Combative Anatomy

Combative Anatomy

Article written by George Matheis, founder of the Modern Combatives System.

Much study and argument revolves around which Martial Arts or techniques are best for self- defense. To know which are best we have to look at it like we would to select a tool for a specific job. What are we trying to accomplish?�

In combatives that job is stopping a human being from harming us as fast as possible. The first area of study then needs to be anatomy or even more specialized for our purposes, Combative Anatomy. The science of how to stop a human from doing a specific harmful act in the minimum amount of time. Combative Anatomy also does not rely on pain compliance.�

Just like the MCS Combative Anatomy has to first be looked at with the understanding that during a spontaneous attack you will initially have to deal with attacks ranging from open hand, impact, edged and pistols with the open hand. This problem is two fold.�

One you need to be able to defend against the initial attack as well as make sure that you attacker is not going to get up and chase you when you run to call for help. Also understand that the only ways to damage the human body it to crush or cut it. Because we don’t have claws if fighting open handed you will need to rely on crushing attacks at least until you can produce a edged weapon.�

Crushing attacks can cause immediate incapacitation unlike cutting attacks which can take from seconds to minutes, and that is a long time when you life is on the line. For this reason we will break down Combative Anatomy into four specific systems. Lets look at your attackers body like a house that needs to have electricity, walls, and plumbing for aggression to dwell in it.�

Central Nervous System – is made up of the brain and spinal cord and in charge of processing information. A hammer fist between the eyes or a slap to the side of the head would have the same effect as cutting power to the house. At the very least is will cause an interruption in services. That is why we don’t attack just one system, stand back and see what happens. The CNS is easily attacked with open hands and items typically carried in the hand. These are crushing / impact attacks.�

Skeletal System- the 206 bones of the human body that make up our frame. Without our frame, locomotion and the motion needed to articulate a weapon are impossible. For fighting the two joints we count on most are the elbow and knees.�

Both joints work very well on only one plane-which makes them hinge joints. By smashing them we can ensure that our attacker will not pick up another weapon or follow us when we leave. The elbows and knees are most vulnerable when extended all the way out.�

This is also why we don’t lock our arms out during a punch and make sure we have a slight bend in our knees at all times. The Skeletal System is also easily attacked with the open hand and feet. These are crushing / impact attacks.�

Muscular System- the system that allows us to move. The muscle needs to be cut to incapacitate. And just like any traumatic injury having one or more muscles cut can have little or no effect on what the rest of the body is able to do.�

If you are lucky enough to have an edged weapon in your hand when attacked and manage to cut your opponents strong side bicep he can still use his other hand to use the same weapon, access another one or just run after you as you run away.�

I would view it as closing one door to get away from someone when there is another open door right next to it. Wouldn’t make more sense to incapacitate them so they could not chase you?�

Circulatory System- system that carries blood to and from the heart. Again this system can only be affected by cutting. I know you are going to say what about chokes. And don’t get me wrong, chokes are great but to do them effectively you need to be behind your attacker and it ties up both of your hands.�

Usually you will have to start defending while facing your attacker. And whether it is a choke or a cut, both will take time even if only a few second to incapacitate your attacker. And in that 10 seconds he can get a lot of stabbing done and inflict some serious damage on you.

A human only has six basic physical weapons
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– Head
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– Shoulders
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– Elbows
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– Hands
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– Knees
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– Feet

Experience has taught us that the majority of attacks are hand attacks. The mechanism of the attack is the same whether it is open hand, impact or edged.�

Using MCS Combative Anatomy along with the proper mindset gives you an easy to remember full force continuum to effectively deal with all threats appropriately in a way that is defensible and grounded in science not marketing.

Article written by George Matheis, founder of the Modern Combatives System.

It has been just over a year since I coined the term Combative Anatomy, the study of incapacitating your attacker during a violent attack. Since that time I have done more research on the subject and have some new thoughts.

First, let’s define incapacitation. For our purposes it means that the attacker is physically unable to continue to attack. Since the majority of initial defenses are likely to be open handed even against weapons, we cannot count on things like pain compliance because of tolerance or desensitization related to drugs or alcohol.�

Defenses need to focus on the mechanism of attacks and not the method i.e., destroying the elbow of the arm that holds the knife instead of trying to disarm the knife.

Regardless of whether you are defending yourself with your hands, stick, gun, or firearms there are only two ways you can cause trauma to your attacker, and they are cutting and crushing. You either penetrate the skin or you don’t.�

The hierarchy of incapacitation is as follows-

– Central nervous system

– Skeletal system

– Muscular system

– Circulatory System

It is interesting to note that although trauma to the circulatory system is most likely to prove fatal it may actually be the slowest in terms on the immediacy in which it causes physical incapacitation that stops your attacker. With the exception of choking, targeting of the circulatory system is also impossible with the personal or impact weapons.

Instead of having a specific game plan or secret move, I feel it is more effective to target areas of the body that are most vulnerable to open hand attacks that are likely to be exposed during an altercation.�

These targets have been narrowed down to-

Head- responsible for decision-making

Elbow- the lynch pin of all open hand attack and using weapons

Knee- responsible for locomotion, base and balance

The way to combat the failure of specific targeting is redundancy. Since an attack with the open hand or a contact distance weapon would expose all three primary targets, all should be attacked if possible. For example, if someone were to attack you with a tire iron and you were able to move to the outside you would- smash the weapon side elbow with your elbow or palm, smash your knee into the side of theirs and then yank them back causing their head to strike a wall or vehicle.�

This of course is an example in open hand force vs deadly force. A slap to the side of the head is also an effective optional technique. Disruption of the central nervous system should be considered the primary target even if it is not attacked first.

This doctrine allows for a measured open hand response that because of its effectiveness may prevent the need to escalate to a mechanical or deadly force option. As a side note, practicing these techniques even in a controlled environment is likely to result in hyper extended knees and elbow. Headgear should also be worn. Communication with your training partner is the key.

Now a few words on Combative Anatomy as it relates to the use of an edged weapon for self-defense. Again it seems that our goal needs to be defined as stopping our attacker as fast as possible, not killing them eventually. The debate over stab vs cut continues.�

Since attacking the central nervous system with an edged weapon is improbable we will discuss the most effective way to attack the circulatory system. Most of those knowledgeable and trained in edged weapons prefer to stab and believe they will be able to do so even when attacked. Since I believe that the vast majority of people reading this are likely to never use an edged weapon offensively, I can only theorize that if they do have to use one it will be in response to being attacked.

My research has shown that when people are on the defense and moving to the rear they are more likely to slash. The people that I have observed have ranged from novices to those who would define themselves as seasoned knifers. Either way they responded the same way.�

This is telling since it has been my experience that many folks who carry a knife for self defense have little to no training and consider their knife a last ditch weapon. What I teach has to be as effective for those who attend a weekend seminar as it is for those who pursue edged weapons as a martial art. For this reason I don’t feel comfortable teaching stabbing as a primary counter attack.

For those of you who don’t hunt, try watching a few hunting shows. You can see hunters shooting white tail dear with shotguns, rifles, and bows. I don’t think that anyone would argue that a knife would cause more damage than any of these other weapons. Their shots usually target the circulatory system. Most of the time the animal recoils in shock before bolting off to die a distance away. How much damage could a human do in that time? This overwhelming trauma to the thoracic cavity results in an adrenaline dump and blood pumping into the legs allowing the animal to run.�

They are for a few seconds able to run faster on their extremities than they ever have before. Why don’t they target the head and the central nervous system or the skeletal system? One is for the trophy and one is sportsmanship. It is more important to kill them eventually than to stop them immediately. The exact opposite of what we need to do when defending ourselves against human predators.

These theories on Combative Anatomy continue to reinforce my belief that Inverted Edge Tactics offer the best defensive edged weapon skills.

First of all the use of the inverted edge prevents people from swinging wildly outside the silhouette of their attacker which increases economy of motion, while at the same time targets by default the inherent weaknesses of the body.

The most important feature of Inverted Edge Tactics is that it takes advantage of the fact that arteries and nerves run together along the contours of the muscle like a wiring harness. As with the open hand this combats the likeliness of failure with redundancy. The more systems attacked the better the chance of physiological failure.

Careful consideration needs to be made in reference to how humans respond during stress, the positions we are likely to find ourselves in, and the most effective way to blend those things to formulate repeatable tactics to stop attacks as fast as possible.�

Tactical Anatomy�