Why did the Fairbairn and Sykes Method Fall Out of Favor?

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

To answer this question we really need to look at the historical context of it all. The Fairbairn and Sykes method (FAS) was the predominate fighting system of WWII. It had a long history as a very successful fighting system from the very early 1920’s and was used by some of the very best gunfighter’s to ever live. This was a very well-rounded fight focused system that was built around the typical physiological responses of a life threatening confrontation. It took many aspects of fighting into consideration and led to a very well-rounded and versatile fighter. This system was adopted, adjusted, and copied by other Instructors such as Rex Applegate, who brought its use to America.

At the end WWII, the men that saved the world put away their guns and came home. The vast majority had zero interest in using their weapons any longer and simply wanted to start families and reap the benefits of their sacrifices. The information from the use of the FAS system and the experience that was gained from the successful application of the methodology was something that was simply dropped and nearly lost.

In the early 1950’s, Western television shows began to dominate the entertainment scene. Men began to be fascinated by the whole “quick draw” aspect of the shows…..which naturally led to the men beginning to pick their guns back up as a form of entertainment and competition. In the 1950’s Col. Cooper began to run “leather slap” contests out of Big Bear, California. The competitions were a man-vs-man contest of speed and accuracy. The context of the competition was typically seven yards on 9 inch plates or balloons. Hip shooting as taught inside of the FAS system, within the “quick draw” context of the western TV shows were the main focus inside of these competitions. Speed was often prioritized above accuracy, because of the coolness factor inside of the “quick draw” aspect of the competition. Of course this led to less than stellar performances, because the context of the competition was not really correct for the necessary accuracy at the distances that the competitions were taking place.

Jack Weaver was one of these competitors. One day he wondered if, if he took the time, bought the gun up to the line of sight, and got on his sight whether he could improve on his performance inside of these competitions. As he dedicated himself to this new strategy to win the competitions, he steadily rose to the top-tier of the shooters. As always, Col. Cooper noticed this successful change in strategy and included it in his codifying of “The Modern Techniques.”

This form of shooting became the direction that the vast majority of the competitors went and became the status quo.

As we sit back here in 2014 and Monday morning quarterback this change in strategy, it is clear to us that the FAS system and its “hip shooting” was the incorrect application of skills inside of the context of the competition. It was not the system that failed, it simply was not the best way to achieve success inside of the context of the competition.

For a good 50 years “The Modern Techniques ruled the roost inside of firearms training and competition shooting. As in most things that involve men and their egos a certain dogma became attached to the methodology. This dogma took on a life of its own and nearly wiped the FAS system off the face of the map. But there were still a few men out there that understood “the context of the fight” and took on the dogma to make sure that this combat proven system was not lost to the world.

On 9/11/2001 the world changed and we were thrust into a time period of war that surpassed all other wars fought by Americans. Soon we were kicking in doors and fighting from house to house……just like we did in WWII. All of the lessons from the past came flooding back. The younger men were thinking that they had discovered something new about fighting inside of this context, but the old timers understood that they had seen this before and that in reality, there is nothing new under the sun.

The men that were fighting the dogma were now joined by the men that were fighting “house to house.”

It is clear to me that the FAS system fell out of favor due to the fact that competition had become the focus and that the context of the FAS system had not been needed in the Korean and Vietnam wars at the levels of “the global war on terrorism.”

“What is old is new again!”

Sure, the technology has changed, but the concepts established inside of the FAS methodology are now seen as what they are…..a very well-rounded, combat proven fighting system, that takes the physiological effects of a life threatening encounter into consideration. The integration of the old and the new has taken on a much more significant role in regards to fighting,

It is good that the attempt to wipe the FAS system off of the face of the earth was not successful…….but man were they close! The world has changed dramatically. What I specialize in used to be seen as heresy, now it is much more accepted, and quite often copied.

5 thoughts on “Why did the Fairbairn and Sykes Method Fall Out of Favor?

  1. The fairbairn sykes methodis really the most effective combat method ever especially the knife fighting part.

  2. Your post is confusing…. the FAS method was replaced but was the new method better or not?
    You seem to contradict yourself.

    1. The only way to answer that correctly is “It depends.” It depends on what you are training for and it depends on whether you are open minded enough to integrate it with newer concepts that you already know. The system is genius, but it is not “the end all be all.” No system is “the end all be all.” A well educated and trained inclusive approach is the best way to go.

    1. I don’t think it fell out of favor at all as a matter of fact it’s still the main method I teach as does the Self Defense Company and Damion Ross and if involved in a altercation it’s what I’d still use today main reason it works

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