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The Roots of Modern CQC (Close Quarter Combat)

Close Quarter Combat was originally a military term used to describe a non-armed physical confrontation between two or more combatants. It is typically taught in a no nonsense way to prepare soldiers or police officers to operate safely and survive a close range encounter. CQB is armed combat with firearms whereas CQC uses blunt or edged weapons

Fairbairn Sykes

The pivotal figure of military unarmed combat training in World War 2 was W.E. Fairbairn, who together with a small group of other pioneering figures such as Eric Sykes and Rex Applegate developed the close quarter combat training programmes taught to British and American special operations units such as the Commandos, S.O.E. the U.S. Rangers and the O.S.S. (forerunner of the CIA).

For the military and the police training time is always limited and training is structured accordingly. To traditional martial artists who think in terms of years of training such programmes seems ridiculously short. However, the most up to date research suggests that not only is this thinking wrong, but that if you can’t teach the system in a short time it probably won’t work in the street due to the training methodology used and the potentially corrosive effects of the stress response in combat. In real combat less is generally more.

Revolutionary fighting system

Fairbairn and his colleagues taught a total system, which included the use of impact weapons, edged weapons, firearms as well of hand-to hand methods. That system was forged through real life experience and was operationally proven. They also taught a mindset which was revolutionary at the time and allowed trainees to access the highest levels of body-alarm reaction, which made the fighters stronger, faster and more resistant to pain and shock.  Unfortunately at the conclusion of the war many of those specialist units were reformed or disbanded and those hard earned lessons were mostly forgotten.

Modern CQC

Modern Close Quarter Combatives (MCQC) was formed as a study group by a team of highly qualified military, police and martial arts practitioners with many years experience of teaching military, police and civilians to protect themselves and others. During this time they have come to realise that martial arts is excellent for teaching technique but martial science, using many of the principles taught by Fairbairn and his team, is best for teaching real life applications of self defence. MCQC is based on the latest scientific research and real life operational experience.

Why is this so important?… During World War 2 American studies showed that only 15 to 20 percent of riflemen fired their weapons at an exposed enemy soldier. Subsequent studies have shown that this figure also applied to previous conflicts such as the Napoleonic and American Civil War. This is largely because if a person is not a criminal sociopath or psychopath then they will have a natural aggressive inhibition response. Without the right training they will find it difficult if not impossible to respond with the appropriate level of aggression regardless of the imperative or moral justification.

Self defence that works

Unfortunately conventional martial arts training will often fail to prepare you to overcome that natural inhibition when you finally face your moment of truth and you need your training most. MCQC uses training methodology precisely designed to overcome that natural aggressive inhibition response using the same operant conditioning methods the military used when it finally became aware of the problem.

As a result of those changes firing rates had increased to 50% during the Korean War. By the time of Vietnam and the Falklands wars firing rates amongst US and British soldiers had increased to a staggering 98% in combat.


During that time, technology had not made firing a rifle any easier, but training methodology based on sound psychological principles has made it far easier for soldiers to fire their weapons with intent and far more likely they would survive as a result. MCQC uses the same operationally proven approach used by the military to properly prepare you for your own battlefield, whether it be the street, a pub or the workplace. It also prepares you to deal with the 3 opponents you will ultimately need to overcome to protect yourself and others: the aggressor, the system and  yourself. Without proper training in a real life confrontation you are likely to ‘freeze’ or over react due to ‘red mist’ or lack of appropriate conditioning.

MCQC takes the lessons learnt from Fairbairn and his colleagues, together with the latest scientific research to teach a combat system that is principle rather than technique based and can be learnt in a relatively short space of time. Perfect for self defence which needs to be fitted into busy lives and schedules by people who are not necessarily interested in martial arts. We are proud to be affiliated with the International Kapap Federation whose work with the Israeli Defence Forces helps to keep our syllabus up to date and relevant.

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