Combat is an ancient human and even pre-human practice, and is certainly
among the oldest of human social endeavors. That's correct, social. The two
basic types of combative behavior-affective and pseudo-predatory-have very
primary social aims: establishing position within the group hierarchy for
the former, and protecting the group (and self) from enemies in the case of
the latter. Today, in polite society, affective combative behavior is, of
course, frowned upon as being socially dysfunctional, while
pseudo-predatory combative behavior is generally not even acknowledged by
anyone other than the professionals who deal with it. However, the
pseudo-predatory combative behavior of the professional is the only
appropriate form of combative behavior for law enforcement and the
In spite of combat's negative political correctness, its audience appeal
obviously continues unabated from well before the era of gladiatorial
combat in the arenas of the Roman Empire. Combat as entertainment has been
found in most cultures throughout history. Its exciting visual appeal is
universally conspicuous, and apparently inherent in man.
People are most aroused and impressed by the emotional excitement and the
flash and action of a wild fight. Flamboyant fighting skills and moves
catch the eye and the imagination, and indeed the great majority of popular
action movies and television productions are at least partly based on the
intrinsic human appreciation of fighting capabilities that are beyond the
norm. The media representation of fighting skills emphasizes the extremes
of conspicuous capability. In all aspects of combative presentation, we see
the flamboyant. In movie and tv gunfights, handgun rounds have the
impossible capability of knocking people off their feet and through
windows; shooters can make incredible hits while leaping through the air;
everyone who throws a knife can not only strike point first with every
throw, but hit a vital point that will instantly disable the adversary;
martial arts experts are able to defeat multiple assailants with spinning
back kicks, somehow never tripping over obstacles, slipping on rugs or
sliding on uncertain ground. Likewise, they can withstand horrendous
punishment ranging from kicks to the head to iron pipe blows to the ribs
with little or no apparent injury.
Not only are we impressed by these superhero antics, but they have come to
be incorporated in a large number of modern concepts of the fighting arts
and their associated belief systems. The great majority of fighting arts
styles and schools in the world today have become overwhelmingly display
oriented, not only in their physical practice, but in their public
presentation as well. In everything from actual physical techniques to
training wear, to internet web discussions, the trend is more and more
towards display. From the original KISS-principle oriented fighting
techniques of classical systems, popular " fighting arts" have "evolved" to
the use of extravagant, large movement, weapons blows,
leaping-spinning-back kicks, impressive if combatively meaningless
engagement postures and stances. Training wear have become billboards
advertising personal rank (supposedly one's capability) and associations
("I belong to these organizations, so I must be good"). The internet has
allowed the rise of a whole new category of expertise with an accompanying
realm of experts. Faceless communicators with little or no real experience
have become worthy discussants upon subjects about which their knowledge is
at best only spider web superficial. In spite of their lack of realistic
usefulness, these attributes-inculcated as part of fighting arts belief
systems-are a comfort to their followers, for, by, and of whom they have
They are not, however, for combat.
Close combat can be and generally is an extremely physical activity. It is
natural, then, to assume that an individual's success in combat will be
dependent upon the individual's physical capability. However, while the
obviously physical side of combat is indeed vital, more important in effect
and function are the behavioral elements. Yet, it is exactly these elements
that are most often overlooked in modern training and application. It is
precisely because combatively functional behavior traits are relatively
invisible that they have become neglected in so many of the modern fighting
Interestingly, almost all traditional martial (military as versus civilian)
systems are imbued with behavioral attributes that are virtually
diametrically opposed to the display orientation mentioned above.
Importantly, these behavioral aspects are closely integrated within the
physical components of most traditional combative systems in their combat
applications. It is also important to understand that, historically, these
behavioral aspects include components that are considered necessary
character attributes-ethics, integrity, morality-that must be conditioned
into the individual fighter, and become the basis by which he conducts his
life during times of peace or conflict.
These two areas of combative behavioral attributes of the warrior can be
analytically divided into Performance Characteristics and Comportment
Characteristics. In part one of this article I'll delve into the
The performance characteristics are those behavioral traits from man's
pseudo-predatory capabilities that enhance his capability to survive and
dominate in combat. While closely integrated with physical skill, they are
not so much technical skills themselves, but are integral within those
skills. Many of them are intrinsically tied to specific types of movement,
posture, and visual activity. Identifying this activity then is vital in
order to effectively train for the most efficient use of the performance
One of the most important aspects is something commonly called "mindset."
The term "mindset" is perhaps more talked about than it is clearly
understood, trained, and put into practice. By mindset, we are talking
about the cool, calm, collected mindset of the predator stalking and
dominating its prey. Picture an Indian tiger stalking through the bush
after prey, perhaps a deer. The big cat's mind is calm as it calculates its
movement towards the selected animal. The tiger is not emotionally aroused;
it is not angry nor fearful. It does not hate the prey. While stalking, the
tiger moves slowly, using sight, smell, hearing, even touch to be totally
aware of the environment through which he is moving. The tiger isn't
snarling or growling; there is no noise to warn off the deer. The tiger's
posture is one that allows it to remain unnoticed while moving, yet ready for
an explosive attack. When the timing is right, the tiger moves with
explosive power that quickly and efficiently finishes the prey. And after
the attack, there is no dance of celebration, no sense of "I kicked that
guy's ass." It was not a victory over an enemy, but dominance over prey. As
quickly as the tiger moved to attack, it shifts back to the quiet activity
of devouring its prey. This is the combative "mindset."
Mindset can be looked at as a combination of a number of important,
combatively efficient behavioral characteristics:
No emotional arousal, no anger, no
hate; just a cool-minded determination to dominate the situation.
Non-personal relationship to the adversary - the adversary is viewed cooly
and impersonally; he is not someone to be punished, nor is he someone who
arouses anger; he is an adversary to be dominated, and, if necessary,
The combative mind is not only aware of the
situation and environment, but is aware of it in a manner that allows the
use-of-arms professional a tactical awareness (the combative nature) of the
situation and environment, and the means of dominating it. Mere awareness
is not preparation for combat, dominating awareness is.
The concentrated determination to initiate and follow
through in combative function; combative intent is the driving force that
allows the completion of the combative task.
The neura-muscular coordination and volitional effort to
move explosively through the immediate combative task. Combat's aim is not
extended bouts of sparring, fencing, exchanging blows, or wrestling, but to
explosively dominate as efficiently and quickly as possible.
Another important aspect of combative behavior is communication, or in the
case of the professional, lack of communication with the adversary. In
combat, the only purpose of communication with an adversary is to mislead
or to lure. There should be minimal to no verbal communication with
adversary. Verbal (or any) communication that acts to engage the
professional should be carefully avoided. In combat, there is generally no
need to establish a personal connection with the adversary through talking.
Such communication leads to an emotional connection, which, no matter what
the content-fear, anger, ego arousal-can only act to disrupt combative
awareness and intent.
Another form of communication is eye contact, which should also be avoided.
The eyes are for watching - gathering information. Eye contact with an
adversary tends to lead to a cycle of emotional arousal on both sides, and
further tends to lock one's attention onto the opponent, thus lowering
awareness of the surroundings.
Physical Manifestation of the Combat Mindset
Along with mindset, but even more misunderstood-especially in the display
oriented arts-is "bodyset" - posture, stance, and movement. As with the
behavioral traits of the combative mindset, we also need to be aware of the
all important physical manifestations of combative mindset.
Combative postures should be used only to prepare for action. Any posture
that overtly signals intent or capability only acts to provide more
information to an adversary than he should be allowed.
The most common and natural combative posture in humans is the "stalking
The posture should be one that allows easy movement and
readiness for immediate explosive action, much the same as with the hunting
tiger. In the stalking posture, the individual is crouched with knees bent,
leaning slightly forward. This is a ready position that allows both easy
movement forward, and quick changes in direction. It is a balanced stance
and posture that allows spontaneous change from slow cautious stalking to
an explosive attack. In hunting peoples, we see the same posture utilized
with spear, bow, or firearm. All these weapons have been naturally adapted
and evolved to fit the stalking posture.
The behavioral aspect of the stalking posture is particularly important.
This posture is inseparably tied to the aspects of the combative mindset:
efficiency of movement
minimal communication to subject
Movement & Mechanics
The hip and pelvic region is the core for all
combative movement. It is the foundation for both upper body as well as
leg-and-foot movement, and it is the link that ties upper and lower body
together. This area is too complex to cover in this short article, but
suffice it to say that it should be the core area for all movement training
and strength conditioning.
The legs and feet are key to movement and stability. Typically,
little attention is paid to the feet, but they are the primary implementers
of directional control in all action. In movement, as much as possible, the
feet should be pointed either straight towards the direction of movement or
slightly outward. This is important not only for controlling direction, but
is essential in allowing full play of the hip/pelvic region. At no time
should the feet be allowed to turn inward-pigeon-toed.
The knees should always be slightly flexed (particularly important during
load bearing), and generally pointed in the same direction as the feet.
During combat action/movement, the knees should be kept well flexed,
keeping the hips low. The almost overwhelming tendency to straighten up in
a toe-to-toe fight should be avoided.
Short stepping allows quick changes in direction and quick
recovery when traveling over uncertain ground. Steps should generally be
kept very short - approximately one foot-length in distance. The feet
should be kept close to the ground during the stepping, and the body
movement should be kept as level as possible. Again, the knees must be kept
well bent, and the primary leg movement comes mainly from the knees and not
the hips. This type of stepping is very similar to the "Groucho" used by
many SWAT teams. Long, leaping steps are fine for covering large amounts of
territory, but are generally inappropriate for the immediate action in
dealing with an adversary.
Short of the actual physical techniques of weapons use or fighting, these
are the primary physical-and-behavioral aspects of combat performance.