Close Combat Kit — Part 34 of the Close Combat Files

Caution:The contents of this article are for education purposes only. The principles described are extremely dangerous and are for military close combat training and operations only. Their application applies solely to the military.

Military close combat is all about taking out the enemy at all costs and training the way one intends to operate, "Kill or get Killed" in the words of the late great Colonel Rex Applegate.

Proponents of military close combat must come up through the ranks on entry, basic and advanced courses before instructors courses are undertaken to ensure they know how to train, practise and employ the deadly skills.

Special Operation close combat require a wide and varied range of armed and unarmed combat skills that equally require specific training equipment and specialised training areas.

The investment with getting an operator through selection and training phases of qualification and then operational is considerable and must be protected by training practises, places and kit that are inline with risk prevention but never by sacrificing the terminal nature of the training.

Toughener and sickener phases must remain.

Pre the Great Wars, the military developed and employed as part of close combat operational training methods of practising target entry, assault and escape and evasion that were not only to enhance tactical skills but also developed physical skills for combat.

Scaling walls, the sides of ships, climbing cliffs and cargo nets, moving covertly along beaches or over rough terrain were all training aspects that enhanced combat ability.

'Trainasiums' as they were often known or assault courses would incorporate cargo net climbs, rope swings from high platforms and vertical and horizontal rope manoeuvring and climbing to ascend, descend or cross an obstacle. Walls, hurdles, pits, ladders, poles and bars as well as tunnels and under crawl obstacles made up some of the obstacles on an assault course. These practises were designed to develop individual's ability to move fast and hard, down low, up high or under a range of stress related conditions that would quickly expose weaknesses and develop individual combatants strength, speed, endurance and ability to operate in combat.

Today many people opt for weight training alone for strength training but this does not provide the endurance related aspects of load carrying over distance and varied terrain of assault courses. Many such types of weight training on their own simply don't provide the combatant with the ability to carry or move their own weight or someone else's over great distances. Weights tend to be well balanced and designed for ease of holding whereas carrying packs, logs and the dead weight of a human body up and over obstacles is a very different type of training.

Sand bags or artillery shells full of concrete stretcher carrying a human weight are also exercises where extreme balance and physical conditioning is paramount. The strength of grip developed through rope and bar climbing is positively transferred into close quarter combat when seizing or securing or crushing an enemies bodily parts.

Webbing and packs can be loaded with increased loads to make the exercise more and more difficult and the steepness of the course and height or depth of the obstacles can be extended to increase difficulty and increase gains.

Belts and webbing are also important parts of close combat training and employment and their combat importance is instructed on combative courses.

Involving water, mud or sand are other methods of upping the anti and increasing the gains and this includes amphibious close quarters combat.

Battle or practical handling exercises with vehicle pushes, jerry can carries and every possible operational disaster humanly imaginable are all character, confidence and competence building, along with improving all combat related physical performance aspects.

There were many military close combatants that were well suited to close combat practises by the very nature of their prior work on farms, in the forestry and as hunters in the hills.

While work in the gym is all good, even more relevant is hard and heavy work in the hills, bush and out on the land. This work usually involves long days of heavy lifting, carrying and covering hilly difficult country.

This type of preparation ensured combatants could deal with the elements and environment and could lift and carry dead game or move struggling stock.

When you consider most gym workouts are over in an hour or so in comparison to these mountain men spending from daylight to dark out on the land, the great outdoors option is truly more combat orientated.

Howard Bell a well-respected Todd Group member for over twenty years is a prime example of such a combatant. Howard trained off both Charlie Nelson and myself as well as being my assistant on my first visit with Col Applegate. He is a farmer, shearer, cuts contract firewood and works a full time farm job on a dairy farm. He is lean and mean and at over fifty years of age has many times shown up much younger exponents on physical training and close combat courses. He left over thirty young bucks and gym jocks for dead on the survival combative course, in the water and on the confidence course, as well as on the hill run.

This kind of occupational conditioning on the land and high in the hills with implements in hand and carrying kit simply can't be beaten for combat conditioning.

The OSS and SOE had WWII secret training camps for spies and assassins with elaborate training areas for armed and unarmed combat.

Col Applegate detailed the layout and construction of these areas and equipment items to me and they were way ahead of their times in capabilities. He had constructed Little Japan and Little Germany where they practised amongst other things combating enemy fighting methods. They also had an automated kill house named "The House of Horrors".

Apart from the facilities and terrain and equipment, they also trained under stress conditions where they often had to make their escape while Colonel Applegate, Captain Fairbairn and their senior instructors fired above their heads with live fire.

Col Applegate would say it's a very different situation firing on a fancy target that doesn't shoot back than returning accurate fire at muzzle flash. This type of training he considered battle inoculation and went hand in hand with combat conditioning.

These irregular force training areas employed total covert operations type close combat practises, the real cloak and dagger stuff.

The regular forces training areas were designed for more mass troop training with large open practise grounds and hand to hand combat pits.

These areas would include a raised platform for the bullhorn-bellowing instructor to direct commands from and for assistant instructor demonstrations.

Regular forces training would also include bayonet courses and pugil stick fighting areas as well as confidence courses. Training in military unarmed combat phases was very much man on man in these unarmed phases of training and bodily protectors were not issued. Exponents were expected to train the way they operate and hard contact was just the expected to ensure combatants would not rely on anything other than their natural ability and trained skills.

Clusters of hanging man shaped dummies were utilised for crowd combat training and there were also shoot and stab dummies. Ground combat dummies make a good load carry means and also can be utilised for life threatening unarmed takeouts where practise with a partner is high risk.

They can also be hung by a harness on a pulley system or bungy for practising decentralisation or takeouts and ground finishing.

Colonel Applegate, Charles Nelson and Harry Baldock were all innovative and inventive pioneers and were all accustomed to having to invent much of their required specialist training equipment.

Military close combat being a military science and having very different purposes and employments than most other fighting arts required its own custom made kit. Since taking over from these great pioneers I have also continued to invent specialist equipment to enhance training and performance.

Over twenty years ago I invented the handled tyre stomping target, a device that Colonel Applegate considered excellent and used to refer to it as "see simple is best".

Following on from Charlie Nelson's wall hanging mats for striking and kicking I developed an indoors padded wall facility for combat practise and striking as well as utilizing large crash pads for heavy contact striking.

Then I invented the Battle Tech Fight Man for forward offensive combination assaults and partner focus on incoming strikes to develop battle readiness. Exponents could now move and contact at full speed and power, targeting the two upper quadrants while the target wearer would focus through the visualization slot and endeavour to out move their attacker and overcome the fear of incoming blows.

Next I invented the tru-gard to test or tru your exponents counter offensive capabilities.

Then came the entry timer that electronically displayed entry time from take off to target contact, which was a good device for individual exponent time testing.

The chin jab four-sided stand was a great innovation so four exponents could practise close quarter strikes at different heights and could then change positions simulating an enemy of different height. The Todd Special Operations Dagger with its robust double-edged blade and single hand sheath release system, as well as handgrip end skull crusher was a very popular military edged weapon choice. In fact Col Applegate had a presentation quality model made by military knife make Johnny Foxton in his museum.

The TSB 45 short for Tactical Safety Baton 45 degrees South Model Todd 45 was the next invention that simply provided defensive capabilities of no other baton and could be used for truing combatant's guards in close combat training.

The equipment is only one aspect of performance enhancement; a more important consideration is the training locations and terrain. Combative lanes for forward close combat practise indoors or outdoors make good methods of going forward and changing the travel of lanes or having inclines or declines improves combat footing and footwork.

Wide and varied training environments such as sand, sea, mud, high country and rough terrain all present close combat employment advantages and often disadvantages.

Above all the combative principles and skills are the most important aspects and their relevance to combat and combat attire and kit. One must always remember combatants are trained to take out their enemy not take them on, and to do it quickly and quietly, however they must also, like in every aspect of their training, prepare for the worst case scenario. Having to weather the storm and come back from the dead, perform against formidable enemies in anything but primary desired conditions.

Having to endure to overcome the threat and then having to fight your way out of Dodge, which may be a long arduous struggle against the odds and the terrain hazards and elements.

Interested in Close Combat Training? Todd Group Depots are located throughout New Zealand and at various overseas locations.

For more information on Todd System of Close Combat see the following books, dvds and cds:

  • Close Combat Books
    The Do's and Don'ts of Close Combat – Tactical C&R – Control and Restraint – No Nonsense Self Defence – Military Close Combat Systems Phase One – Combative Masters Of The 20th Century
  • Close Combat DVDs
    Self Defence of the Elite – 80 Years of Combative Excellence – Primary Option Control & Restraint – Military Unarmed Combat – Phase 1
  • Close Combat CDs
    Technique To Command – Combative Code of Conduct


Article written by Tank Todd

Special Operations CQB Master Chief Instructor. Over 30 years experience. The only instructor qualified descendent of Baldock, Nelson, and Applegate. Former instructors include Harry Baldock (unarmed combat instructor NZ Army WWII), Colonel Rex Applegate OSS WWII and Charles Nelson, US Marine Corps. Tank has passed his Special Forces combative instructor qualification course in Southeast Asia and is certified to instruct the Applegate, Baldock and Nelson systems. His school has been operating for over eighty years and he is currently an Army Special Operations Group CQB Master Chief Instructor. His lineage and qualifications from the evolutionary pioneers are equalled by no other military close combat instructor. His operation includes his New Zealand headquarters, and 30 depots worldwide as well as contracts to train the military elite, security forces, and close protection specialists. Annually he trains thousands of exponents and serious operators that travel down-under to learn from the direct descendant of the experts and pioneers of military close combat. Following in the footsteps of his former seniors, he has developed weapons, and training equipment exclusive to close combat and tactical applications. He has published military manuals and several civilian manuals and produced DVDs on urban self protection, tactical control and restraint, and close combat. He has racked up an impressive 100,000+ hours in close combat.