SHORT HISTORY - DEFENDU

Origins and Development

W. E. Fairbairn
W. E. Fairbairn

Defendu (aka Close Quarter Fighting System), a highly effective hand-to-hand combat system, was developed in the early 20th century by British naval officer William E. Fairbairn. Fairbairn, who had extensive experience in martial arts, served in the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) during a time when the city was rife with crime and violence. His experiences in Shanghai, particularly the numerous street fights and close-quarters confrontations he encountered, highlighted the need for a practical, efficient self-defense system. Drawing from his black belt expertise in Judo and Ju-Jitsu, Fairbairn began to formulate a new method of combat that prioritized simplicity, speed, and effectiveness.

Influences from Savate, Boxing, and Wrestling

Defendu (1926) by Fairbairn
Defendu (1926) by Fairbairn

Fairbairn's development of Defendu was further influenced by his studies in other martial disciplines, including Savate, Boxing, and Wrestling. His training in Savate, the French martial art known for its powerful and precise kicking techniques, provided him with a comprehensive understanding of striking with the legs. Meanwhile, his boxing experience added a robust set of hand strikes and defensive maneuvers, emphasizing the importance of agility, footwork, and powerful punches. His wrestling background introduced grappling techniques, throws, and holds, which became essential components of Defendu's arsenal, particularly in close-quarters situations.

Collaboration with Eric A. Sykes

British soldiers practicing Defendu
British soldiers practicing Defendu

The creation of Defendu was significantly shaped by Fairbairn's collaboration with Eric A. Sykes, a former colleague and skilled marksman. Together, they refined the techniques and principles that would become the core of Defendu, emphasizing strikes to vulnerable areas, joint locks, throws, and the use of everyday objects as improvised weapons. The system was designed to be quickly learned and easily applied in real-world situations, making it ideal for law enforcement and military personnel who might not have the luxury of years of martial arts training.

World War II and Military Adoption

British Commandos during World War II (Normandy)
British Commandos during World War II (Normandy)

The outbreak of World War II saw Defendu gain prominence as Fairbairn and Sykes were recruited to train Allied forces in hand-to-hand combat and close-quarters battle techniques. Their system was incorporated into the training programs of elite units such as the British Commandos, the Special Operations Executive (SOE), and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA. Defendu's brutal efficiency and adaptability made it an invaluable asset in the war effort, with Fairbairn and Sykes' methods being credited with saving countless lives on the battlefield.

Post-War Influence and Evolution

US Marines practicing MCMAP
US Marines practicing MCMAP

Post-war, Defendu's influence continued to spread as veterans and law enforcement officers sought out effective self-defense training. Fairbairn's techniques were adapted and incorporated into various military and police training programs worldwide. Although the name "Defendu" was eventually overshadowed by other martial arts and combat systems, its legacy persisted in the form of modern combatives and self-defense methodologies. The principles of Defendu can be seen in systems such as Krav Maga, Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP), and other tactical training programs that emphasize practical, real-world applications over traditional martial arts forms.

Resurgence and Modern Adaptations

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Defendu, driven by a desire to return to the roots of practical self-defense. Practitioners and instructors have revisited Fairbairn's original teachings, seeking to preserve and promote the system's core principles. This renewed focus has led to a revival of Defendu training, with modern adaptations that integrate contemporary knowledge and techniques while staying true to the system's original ethos.

Legacy and Continuing Relevance

Defendu's enduring appeal lies in its foundational philosophy: the most effective self-defense is that which can be learned quickly, remembered easily, and applied effectively in the most stressful situations. This philosophy, born out of the violent streets of early 20th-century Shanghai and honed in the crucible of World War II, remains relevant today, offering valuable lessons for anyone interested in practical self-defense.

As Defendu continues to evolve, it serves as a testament to the vision of William E. Fairbairn and Eric A. Sykes, whose pioneering work in the field of combatives laid the groundwork for many of the modern systems in use today. Their commitment to creating a practical, effective means of self-defense has left an indelible mark on the world of martial arts and combative training, ensuring that the legacy of Defendu will endure for generations to come.