Commando combatives dates back to the pre-World War Two era, and specifically to men such as William Ewart (W.E.) Fairbairn. W.E. Fairbairn was a Shanghai police officer. At the time Shanghai was a very rough and dangerous port city. One day he was ambushed by a Chinese gang, beaten, and left for dead. After he recovered, he signed up for martial arts lessons. He distilled the best, most practical, and most vicious techniques into a simple yet brutally effective fighting method that, as a senior level police officer, he taught to the Shanghai police so that they would be able to effectively deal with the levels of violence that they were faced with.
When World War Two broke out, he offered to teach the Allies his fighting method. Supposedly, in proving the effectiveness of his fighting method, he put a few men in the hospital. Men such as W.E. Fairbairn, Anthony Sykes, and Rex Applegate trained units such as the Office of Strategic Services (OSS – the forerunner to today's US Army Special Forces as well as the Central Intelligence Agency), the First Special Service Force (considered by many to be the toughest Allied unit of World War Two), and the British Special Operations Executive (SOE).
Today's Modern Army Combatives (MAC) is distinct from this lineage. MAC is based largely on mixed martial arts techniques. While these techniques can be used effectively in a fight, and certainly being trained in mixed martial arts is better than not having any training at all, they suffer from the flaw that they were designed primarily for sport fighting, not the vicious reality of actual life and death combat. For example, a triangle choke exposes one's groin to the opponent's mouth. In a sport fight biting the opponent in the groin would be illegal and so mixed martial artists are not concerned with this. In a real fight this could be a serious problem.
Commando combatives provides a simple yet brutally effective solution to the problem of violent crime and the need for self-defense. In the modern era men such as Carl Cestari, Chris Pizzo, and Damian Ross perpetuated commando combatives by teaching classes and producing numerous videos demonstrating the techniques that originated with men such as W.E. Fairbairn.
In addition, the commando combatives program includes techniques taught to CIA officers, US Army Special Forces, and US Marines. This is not MMA, sport fighting, or traditional kumite. Many techniques would be illegal in such sport fighting environments. As martial arts go, commando combatives is heavy on the “martial” with little to no “art.” It can be learned quickly and can enable you to prevail even against larger attackers, multiple attackers, or attackers armed with weapons if you are willing to put in the time and effort necessary to train hard.
As an example of the simplicity and brutal effectiveness of commando combatives, a traditional martial art such as karate or tae kwon do may teach you to kick someone in the head in a stand up fight. Developing the necessary strength, balance, and flexibility to do this effectively could take years of training. Instead, the US Marines teach recruits to kick the opponent in the knee. Once the opponent's leg collapses and he falls to the ground, then kicking him in the head is a simple matter requiring little flexibility or specialized conditioning.