The myth of military hand-to-hand combat systems

For the longest time, you couldn’t open a martial arts magazine without seeing an ad for military hand-to-hand combat systems. SEALS, SAS, Special Forces, you name it, somebody will teach you their secrets if you only pay $29.99 for their video… That was a few decades ago. Today, you still see these ads, though the names and faces of the instructors have changed. What’s more, you see these kinds of products advertised all over the internet and especially on Youtube. I think it’s safe to say they have only become more popular over time.

Before I go on, let’s get something straight:

  • I’m not talking about high-level consulting and training firms that require security clearance to train with. I’m talking about the commercially available, widely publicized books and videos you see advertised all over the place.
  • I have nothing against instructors using the name of a military unit to sell either their own hand-to-hand combat system or one that is used effectively by that unit. Not at all. For the most part, I see this as a marketing thing and each instructor/author has to make decisions on that front. Often they’re made for them by their publisher, so I’m not going to throw stones on that front because I totally get it. To each his own, along with live and let live.
  • I’m not saying the instructors who make these videos or books are frauds and what they teach is bullshit. That is absolutely not what this article is about. I repeat: I’m not claiming any such thing.
  • I’m not saying military hand-to-hand combat systems don’t work for civilian self-defense. Please read this again: it’s not about the effectiveness of these systems. That is beyond question; they absolutely do work.
  • I’m not saying these systems have no value for self-defense. There are most certainly ways to use the content of those curricula for civilian self-defense situations; I’m not denying that.
  • I have nothing against people who practice these systems for civilian self-defense. The issue isn’t how much fun you have during training or how much you like the system.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with liking military hand-to-hand combat systems. I like them too.

These are the things I’m not saying. As to what I am saying:

I believe there is a myth of military hand-to-hand combat systems in today’s self-defense and martial arts world.

This myth revolves around certain assumptions and it’s those I’d like to talk about.

myth of military hand-to-hand combat systems soldier

What people think soldiers look like…

myth of military hand-to-hand combat systems real soldiers

Real soldiers…

The myth of origins

To the average citizen, the military is an impressive and sometimes even frightening organization. Soldiers are looked upon as awe-inspiring or frightening, especially combat-hardened vets. Of all soldiers, the special branches are the scariest ones. Special Forces, Navy SEALs, SAS, etc. are considered the best of the best. So if you want to sell a combat system, it sounds so much better to claim it comes from such an elite unit than from the program taught to basic grunts. Commercially speaking, claiming your system is taught to these units or comes from them makes perfect sense.

The issue I see is this: [Read more…]