly to military engagements in battle but it alternately applies to un-armed physical fight between two or more persons, such as police officers and civilians. It is called close combat when engaged beyond grappling distance and close quarter battle when firearms or other distance weapons used by military participants are involved. Combatives are military martial art combat systems applied to hand-to-hand combat training (U.S. Army Combatives).


Hand-to-hand combat is the most ancient form of confrontation in human history (U.S. Army Combatives, 2012). Each culture had its own form or method, such as boxing, wrestling, and gladiator tournaments, and jousting, in ancient Rome and the Middle Ages. Chinese soldiers trained in this type of encounter as early as during the reign of the Zhou Dynasty from 1022 -- 256 BC. It remained part of military training despite technological advancements, such as the gunpowder, the machine gun during the Russian-Japanese War, and the trench warfare of World War I. William Ewart Fairbarn and Eric Anthony Sykes were the first to codify American combatives. They helped teach police officers and the marines a quick and simple but effective hand-to-hand combat for melee situations. Fairbairn called it the Defendu system. He eventually revised this into a method of "quick kill" hand-to-hand combat training, which he called "gutter fighting."

Rex Applegate, a U.S. military close combat instructor, later adopted and expanded it for teaching to U.S. military and paramilitary forces. The British Commandoes, the Devil's Brigade, OSS, U.S. Army Rangers, and Marine Raiders provided similar training. Applegate discussed the new training in his book, "Kill or Get Killed (U.S. Army Combatives)."

Body: The History of Modern Army Combatives Program

An order to re-energize martial arts training in 1995 revealed the need for a more effective program (National Guard, 2011; Blanton, 2008; Curtez, 2012). In response, Commander formed a committee to develop a replacement. He put SSG Matt Larsen to head the committee. In reviewing successful programs all over the world, this committee found that countries with indigenous national combative programs were more successful. Among these are Korea with Tae Kwon Do, Japan with Judo and Thailand with Muay Thai. Russia was not in the list because of its untrained population but its SOMBO system had great promise, as it was tailor-made for the Military. The committee took interest in this Russian system because of its Judo and Greco-Roman wrestling foundation. It saw the SOMBO as similar to wresting and easier to learn, more flexible to size and strength, and with a component that allowed further training. On the whole, the committee decided that the new system they were looking for… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

History of the Modern Army Combatives Program.  (2012, July 15).  Retrieved September 20, 2019, from

MLA Format

"History of the Modern Army Combatives Program."  15 July 2012.  Web.  20 September 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"History of the Modern Army Combatives Program."  July 15, 2012.  Accessed September 20, 2019.