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Modern Army Combatives and Taiho-Jutsu: A Comparison

Modern Army Combatives is the current name the U.S. Army is using for what was for decades commonly referred to as Hand-To-Hand Combat. Interestingly, the Army has official definitions of these terms. Hand-To-Hand Combat (or Close Quarters Combat) is defined in their Field Manual as "...an engagement between two or more persons, with or without hand-held weapons, such as knives, sticks, or projectile weapons within the range of physical contact". Combatives is defined as "...the techniques and tactics useful to Soldiers involved in Hand-To-Hand combat. Proficiency in Combatives is one of the fundamental building blocks for training the modern Soldier".

Historically, many iconic names were and still are associated with different styles and systems of Hand-To-hand Combat, e.g., Fairbain, Sykes, Biddle, and Applegate, and the techniques were very similar to the older, harsher, and lethal classical styles of Japanese JuJutsu. As the needs of the Army changed in this area, so too did the Combatives, and fighting methods began to include striking and groundwork methods from a variety of countries. The current Modern Army Combatives (M.A.C.) program was implemented in 1992, with the publishing of their Field Manual, and as of 2007, it became required in every Army unit. A year later, the M.A.C. program became the foundation for the current Air Force Combatives Program.

How does this compare to Taiho-Jutsu? The first thing to decide is which Taiho-jutsu we're referring to, the course or the belt rank system. While on the one hand the M.A.C. is a course, i.e., a limited program of study, it is longer and consists on more techniques than the Taiho-Jutsu course. It is not, however, as extensive as the Kyu/Dan system. Rather than engage in the minutiae of this issue, let us look at both, the course and the belt rank system, and focus on the concepts and principles of, and the approaches to both.

The M.A.C. program is a taught with a focus on "small easily repeatable drills, in which practitioners could learn multiple related techniques rapidly". This certainly seems compatible with Taiho-Jutsu. The course itself has four instructor certification courses. The U.S. Taiho-Jutsu Academy has Instructor certification as well.


There are, however, some significant differences. The M.A.C. program has an emphasis on ground work, and includes throws and takedowns from Judo and wrestling styles, strikes from Western and Thai boxing, and weapons training from a variety of countries and systems. If we compare this to the Taiho-Jutsu belt rank system, we certainly see groundwork, throws, takedowns, and strikes, but there is a difference.

Let us consider this analogy. Shotokan, Tae Kwon Do, and Praying Mantis Kung Fu all have hand and foot strikes, as well as blocks and forms. Yet, there are few who would observe the three styles and think they are identical. So too is the case with M.A.C. and Taiho-Jutsu. With the emphasis on groundwork, coupled with strikes from Western and Thai boxing, the differences are not simply stylistic, but affect the choice of, approach to, and implementation of techniques. Further, we need remember that this is a military combatives program, not a program more geared to law-enforcement personnel. Despite the stated goals of the Army program – "To educate soldiers on how to protect themselves against threats without using their firearms; To provide a non-lethal response to situations on the battlefield; To instill the 'warrior instinct' to provide the necessary aggression to meet the enemy unflinchingly", it is nevertheless an effective, lethal combatives program, not a police tactics program. While the M.A.C. is taught to select S.W.A.T. units, we need remember that the unarmed defensive needs of S.W.A.T. differ than those of the regular patrol officer.

As a final comparison, in Taiho-Jutsu training, officers do in fact compete with each other to hone their skills, so that when they face an assailant on the street, there is both theory and practice behind them. The M.A.C. program also has internal competitions. Like Taiho-Jutsu, this is done to enhance the combat capability of the soldier, thereby increasing his/her odds of survival in the combat arena.

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