W.E. Fairbairn’s Combative Concepts

Urban Combatives


The Oxford English dictionary defines vehemence as showing a strong and intense feeling of demonstrative aggression. This has also been referred to as your killer instinct or the Gemini principle and Sigmund Freud called your ‘It’ Factor. This intense source of energy exists in all of us and is indeed an essential piece of the puzzle that goes hand in hand with the combative mindset that then create the WILLINGNESS to step up and do what ever it takes to win the fight. Everyone’s access point is set at a variable level. What may trigger this instinct in some people may not be enough in others. There is a documented case that illustrates this to good effect. The incident involved an aggravated robbery that turned to a brutal rape after a man broke in to the house of a single mother. The woman was unable to find within herself what was needed to fend off her attacker, and instead gave in without a fight in the hope that the ordeal would be over quickly. For whatever reason this lady gave in with out a fight or struggle was unclear but as soon as her attacker had finished and decided to turn his attention to her eight year old daughter, everything changed. As soon as he made his way into her room, within literally several seconds of opening the door of her child’s room, the attacker slumped to his knees clutching his neck in a desperate attempt to pull out a pair of scissors that were rammed into his neck full force by the child’s mother. In this example it is clear that the threat to her child was indeed enough for this lady to access her vehemence to a high enough degree to protect her own. This is of course an extreme example, but such an example is necessary to illustrate the first point that killer instinct does indeed exist in every body and secondly that most if not all of us can relate to the fact that we would indeed be prepared to do whatever it takes to protect the life of our own child or loved one.

Once we can acknowledge the fact that this powerful resource of energy exists within each of us, we must then decide how best to make use of it in a combative situation. The ideal goal would be to fine-tune this energy into an on and off switch that we can control. If all options to avoid and escape, verbally dissuade, loop-hole or posture, fail and the situation is now about to become combative, then as Den says your initial introduction into the altercation must be significant. It must make use of the 3 essential elements of speed, surprise and aggression. These elements combined with theWILLINGNESS to do whatever it takes to win the fight are what make up the essential core or power base of our vital pyramid {MIND SET}The next element we need to add to this equation, once the decision has been made to attack, is our {TACTICS} which in this case are pre-emption, continuous attack with forward pressure. This is the exact point where the switch is flipped and vehemence is bought to bear. {SKILLS} are the physical tools that we employ to end the combative situation and terminate the threat quickly and clinically. We can use training drills that make use of the basic gross motor strikes that we all practice as examples that will allow us to put all these elements together; all that is required is a piece of impact equipment such as heavy bag or a pad/shield held by a partner and our imagination. All drills should consist of basic gross motor strikes. Here is an example to use that takes the Combative attacking sequence that was used in the opening scenes of Kelly MacCann’s Combatives 3 tape series. Here MacCann starts by using two Cycling hammer-fist blows then flowing into a flurry of elbow and Ax hand strikes.

Vehemence Presentation

Here is an illustrated example of a continuous attacking drill that can be used to practice switching on short bursts of controlled aggression. Add visualisation to the drill and try to muster as much emotional content as possible.


From a non aggressive fence throw two Cycling, off hand face smashes to hammer-fist strikes.

Using the same open hand strike, flow straight into a sequence of elbow to Ax hand strikes.

Using maximum aggression and forward pressure.

Understand that this is merely an example that I have taken to illustrate the concept of what I’m talking about, once you have that you can apply it to any technical sequence that you favour. This is merely a drill that will allow you to practice flicking the switch on and off. For those who have difficulty in switching on their aggression, you will need to add the most powerful resource at your disposal, and that is the use of your mind through visualization or mental imagery. Bruce Leesummed up the Combative mindset when he said ”If you just heard that one of your friend got badly beaten up, you would probably sit down and have a think about what you are going to do about it. If however you came home one day to find that someone had beaten your grand mother senseless for the price of her pension, then something inside you just goes BAM!! There is no thought you just want to destroy the mother f**ker!”. So use this example, close your eyes before the drill and imagine whatever it takes for you to flick on the switch then blitz the pads with your continuous assault for no more than 3-5 seconds with as much vehemence as you can possible muster, then switch it off as you finish. The object is to create a controlled explosion of anger.


Pronounced (ar-ti-fiss) Defined in the English dictionary as trickery, a clever trick intended to mislead someone. This is a method of deception that can create the opportunity to eliminate a threat pre-emptively, thereby putting an end to a potential altercation quickly and clinically. There are two main ways that we use artifice/deception and they are by either misdirection, in order to create a distraction or through brain engagement, where we ask our aggressor a brain-engaging question just before we strike.The latter method was favoured by Geoff Thompson who would line up his opponent by using the fence and then he would say something like ” so what you trying to say?” he would follow this an instant later with a well practiced right cross/hook punch to the jaw that would put a clinical end to the situation. This method can be applied to any favoured pre-emptive strike that you choose, as long as you stick to the main principles of controlling space with your fence, talking with your hands whilst using deceptive dialogue.

It is important that we ask a question that requires a response, such as ”what’s this about?” Why you picking on me?” at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter whether the question is relevant to the situation at hand or if it is totally abstract, so long as it makes the aggressor think of a response, regardless if he intends to reply or not is unimportant. What we are looking to do here is to engage his brain for a split second so that he is not thinking about his intention to attack but instead what you have just said. This will create the window of opportunity that we need to strike. This will also act as an action trigger for our attack that will take away any indecision on our part of when to attack.

To train this response we need to associate our selected question with our favoured strike/s and bring it to play each and every time we practice on the pads, bags and with our training partners. This then becomes part of our practiced game plan (see volume one.) The other way we use artifice is through misdirection. This has been around for many, many years and has been used by everyone from WW2 veterans to East end gangsters. The notorious Kray twins were known to offer someone a cigarette and then a light then as they lean forward to light it they would punch them hard in the jaw which was by now slightly open, and knock the individual completely unconscious. A similar method was use by special operatives in WW2 when most people would carry a metal cigarette case, which would be held flat in the palm of the hand and then rammed hard into and through the jaw, chin-jab style as the recipient leaned in for a light.

Here are a few excellent methods of deception through misdirection that were shown to me whilst on a Dennis Martin training course, by my good friend and training partner, John Deacon who has a thirst for anything combatively functional. The first was discovered by accident whilst practicing chin-jabs with a partner. One of them needed to cough to clear their throat and put out his hand onto his partner’s chest and said ”hold on” as he turned away to cough. John then took this idea and turned it into an excellent deception technique.

The hand to the chest acts as a fence that will give you tactile awareness of where your aggressor is and what his intentions are, the slight turn away is done whilst still keeping your opponent in view and is used to set up your strike from an open or closed hand held in front of your mouth to cover as you cough before exploding forward and through the opponent’s face with your strike.

The next one makes use of misdirection by engaging the aggressor’s attention in the following way. As the verbal argument starts to escalate make a quarter turn away from your opponent as you place one arm across your chest as if pointing to a rip in your shirt by your shoulder, this is a discreet way of chambering for an Ax hand strike, as you do this say something like ”What do mean? Look what you’ve done to my shirt.” From here drop step forward and explode into an Ax hand strike to the aggressor’s neck area.

One final method is to use vulgarity, as the argument starts to escalate take your hand up to your nose and blow snot into your hand, from here make a motion as if to flick the snot at your aggressor’s feet as he reacts in disgust to your action explode into and through him with your main artillery strike. This could also be used to buy you just enough time to draw an improvised weapon such as a pen or a mobile phone etc.


The force aspect of Fairbairn’s concepts is simple enough we must deliver the maximum amount of impact to our aggressor’s body through our strikes. W.E Fairbairn understood the mechanics of the drop step and body torque as a means to increase impact force as do the modern combative Instructors of our period. The following are five principles of power development it is theses principles that will make your technique an efficient means of employing FORCE.An Instructor from the Combatives group G.H.C.A by the name of John Watson came up with the acronym S.W.A.M.P that is used to define the five principles of power development or generation of force that is now being put into practice by students of Combatives the world over thanks to the teachings of Kelly MacCann and Bob Kasper

S – Stay relaxed
W – weapon first
A – acceleration
M – move in the direction of the strike
P – plunge your body weight into the

Stay relaxed. Staying relaxed is essential for your body to move swiftly and economically. For explosive movement you need to stay loose, the more relaxed you are, the faster your limbs will move and the harder your strikes will be. Concentrate on being relaxed before you explode into the technique.

Weapon first. We want to move the weapon first in order to deliver the strike without telegraphic intentions. As Bob Kasper says ”Let him feel the technique before he sees it”. This is especially applicable to our main artillery pre-emptive strike, which is of course what we should always seek if we have no alternative left but the physical. Forget chambering for a strike and avoid facial expressions, just throw your blow from wherever your weapon/tool happens to be.

Acceleration. Accelerate forward off the back foot for a fast delivery. Once your body is moving, continue moving as fast as you can and don’t stop until the man is down. Remember that tense muscles move slower so stay relaxed and accelerate through the target. When you throw a technique, throw it fast. Accelerate, and keep accelerating until it’s over.

Move in the direction of the strike. In order to put your body weight into a strike you must move in the same direction. Your body weight at speed will create power and force through the target as long as it is moving in the same direction.

Plunge your weapon/tool into and through your target accompanied with your full body weight behind it. In order to do this you must be applying two other principles: Moving the weapon first and moving in the direction of the strike. To plunge means to throw all of your body weight directly into the strike before your mass settles.


Shock relates to the effects of our impact delivery to the aggressor’s body and the effects this will cause to the Central Nervous System (CNS) as well as the damage caused to him physically, mentally and emotionally. Our aim should be to create complete sensory over load to the recipient through our own body dynamics, mental and physical commitment to put the man down by striking continuously with bad intentions.


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