The Father of Close Quarter Combatives: Col. W.E. Fairbairn

January 29, 20134 Comments

If you have been around self-defense circles for any length of time, it’s quite possible you’ve heard of Colonel W.E. Fairbairn, a Brit, who established his own method called Defendu (Fairbairn Fighting Systems) with Eric A. Sykes.

Defendu was based on Fairbairn’s training in Kodokan Judo, Boxing and Chinese Martial Arts; and was designed to be simple to learn yet highly effective.

Colonel Fairbairn - Defendu - CQCIt was initially introduced to the “world” through his book, Defendu in 1926. His military combatives method taught during World War 2 was a modified version of Defendu specifically for military personel. He was also known to have called his system “gutter fighting” because of it’s no-nonsense strategies.

He developed the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife (also called the “Commando Knife”) and the Applegate–Fairbairn fighting knife, and is also known for having developed innovative shooting techniques (with the hand gun) in conjunction with Sykes.

The first video is a clip of Col. Fairbairn teaching the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.). This was not designed as a “how to” instructional material, rather it was part of a larger documentary.

The second clip below is “lost footage” of Fairbairn teaching the  O.S.S. In this clip you see footage from his film called “The Fighting Knife” and “Unarmed”. This footage does not have English audio, rather Greek (in the first section on the knife) and German (in the unarmed section).

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  • Mark Walsh

    Fairbairn the forgotten Master of Close Quarter Combat,a great clip of the man himself in action,the look he gives the camera at the end of the video says it all..

  • Ian Hogan

    W E Fairbairn is the on person I would have loved to meet and train with.

    Ian Hogan
    Chief instructor Oppugnate Combatives Australia

  • CanadianKyosa

    I can imagine how much more effective he would have been if it had been developed further over time.

  • James Browne

    My grandfather trained with him at Camp X during the second world War. He started as artillery but earned a transfer to intelligence. He taught me a bit of knife fighting as he learned. Down dirty and straightforward and the defensive stuff saved me more than once when working security details for high risk clients.
    Thanks for posting the clips they are most appreciated.

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