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Geoff ĎTankí Todd
The Combat Boot by New Zealandís Chief CQB instructor Tank Todd
Caution: The contents of this article are for education purposes only. The principles described are extremely dangerous and are for military close combat training and operations only. Their application applies solely to the military.
Combat kicks are the primary unarmed offensive and counter offensive option. These kicks are not sporting or traditional and in this edition of the close combat files I will explain the strengths and weaknesses of individual kicks for combat applications.
First, bare feet may be for martial arts and water sports but boots are for combat both to cover terrain and for military close combat. The late Mad Mike Calvert of British SAS fame killed a Jiu Jitsu trained Japanese officer in an encounter in a river and he attributed wearing his boots while bathing in that river while his Japanese enemy was bare footed as giving him a considerable advantage. Many traditional martial artists train and spar against each other bare footed but they do not fight against boot wearing combatants. Like the terrain related risks of bare foot travel the reality of having the foot stomped by the sole of a combat boot is devastating.
Many soldiers in countries where martial art training is mainstream have extensive groundings in sport or traditional styles but these practices are far from primary options when carrying a pack and rifle and wearing boots and webbing or Body Armour. The only time my combatants kick to the head is when their enemy is on the ground and the highest kick in close quarters combat is to below the knee joint.
The only other leg involved offensive action, above the knee joint is the use of the knee to the groin as part of a stationary attack combination. The only part of the boot that will contact with your enemy during an offensive or counteroffensive unarmed assault is the sole of the boot. The point of contact is the arch of the sole of the boot during an axe kick or leg stamp application. The arch of the boot will close around the shinbone directly below the knee joint reducing the risk of sliding off of the target.
The edge of the foot like in traditional kicks is never employed as this method would see the ankle joint in an out of alignment position and prone to injury. The reality is with out a blade attached to the edge of the sole of your samurai sandals that will cause a severe injury you are putting your own limb at risk. Offensive assault kicking is fully committed, stomping going right through and or down from the knee joint to the foot and ending on the ground and never is a sparring or sporting type snap out extension reaction type kick. Full commitment right through the limb to ensure you take out your target or your enemy has to get out of your attack line.
The key to these kicks is the set up phase that comprises of dirty tricks, feints or distractions. The kicks for land warfare require the combatant to have an affinity with the ground and be in total control of their footing to enable them to employ fast powerful combat kicks. This requires the stability leg to be flat on the ground with the boot pointing vertically backwards and the rear hand being secured firmly on the thigh of the stability leg to form a stable platform to absorb contact shock and reduce the risk of ankle spraining or loss of footing.
†Front kicks in combat are not only difficult but also dangerous especially above the groin where they are slowed down considerably by load bearing and boot wearing. I was on a course recently where an exponent through such a kick at an instructor during demonstration and had his leg easily seized and was driven backwards into a tree where he dropped to the ground. Round house type kicks in combat especially against formidable combatants are high risk and low result and will hardly have any effect when intercepted with a combat boot or met with a weapon. Sweeping is for demonstration or competition and the risks out way the results by considerable. Combat kicks must incapacitate and decentralize your enemy to the point that they are unable to escape or combat your ground finishing techniques with your boots. You always finish your grounded enemy with your boots and never your hands, simply because if you have to bend down to strike your enemy on the ground with your hands he has the advantage of leg length to kick you from the ground. He also has the ability to seize your legs and tackle you.
Ground incapacitation or elimination methods with the boot or boots are devastating and terminal. The amount of force delivered to a target when stomped on is concentrated and incredible. Ground finishing kicks must be set up and incorporate dirty tricks feints or deception. Some dirt in the eyes a false offer of assistance or pre employment set ups involving hand and arm movements to take the attention away from the boots. The key to achieving your ground-finishing objective with your boots is not exposing your delicate and venerable parts of your own lower leg and foot to injury from kicks executed by your grounded enemy. Even with boots on injuries can occur if you get it wrong. The heel stomp is less effort to employ requires less time to employ is executed from a lower height reducing the risk of your enemy having time to recognize and counter it. The application involves a natural set up that acts as a distraction and a means of cocking the stamping leg. The heel stomp can be employed to incapacitate by targeting the ankle or knee joints or to eliminate by targeting major vitals.
The football kick employs the hard toe end of the boot to soft targets such as the crotch. The correct application of the football kick requires target centering and a double arm cocking distraction and follow through. The kick itself is low to the ground immediately prior to impact contacting with the center of the hardened front toecap.
The Bronco kick is deadly and is only intended for enemy elimination period. There is a risk of loss of balance after target contact however if both targets are achieved with the heels of both boots and the ankle joints are locked rigid the result will be fatal for your enemy.
The most important aspect of combat kicks as far as self safety goes is that the foot is in the same position of alignment as when flat on the ground when standing or walking at point of impact. The only variation to the rule is in the axe kick application where the knee and hip are turned out enabling the arch of the boot to encircle the shinbone below the knee but still keeping the correct ankle joint alignment.
These low line kicks are the most guaranteed form of unarmed offensive or counter offensive assault as they provide maximum reach and the boot is far more robust than bare hands. Very large strong muscles that can achieve maximum levels of unarmed contact impact power them. High levels of safety under entry execution are maintained by being able to ensure your head is out of range of any counter punches. These kicks can also be employed in the CQ clinch where the use of your arms may not be possible because of being held in an arms and body hold. They can be employed in confined spaces or when your hands are bound and tied like in POW situations or sexual abductions. You could be in a phone box or toilet and the CQ clinch stomping leg stamps and axe kicks would be the best offensive option. Your enemy may hold you in such a way that you cannot get to his eyes throat or groin but because he is standing on legs and feet he is venerable to being stomped. These stamping kicks primarily target the knee joint with the objective of dislocation followed by ripping down the shin front and smashing with the heel of the boot the small bones of the foot.
†X-ray image showing a normal knee (left) and a dislocated knee (right)
The devastating result of a kick to the knee, dislocated knee
On the opposite side of the encounter to combat being kicked tactically correct evasion and counter offensive assault options are employed or if taken unawares leaving no time for evasion the kick is countered with a kick. The incoming kicking or stability leg which ever presents itself first is intercepted with the hard arch of the sole of the boot on the shin stopping the attacker in his tracks.
Effective kicks can also be employed on the ground prior to or during recovering your footing. These ground recovery kicks are ground applications of the axe kick if you are flat on your back or the leg stamp if you are on your side.
The previous combat kicks and ground take out kicks are for military battlefield employment only and are standard inclusions in the Todd Systems military programs.
Joint UK & US WWII Combative Pioneers: An article by Tank Todd
The following is a brief outline of the life and times of three of the most important pioneers in modern military close combat. While there have been and will continue to be historic writings on these individuals from historians, there is only one living post-World War II instructor qualified descendent of the late and great Colonel Rex Applegate. This individual Tank Todd of New Zealand learnt his lessons directly from Colonel Applegate and while he did gain a personal look at the history of these great pioneer's times, it was the specialist skills that he was most interested in.† From Colonel Applegate he was allowed to note any of the deadly subjects of instruction from his WWII programs and personal notes before much of this information was destroyed when he was refiling over 50 years of paper war. The reason the Colonel allowed access to such information was because Tank was the only instructor qualified in European military close combat that was a Special Operations Group Chief Instructor and who operated a fulltime training facility. Much of the information Tank learned from Colonel Applegate is only for Special Operations, however the basic armed and unarmed skills have been preserved with Tank now being the only instructor qualified descendent. This preserved information includes the systems of other expert instructors such as Fairbairn and Sykes as taught to Tank by Colonel Applegate. Tank has original programs and taken notes from the WWII programs of Fairbairn, Sykes and Applegate.
The information for this article is from notes taken by Tank from Colonel Applegate and researched by James Webb with the pictures as supplied to Tank by Colonel Applegate from his collection. For any inquires regarding the systems outlined in this feature contact firstname.lastname@example.org
William Ewart Fairbairn was born on 28 February 1885, in Surrey, England. At age 15, Fairbairn was an apprentice leather worker in London, England when he saw a Royal Marines recruiting poster. Since Fairbairn was underage the local recruiter forged Fairbairní s paperwork and he joined the Royal Marines. It was here he got his beginning in close combat. From 1901 to 1907, Fairbairn was assigned to Korea, where he studied the different Martial Arts practiced there. His exploits in Combatives were further developed during this period. In Korea Fairbairn was assigned to the British Legation Guard and he was later stationed in Shanghai, China. From 1907 to 1940, Captain W. E. Fairbairn was assigned to the International Police Force in Shanghai, China. This was known as the toughest Police assignment in the world. The city was overrun with gangsters and killers and he had experienced a gang attack that near left him for dead as a constable in Shanghai. The criminals were involved in strong-arm tactics, extortion, slavery, prostitution, kidnapping and smuggling. To contend with these gangsters, Fairbairn organized and led the famous Shanghai Riot Squad. The gangsters in Shanghai earned the reputation as being the most ruthless in the world. Fairbainís fighting system was developed to enable the Police to counter the gangsters they had to control. It had to be effective in hand to hand and with weapons. It had to be effective and get results fast. Sometimes Fairbairní s Police Officers had to fight one or several gangsters by themselves, without assistance. Fairbairn became famous during this time frame for his toughness and ruthlessness. Fairbairn studied numerous Martial Arts. He studied with the chief Kung Fu instructor to the Empress of China and with her personal bodyguard Yin Fu.
In 1925, the infamous Shanghai riots occurred and mob violence was rampant. Fairbairní s Shanghai Riot Squad was instrumental in quelling this riot. In 1925, Fairbairn wrote his first book on the use of the M1911, 45-caliber pistol in combat. In 1926, he wrote the book "Defendo" on hand-to-hand combat. This book became the training manual for several Police departments. During this period, Fairbairn also wrote "Shooting to Live". Fairbairn was a bayonet specialist who wrote the British Bayonet program. He spent three and a half years training with professor Okada in Ju Jutsu and was only the second Westerner ever awarded his Black Belt in Judo and Jujitsu personally from Jigoro Kano. He trained at the Kodokan in Japan from 1918 until 1931. This honor in itself is worth telling and provides an example of Fairbairní s fighting skills. Fairbairn graded to 1st Dan in 1926 and 2nd Dan in 1931.
With hostilities between Japan and China beginning Fairbairn was in a particularly dangerous position. One incident was when Fairbairn met a Japanese Officer, who was a fellow Judo exponent on a pier. They exchanged pleasantries and Fairbairn noticed 150 Chinese men, women and children with their hands tied behind their backs sitting by a Japanese Naval vessel. Fairbairn asked what was to become of them. The Japanese Officer said they would be shot. Fairbairn asked if he could take them. The Japanese Officer said no, they are to be shot. Fairbairn very calmly said that if they were shot he would meet the Japanese Officer some night and they would settle the score. The threat was implicit and the Japanese Officer later gave the Chinese captives to Fairbairn.
Colonel Biddle of the U.S. Marines trained under Fairbairn during this time as well as Fairbairní s unorthodox and respected assistant when it came to close combat, Dermot M. "Pat" O'Neill. When the Second World War was declared Fairbairn moved back to England to teach his fighting system to the British Commandos and Parachute Forces. Fairbairn started teaching Combatives at the Special Training Center at Lachailort, Scotland. Fairbairn trained such specialist units as the Secret Service, Special Operation Executive, British Commandos, the M19 saboteurs, the Special Air Service (SAS) including the Stirling Brothers and Mad Mike Calvert, the Canadian Special Service, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the U.S. Marines and numerous law enforcement agencies. One of Fairbainís students was Ian Fleming who went on to write the James Bond series of books. Fairbairn taught his famous silent killing course. He taught here in conjunction with the legendary E.A. Sykes. This fighting system was designed for use when you have lost your firearms, or when the use of firearms is undesirable. This course was divided into six segments of instruction. In 1941 Wilkinson Sword made the first of the Fairbain Sykes daggers designed by Fairbain and Sykes referred to as the Commando Dagger. Fairbairn and Applegate later designed the superior Applegate Fairbairn but it was never mass-produced as the war was near an end, that is until many years after the war and after Fairbainís death. Fairbairn met Rex Applegate with the OSS and together they taught America's Spies and Assassins. Finally Wild Bill Donovan of the OSS persuaded the British to allow Fairbairn to work exclusively with the OSS on their secret operations. Fairbairn was promoted to the rank of Colonel.
Fairbairn then wrote a book on his fighting system called, "Get Tough". This was his definitive civilian work on hand-to-hand combat. It was filled with graphic easy to follow instructions to win an encounter and put your opponent away before he knew what hit him.† When World War Two ended Fairbairn was in his sixties and still a man of action. In 1950, Fairbairn moved to Singapore and was instrumental in developing a riot squad for their Police Force. In 1956 the Cyprus Police employed him for teaching Combatives, riot control and combat shooting.
Fairbairn passed away on 20 June 1960 at his home in England. He is definitely one of the chief pioneers in Combatives in the twentieth century. Fairbairní s fighting methods worked and are still taught today. His students nicknamed Fairbairn "Deacon". Fairbairn never swore, never drank or boasted. He was a quiet man with the manners of a gentleman. Fairbairn spent all of his time involved with close combat and had no other hobbies or interests. He was not an academic man or did he read books, he was a man of action and a pioneer in his field. Fairbairn is probably the most famous unarmed hand-to-hand combat instructor in the twentieth century. His exploits and teaching methods are still talked about by elite units the world over.
In the 1920's to the 1930's, Eric Anthony (Bill) Sykes worked with Fairbairn in Shanghai, China as part of his Shanghai Riot Squad. Sykes was a Sergeant and commanded the sniper unit. His exploits during this period are famous and respected. Sykes worked with Fairbairn in developing his unarmed and armed combat courses. He had plenty of opportunity to put these techniques to actual use in the streets of Shanghai. When World War Two broke out Sykes moved back to England to instruct the British Commandos and later the Special Air Service (SAS) in weapon usage and hand to hand combat. Sykes worked with Fairbairn at the Lochailort and Achnacarry Training Centers. His specialty was armed combat and he developed sights for firearms to use in the dark, also silencers and covert weapons. Sykes was a pioneer of the point instinctive shooting firing methods. He was a pioneer in combat weapon craft. When Fairbairn moved over to the Office of Strategic Services with Wild Bill Donovan, Sykes went with him. It was the early 1940's that Sykes and Fairbairn developed and made the famous Fairbairn/Sykes combat dagger that was used extensively by Allied Commandos during World War Two. This was a double edge knife and made specifically for killing. Sykes, Fairbairn and Applegate developed a complete method of knife fighting around this dagger. The Fairbairn/Sykes dagger is still used by elite forces worldwide. Sykes was an expert on knife fighting and trained with a live blade. When Sykes taught knife fighting he first instructed the students on how to hold the knife, how to pass it from one hand to another, how to thrust, and how to use the free hand. The next step was the correct method of knife carry and concealment. The final stage of training was taught on sentry neutralization. The students were also taught how to search prisoners, securing a prisoner and movement with a prisoner.
His Commando exploits are well known and respected. Sykes also worked closely with Colonel Rex Applegate of OSS fame and with Fairbairn on the Silent Killing Course. Sykes did bodyguard work for Winston Churchill on several occasions. He worked closely with the Cloak and Dagger Division of the OSS. Sykes and co designed the first kill house and urban warfare training cities. Sykes was a very private and quiet man. He never boasted or bragged of his skills. During World War Two, Sykes rose in the ranks and by the end of the war was a Captain. He was noted for his toughness and accepted all missions with enthusiasm. His reputation was one of a true professional. He personally trained thousands of men in combat warfare.
Sykes will go down in history as one of the key pioneers in unarmed and armed combat of the twentieth century.
Colonel Rex Applegate during WWII and again here pictured with Geoff Todd
Colonel Rex Applegate was born on 21 June 1914 in Oregon. His expertise is world-renowned. His family heritage dates back to the first Oregon settlers in 1843 and Colonel Applegate owned Oregon's oldest colonial home. He ensured this family home was always maintained in its original form except for the addition of a shooting range on the property. Colonel Applegate spent most of his youth in Oregon hunting and following pursuits in the outdoors. As a teenager he assisted his uncle the famous American exhibition sharp shooter, Gus Peret, by loading his guns for him and learning shooting techniques. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Business Administration and then joined the U.S. Army. Due to his large build and aggressive nature he was assigned to the Military Police. He served in this capacity until Wild Bill Donovan recruited him for duties with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The OSS was the forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Colonel Applegate was recruited to form the section in OSS known as "The School for Spies and Assassins". He was involved with developing skills and weapons for covert operations for worldwide use. Many of these trade methods are still being used today. While serving as the director of close combat training for clandestine operations, he was given free reign and finances to develop the best training center and methods available.
Wild Bill selected Colonel Applegate because of his large stature, shooting expertise, fighting skills and all around temperament to cause mayhem. Colonel Rex Applegate had no Eastern martial arts background and all his training was of European military origins and combat sports. He was six feet three inches tall and 230 pounds of muscle. He was a crack shot and wasn't afraid to mix it up. The first thing Colonel Applegate did was enlist the help of Fairbairn and Sykes from the British Commando School. These three men developed and instructed in unarmed combat, close quarter shooting, knife fighting, espionage, intelligence, assassination and sabotage.
Colonel Applegate was instrumental in the development and making of the famous dagger called the "Applegate/Fairbairn Fighting Knife". He also along with Fairbairn made the famous fighting weapon called the "Smatchet". He also developed numerous covert weapons. Applegate worked closely with Lord Mount batten in espionage operations. The Colonel was not only involved in the development and instruction of Commando Operations training but also involved with missions deep behind enemy lines which gave him a first hand chance to put his skills to use. He was even assigned to protect President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill when they secretly met during the war.
In 1943, he was heavily involved with Army Intelligence and had their expertise and equipment at his disposal. He had a fully equipped machine shop where he could design and construct realistic training aids, simulators, covert weapons, and moving and disappearing targets. Applegate created an entire German town that his operatives could use to train in. This also became the very first fully automated Killing House. He was also in command of two units that specialized in German and Japanese tactics. These units were comprised of military personnel who could speak German and Japanese and wore these nation's uniforms and used their weapons. Applegate would use these units to train his operatives. He continued to develop and refine close combat training techniques into a fine art. He was constantly upgrading and reviewing field reports to determine what methods worked the best
Applegate's entire career has been involved with instruction, invention, and development, training and implementing covert and combat operations. He would compile reports from returning operatives and modify techniques that would meet realistic requirements. Battle proven techniques was what counted to him and he was no fan to what he described as "the flowing robe brigade". He was a master of his trade, close combat and silent killing. Applegate has written numerous texts that have become the Field Manuals for military units the world over. His most famous is the book, "Kill or Get Killed". This book has been translated into several languages and is a best seller. He also wrote "Combat Use of the Double-Edged Fighting Knife", "Scouting and Patrolling", "Get Tough and Shooting to live", and "Bullís-eyes Don't Shoot Back" and "The Close Combat Files of Colonel Rex Applegate".
Colonel Applegate's personal museum of firearms and knives was world-renowned and featured many originals. His collection was priceless and a true labor of love. He had antiques and modern weapons in his collection. It was the most comprehensive collection of weapons ever compiled. Applegate is known as the Father of Close Combat and had a long and distinguished career that spanned the total twentieth century. He was a man whose expertise was sought out until the day he died, in advising governments, stopping riots, instructing special units, teaching close quarters battle, or as a public speaker.
His associations with men like Roosevelt, Wild Bill Donovan, Churchill, Patton and Eisenhower are testament to his expertise knowledge and demand for the best man for the job. The Colonel was a personal friend of John Wayne and assisted as an advisor on his movie "The Alamo". The late Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond series of books and movies, said that Rex Applegate was where he got the ideas for some of his characters. Applegate was also associated with the famous Border Patrolman, Bill Jordan. Bill Jordan autographed a copy of his book for Applegate and in it he said, "To Rex Applegate, the only real soldier of fortune I ever knew". Colonel Applegate was a close friend of G. Gordon Liddy and described him to Tank as one of the smartest and toughest men on the planet.
Applegate was an advocate of instinctive shooting that he, Fairbairn and Sykes developed and used during the Second World War. These methods are still used by Police Officers and soldiers worldwide. They give the person the best chance of survival in a hostile environment. Colonel Applegate was on the Board of Directors for the National Rifle Association to mention but one of the many prestigious positions he held. He was also the developer and first used dye markers and loading systems based on paint ball technology. He has been involved in the development of protective helmets for police and military personnel, riot sticks, knives, guns, sighting devices, and silencers.
His early instructing at the School for Spies and Sabotage included the use of killer dogs, booby traps, crossbows, poisons and explosives. He worked with a Finnish soldier who killed twenty-six Russians with his knife, the Stirling brothers (who founded the Special Air Service (SAS) for the British Army), and those individuals responsible for the assassination of Gestapo Chief Reinhard Heydrich. He has touched shoulders with the meanest and dirtiest fighters the world as ever known. Applegate was given the mission by Wild Bill Donovan, commander of the OSS, to learn all he could about armed and unarmed combat. He continued this mission throughout his lifetime. He developed a system that was brutal, simple, effective, and made to cripple, maim, or kill your enemy without flashy stances or techniques. He deployed dirty tricks, feints, methods of deception, anything to get the job done and quick. He used to say, "Against a knife, if you're armed, shoot him, if you're unarmed use a chair or some improvised weapon, plus throw anything available, then kick his knee, follow up with more kicks, after he is on the ground." Applegate always said many fights can be stopped before they begin by a well placed knee kick. Once an opponent is down, the job should be finished with your boots. He also said your teeth, in spite of any mental qualms as to their use, are great weapons. One of the basic principles of his fighting method is to retain your own physical and mental balance while destroying the balance of your enemy. Another facet of his method is to pit your strongest weapon against an enemy's weakest point.
After the end of the Second World War, Applegate spent over fifteen years in Latin America and Mexico involved in advising governments and in the armaments business and training various military units. He was given the honorary rank of General by the Mexican government for his work there. When he returned to the United States he was sought out by Police Forces and Federal Agencies for training and his expertise. When the Vietnam War broke out he was once again consulted by the United States government. Applegate was respected by the U.S. Special Forces soldier and knife innovator, Al Mar, as the best knife fighter and knife maker in the world. Al Mar is famous in his own right and made the first knife accepted by Colonel Nick Rowe for the Special Forces SERE Instructor School at Camp McCall, North Carolina.
In 1980, Applegate began to release his new versions of fighting knives to the military and general public. These knives are still sold today and are very popular. He knew that his knives needed to have basic attributes; must be strong, easily maintained, capable of retaining an edge under normal combat operations, and have a clean and functional design. He was a proponent of the double edge blade and must be long enough to reach vital organs when stabbed or thrust into a body. Balance, weight and handle design are very important features. For a person with sweaty palms a non-slip surface for the handle is required. Applegate is the scientist of knife fighting. Post WWII Colonel Applegate instructed many people in instinctive shooting but he only trained and certified one instructor in his 'Kill or Get Killed' Close Combat Systems. This instructor is Tank Todd of New Zealand who worked with him for the ten years leading up to his death on projects and as his trade show assistant. The WWII knife fighting program complete film footage was destroyed and Tank is the only recipient of this entire program and other specialist programs of Applegate, Fairbairn and Sykes directly from Colonel Applegate.
The International Close Combat Instructors Association (ICCIA) made Colonel Applegate its patriarch and senior member. He was instrumental in this Association's development including naming the association and his advice was always sought out. Much of his work can never be revealed for security reasons but no other individual has accomplished so much or has been so instrumental in the development of Close Combat over such a long period of time. Colonel Rex Applegate is truly the King of Military Close Combat in the twentieth century. He was a dirty fighter and the worst enemy the bad guys could ever have the luck of coming up against. In 1998, he was made a member of the Cutlery Hall of Fame by Blade magazine. He developed a combat folder that won international acclaim. He also won the National Riflemen Association's "Outstanding Hand gunner Award for his lifetime contributions." Applegate and Chuck Melson wrote the book, "The Close Combat Files of Colonel Rex Applegate." His teachings are based on Military science and battle proven experience. On 14 July 1999, while working at San Diego, California, Rex Applegate passed away. This ended the era of a true Combat Master. In 2005 will see the publishing of the book "Combative Masters of the 20th Century" by Tank Todd and James Webb that will include chapters on over 25 of the leaders in the field of military armed and unarmed combat. Watch this space for the release of this book.
This is now available via www.toddgroup.com