Types of combat

The borderline between combat and self-defense applications is light gray and blurred. The same physical skills can be used in both scenarios. It makes it even more important to understand the difference and to tailor training to each case as from legal perspective the borderline is very concrete and may greatly affect you life one way or another, if you’ll cross it at the wrong point.

Combat – it is activity to get superiority over your adversary. In case of Martial Arts, it is hostile physical activity.

Self-defense – it is activity to preserve your current position. Definition of the “current position” will ultimately vary, and in our case I’ll define “current position” as to remain free of physical harm (I’ll address it more a bit later).

Modes of combat

1. Military all-out fighting
2. Police combative actions – arresting, crowd control
3. Duel
4. Sport combat

Modes of self-defense

1. Police personal self-defense
2. Civilian personal self-defense
3. Civilian non-personal self-defense


Military all-out fighting

The name says it all: it is kill-or-die-no-prisoner-taken scenario. In nowadays asymmetric “low intensity” operational theaters (Middle East, Central Asia, Africa) military often functions as de-facto peace officers. With modern Law of War and rules of engagement the “all-out” fight is rarity and, very often, considered to be war crime (as well as it crime in any civilian scenario).

Police combative actions

Police are the Peace Officers. Unlike military, police has no “inherited” right-to-kill. Quiet an opposite – police tasked with preserving lives. Police actions can be justifiably offensive (arresting or crowd dispersing), but should be not deliberately lethal or designed to make permanent health damage. Multitude of legal cases against variety of police departments in the US and individual police officers for use of “excessive force” highlights the deficiencies in professional training for use of force (same applies to correctional facilities and its stuff).


Dueling is a small scale combat governed by a set of implicit or explicit rules. Duels became illegal in the vast majority of the modern countries by the later 19 century. Been illegal does not mean it’s never happened. Teenage street fights, inner-gang hierarchical fights, etc are examples of nowadays illicit duels.

Sport combat

Sport combat is a form of legal duel with a very firm set of explicit rules designed to make it non-lethal. Strong development of the fighting sports fails in the same time-frame as banning of duels as of later 19 century as both filling about the same social needs in the Modern Society with State Monopoly for Use of Force.

Sport fighting rules evolving to lessen risk of lethality or injury by defining specific measures: introduction of padded globs in boxing and minimum glob weight limitation and mandatory helmets in modern amateurs boxing, introduction of ear protection in amateurs wrestling, prohibition of “flying scissors” in Judo, etc.


Police personal self-defense

Police are the Peace Officers and as such they are mixed within civilian population. While under special protection by law, police are not under a constant treat of hostility, but when performing regular service duties (by getting into “other people” affairs) they can become target of accidental or intentional hostility and needs to be properly self-defense trained.

Police self-defense training should be different from civilian because, when under attack, they not need just to repel it, but to enforce the law by subduing attacker and taking him into their custody. Therefore, police training should include (and emphasize) switch techniques that allows efficient transition from self-defense mode into offensive attack.

Civilian personal self-defense

The best method of civilian self-defense is “just stay out of trouble”. Unfortunately it’s not always possible since at times “troubles” tend to come out of “nowhere”.

The ultimate goal of civilian self-defense, if you weren’t able to “stay out of trouble”, is to “get out of trouble”. And this means not just to avoid physical harm during confrontation, but also to steer clear out of legal trouble after it’s over.

It’s very important to understand (and to be trained) that self-defense situation should in no case transfer into duel or all-out fight. The vendetta “pay back” fillings should be subdued and law enforcing should be left for police.

Civilian none-personal self-defense

Criminal law considered “self-defense” not only when you protecting yourself, but also when you protecting other members of the society from harm.

When stay-out-of-trouble-get-out-of-trouble principal is paramount in civilian self-defense, you may find yourself in a situation when you just can’t follow it. It may happen when you with your family or friends in a park, on outdoor adventure, on a busy street, or in a middle of sudden disaster area. In such case the self-defense situation can justifiably turn into all-out fight and you will need to push aside all other considerations (but it can’t justifiably turn into duel in any feasible circumstances).

Saying this means that civilian self-defense training should include offensive fighting techniques as well.

Types of combat



Types by application


       Special Forces

    Police / Law enforcement

    Civilian self-defense

       Using weapon for self-defense

          Advantage of using weapon for self-defense

               Knife isn't a self-defense weapon

          Disadvantage of using weapon for self-defense

       Unarmed self-defense

       Weapon defense - special cases

           Knife defense

           Handgun defense

               Threat of use of force vs. use of force

           Defense against using garrote

           Defense against ax

           Defense against stick, button, or club


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