Military combat is integral to the development of the real martial arts, and pre-dates the more organised later practices. Ancient artwork dated from around 2000 BC shows soldiers practising what appears to be fighting movements of blocking and counter striking, and ancient wrestling. Of course warfare has changed a lot from those days. Spears, swords and arrow and bow have been updated to assault rifles with bayonet, knives and pistols, but the specific skill of the inividual warrior is still most important.
In modern day units like the Commandos, Spetsnaz, Navy Seals, unarmed combat and assassination techniques are essential surviving techniques. Killing with a rifle, knive or bare hands. After the Vietnam War, special forces that were first developed in wartime WO2 with the SAS, The Royal Marines Commando's and the Ranger units, really started to change the world of warfare. Anti-terror units like the Delta Force and others saw new kinds of threats and enemies.
But in the same time, most martial arts were mostly developed like a sport, safe and clean. The real old way of fighting was not present anymore with the main stream martial arts dojo's nation wide. Just a few systems still practiced the real Full Contact way of Fighting. Military training in armed and unarmed combat is starkly realistic, and this sets it well apart from most of what meets the public eye under the title of martial arts. There is nothing pure about military hand-to-hand combat. Everything that serves as a weapon can be used in combatives. A knife, a shovel, a helmet, hands, feet, shoulders and other objects. One of the major challenges of any combatives training programme is to give the operative (soldier or fighter), the strength of mind to deal with the acute shock that often accompanies an actual life threatening situation. All human beings are born with the physiological fight or flight mechanism, the reactive capacity to alter muscular, hormonal and mental states under extreme stress to enable us to respond to a threat with greater physical force. Yet this mechanism is an ancient one, born of a prehistoric time when human beings had to face death or danger every day. In modern society we have grown unaccustomed to dealing with such threats. Consequently, when we are placed in a situation of extreme stress the biological changes which occur can actually deprive us of physical initiative rather than enable it. When faced with a stressful situation (called stressor), the brain's hypothalamus is quickly activated and sets in train a series of hormonal reactions which lead to the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline from the adrenal medulla into the bloodstream. This produces an increase in respiration, heart rate and blood pressure and draws blood away from surface vessels and the brain and diverts it to the muscles to provide them with more sugar and oxygen. The liver also starts to release stored gulcose to fuel this process. Following this initial shock reaction, the body attempts to stabilise itself in adjustment to the situation and adrenal levels dip back towards normal, though the individual remains highly motivated. The psychological effect of the stress reaction can be extremely debilitating as well as empowering. With the blood draining to the muscles there is the danger of going into shock and being mentally paralysed by the unfamiliar sensations occuring in the body. Confusion, anxiety and physical weakness can thus occur, and instead of acquiring greater physical strenght the individual can psychologically retreat from the stressor and consequently lose contact with the reality of their plight. In combat training, they should be just enough real danger present to provoke the adrenal stress reaction. As the fighter becomes more accustomed to continuing the fight under such conditions, then the likelihood of him experiencing paralysis in a life threatening situation becomes dramatically reduced.
In the martial arts, fighters always stand and fight on the right distance. However in real defense the position and distance of the fighters will always be different and not ideal. Fighting with grappling distance leaves little or no room to manoevre. Instinctive reaction is absolutely vital if a fighter is to acquit himself competently in a fighting scenario. In actual combat the forces of stress, fear and excitement combine to deprive a fighter of much of his capacity for rational or decisive thought. In such situations the body responds by resorting to more instinctive physical actions. Effective combat training aims to give the fighter a body of techniques which have been repeated so often that they form a part of this instinctive response mechanism during any actual combat situation. Rational thought is far too slow for the split second shifts of a combat encounter, so a simple but powerful repertoire of techniques which can be delivered as a matter of reflex is vital. The key to generating this response mechanism lies in the nature of the training. In any situation, the human mind's first reaction is to search through its "files" of experience to see whether the current task or demand matches anything which has happened in the past and can form the experiential basics for a response. If a situation is unique, such as a fight / attack (for one who is not accustomed to fighting), the brain can find no previous model and can instead go into paralysis of decision. Hard realistic training in combat essentially gives the fighter that mental model to respond to an actual fight situation with plenty of mental references of how it feels to defend oneself. Repeating techniques time and time again, and increasing the power with which they are delivered to accustom the fighter to actually being in danger, means that in a life threatening environment defensive techniques are a matter of reflex and the shock of the experience of combat is much reduced.
Unarmed combat is the oldest form of fighting known to man. As the human world and society developed, so did its methods of war, but no matter how technical or scientific fighting becomes, there will always be hand to hand combat. And when a weapon is empty or when its not working, hand to hand fighting will be the result. One of the first instructors who give a high priority to military martial arts training was William Fairbairn, a Britisch Army officer who, with his partner Major William Sykes, invented the Fairbairn-Sykes double edged fighting knife.
The primary weapon a fighter has to develop to be proficient in combat is his mind. Heis ability to think and react under pressure without panicking is vital. As with any other martial art, one of the primary reasons for training fighters in combat is to give them a decided mental edge. Like a boxer preparing for a fight, if a fighter has trained for combat he will have the psychological advantage over an untrained opponent. The boxer believes that if he has trained really hard and is mentally up for a contest, his opponent will not beat him - so too a fighter well prepared in combat. The techniques themselves may not even be used, but it is invaluable insurance in a fighters mind if he has plenty of combat training to call upon.