Hunter B. Armstrong

From the hoplological perspective, we clearly distinguish two primary types of combative systems, (fighting arts). As raised several times over the years in HOPLOS, and most recently in Donn Draeger’s article, “Understanding East Asian Combative Culture,”1 martial and civil fighting are two areas of combative behavior that have evolved for different applications under stimulus from different combative contexts. More importantly, however, I intend to show that their distinctions are based in biological adaptations though certainly influenced by cultural mechanisms.

Since the mid-1970’s with E.O. Wilson’s arousal of a general interest in sociobiology and greater emphasis on the biological perspective into the study of man’s behavior, great insights have been made into the wide scope of man’s performance and behavior. This area has further developed into a field now called “evolutionary psychology.” Much of these gains are results of work done in ethology (the study of animal behavior), a field that subsumes man’s behavior (albeit with a certain amount of emotional backlash). One of the leaders in the field is an Austrian scholar, Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, who has specialized in man... the animal.

Here, mention should be made that both E.O. Wilson and Eibl-Eibesfeldt have both warned against the common error of many detractors of sociobiology, that of accusing sociobiology and bio-social anthropology (or evolutionary psychology) of claiming that man is an animal at the whim of his genes. Nothing could be further from the truth. These scholars continuously point out that though man is heavily influenced by his genetic makeup, it is the very fact that man can go against that influence and behave contrary to genetic structures that most distinctly separates him from his fellow animals. Nevertheless, to ignore the genetic influence is to do so at the risk of losing what is arguably the most important perspective into man’s behavior.

From the hoplological standpoint, we are, of course, looking at man’s combative behavior and performance, its evolution and continuing development. And here, as elsewhere in man’s behavior, culture has a heavy hand in the manifestation of a behavior whose roots are in genetic structures. It is appropriate, therefore, to look into both man’s culture and his biology, (i.e., animal behavior) to understand man’s biologically based, culturally manifested, combative behaviors.

Combative behavior, as such, is not a sphere of behavior that is generally looked at separately by students of human behavior. Indeed, at best it is relegated to a position as part of the over broad application of the term, “aggression.” Nevertheless, in studies on aggression a great deal of material pertinent to combative behavior has come to light.

Here, we should stop and define for the purposes of this article in particular and for hoplology in general, the meanings of such terms as aggression, combat, etc.

Aggression is commonly defined as “an act of hostility or injury.” In hoplology (and anthropology), aggression takes on a meaning at once broader and more precise, one that includes not only bodily attacks, but also less physical behaviors, such as verbal abuse and psychological intimidation. Perhaps the most hoplologically appropriate definition comes from a leader in the biological approach to the study of aggression, the previously mentioned ethologist, Eibl- Eibesfeldt. Eibl-Eibesfeldt has done extensive research into animal—including human—aggression, and his work strongly substantiates the basic concepts of hoplology. His definition of aggression:

all behavior patterns that lead to the spacing out of conspecifics by means of the repelling principle or to the domination of one individual over others; consequently, I shall include behavior patterns such as bird song.”2

Although this definition is seemingly limited to conspecifics–members of the same species–Eibl-Eibesfeldt, in truth, does not restrict the applications of certain types of aggression, as will be seen further on.

The characteristics and nature of combat and combat-related actions inherent to and displayed by a society or a member of a society. Although, combativeness can be and predominantly is aggressive, aggressiveness is only relatively rarely displayed through combative activity, much less actual combat. Combat can be and often is purely reactive with little or no time for overt aggression to be aroused.

Fighting between two or more individuals or groups of individuals. In hoplology, we are predominantly referring to conspecific combat, i.e., within the species homo–man against man–though certainly inter-specific (man against animal) combat does occur. These interspecific combats, though not common in modern industrialized societies, are not as rare nor as accidental as at first might be thought; they range from accidental confrontation in the wild, to arranged combats ala the Roman games.

Combative behavior:
Combative behavior is that behavior displayed when man fights, prepares to fight, or participates in activity that simulates fighting. Especially in the latter case, combative behavior can be non-aggressive.

Combative behavior takes place in many forms of activity and under many conditions, from play to professional performance; and includes emotional ranges from fear to calmness to rage.

With these definitions to provide a common ground of understanding, I wish to propose a two tier structure of combative behavior based on a similar structure for aggression as developed by D.J. Reis3 and outlined by Eibl-Eibesfeldt.4

Eibl-Eibesfeldt argues that when looking at aggression, attention must be paid to the differences between inter-specific and intra-specific aggression. Inter-specific refers to that aggression shown by members of one species, such as a wolf, towards members of another species, such as a deer. The aggression would be typified by the predator wolf stalking, chasing, and attacking its prey, the deer. This predatory type of aggression between animals is so called, “predatory aggression.”

Intra-specific aggression is that aggression displayed between member of same species when settling territorial disputes, hierarchy, mating, etc. Typical of this type of aggression are the mating duels of male animals within a species. This type of aggression is typically involved with a condition of high emotional arousal, and thus is called “affective aggression.” Characteristically, affective aggression (in animals, predominantly displayed towards members of the same species) is typified by a high level of emotional display with comparatively little potential for lethal results. In contrast, predatory aggression, while often lacking overt display, frequently has a more lethal outcome.

These differences, at first glance might seem of little import in human combativeness, however, they provide an insight into aspects of human combative behavior that are evidently absent in other animals except on an inter-specific basis.

Following is a chart taken from Eibl-Eibesfeldt’s The Biology of Peace and War. The chart itself was developed by D.J. Reis,5 and refers to the intra-specific and inter-specific aggression of cats. Following which, I have added my own comments.

Affective Aggression

  1. Intense activation of the autonomous
    system (sympatho-adrenal)
  2. Adoption of threatening or defensive
  3. Making threatening sounds
  4. . “Angry” attack with claws resulting in
    wounds to the other party
  5. Fluctuations in readiness for action (lowering of threshold)
  6. Both intra-specific and inter-specific
  7. Often restricted to intimidation behavior
  8. Unrelated to food intake
  9. Substantially influenceable by hormones

Predatory Aggression

  1. Slight activation of the autonomous system
  2. Stalking
  3. Absence of threatening sounds
  4. Nape of the prey’s neck attacked with teeth in order to kill
  5. No variation in reaction
  6. Inter-specific
  7. Always directed to success (killing)
  8. Related to food intake
  9. Very slightly influenceable by hormones

Based on Reis’ outline of feline affective and predatory aggression, I have expanded the concept to human combative behavior. First, below I have related the aspects of affective and predatory aggression as listed by Reis, to the Innate/Manifest Adaptive Traits as promulgated in hoplology by Richard Hayes.6 This is followed by developing further the connection to human combative behavior.


Affective Aggression (intra-specific)

1. Intense activation of the autonomous
system (sympatho-adrenal):
Manifest Imperturbablemind/ Steadfast-mind Trait

This is arousal at either end of the emotional
portion (fear/anger) of the imperturbable mind/steadfast-mind continuum. Emotional arousal can be commonly seen in confrontations stemming from argument and leading to punches. Arousal is also a characteristic of group fighting in which emotional arousal leads to head-on, face-to-face, street fighting.

2. Adoption of threatening or defensive

Typical of this would be the many stances and postures utilized by fighting arts, from boxing to karate. Many kamae are specifically “active” or “aggressive,” i.e., they are to intimidate or elicit an emotional reaction from the opponent.

3. Making threatening sounds: Innate/
Manifest Respiratory/Vocality Trait

Aggressively yelling, war cries, voiced kiai, etc., all are utilized to stun, startle, and/or scare the opponent. The natural, unpracticed, reactive yell is the basis upon which fighting cries are based, though they may have other beneficial or strengthening functions as well.

4. “Angry” attack with claws resulting
in wounds to the other party:
Manifest Imperturbable-mind/Steadfastmind
Trait & Innate/Manifest Volition Trait

This is the lower end of the continuum of both Imperturbable-mind/Steadfast-mind and Volition; an attack is made in fear and/or anger without real intent - much emotion, but little thought is given to mortal application. In the personal confrontation of the bar room brawl or street fight, this is the most common scenario - there is rarely “real” intent to kill one’s opponent (though a gun makes it easily done). In most civilian fighting arts, there is rarely any real intent to do permanent damage or to kill the opponent; in self-defense systems the ultimate aim is escape. As well, in the agonistic systems typical of contemporary studio/dojo fighting arts, while there is usually no fear/anger arousal in the studio, in competition there often is, resulting in a “lashing out,” but again with little or no intent at causing real harm.

5. Fluctuations in readiness for action
(lowering of threshold):
Innate/Manifest Imperturbablemind/Steadfast-mind Trait

This, of course, is tied to No. 1, above. The nature of the sympatho-adrenal system is such that a stable level of high arousal cannot be maintained for any great length of time. As a result, fluctuations occur, generally leading to a lowered level of readiness. While the threshold for excitability is lowered, the response is less intense and efficient. This type of behavior is again seen commonly in the bar room argument where at one moment two men are ready to duke it out, and the next, they are sharing a beer. In the civilian context, fluctuating arousal is acceptable and survival- adaptive as personal conflict is seldom a long-term affair, most being quick flare-ups that are often as not quickly over. This ties in nicely with biological and cultural inhibitions against aggressive assaults, allowing the protective mechanisms of flight and/or submission to take effect. If arousal is not quickly lowered, an assailant will not respond to submission, nor his/her own biological and cultural inhibitions against further assault, thus leading to maladaptive intra-group assault. In modern society, there are many cases where either arousal is not lowered rapidly enough or submission cues are insufficient to stem fatal results.

Extreme or extended situations of fluctuating high and low arousal would lead to combat fatigue or post-traumatic shock syndrome.”

6. Both intra-specific and inter-specific:

In humans, Eibl-Eibesfeldt uses the term “pseudo-specific.” Over time, man’s socio-cultural development has led to the application of essentially inter-species aggressive behavior in conspecific situations. This is particularly applicable in inter-group situations, where reactions to outside groups and their members have taken on behavioral attributes that in most animals would be directed at separate species, ergo pseudo-speciation. Most small, ethnic group entities, e.g., tribal societies, identify themselves as “men” or “real men,” placing themselves at the top of a human/ animal hierarchy with their own tribe as human and others less so. In this sense, intra-group and inter-group, in humans, takes on the same meaning as intra-specific and inter-specific respectively.

Affective combat in humans is definitely displayed both on an intra-group and intergroup basis. Evolutionarily and historically speaking, man is a social, i.e., group animal. Only very recently has society developed to a point where the disenfranchised individual is relatively common. As his combative/aggressive behavior is predominantly aimed at fellow humans, it is even more natural that affective aggression is displayed on both an intra- and inter-group basis. Being less lethal or even harmful, yet still effective at maintaining territorial boundaries, affective aggression would be a particularly functional survival adaptive trait.

7. Often restricted to intimidation behavior
See the last part of no. 6, above, as well as
nos. 2 and 3.

Here, possibly duel systems, and some agonistic systems are typical.

8. Unrelated to food intake
(Read “economy” for “food intake")

Affective aggression is primarily aimed at status (including ego defense and enhancement) and personal territoriality (defense or expansion). Non-martial systems—civilian self-defense (single and group), duel, agonistic, and psycho-religious— have little connection with economic goals or functions, and generally
have relatively little to do with fighting for survival.

9. Substantially influenceable by hormones
See nos. 1 and 5, above.


Predatory Aggression (inter-specific)

1. Slight activation of the autonomous
Innate/Manifest Imperturbablemind/
Steadfast-mind Trait

Little or no arousal here, bordering and entering imperturbable-mind/steadfastmind portion of the continuum. This is relatively rarely seen in one-on-one fights, and perhaps a more likely example would be in movie versions of fighting involving Clint Eastwood or Toshiro Mifune. This behavior is more common in hunting behavior (an inter-species activity) where there is some excitement (the thrill of the hunt), but little of the arousal that would be a characteristic of personal conflict.

2. Stalking:

Some of the “passive” kamae and postures, could be considered stalking postures and ready positions—rather than aggressive— with the aim of inciting emotion. They are designed to disguise real intent, or to lure, i.e., a form or stalking. Japanese systems that primarily utilize aggressive kamae rarely make use of passive, and the reverse is to a certain extent also true. I would venture to say that civilian fighting arts and soldier close combat techniques stress aggressive postures, while the less common passive postures, requiring greater behavioral control, ergo greater training, would be more restricted to warrior systems that provide the time and means for such training.

3. Absence of threatening sounds:

Here, the absence of sound as noted by Reis, is not necessarily to be taken as an absence of the Respiratory/Vocality Trait. In many Japanese bushi systems, the “silent” kiai is the superior one, and can be attained only after the voiced kiai has been suitably trained. Here, of course, the “passive” kiai is tied to behavioral control through its connection with the Imperturbable- mind/Steadfast-mind trait, as versus the aggressive, emotion arousing (self and opponent) voiced kiai.

4. Nape of the prey’s neck attacked with
teeth in order to kill:
Innate/Manifest Imperturbable-mind/Steadfast-mind Trait & Innate/Manifest Volition Trait

Though he does not mention “coolness” here, Reis, by his omission of “angry” brings out Imperturbable-mind/Steadfastmind as well as Volition in the killing action. This killing behavior is trained for in most military systems, including both soldier and warrior systems. In the case of the soldier, though, often more attention is paid to the technical aspects of the kill rather than the psycho-emotional.

5. No variation in reaction: Innate/Manifest Imperturbable-mind/Steadfastmind Trait

This too is toward the optimal functioning end of the Imperturbable-mind/Steadfastmind continuum. While regularly seen in hunting, in inter-personal or group combat, it is a behavioral control that has a genetic set potential that may or may not be attainable via cultural contexts (e.g., upbringing, training). Certainly this condition is recognized as being of primary importance in Japanese combative traditions, and is specifically trained for. As well, modern soldier systems also encourage the ability of being able to maintain “calmness under fire.” However, other than technical weapons training, little effort is made in that direction.

6. Inter-specific:

When we read “inter-specific” as intergroup, it is readily evident that predator behavior is most appropriately aimed at inter-group combat; on an intra-group basis, it would soon prove to lead to the destruction of the group and therefore maladaptive. Such behavior again is most readily apparent in military systems, including warrior. Especially in soldier-based military systems we can see the enemy, the target of aggression, strongly identified as being less than human, i.e., a different species. This, however, is often successful only on a short term basis. A more cohesive and long lasting group identity is developed by the soldier towards the smaller, immediate group of which he is a member - the squad (4-8 members) and perhaps platoon (20-40 members). This is most likely a biologically based phenomenon rooted in the small group evolution of early man. In both soldier and warrior training systems, combative behavior directed within the group is strongly discouraged, but, in warrior cultures, many times the group is less cohesive, and mortal combat within the group is perhaps more common.

7. Always directed to success (killing)
See no. 4, above.

8. Related to food intake
(Read “economy” for “food intake")

Predatory aggression is primarily aimed at economic gain. In humans, economic gain through aggression is commonly achieved via military means. Battlefield combat (single and group) is directed at defeating the enemy (at the individual level, killing) and attaining economically-based rewards. Defense of one’s economy is closely tied to survival, and thus is generally more intensely fought for than defense of personal status or personal space, both of which can be only indirectly tied to survival.

9. Very slightly influenceable by hormones
See nos. 1 and 5, above.

From this chart, we can begin to see some of the biological and socio-cultural imperatives and mechanisms for the two types of aggression in animals—affective (intraspecific) and predatory (inter-specific)—being antecedents to two types of human combative behavior: affective combative behavior (intra-group) and pseudo-predatory combative behavior (inter-group).

On the non-human level (the predatory cat, for example), affective and predatory aggression are basically intra-specific and inter-specific respectively, however, in humans we are referring to conspecific (within the species) combat wherein affective combative behavior would be an intra-group (within the group) characteristic, while pseudo-predatory combative behavior would be inter-group. These combative behaviors were primarily derived from/for affective combat (intra-group), and from/for predatory combat (inter-group).

Based on these behavioral adaptations, we can further outline affective/predatory combative behavior as follows:


Affective-aggression Combat

I. Objective Perspective

A. Internal action

  1. high arousal

  2. substantially influenceable by

  3. intense activation of autonomous

  4. non-cognitive - highly emotional

  5. fluctuations in arousal

B. External action

1. intimidation behavior

a. goal - to intimidate
b. threatening postures
c. threatening language/vocality

2. angry attack

a. emotionally provoked by
opponent’s action
(1) insult
(2) flight
b. often spontaneous start/stop
before conclusion
c. results often relatively minor

C. Context

1. both intra- and inter-group, but intragroup
combat is only affectiveaggression
2. usually brief action
3. mood of heated emotions
4. often territorial/spatial rather than
economic provocations

II. Subjective Perspective

A. “Personal"

1. self
a. opponent is known (intra-group)
(1) emotionally weighted
(2) eye contact
(3) insult/hurt given/ received -
2. dignity/honor often involved threat to

B. Group

1. physical threat
2. threat to group/self identity - honor

Predatory-Aggression Combat

I. Objective Perspective

A. Internal action

1. low or no arousal
2. very slightly influenceable by hormones
3. slight activation of autonomous system
4. cognitive/intuitive - non-emotional
5. steady state

B. External action

1. imperturbable behavior

a. goal - to subdue
b. ready/luring posture
c. controlled respiratory/vocality

2. disciplined attack

a. not provoked but initiated
(1) spontaneous
(2) delayed timing
b. attack carried through to conclusion
c. results often incapacitation or

C. Context

1. inter-group, though “group” may be
difficult to define or delineate
2. brief or extended
3. dispassionate
4. often economically based motive -

II. Subjective Perspective

A. Not “personal"

1. self
a. opponent is depersonalized
(1) unattached to opponent
(2) no eye contact
(3) sometimes play - insult/ vengeance not factors
2. code of ethics often extended to opponent

B. Group

1. threat to group
2. economic gains
3. ethics?


In general, combative systems—both armed and unarmed—closely reflect the sociocultural milieu that is/was their provenance. As great an impact (in some cases greater) is made by contemporary conditions within which the system currently lies. Using the basic outlines of aggressive combative behavior and predatory combative behavior, we should be able to gauge on which side of the behavioral fence a particular system will tend to fall.

Further on, I will cover the biological and socio-cultural inhibitory mechanisms involved in combative behavior, as well as how systems of fighting arts, i.e., combative systems evolve along the lines of affective and predatory combat/combative behavior in their cultural milieu. We will see that the socio-cultural background and functional aims of a system will at least partially select for traits associated with primarily affective combative behavior or predatory. In addition, however, we will see that quite often, man’s adaptability has allowed him to select traits from both areas—predatory and affective. The question then is, does this affect function in the applications of combative behavior: battlefield (single & group), civilian (single & group), duel, agonistic, and psycho-spiritual?

At this point, I would like to reaffirm that these two types of combative behavior determine intrinsic factors of all combative-systems (respective to their combative applications). That is, the affective and predatory combative behavior traits of man are inherent in the learned behaviors and performance traits of combative-systems,7 which are developments of neuropsychological conditioning and learned movement/ behavior patterns. (Curiously, while affective and predatory/pseudo-predatory combative behaviors would seemingly be best treated separately, in humans they are intrinsically interacting; in many cases the one is used at least partly to enhance the other.)

At the heart of all combative behavior is self-identity. It is manifest that in humans selfidentity (conscious, subconscious, or instinctive), provides a major driving force in combative aggression. This is true from simple self-protection to domination of others and territorial aggressiveness.

Furthermore, homo sapiens, as with most primates (the main exception being the reclusive orangutan) are social animals, and there are both biological and cultural influences influencing that sociability. To a great extent, human self-identity is intricately entwined with group-identity. This, as with most biologically based behaviors, is a result of evolutionary adaptation, and is survival adaptive.

As the longest period of our hominid/human evolutionary existence has been as members of small groups with hunter/gatherer economies, and given the relative lack of speed and strength of the human body, human survival was based to a large extent on group cohesiveness. The solitary individual had little chance for survival in a pre-agricultural, never mind pretechnological, world. Several millions of years of hominid/human bio-social evolution established a biologically-based tendency toward strong group identity. As well, reciprocal cultural development has evolved social mechanisms to further foster group cohesiveness. These group-enhancing mechanisms and traits are universally seen among humans, and include such group-based characteristics as hierarchy structures, mating rituals, puberty rites, greetings, feasts, etc. In other words, through hominid/human bio-social evolution, a strong self/group-identity connection was selected for as survival adaptive.

Therefore, it is natural that any behavior—including combative behavior—that disrupts group cohesion to the extent of lowering the survivability of the group (and by extension, the individual) is maladaptive and would be selected out. However, forms of combative behavior that enhance group survival (even at the expense of the individual) would prove to be survival adaptive.

Within the social group, those types of aggression and combative behavior that enhance the individual’s position/status and survivability, without threatening the group as a whole, would be adaptive. In the realm of combat this can be seen in that type of behavior we call affective combative behavior, which generally results in minimal injury and only infrequently in death. This type of emotionally aroused behavior can be aimed at enhancing status (both selfand group-esteem), mating conflicts (stimulated by jealousy), enhancing/preserving personal property, etc. While these situations often lead to violence, when kept within the parameters of the group, they rarely involve mortal combat in cold weapon contexts.8 Only in rare, “rogue” situations will an individual risk ostracism from the group by violating group-cohesion.

Group-identity is consciously and subconsciously a vital part of self-identity. This is further evidenced by the actions of individual members of a group when the group comes into survival-related conflict with members of a separate group (inter-group conflict). Here, groupidentification can be heightened to the extent that the members of the other group are no longer recognized as being members of the same species (known as “pseudo-speciation) - “they are not like us; they aren’t really human.”

In such survival-threat situations, biological and cultural mechanisms can work towards enhancing intra-group altruism while suppressing inhibitions against killing on an inter-group basis. This is at least partially the function of pseudo-speciation. By dehumanizing opposing group members, they “others” become “no more than animals,” and both social and biological inhibitions against killing fellow humans can be circumvented to a greater or lesser degree. In group survival situations, potentially fatal combative traits are survival efficient, even if at the risk of losing an individual member of one’s own group.

The great majority of combative situations, however, are of the non-mortal, affective type. This is natural, as throughout hominid/human evolution, individuals have spent most of their time in intra-group social contexts as versus inter-group. Prior to roughly 5,000 BP,9 only rarely in the life of most individuals would inter-group conflicts occur. This was particularly true during the Paleolithic hunter/gatherer period when population densities were low and competition between groups for resources was correspondingly rare. And even in more recent times, although the incidence of inter-group predatory combat has drastically increased (and accounts for by far the greater part of combative mortality), it is still doubtful that it has caught up with intra-group affective combative behavior.

As population density increased and sedentary, agrarian societies multiplied, there was a corresponding change in the psycho-social dynamics of group identity. As some societies grew into cities-states, with ever greater numbers of people, discreet groups emerged, and a concomitant blurring of group identities occurred. Here, for the first time, arose the question, "who am I?" - the beginnings of the “identity crisis.”

By what mechanisms does an individual recognize fellow group members, the degree of relatedness, or, indeed, the “foreignness” of a stranger? The answer lies naturally in the senses of perception - primarily sight, but sound, and even smell as well. Obviously though, sight is the primary detector of similarity or difference. It is through sight that we first discern similarities and/or differences that signal caution, danger/threat, or safe recognition/acceptance.

It is important to note here, that humans most likely are not hard-wired to identify gross superficial differences such as skin color, epicanthic eye folds (or lack thereof), nose/lip shape, etc., as primary markers of caution or suspicion. The most important visual clues to alienness are behavioral rather than superficial physical features. It is primarily within the group, that facial and body features would be identity markers, as considered in evolutionary perspective.

During the period in which hominid/human bio-social evolution occurred—throughout the paleolithic and neolithic eras—it would have been unlikely that any particular group would ever encounter a group of a different race. It is even more unlikely during that period that two racially distinct groups would inhabit land areas such as Europe, Africa, western Asia, etc., much less contend for a local territory for a time period long enough to evolve a specific trait for suspicion based on racial differences. Indeed, the great majority of inter-group contact (peaceful or otherwise) would be between groups of the same or similar racial characteristics.

In this evolutionary scenario, group-related social behaviors such as characteristics of verbal and non-verbal communication, customs, and other overtly displayed mechanisms would be the key cues for differential recognition of individuals or groups with respect to safety or caution.

This is not to say that racial differences are not important, but that they have been given more weight than is valid, while behavioral differences have often been ignored. In interpersonal relations, it is of much greater importance for individuals to act (and think) alike than it is for them to look alike. This is because, in evolutionary perspective, the self-identity of the individual is more closely related to shared behaviors within the group, than to shared racial features. Behavior that is different from an individual’s group’s standard (and therefore the individual’s) could be potentially threatening to that group’s survival, and by extension to the individual’s survival and identity.

Because of this distinction, the individual(s) of a group are more likely to demonstrate potentially fatal aggression (predatory) towards an outsider. Likewise, towards a fellow group member, the aggression will be of greater emotional content and more display oriented. The intents and outcomes are quite different.

These two types of combative behavior are perhaps most clearly illustrated in the two primary areas of human combative performance - civilian combat and martial (soldier/warrior) combat. In the civilian area, we find heavier emphasis on affective combative behaviors. The characteristics of affective combative behavior are more survival efficient in the civil context, especially in those civilian fighting systems that have evolved/developed for single self-defense.

Pseudo-predatory combative behavior, on the other hand, in the modern world is materially and socially destructive in the civilian context. Pseudo-predatory combative behavior would increase the survivability of individuals primarily in martial (military) conflict. That is, pseudo-predatory combative-systems would be those primarily derived from single and group battlefield combat. In short, civil combative-systems would tend to be of the affective combative behavior type, and martial systems would tend to be of the pseudo-predatory combative behavior type.

Following is a chart of the “observable” characteristics of the two types of combative behavior. In it we have a comparison of salient features (traits):



Inter-personal: “personal” (ego) confrontation -
interaction of personalities

Emotional arousal: anger/fear/excitement

Visible agitated communication:

emotive eye contact

communicative vocalization: intimidate/
provoke, or to overcome one’s
own fear.

unconscious and conscious posturing -

Pre-assault physical contact: pushing/slapping/
touching; provoking

Ideal of Affective combatant is steadfastmind in avoidance of the destructive effects of violent confrontation.


Non-personal interaction on the part of one or
both participants

Imperturbable-mind/steadfast-mind (sometimes

Communication to mislead:

impersonal or no eye contact - watching

predominantly non-communicative:
respiratory/vocality - breath control for psycho/neuromuscular purposes

omni-poise - “ready” postures and luring postures

Only physical contact is during actual assault
Ideal of Pseudo-predatory combatant is
imperturbable-mind with non-grasping
in efficient destruction of opponent.*

* Here, “non-grasping persona” implies, and indeed ontologically is the same as “non-graspable.”

Martial (in the hoplological meaning - military) systems were not developed so that humans could wage battlefield cold-weapon combat. In this case, the egg came first; such systems evolved out of primitive warfare, prior to the emergence of battlefield conditions. As man experienced such combat, he learned to enhance survivability through weapon and weaponsystem development. When such combat became less common (with the advent of hot weapons) the battlefield cold-weapon systems that survived did so because they took on some of the attributes of affective combative-systems.

Affective combative-systems are predominantly those fighting systems aimed at civilian, single self-defense, and agonistic (sport and/or display related). However, the dominant impetus for the development of non-battlefield combative-systems would have been civilian self-defense, from which would emerge the duel, the agonistic, etc., as historico-cultural influences dictated.

In early and contemporary hunter/gatherer societies, the affective/pseudo-predatory distinctions would be rather clear-cut. There would have been little or no distinction between pseudo-predatory and true predatory. With the development of more densely populated, agroindustrial societies, we would see more and more blurring of the distinctions leading to certain kinds and degrees of maladaptive application.

It is my contention that by understanding and recognizing the differences between these types of combative behaviors we can attain a better understanding of the destructive behaviors in the modern world that are based on individual human combative nature.

These distinctive affective/pseudo-predatory behaviors are retained within the structures and functions of the fighting arts within socio-cultural traditions world-wide. In the traditional fighting arts of older cultures, especially, we are provided a window into the combative behavior of our ancestors. By comparison with modern fighting systems, we gain a further insight into the differential evolution of our own combative behaviors, contextually determined, as affective combat, pseudo-predatory combat, or, more likely, a blending of both.

1 Donn F. Draeger, “Understanding East Asian Combative Culture,” HOPLOS 7, No. 1: pp. 1-4.
2 Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, The Biology of Peace & War (NY: The Viking Press, 1979), p. 32.
3 D.J. Reis, “Central Neurotransmitters in Aggression,” in Aggression, ed. S.H. Frazier, Proceedings of the Association, Research Publications of the Association for Nervous and Mental Disease (Baltimore: 1974), pp. 119- 148.
4 The Biology of Peace and War, p. 32.
5 Central Neurotransmitters in Aggression,” pp. 119-148.
6 See the series on the IAT/MAT in HOPLOS, starting Vol. 4, No. 2. The complete series is now available in monograph form.
7 Combative System: A body of organized, codified, repeatable actions, techniques, behaviors, and attitudes, the primary intended function and planful design of which is to be used in, or as preparation for, combative applications.
8 Cold weapons: Weapons not powered by any form of heat energy, such gunpowder, electricity, nuclear, etc. 9BP: Before Present.

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