World War II combatives

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World War II Combatives
Country of originUnited Kingdom UK/United States United States
Famous practitionersRex Applegate, William Ewart Fairbairn, A.J. Drexel-Biddle, John Styers, Eric A. Sykes, Jack Dempsey, Bill Underwood
ParenthoodBoxingJudo, Jujutsu, Wrestling, Savate, street fighting
Olympic sportNo

World War II combatives are close quarters combat techniques, including hand-to-hand, advanced firearm point shooting methods, and weapons techniques (knife/bayonet/improvised weapons) that were taught to allied special forces in World War II by such famous instructors as Rex Applegate and William Ewart Fairbairn.

Distinctions between World War II combatives and modern combatives include: 1) The former is based upon explosive high percentage gross motor strikes to vital targets, whereas the latter is based upon fine motor skill grappling. 2) The former seeks primarily to disable the enemy as quickly as possible at all costs, whereas the latter seeks primarily to build "warrior ethos" and the courage to close with the enemy.


World War II combatives are rooted in British colonial history with the Shanghai Municipal Police (1854–1943), pioneers of modern SWAT, who operated in what was widely acknowledged as the most dangerous port city in the world at the time. After studying under some of the finest warriors of pre-Communist China and pre-war Japan, these officers condensed the most practical elements of these arts, combined it with elements of Shanghai gangster fighting, and field-tested their skills in over 2000 documented encounters, including over 600 lethal force engagements[citation needed].

World War II[edit]

Upon return to the UK and US, veterans of the Shanghai Municipal Police were tasked in training allied World War II commandos and intelligence personnel, including the British Commandos - SAS & SBS, the US/Canadian 1st Special Service Force ("Devil's Brigade"), the Office of Strategic Services (precursor to the CIA), the British Special Operation Executive, Marine Raider Units, and the US Army Rangers. Upon engagement with enemy personnel skilled in classical European arts and old school judo, the post-battlefield reports of the “Shanghai method” produced the highest number of documented kills[citation needed] of any combatives system to date.

See also[edit]