Thursday, March 13, 2014

The End of "Combatives"

The End of "Combatives"
by W. Hock Hochheim

The end.
For me anyway. 
I have grown to hate the word. 
Call it semantics. Whatever. The world's gone crazy-sick-viral about combatives.
And it is making me ill! 


      I don’t expect most of you to agree with me or even understand when I say this is a lingering sickness of mine. The Combatives Flu. The Combatives Indigestion. Combatives Fever.

     Remember the old joke – "take any song title and add the term 'under the sheets' after it, and it becomes a sex song"? 

     Well, take any system, add “Combatives” at the end, and it becomes modern, sexy, and cool for everyone, except for me. Worse for me, it is a moniker monster I helped promote through time. I spent a lot of money and time spreading the germ.

     Combatives. Those immersed in, or impressed with, the World War II Combatives era systems, usually believe the term/idea was "invented" in WW II. But the word, its core and variations exit for centuries. In the English language these versions were were officially accepted in1819 language. Combat. Combative. Combativity. Combativeness. There is a French bayonet manual written in the 1850s translated to French Military Bayonet Combatives. It is not a new word and not spawned from World War II guys. In the end, the derivation of the word is semantical and perhaps unimportant.   

     In the mid-1990s, there were just a rare few people/organizations using the word “Combatives.” They were people usually associated with World War II Combatives and a few rare offshoots. Back then, I wanted free of all the stigmas of all the systems I’d been in, and I took a good hard look at this word “combatives.” I thought it was a good, generic, rarely used  term and something I could work with for the courses I’d organized. I started using it.

     And as soon as I started advertising the word in the 90s, around 1995, in the major martial arts magazines of the day, I caught some heat from some of the so-called “WW II military” combatives people (I use the quotes around the word military because most of the complainers were never in any military.). For them, I guess, I simply had to be directly associated with the Sykes-Fairbairn lineage - as they perceived it - or I was going straight to “dog hell” for daring to use the term “combatives.” And some others declared that word "combatives" simply HAD to be about hard-core, Nazi-killing, MILITARY-only combatives. 

     I even had a few chubby, "apple dumplings" telling me I could not teach combatives or “military” combatives. I was "not authorized by ________" (you fill in that blank). Even though these same dumplings themselves teach it, but had never been in any military, and even though I’d actually been taught combatives in the military when I was in the military. They could. I couldn't. See the irony? That logic didn’t matter to the apple dumplings. I insisted the word combatives was very, very generic and quite old and quite diverse, and I would use it. (I wasn't teaching military combatives anyway, just agnostic fighting.)

     This WW II Combatives thing. Needless to say, if you look at World War I training films, you would see great similarities with the WW II material that had somehow become popular. There was a cult-like craze on the WW II subject at the time. Small, but present. There still is to some extent, but not as much now as I believe Israeli Krav Maga has captured the pop culture attention span. But for awhile back then, it became important for folks to be somehow connected with WW II, not WW I, combative groups. Some people in Canada even began mythologies about being connected to the Commando Camp X, etc. Whatever. But this whole WW II theme and scene was not for me.

     I just persevered using the generic term. In the subsequent years from 1995 on up, I made these generic hand, stick, knife, and gun courses; and I advertised them as simple, generic combatives. Advertised it all with a capital “C,” spending too much money. In the few popular martial arts magazines back then, I spent about $12,000 to $15,000 a year advertising and promoting the word “combatives." Before the internet, few may recall that if you advertised in Black Belt, Inside Karate, Inside Kung Fu, Blitz, and Tae Kwon Do Times back then, plus one or two mags in the UK, you were actually reaching a giant, worldwide market. In many ways, just about everyone in the martial world read one of those mags. It was a much smaller world back then.  

     Overtly and covertly, and extensively and expansively, from the 1990s, I pushed and helped popularize the word combatives. I even started a worldwide magazine called Close Quarter Combat Magazine, eventually with some 14,000 subscribers in 29 countries. I toured many cities around the world using this word. (For chronological placement? When the new Army Combatives program became firmly established, I covered the news in my already established CQC Magazine.)  In the mid-1990s, I even changed my Filipino course name over to Filipino Combatives (yes, years before EVERYONE else in the known FMA market). Next, and in the late 1990s, Ernesto Presas himself changed his Arnis De Mano over to Filipino "Kombaton." Guess what Kombaton translates to? Yup. Filipino Combatives.

     The term was not overused and was a bit rare. No more. No more. No more. Needless to add, the free and wild and random use of the term combatives has also allowed for a new wave of jake-leg, half-baked, and half-trained people to start and advertise their own systems, flooding the market. 

     Meanwhile, other titles like “BJJ” and “Krav Maga” and the once very mundane “MMA” grew as big, big market buzzwords. But perhaps nothing grew as much and as fast as the catchy term combatives. After all, just think about it, because you will also now find today BJJ Combatives, Krav Maga Combatives, and MMA Combatives.

     EVERYTHING seems to have the word “Combatives” attached to it. And I mean every category. There’s even “Okinawa Combatives” now. Wing Chun Combatives. Jeet June Do Combatives. If you just add an eye jab to any curriculum - and wha-la! You are “Blankety-Blank Combatives.” Fill in the blankety-blank. It is insane! Out of control. Here we are in late 2015 and there are still old systems popping up by adding the word at the end of their program. I here and now officially apologize for helping to promote this moniker monster. Once injected, like a virus it spread. Look around you. And for that I must apologize for my share.

"Combatives" over to "Force Necessary"
     So a few years back, we booted a new web page, launched new apps, reformatted our talk forum, changed the newsletters, created new lines, products, and projects, etc. You may have noticed the uplifting of a newer term I have used quietly for years now, that of Force Necessary. That flag is now fully up the pole. It is in an effort to slowly rid myself of this abused, overused term combatives. For example, instead of Unarmed Combatives, it’s now Force Necessary! Unarmed and so on. This is a huge job. Imagine all the video covers and various big and small places this word is found within my old and established business. MAN!

    And in some cases, I cannot shed myself of the word completely. It is still lingering in subtitles and names, in nooks and crannies. It still must be in search terms on the internet. My PAC course, Pacific Archipelago Combatives, is so entrenched worldwide that I can see no other way but to keep using the course name. But wherever I can? I will remove the word bit by bit. 

     And all you SFC instructors out there are obviously free to use it or whatever you wish, and in most cases you absolutely must use the word for marketing. I understand completely. Use the word. But for me? I am bailing on it, de-emphasizing it as fast as I can. 

     Even Kelly McCann saw fit to vary up, jazz up the word a bit with his version these last few years. You know that dictionary pronunciation approach - kəmˈbæt ɪves he uses? He knew there needed to be some differentiation between him and these hordes of other combateer yahoos. (McCann was another of the original 1990's guys using this term, and he certainly deserves to still use it if anyone does.)   

     I am not a self-defense instructor by definition. I am not an RBSD (that reality-based, self-defense) guy, either. I really dislike the redundant term of RBSD. I am much more than that (though self-defense material is automatically covered in the materials I teach).

     For 20 years, I have become inexorably attached to the word combatives. This shift away will be slow and won’t be easy, and marketers will say -

     "Hock, it isn’t very smart to drop such a common search and pop term like this one."

     But drop I must. I have always used the business axiom “that which differentiates.” I also tend to trend on the outside of things, anyway. I’ve got to do this. This is just me. You do what you want.

     Call things what you want. You carry on combateers, carry on. I'm dropping out.