How Old Were People Being Dafted Into World War 2 Combatives and Martial Arts

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Combatives and Martial Arts

This is our last installment on “defining” the parameters of COMBAT.

I’m sure some will miss this, but it should be emphasized that this material is historical fact and accurate in substance and detail. It is an objective view of militancy and NOT a subjective opinion or personal “definition” designed to fulfill an agenda of one kind or another.

The Battle of Britain began in early July 1940. England was isolated, cut off and alone. The miraculous retreat from Dunkirk and the German “Blitzkrieg” across Europe, including the crushing tactical defeat of France’s famous “Maginot Line”, showed that the Third Reich’s war machine was virtually unstoppable. Hitler’s plan to invade England, called “Operation Sea Lion”, was a daily source of danger and worry for the British.

Dunkirk had decimated British forces and morale was at an all-time low. Two recently returned veterans of British colonial rule in Shanghai, China approached the War Office and offered their services in this desperate time. William Ewart Fairbairn, retired as an officer of the Shanghai Municipal Police, and his partner Eric Anthony Sykes, a private arms dealer who served as a “volunteer” in the SMP and who led the “sniper” unit of the famous Shanghai Riot Squad promised the War Office that their training and methods can make “every man equal to ten” in a short time. This was the MOST important and dramatic statement since the Dunkirk debacle. Dismissed at first, these two men went on to PROVE the truth of their words and convince the power that there is in the absolute efficacy of their methods. If that meant the over-middle-aged WE Fairbairn had to put a few young bucks in hospital to prove his point in an impromptu but VERY realistic “demonstration”, so be it. Those who “tested” Sykes fared NO better. So the methods developed by these men during decades of very dangerous work in Shanghai have now become a highly valued and integral part of the training of all British forces and special operations personnel.

The attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, coupled with the Imperial Japanese Army’s coordinated attack on all American and British forces across the Pacific Rim, drew the United States firmly into this global conflagration. We were now fully at war with the Axis powers. Fairbairn, who was now in Canada, assigned to the infamous “Camp X” (where along with WEF “unarmed combat” experts and George de Relwyskow was BRAZILIAN JUDO/JUJUTSU EXPERT, Hmmm…….Colonel Carl Eifler was ALREADY training here) was ordered to assist the US government agency known as the “Office of the Coordinator of Intelligence”, the forerunner of the OSS. Eric Anthony Sykes remained in England and found that his services were in great demand. He also discovered that he was working under the auspices of a British secret force known as the Special Operations Executive.

The history of these men from the early days of Shanghai to the war years is a story in itself and beyond the scope of this article. However, it must be clearly understood that the contribution of these men had a profound effect and influence on close combat methods, tactics and techniques for DECADES after the war. Despite the oft-heard “argument” that we have somehow “evolved” beyond these methods, we will conclude this notion in future articles. However, they were definitely NOT the only “experts” in the field! An example (one of many) would be AJ Drexel-Biddle, who studied and trained intensively in boxing, Savate, jiu-jitsu, fencing, knife fighting and various bayonet methods.

As the United States prepared for war, a major factor began to emerge. Both here and in Australia, the press talked a lot about the superiority of the Japanese fighter. Some of it was certainly rooted in reality. The Battle of Port Arthur, a turning point in the Russo-Japanese War decades earlier, showed the world the tenacity and ferocity of the Japanese soldier, especially in hand-to-hand combat. Much has been made of the large Russian soldier finding a crushing defeat at the hands of his smaller Japanese opponent when engaged in hand-to-hand combat (hence the very obvious impetus for the creation of Sombo). Jiu-jitsu has received worldwide attention and notoriety in this regard. Japan’s conduct of their war in China also showed the world a seemingly invincible and unstoppable force. A power that was extremely brutal and deadly.

So much attention was paid to training American and Allied forces in methods that would enable the average soldier to meet the Japanese fighting man on somewhat equal footing. EACH branch of the armed forces has begun an intensive physical training program designed to meet these needs. Much of the “expert” instruction needed, especially in the arena of hand-to-hand combat, came from the civilian quarter. Men with vast and varied lifetimes of experience in all forms of “combat” were tapped to create training programs that would equip the Allied soldier with the means to engage his enemies at close range. Of course the Axis did the same, Japan was an obvious factor in this regard, BUT even Adolf Hitler preached the absolute need for boxing and jiu-jitsu in military training as it gave the average soldier courage and bravery to get close to his enemy!

In the US there were a PLETHORA of different training methods and systems. ANY attempt to narrowly define the methods existing in this era is foolish! While Lt. Col. Fairbairn’s contribution is HUGE, as well as Col. Applegate’s influence, DOZENS UPON DOZENS of different close combat systems have been developed. Methods from wrestling, boxing, savate, judo, jiu-jitsu, Chinese boxing and even football and rugby were not only drawn upon, but entire “systems” were advocated based on these individual methods. It may come as a surprise to many, but Japanese KARATE was even used here in the US!

Many of these “unarmed combat” courses were highly complex and technical because they were rooted in the popular methods of the men tasked with “creating” them. Wrestlers tended to rely on this method, judo men on this system, boxers on their expertise, and so on and so forth. Each method could also have stunning success in real combat! Reports after the event showed that ALL of these methods had merit and COULD be used effectively in the rigors and stress of actual battle. However, as the war progressed, two main factors began to influence and change these training protocols. One was the fact that more and more men from ALL BACKGROUNDS were called up for military service, the other was that as the requirements for more and more replacement units began to grow, the amount of time for training was necessarily shortened and limited.

An approach that COMBINED the “best” or most effective, most efficient and quickly adopted methods as well as those that are best MAINTAINED appeared to be the most feasible and useful! The basics of boxing and wrestling became part of the overall physical fitness program, and “unarmed combat” became a specialized block of instruction. Again, these “unarmed fighting”, “hand to hand fighting”, “combat judo” and so on courses sought to COMBINE the most advantageous holds, throws, trips, locks, chokes, punches, strikes and kicks from all the various methods available. . The ONLY real limiting factor here was the element of TIME. Other considerations were also important. The O’Neill method (another Shanghai veteran and Kodokan Yudansha rating) is a classic example of a system specifically tailored to both the available training environment and the NATURE of expected combat engagement. Attempts have even been made to instruct the military in the actual systems of Koryu Jujutsu here in the USA! However, the MOST EFFECTIVE systems still tried to MIX ALL the different methods of physical combat.

As the war progressed more and more after the action, “intelligence” gleaned from the realities of actual battle helped shape and prioritize training. Many close combat methods began to be “trimmed down” to the basics that proved to be the MOST EFFECTIVE OVERALL and most applicable to ALL COMPRESSORS across a wide and varied spectrum of physical attributes and skills.

Applegate was perhaps the most vocal of these proponents due to his exposure in the Infantry Magazine and publication of “KILL or GET KILLED”. And he was not without his critics, as was Fairbairn.

Some courses were so short that they included JUST A FEW HOURS of instruction. Others were very involved and very complete in their curriculum content. Many are familiar with the Navy V-5 programs and training at Benning, but less well known is the very EXTENSIVE training at places like Fort Meade and the Hawaii Jungle Warfare Complex to name two! A very complete and MIXED program of “kills” was taught here at these places, and such training was carried on from Brooklyn to California. From the CIC training center in Chicago to the Army boot camps in Colorado, from Parris Island to the Ranger/Commando schools in the Hawaiian Islands, from the pre-D-Day training bases in England to the “Killing” school in Palestine. The METHODS taught carried out the FULL gamut of man-to-man tooth-and-nail “fights”. From the complex to “instinctive killing” (a method designed to FULLY utilize the so-called natural “animal” instinct to kill) ALL of these methods, systems and approaches FALL under the definition of COMBAT! Even the training of OSS personnel in Area B showed the methods of SIAMESE boxing (read Muay Thai)! From Anglo boxing, wrestling and grappling, French “foot-fighting” (including Assaut Vite savate), Indian Varma-adi/Varmannie, Chinese boxing, “Roman” boxing, Japanese judo/jujutsu and karate, Siamese boxing, Burmese boxing-Bando (remember CBI), western swordsmanship, Filipino weapons, and EVERY other system (including almost every weapon known to man) that has been deemed effective in SENDING enemies to the afterlife has been STUDYED, RESEARCHED. REALIZED AND TRAINED! One US WW2 hand-to-hand combat manual refers to Indonesian “methods”!

THAT IS THE LEGACY OF STRUGGLE! This is the TRUE DEFINITION OF FIGHTING! And to those who need to “drill” others into the “box” of “just” making WW2 “action films”………………….. .. ….well, if I use the above definition based on the ACTUAL historical RECORD, then HELL YES!………………….following the WWII LINK ” BUOY”!

Note: If there is sufficient interest, we are also happy to cover ALL of these topics IN FULL based on OBJECTIVE historical facts.

Future newsletter articles will go in-depth on the history, training and methods involved in both armed and unarmed combat, as well as topics ranging from Shanghai to “Shangri-La” (for those still wandering La-La land).

©2005 http://www.thetruthaboutselfdefense.com

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