Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Martial Arts research: part 3, Combatives and Martial Arts

I went over something of the history and origin of combatives training in parts 1 and 2.

Modern combatives originated from the necessity of teaching military recruits something useful of close quarters combat in a minimal amount of time.

What happened most often was, a skilled martial artist would pick a small number of his favorite techniques from a number of systems, judged to be effective in the most common situations for the circumstances he was training them for.

For an example, see here: http://www.amazon.com/Dirty-Dozen-Techniques-Self-Defense-Situation/dp/1581603177/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1225551295&sr=1-2

Of course, when you have recruits who, by circumstance or choice, are going to be in the military for a long time, it's natural to want to extend and deepen the training with more techniques.

At some point after adding a whole lot of techniques, what you have is another martial art.

That's what some of Fairbairn's diciples have done, see: http://www.defendo.com/

And lately, you have had militaries deliberately setting out to design a new martial art from the ground up. See: Tongkut Moosul, Krav Maga, Haganah, KAPAP and Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP).

You'll notice that three out of five on that list, come from Israel.

This should not surprise anyone, Israel was and is, one of the primary battlegrounds of "asymetric warfare,"(1) which is the most significant driver of modern martial arts development.(2)

This was necessary because formal martial arts had too often become either
sports (3), classical combat forms preserved as traditional cultural practices (4), or physical exercise to promote spiritual development (5).

Militaries, and law enforcement, had to return to the roots of martial arts to find the combat effectiveness that had been lost.

This they did by turning to older forms of sport martial arts (6), and by looking to parts of the world where men still fought seriously, such as the streets of Hong Kong and Taipei, and the jungles and villages of the Philippines.

In sum: combatives is not a new development, it is martial arts returning to their source and orignal purpose.

Next: Old is new again.

(1) Asymetric warfare, to put it bluntly, is when you have to power to exterminate your enemy, and won't.

This kind of delicacy is relatively new to history, and pretty exclusively western.

Ghengis Khan used extermination of whole cities which refused to yield, or violated Mongol customs by killing envoys*, as a matter of policy.

Democratic Athens did it once during the Peloponesian War at Melos, and almost immediately regretted it.**

Subduing enemies who hide among civilians, as opposed to, "Kill them all. The Lord will know his own"*** requires soldiers to go among hostile or wavering populations and dig out the enemy up close and personal.****

* Sometimes rulers of cities and nations who thought their subjects might be less than enthusiastic about fighting to preserve their rulers' lives would murder Mongol ambassadors. Then their people would have to fight for them.

** Euripides staged The Trojan Women the same year as the slaughter by Athens of all male inhabitants of Melos above the age of 10.

*** Oliver Cromwell's orders during the Irish campaign.

**** The parallel development driver in civilian martial arts was the outlawing of private warfare, duels and feuds, in modern western societies.

(2)Another is the Philippines, which I'll deal with later. (The primary arts I practice are headquartered in Israel and the Philippines respectively.)

(3) Judo, Tae Kwon Do, sport Karate, etc.

(4) Kenjutsu and the more esoteric arts such as Ho-jutsu (traditional Japanese gunnery with matchlocks), and Yoroi kumi-uchi (wrestling in traditional samurai armor)etc. Modern Chinese Wu-shu falls into both categories.

This category is important, because if the forms still reflect the original training for combat reality, the function can still be recovered by analysis of the movements and comparison with other arts.

For example, Yoroi kumi-uchi is practiced by two armored men wrestling for position to see who can pull an armor-piercing dagger and get the other first. The art's relevance has unexpectedly revived in an age of dragon-scale body armor.

(5) Tai Chi, modern budo such as Aikido etc.

(6) For how this might be done, take boxing for example. It's a great study, and many Asian martial artists consider the handwork among the most advanced in the world. More than many other martial arts, western boxing teaches "the continuous and returning fist" and the art of delivering punishing blows while maintaining good cover.

It is however, hemmed in by a lot of rules that reduce combat effectiveness, and the gloves protect the hands, which restrict hand formations and allow techniques like hitting the skull with knuckles - almost guaranteeing breakage bare-handed.

To "weaponize" boxing, one might get competent at it, study the fouls - and practice them. Practice on the heavy bag with light gloves, and perhaps take up the archaic fist conditioning (though that's a little hard-core for most tastes.*)

*Bare-knuckle boxers used to punch to the head with a standing fist (Chinese "Sun" fist) rather than the palm-down flat fist. They also used to condition the fists by soaking them in brine, brine and whiskey, or horse piss.


  • At 1:19 AM, Blogger dchamil said…

    In the Wikipedia article on the Cathars, your quote *** is attributed to the French leader who slaughtered them, as follows:
    The Béziers army attempted a sortie but was quickly defeated, then pursued by the crusaders back through the gates and into the city. Arnaud, the Cistercian abbot-commander, is supposed to have been asked how to tell Cathars from Catholics. His alleged reply, recalled by a fellow Cistercian, was "Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius." — "Kill them all, the Lord will recognise His own."
    The Cathar heresy was put down by the Catholics in southern France in the 1200's with great loss of life. In 1957 I spent a few weeks in towns of that region -- Mazamet, Beziers, Carcasonne -- and to this day the region has more than its share of Huguenots (Protestants.)

  • At 2:02 PM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    Really? I wonder if Oliver Cromwell knew of it and had them in mind at the siege of Drogheda?

    Your reference to the Cistercian abbot-commander brings up the fact that warrior-monks were not exclusive to Asia, ref the Templars, Hospitalers and Knights of St. John of Malta.


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