What are Combatives?

‘Combatives’ is a term that refers to western systems of self defence that are effective, fast and easy to learn. Combatives attempt to answer the singular question: If you only had a few weeks before your brother went to war, what would you teach him?

CombativesThe main beneficiaries of such systems in the past have been the police and military. Modern soldiers must dedicate the majority of their time to training with firearms, so they don’t want to spend all day on unarmed techniques. Police officers are similarly busy with other duties and for that matter are often less motivated to learn combat skills to a high level.

CombativesIt was only latterly that instructors realised that combatives were also very marketable to the general public. You must have all seen adverts for fighting systems that emphasise not just their effectiveness but also how quick and easy they are to learn. This is very attractive to young men in particular, who typically want to see results as soon as possible.

Some people have adopted combative philosophy to the exclusion of all else. They cite that once your heart beat rises beyond 175 bpm your ability to use fine movements is hugely diminished. They also reference the OODA loop which demonstrates how too much knowledge can actually slow you down.

CombativesThe flip side is that whilst good techniques may feed off intuitive reactions, effective responses often do require a high level of sophistication. A combatives instructor might not teach punching for example, because a heel-palm is a more flexible weapon that takes almost no time to learn. However, that’s not to say that a punch isn’t a more effective weapon in many scenarios.

Ironically, you will find that the most famous combatives instructors have a background in more ‘traditional’ arts. At Blackwater we try to teach basic combatives in the first instance and only gradually introduce more technical material. That way students can learn how to fight first and enhance their knowledge of the martial arts later if they so choose.

– Ian

You might also like to read our article Self Defence vs. Martial Arts.