Know Your WW2 History: William E Fairbairn – The Man Who Shaped Hand-to-Hand Combat in WW2

William E Fairbairn: The Man Who Shaped Hand-to-Hand Combat in WW2

WW2 Combatives taught by Fairbairn, Applegate and Sykes are some of the most practical and street proven methods of self-defense every devised because they are #1 SIMPLE and #2 DOVETAIL into every level of the use of force continuum for the civilian: empty-hand, stick, knife and gun.

This means you don’t have to learn a new “method” for each weapon. It is truly One Mind, Any Weapon.

An older video by Kelly McCann showing the jugular notch:


Stay Dangerous and Prepare Accordingly!

Combative Basics: Flanking

Random street crime and violence is on the up-tick.

Be prepared to deal with it.


Combative Strikes


These are some very old Kelly McCann clips but are still IMO some of the best out there regarding realistic Combative strikes that work.

*Use these strikes in your CQ empty-hand/stick/knife/gun training as a way to quickly “create distance” between you and the BG so you can draw your weapon. Always stay open to the ideal of using any quick, violent combative strike to accomplish this.

In Combative self-defense training no matter if it is empty-hand, stick, knife or firearm, you must always train first and foremost to FINISH the fight and/or END your Opponent. This is not going to be done with one punch, (typically) so to stay realistic. We need to train to deliver multiple, violent strikes quickly and effectively. Remember the words of Bruce Lee:

“A fight is not won by one punch or kick. Either learn to endure or hire a bodyguard.”

Kelly Mccann, in his excellent book, Combatives for Street Survival talks about this method of delivering multiple, violent strikes that are varied between HIGH and LOW line (above the waist and below the waist) as CYCLING. For example, beginning with a Throat Strike, the next strike might be followed up with a low-line kick to the nuts or maybe a Shin Rake or Foot Stomp, whatever, the point being, DON’T STOP until the opponent is down and no longer poses a threat.

If you don’t remember anything from today’s lesson, remember this:

In self-defense situations (don’t call it a fight because that implies competition) start your attack FULL BLAST and then if needed, “scale back” your degree of force.

This is better than having to “add to” your degree of force once the attack has begun.

Momentum and Initiative are everything in combat; once you have it you need to keep it at all cost. Think of it in terms of a car race: You stand a much better chance of winning if you punch the gas off of the starting line versus starting off slow and then trying to catch up….you lost the initiative and surrendered your momentum even before the race began! 

Colonel John Boyd (USAF) famously said in talking about the OODA Loop, that ACTION will always trump REACTION. Once you have surrendered the initiative and momentum of the fight, your enemy, by virtue of your incompetence, has now interrupted your OODA loop instead of the other way around.

Stay Armed, Alert and Dangerous!

Combative Corollaries


The following is taken directly from the Afterword in Kelly Mccann’s Outstanding book Combatives for Street Survival.

In this afterword, Kelly draws corollaries between what is taught in the USMC Field Manual (FM 1) Warfighting and what is experienced in personal combat using Combatives for self-defense. Kelly divides these corollaries into Several distinct sections: War, Friction, Uncertainty, Fluidity, Disorder, The Human Factor & Violence and Danger.


FM 1: “It is critical to keep in mind that the enemy is not an inanimate object to be acted upon but an independent and animate force with its own objectives and plans.”

Combative Corollary: Always Train with an ACTIVE partner and not someone who is robotic or remains fixed in place while you execute a technique. Never allow the use of staged pillar assaults to support your technique. Encourage your partner to move and act freely, because your attacker will.


FM 1: “Friction is the force that resist all action and saps energy.”

Combative Corollary: Fighting for your life saps your strength MUCH MORE quickly than training or competition. Be Aware of this fact.

FM 1: “Friction may be mental, as in indecision over a course of action.”

Combative Corollary: Don’t learn too many alternative techniques because it will only result in indecisiveness under duress and INCREASE reaction time. See HICKS LAW.


FM 1: “The very nature of WAR makes certainty impossible; all  actions in WAR are based on incomplete, inaccurate or even contradictory information.”

Combative Corollary: You will never have all the information you would like to have before needing to act except in the most obvious cases.

FM 1: “We can learn to fight effectively despite uncertainty by developing simple, flexible plans; planning for LIKELY contingencies and FOSTERING INITIATIVE.”

Combative Corollary: Avoid complex and intricate techniques. Take the initiative when warranted and pre-emptively attack. Strike unexpectedly. If a technique fails, immediately branch and EXPLODE into another. As quickly as you recognize them, EXPLOIT new targets.

FM 1: “Risk is equally common to ACTION or INACTION.”

Combative Corollary: You must risk being hurt in order to hurt others. As an attacker gestates, you’re at risk EQUALLY if you use violence and if you don’t.


FM 1: “Since war is a fluid phenomenon, it’s conduct requires flexibility of thought.”

Combatives Corollary: Rage with reason. Keep your wits about you in order to see and then seize the fleeting opportunities discussed above. Stay flexible in the attack. Rely on your rapid-targeting process and quickly branch from one technique to another, exploiting opportunities as quickly as they present themselves to overwhelm your attacker.


FM 1: “As the situation changes continuously, we are forced to improvise again and again until finally our actions have little, if any, resemblance to the original scheme.”

Combatives Corollary: There is a saying in the military: “No operations order survives the first shot.” Similarly, no Kata survives the first punch. Faced with disorder, ESTABLISH ORDER WITH OVERWHELMING FEROCITY. Once you have the momentum, stay on your toes and keep the attacker backing up on his heels. Ruthlessly and Relentlessly CLOSE WITH and finish the enemy.


FM 1: “Since War is an act of violence based on irreconcilable disagreement, it will invariably inflame and be shaped by human emotions.”

Combatives Corollary: Channel your Rage, but rely on your Training.

Violence and Danger

FM 1: “Violence is an essential element of war and its immediate result is bloodshed, destruction and suffering. While the magnitude of violence may vary with the object and means of war, the violent essence of war will never change. Any study of war that neglects this basic truth is misleading or incomplete.”

Combatives Corollary: Your primary goal is to AVOID, your secondary goal is the ESCAPE UNHARMED. Unfortunately, depending on the severity of the situation, sometimes it will be necessary to seriously injure or perhaps kill an assailant in order to prevail. For that reason, you must never confuse Combatives with a “Gentle Art.”

Stay Alert, Armed and Dangerous!