What is Close Quarter Combat?
Close Quarter Combat is a term for hand-to-hand combat training and techniques. Sometimes called CQC or close combat, World War II-era American combatives were largely developed by Britain’s William E. Fairbairn and Eric A. Sykes. Also known for their eponymousFairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife, Fairbairn and Sykes had worked in the British Armed Forces and helped teach the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) quick, effective, and simple techniques for fighting with or without weapons in melee situations. Similar training was provided to British Commandos, the First Special Service Force, Office of Strategic Services, Army Rangers, and Marine Raiders. Fairbairn at one point called this system Defendu and published on it, as did their American colleague Rex Applegate. Fairbairn often referred to the technique as “gutter fighting,” a term which Applegate used, along with “the Fairbairn system.”
Other combatives systems having their origins in the modern military include Chinese Sanshou, Soviet Bojewoje (Combat) Sambo, and Israeli Kapap. The prevalence and style of combatives training often changes based on perceived need, and even in times of peace, special forces and commando units tend to have a much higher emphasis on close combat than most personnel, as may embassy guards or paramilitary units such as police SWAT teams.
De-emphasized in the United States after World War II, insurgency conflicts such as the Vietnam War, low intensity conflict, and urban warfare tend to encourage more attention to combatives. While the United States Marine Corps replaced its LINE combat system withMarine Corps Martial Arts Program in 2002, The United States Army adopted the Modern Army Combatives (MAC) program the same year with the publishing of Field Manual 3-25.150. MAC draws from systems such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Muay Thai, Boxing andEskrima, which could be trained “live” and can be fully integrated into current Close Quarters Battle tactics and training methods.
In August 2007, MAC training became required in every Army unit by Army regulation 350-1. The Modern Army Combatives Program was adopted as the basis for the Air Force Combatives Program in January 2008.
In recent years the major tenets of MAC, namely “live” training and using competitions as a tool to motivate Soldiers and units to higher levels of training, have been adopted by many of the major Combatives Systems such as Krav Maga and the Russian military hand-to-hand combat system.
Modern Army Combatives
In 2001, Matt Larsen, then a Sergeant First Class, established the United States Army Combatives School at Fort Benning. Students are taught techniques from the 2002 and 2009 versions of FM 3-25.150 (Combatives), also written by Larsen. The aim of the regimen is to teach soldiers how to train rather than attempting to give them the perfect techniques for any given situation. The main idea is that all real ability is developed after the initial training and only if training becomes routine. The initial techniques are simply a learning metaphor useful for teaching more important concepts, such as dominating an opponent with superior body position during ground grappling or how to control someone during clinch fighting. They are taught as small, easily repeatable drills, in which practitioners could learn multiple related techniques rapidly. For example, Drill One teaches several techniques: escaping blows, maintaining the mount, escaping the mount, maintaining the guard, passing the guard, assuming side control, maintaining side control, preventing and assuming the mount. The drill can be completed in less than a minute and can be done repeatedly with varying levels of resistance to maximize training benefits.
New soldiers begin their Combatives training on day three of Initial Military Training, at the same time that they are first issued their rifle. The training begins with learning to maintain control of your weapon in a fight. Soldiers are then taught how to gain control of a potential enemy at the farthest possible range in order to maintain their tactical flexibility, what the tactical options are and how to implement them.
The three basic options upon encountering a resistant opponent taught are:
- Option One, disengage to regain projectile weapon range
- Option Two, gain a controlling position and utilize a secondary weapon
- Option Three, close the distance and gain control to finish the fight
During the graduation exercises the trainee must react to contact from the front or rear in full combat equipment and execute whichever of the three tactical options is appropriate and to take part in competitive bouts using the basic rules.
The Combatives School teaches four instructor certification courses. Students of the first course are not expected to have any knowledge of combatives upon arrival. They are taught fundamental techniques which are designed to illuminate the fundamental principles of combatives training. The basic techniques form a framework upon which the rest of the program can build and are taught as a series of drills, which can be performed as a part of daily physical training. While the course is heavy on grappling, it does not lose sight of the fact that it is a course designed for soldiers going into combat. It is made clear that while combatives can be used to kill or disable, the man that typically wins a hand-to-hand fight in combat is the one whose allies arrive with guns first.
Subsequent courses build upon the framework by adding throws and takedowns from Wrestling and Judo, striking skills from Boxing and Muay Thai, ground fighting from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Sambo and melee weapons fighting from Eskrima and the western martial arts, all of that combined with how to conduct scenario training and referee the various levels of Combatives competitions.
There are several reasons that the combatives course is taught:
- To educate soldiers on how to protect themselves against threats without using their firearms
- To provide a non-lethal response to situations on the battlefield
- To instill the ‘warrior instinct’ to provide the necessary aggression to meet the enemy unflinchingly
Larsen recognized in the development of the Modern Army Combatives Program that previous programs had suffered from the same problems. Invariably, the approach had been to pick a small set of what were deemed simple, effective, easy to learn techniques and train them in whatever finite amount of time was granted on a training calendar. This “terminal training” approach, which offered no follow-on training plan other than continued practice of the same limited number of techniques, had failed in the past because it did not provide an avenue or the motivation for continued training.
Instead, his approach was to use the limited amount of institutional training time to lay a foundation for training around the Army. Techniques were put together in a series of simple drills so that through repetition, such as during daily physical training or as a warm-up exercise, soldiers could be expected to not only memorize but master the basic techniques.