Martial arts & Combatives
What is the difference?
By Lee Morrison
 
Most of us within the combatives fraternity have heard the quote from Kelly MacCann where he defines the above question by saying something along the lines of ''the difference between martial arts and combatives, is that martial art is something that you do with someone, in other words there is this reciprocal exchange of movement going on where he does this and I react by doing that, whereas combatives are something that you do to someone or on someone. In other words I am going to take this sack of potatoes and just beat on it!''
There is no sparring, fencing or reciprocal exchange of blows the physical action on your part is completely one sided. I think Kelly's statement sums it up very well. It points to the mindset and well defined goal of the combatives trainee; that is to be single minded in your objective to defeat the enemy.

Combatives were born out of real experience and designed purely to counter violence. Any method that worked by doing just that, was considered combative. I would like to touch on the subject in a little more depth. Let's start by looking at the martial arts as they are practiced today both in the traditional sense and within the field of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and combat sport. The latter has produced athletes of amazing levels of physical and mental prowess, nothing can be taken away from these modern day warriors who practice Vale Tudo, NHB and cage fighting extreme, they are truly immense within the field of what they do. But what they do is in one way or another governed by certain rules pertaining to certain dos and don'ts that define a sporting spectacle. Such matches don't include the pre-conflict 'interview' stage, which consists of conflict indicators and possible criminal acts. When one person scores the final point or the bell rings, the fighters are automatically separated, therefore the match will also lack the post-conflict stage, in which an escape, citizens arrest or police involvement may take place. The outcome of the match will dictate a winner and a loser, but this is not a life or death struggle nor is it a matter of self preservation. Real fights unfold rapidly and offer virtually no preparation time, over loading the mind with information requiring split second decisions to survive. They often include multi tasking such as protecting others, defending against a weapon, deploying your own weapon, communicating with others and so on. This is miles removed from the sporting arena. Looking at the martial arts in the more traditional sense; practicing martial art for arts sake will in my opinion have a lot to offer the trainee. Most will give you a solid foundation from which to build along with teaching you physical aspects such as correct body mechanics, natural bodily weapon formation, physical conditioning, attributes of speed, balance, co-ordination, and power along with discipline and self confidence etc. If your aim is to practice for fitness and recreational activity they are a perfect choice.

If your aim is to gauge your own progress and development then most traditional systems will provide you with a yard stick in the form of a grading system. If competition is your thing then most traditional systems can offer you that aspect also. Not forgetting also that most systems will also make mention of the self-defence element that their system as a martial art contains. So it would appear that the martial arts are indeed multi tasking activities that have a lot to offer any trainee prepared to put forth the effort and time that it takes to learn them. The problems arise when an individual who has no experience of real violence finds him/her self in a potentially violent confrontation for the first time in their lives and then tries to bring to bear the said self-defence element; out from the traditional dojo setting from where it was developed and into the harsh and unforgiving realities of the urban street setting. Only to find that what they have simply doesn't work. The reality gap between the street and the dojo environment is simply too vast. That's not to say that the skills of the martial artist won't work against the potential street aggressor, they can, have and will, just not without first having been adapted to meet and cater for the conditions of the urban setting. Take a look at W.E. Fairbairn's research he looked at all of the Eastern systems available to him at that time (during the 1920's in Shanghai China a time when Shanghai was considered to be the most violent City on earth) and he took the time and trouble to study whilst adding certain elements from street fighting and Western bar brawling along with some dirty tactics all of which he took out into the field in order to pressure test exactly what worked and what didn't. After doing this for a period of time he came to the conclusion that there was a need to taper and whittle away the unessential parts of what he had learned, a need to compress the curriculum to a few basic methods that would consistently work under the stress of fear, disorientation and confusion and a need to become as he himself said; ''Attack minded and dangerously so!'' These conclusions were born out of real experience. The reason that the self-defence element fails in most cases is three fold. First and foremost if the trainee has never been in a real violent confrontation before, chances are that he or she will never have experienced the adrenal stress that accompanies the same. Bearing in mind that the training methods presented by most martial arts instructors are ninety nine percent technique and skill based, there is a good chance that the adrenal stress part of the equation will not even have been addressed in passing conversation let alone replicated through scenario training. The next thing relates to the actual physical skills or the techniques employed most of which are designed to be used against a practitioner within the same style or system and have in no way been adapted for use against an unpredictable and non-compliant street attacker. Finally there is the most important mental aspect that of MINDSET, which sits at the core of any functional combatives program of which will consist of ninety percent ATTITUDE, INTENTION, and the WILLINGNESS to step up and do whatever it takes to win. This is for me the essence of what combatives are all about and this is where the main difference between martial art and combatives lie. But as any look into history will show, it has not always been this way. Just take a look at the meaning for the word Martial; it is a warring term. Indeed martial arts were designed to be used in war. They were designed to be very much combative. Take a look at the Samurai warrior. Look at the writings of Musashi; a true martial artist in every sense of the term in his classic text the book of five rings you will see examples that will lead you to the conclusion that Musashi's martial strategy was about as combative as it gets. Look further into some of the documented evidence of the old Filipino masters of Escrima and Kali who would fight in challenge matches to the death with the tools of their trade a stick or a bladed weapon.

Here evidence clearly shows how a warrior who was capable of the most flamboyant visual display of his art would have compressed his curriculum to a few basic methods of employing their weapons such as cutting or striking their opponent's hand to defang the snake and disarm their opponent of their weapon followed by a strike with the stick or a thrust with the knife which would in the majority of cases, ended the encounter right there. This came from the single minded combative purpose; to defeat the enemy (MINDSET). So at what point in time did the martial arts that we see today become less combative? Well post World War 2 society were for good reason, sick of war and violence and a lot of the tried and tested methods of Close Combat started to become obsolete, put away out of sight and out of mind. Other changes came to the fore when for example; the father of modern day judo, Jigoro Kano introduced a stream lined and adapted form of his art to be introduced as a sporting activity to Japan's school curriculum later to become the Olympic sporting games event that we see today. Previously judo was a lot more combative, with it's emphasise on blow before throw and the heavy inclusion of atemi waza (striking techniques.) Pre-war judo and ju-jitsu were indeed brutal arts before the sporting aspect was introduced to Japan and the rest of the world. That's not to take anything away from the art of judo as it is practiced today. The combative aspects are still within, just take a look at the methods of strangulation, and imagine some of the bone crushing throws taking place on a paved or cobbled street instead of a mat and you'll get the picture. Further examples include the art of karate-do that has been practiced in the West since before the sixties. As much as this fine art has to offer in terms of traditional foundation it is miles removed from the karate-jitsu, one strike, one kill methods of the old Okinawan masters as many of the true applications of kata (Bunkai) have revealed through recent research. Through out the decades we have seen various phases within the martial arts media rise and fall. Kung-fu of the 70's, ninjitsu of the 80's along with kick boxing and sport karate in various forms. Taekwondo was drawn into the Olympic games and the 90's saw Brazilian ju-jitsu and grappling take the world by storm this along with the introduction of NHB competition continue to be major pioneers for cross training and practitioners of the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) still popular today. All of these things have had their place in time and all of them have had something to offer but they are still not combative in the true self-preservation sense of the word. It is true that Self-defence (a term I dislike) does come under the same umbrella as the martial arts, but true Self-Protection skills are miles apart from martial art in the traditional sense and combatives are at the extreme end of the Self-Protection scale, though all are interrelated in some way as we have seen. So what makes a system combative? How will such a curriculum differ from its traditional counter part? A modern combative system should consist of two parts; a competent instructor and a functional pressure tested curriculum. The following points are indications that you are moving in the right direction.
· An emphasis on avoiding confrontations an option made possible through the development of a heightened state of awareness.

· Pre-emption in the form of a continuous attack using gross motor strikes that will eliminate the threat if avoidance is not possible.

· An emphasis on natural every day positions as a fighting stance from where you can control space and become ballistically offensive in a heart beat.

· Emphasis on MINDSET and the WILLINGNESS to do whatever it takes to win.

· Basic strikes that will work both pre-emptively and as well as reactively.

· Skills and tactics that will work under the stress of disorientation, confusion and fear.

· Plenty of ATP anaerobic and task orientated fitness training in order to develop mental toughness.

· An understanding of adrenal stress and operational performance under stress.

· Discussion about the moral and legal use of force.

· An emphasis on heavy impact and contact to train muscle memory.

· Simple effective counters to common street attacks.

· Brutal ground fighting techniques.
· An emphasis on dirty fighting and tactics.

· Regular practice of improvised weapons

· A curriculum that can be adapted for use for a real world Operative such as a law enforcement officer and Close Protection Operatives as well as for civilian Self-Protection.

· Regular simulation and scenario stress training using protective equipment and realistic role play.
What can the combatives trainee expect to gain from such a system? A complete novice training within a good combatives program with a competent instructor and a good curriculum, containing all of the said elements, will become a capable individual within a relatively short period of time depending upon the individual's capacity to learn. Combatives were designed to be easy to learn, workable and retainable under the symptoms of stress, fear, and confusion. To quote Kelly MacCann again, who said;
''what you learn in the afternoon must work for you that evening in the parking lot.''
All actions are simple gross motor movements learned through repetition to a point of unconscious competence. Therefore a complete novice without any previous training or live experience of violence will still become functional in combatives within a short period of time. If you are lucky enough to find an instructor that applies modern learning technologies such as NLP to his instruction then you will compress the time it takes to become proficient even further. Then there is the kind of trainee who comes into combatives from a previous martial arts and/or a combat sports background. In such an example, he or she will already have a good foundation from which to build and will, due to the attributes already acquired, also become adept over a short space of time. Add to this some real world experience of violent confrontation either from encounters during adolescence or from experience working within an environment common to aggressive behaviour, working the doors for example. Then the said student will now through real experience, have already covered a lot of the psychological side too. In my opinion such an individual will bring a lot of talent and ability to his/her combative table. I'm speaking more in the sense of attributes developed as opposed to techniques collected. Please understand that I am by no means saying that a complete novice must first have such a foundation in order to become adept in this game. As I have already said the trainee will achieve a fair degree of competence over a short period. This is after all, how combatives of WW2 were taught i.e. to make the operative completely operational in a very short time period, sometimes a matter of mere hours. What I am saying is that if the trainee has built previous foundation upon foundation coupled with the active learning from real experience (even replicated scenario training will count as real experience to a fair degree) then such a trainee coming into combatives will without doubt, be on the road to becoming the best they can be. From my own experience based around twenty five years of training in an array of martial systems both Eastern and Western along with the experience gained from working the doors for over a decade and from the regular pressure testing of the combatives training that I practice, I can tell you that I am more proficient as both an instructor and a student as a result of that experience. In the big picture of things I know personally that I am still travelling the journey of my learning curve and still have much to learn. But in my humble opinion I feel that such foundation obtained by the trainee who now practices modern day combatives will bring the combatives fraternity into the new millennium as pioneers for the future.