Considerations for Combatives

While we have focused continually on awareness and avoidance as a means to prevent becoming engaged in a physical conflict there may be times when its unavoidable – especially to protect oneself from violence.  While physical self defense measures our not our focus there is so much inaccurate, misleading or false information out there — often delivered by people with good intentions — that its important to at least discuss some general principles and concepts that will allow the reader to better distinguish useful and worthwhile training from training which is not so good or not so applicable

Some things to consider at the outset:

  • As we have discussed before, the criminal will attack at a time and place of his choosing where conditions favor him.


  • There will likely be weapons, multiple attackers or both involved.  Some statistics on violence contradict this but they normally include “social violence” such as fistfights in bars and domestic incidents which are not our focus here.


  • The criminal will likely have committed this type of attack before and will have a game plan that has worked in the past.


  • If we are forced to counter this physically we must utilize the element of surprise, as much violence as possible and seek to disable the attacker enough to provide an opportunity to escape.

This means we need to utilize:


  • The element of surprise and non-telegraphic movement to the extent possible.


  • Gross motor attacks.  Fine motor techniques and overly complex techniques will likely not be effective.


  • Repetitive attacks until the assailant is disabled or breaks contacts and retreats.


  • Attacks to vulnerable soft tissue areas such as the eyes and throat that will inflict the maximum damage.


  • Use of palm strikes, hammer fists, rakes, elbows, knees and other tools that allow us to inflict damage without inadvertently injuring ourselves in the process.


  • Improvised weapons when available and applicable.  A realistic consideration of how commonly carried items or accessible items can be effectively utilized as weapons and subsequent training in their use is necessary.


Perhaps the most important aspect is mindset and the willingness to use violence and inflict damage when necessary to protect yourself or others.  It is however important to get some level of training in effective methods.  The degree to which you train will largely be determined by your level of interest and ideally by your level of need.  It can be difficult to find quality training that focuses on realistically dealing with violence.  Its important to consider some of the points outlined above when selecting an instructor or school.  Even after selecting an instructor and beginning training its important to have a critical mind and not accept everything at face value, be able to distinguish what is likely to work best for you and concentrate on realistic application under pressure and stress.




5 Responses to Considerations for Combatives

  1. Excellent article brother. May I add that training has to be full speed, full out, and with intent, and include realistic scenario training/ force on force.

    • Thanks Georges. You are exactly right — it needs to incorporate realistic scenarios and be trained with intensity against a live, resisting opponent.

      As we both know those elements are missing in much of what is available today.

      Thanks for the valuable input.

      • says:

        No problem brother, keep those awesome articles coming!
        Sent via my BlackBerry® smartphone from Alfa

  2. Neal Martin says:

    Good to see an emphasis on mindset in this article. I believe it has to be continually empahsised to trainees, lest they forget and fall into purely physical training routines, which is what constitutes most traditional martial arts. I continually tell people to bring their imaginations into play when training, so they aren’t just hitting a focus pad, they are hitting a real attacker. I try to get them to deliver the techniques with the same intent as they would if they were doing them on a real attacker. It helps with focus and aggression and and I believe it burns the technique deeper into the brain because of the emotional content behind it. Also, when they have to use the technique for real, they will do so with the same intent.

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