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Hand-to-hand combat (sometimes abbreviated as HTH or H2H) is a generic term often referring to weaponless fighting conducted from a military based point of view. This distinguishes it from combat sport. The phrase "hand-to-hand" indicates unarmed combat but often allows for the consideration of weapons usage and implementation.

Close combat is the common term for combat within close range. It may include lethal and nonlethal methods across a "spectrum of violence" or within a "continuum of force" as established by rules of engagement. Unarmed close combat is sometimes called combatives. Close combat with weapons may be called close quarter battle at the squad level. Current NATOmarker terminology is to use MOUT for higher-level strategic and tactical considerations of urban warfare or MOOTW for "military operations other than war" such as peacekeeping or disaster relief.

Combatives is a term used to describe various hybrid martial arts, which incorporate techniques from several different martial arts and combat sports.


As defined by U.S. Army FM 3-25.150 Combatives:
1-1. Hand-to-hand combat- Hand-to-hand combat is an engagement between two or more persons with or without hand-held weapons such as knives, sticks, or projectile weapons within the range of physical contact.

1-2. Combatives- Combatives are the techniques and tactics useful to Soldiers involved in Hand-to-hand combat. Proficiency in Combatives is one of the fundamental building blocks for training the modern Soldier.


Close 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. Soldiers in Chinamarker were trained in unarmed combat as early as the Zhou Dynasty (1022 BC to 256 BC).

Despite major technological changes such as the use of gunpowder in the Napoleonic wars, 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 1918. During the Second World War, bayonet fighting was often not taught at all among the major combatants; German rifles by 1944 were even being produced without bayonet lugs.

Sometimes called close combat, Close Quarters Combat, or CQC, World War II era American combatives were largely codified by William Ewart Fairbairn and Eric Anthony Sykes. Also known for their eponymous Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife, Fairbairn and Sykes had worked in the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) and helped teach the British armed forces [112097] a quick and effective and simple technique for fighting with or without weapons in melee situations. Similar training was provided to British Commandos, the Devil's Brigade, OSS, U.S. Army Rangers and Marine Raiders. Fairbairn at one point called this system Defendu and published on it, as did his American colleague Rex Applegate. Fairbairn often referred to the technique as "gutter fighting," a term which Applegate used, along with "the Fairbairn system." In practice, such military systems are the fruit of dozens and even hundreds of dedicated instructors and personnel, known and unknown.

Other combatives systems having their origins in the modern military include Chinese Sanshou, Soviet sambo and Rukopaschnij Boj , Israeli Kapap and Krav Maga.

The prevalence and style of combatives training often changes based on perceived need, and even in times of peace, special forces and commando units tend to place higher emphasis on close combat than most personnel, as will paramilitary units such as police SWAT teams.

De-emphasized in major militaries after World War II, insurgency conflicts such as the Vietnam War, low intensity conflict and urban warfare tend to encourage more attention to combatives. The general discipline of close-proximity fighting with weapons is often called Close Quarters Battle (CQB) at the platoon or squad level, or Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT) at higher tactical levels.

The current Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) replaced the Marine Corps LINE combat system in 2002. Every Marine keeps a record book that records their training, There is a colored belt system similar to many Asian martial arts and advancement in MCMAP is not a requirement for promotions. Also in 2002, the U.S. Army adopted the Modern Army Combatives (MAC) program developed by Matt Larsen who was a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment, with the publishing of US Army field manual (FM 3-25.150) and the establishment of the US Army Combatives School at Ft Benningmarker, Georgia. MAC draws from systems such as Brazilian Jiujitsu, Muay Thai and Kali which could be trained "live" and can be fully integrated into current Close Quarters Battle tactics and training methods. As of April 2008, for the first time in US Army history, soldiers who graduate from an official Army course can earn an MOS identifier, H3B and H4B for level III and IV MACP certification respectively.

The US Air Force adopted MAC as its hand-to-hand combat system in early 2008.

Military instructors

At the Royal Military College of Canadamarker in Kingston, Ontariomarker officer cadets in first year take an introduction to Unarmed Combat course. In third year, courses are offered in Unarmed Combat (Grappling), Unarmed Combat (Kicking) and Unarmed Combat (Hands). Unarmed Combat (Grappling) covers the response to various attacks and situations and ground fighting. The Unarmed Combat (Kicking) course covers kicking distance, kicking targets, the use of front and rear kicks and mobility. The Unarmed Combat (Hands) course covers hand distance and targets, and the use of single and multiple strikes with the hands.

Military instructors and Civilian instructors

Most civilian instructors in hand-to-hand combat train police, martial artists or combat sport athletes, but some may train civilians for private self-defense.

Former military instructors

Frank Cucci former military (US SEAL) -Leonard C Holifield former military (US ARMY) -Raffaelli Snackers former military (FFL) -Moni Aizik former military (IDF ISRAEL ARMY) -Avi Nardia former military (IDF-YAMAM ISRAEL UNIT) -Vladimir Vasiliev former military (Russian Elite UNIT) -

The very things which make combatives well-adapted for military training (simplicity, ease of use, modest physical demands) also make it suitable in many ways for civilian self-defense. The world's military forces train thousands of combatives instructors every year. Frequently emphasizing their law-enforcement, corrections or military background, many combatives instructors also offer training to law enforcement agencies, the military, private individuals, security guards or companies. Regulated in the United Statesmarker much as private tutors, health clubs, private gun shops or private security agencies, some combatives systems are expanding into other markets and niches worldwide.

See also


Further reading

  • Close Combat (MCRP 3-02B), USMC, February 1999. Commercial ISBN 1-58160-073-9
  • Get Tough! by William E. Fairbairn, 1942. Details basic commando techniques. Reprint ISBN 0-87364-002-0
  • Kill or Get Killed by Rex Applegate, 1943. Widely redistributed within the USMC from 1991 as FMFRP 12-80. ISBN 0-87364-084-5
  • In Search of the Warrior Spirit: Teaching Awareness Disciplines to the Green Berets by Richard Strozzi-Heckler. 3rd edition ISBN 1-55643-425-1
  • Fleet Marine Force Manual (FMFM) 0-7, Close Combat, USMC, July 1993.
  • Combatives : FM 3-25.150 Commercial reprint of 2002 U.S. Army manual incorporates Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. ISBN 1-58160-448-3

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