Copyright 2006 T. Sheil & A. Sheil  All Rights Reserved

Milihistriot Quarterly

The Journal for Military Miniature Enthusiasts

Basic Techniques of Military Unarmed Combat

1930 to 1975

The close combat systems of the early 20th century were based mostly on Judo, Jujitsu and Western combat sports.  The techniques chosen for military combat had to be easy to learn and easy to use.  They were pretty simple.  Unlike the martial arts which are common today, the old systems were not flamboyant.  There were no fancy kicks or bizarre hand strikes.

The most common techniques were chops, palm heels punches with the heel of the hand, and low kicks to the knee and groin. Below are a few examples of the most basic strikes and kicks.  They were taken from several old manuals.  In fact, most of the systems were quite similar.  The German manual of hand to hand combat is not all that different from its American and British counterparts.



The "chop" used the edge of hand, hacking in an axe-like motion.  This photo from a German manual shows a soldier in a defensive stance, his hands poised to chop.



This German photo shows the chop to the neck, a tactic used in most hand-to-hand systems.  The Germans taught their fighters to keep the thumb against the side of the hand. 


A chop to the philtrum, under the nose, a very effective blow.  This fighter uses the Fairbairn technique, with the thumb pointing out instead of lying against the hand.  This was used in the British system devised by Major Fairbairn.


A chop below the ear.  Hand to hand combat manuals promoted the use of the chop as an extremely powerful attack.


Knee kick.  The kick to the knee is followed by scraping the foot along the adversary's shin, then capping it with a chin jab. This is one of Fairbairn's techniques. Picture is from, an American manual, circa 1971



Knee lift and chin jab.  A common Jujitsu attack, the soldier uses a knee to the groin and follows with a palm heel strike to the chin  this picture is from a very old book American on Jujitsu. Fairbairn liked this technique and taught it widely to US and British troops..


A palm heel used to break a choke, from a German manual


Blocking a strike with a chop while simultaneously using a finger stab to the throat.  From a German manual,

How to strike with the chop


The techniques depicted here are dangerous.  Their practice can result in serious bodily harm.  They are displayed here strictly for discussion of military history.  They are not here for the instruction of close combat.  Anyone who uses them does so at their own risk.  We take no responsibility for any harm that may result from showing these methods. 

If you wish to learn unarmed combat, seek a qualified instructor.  Do not attempt to learn on your own.

Click here to return to the main page