Fire in the Combatives Community

Fire the Combatives Community:

In 1919 Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote in a United States Supreme Court decision,

“The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. [...] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress [or consumers] have a right to prevent.”

I sometimes feel that in reality the question of whether there were any “clear and present danger” would largely depend on how entertaining the film was. Why? Because if the film was in any way entertaining enough to quell the shout of the messenger, most would inevitably ignore the warning in favor of entertainment over reality. The sad fact is, I feel this has become the reality for the world of combatives with only a few willing to stand in the gap and yell “bullsh**” in the hope some might listen.

The intent of this article is not to promote or degrade any practitioner or instructor of combatives but rather to serve as a scream in the theater to a general public willing to trade entertainment for reality. In the last 5 years I have watched combatives go from a little-known term used only in military circles to a community of self-proclaimed experts, seemingly overnight. In the aftermath of OEF and OIF the tactical industry exploded with returning vets possessing actual combat experience and a civilian populous willing to pay top dollar for those skills. Tactical schools flooded the market and inevitably the competition began.

As consumers were encouraged to seek out reputable instructors, many of the instructors had to become adept at marketing themselves amongst a community of equally highly skilled professionals. As expected in our capitalist society, those with the best marketing rose to the top, while those with substandard marketing began to wither away. As the herd began to thin, the next culling would occur with respect to appealing to the consumers wants. I remember attending training from a well-known SFOD-D operator, who seemed to one of the pioneers in the industry, and him expressly warning that those who were not of sufficient capability to participate in an advanced level course would be sent home with no refunds for the sake of preserving the integrity of the material being presented. The idea was that if civilians wanted to learn advanced level weapon handling they would need to progressively advance their own capabilities through prerequisite courses or risk losing their financial investment. However, this type of adherence to content also found its way on the chopping block.

Today we have a community of “tactical experience providers” versus tactical instructors. You want to feel like a delta operator for a day? Shoot through some windshields, wear high speed battle-belts, execute transition drills before heading back to suburbia and returning to your life as a bank teller or realtor, there’s a school that can sell that to you. Unfortunately, as combatives now becomes the new “in thing” the market is once again flooded with instructors willing to shape their programs based on what sells or what is entertaining versus that which is useful or relevant. 5-day instructor programs started overnight for a mere $1500 investment. Have a DD214 and some residual memory of the techniques you were taught in boot camp? You too can cash in on the opportunity, regardless of actual experience.

But what we have now is the benefit of hindsight of what occurred in the shooting community to serve as our guide to prevent this occurrence within the combatives community. But it will entirely depend on you, the consumer. If people are willing to trade dollars for entertainment, there will undoubtably be those out there willing to facilitate that trade. However, as threats increase and the reality of living in a society with the very real possibility of being involved in an active shooting, or an act of terrorism or even just a random act of violence, the burden will fall on the consumer to take personal responsibility for their own well-being and seek out and validate appropriate training.

Some things to look for when investing in this type of training:


Is the training being consider relevant to the theater in which I will find myself? We can train all day long with our ov