The late ’70s and ’80s was a time of expansion and experimentation as U.S. SOF units digested the lessons of Vietnam and reveled in the Reagan presidency, which meant increased funding for all of the U.S. military, and especially special operations. But, still, hand-to-hand training lagged. It was around this time that “combatives” became the common term used to refer to military martial arts, gradually replacing “hand-to-hand.”
According to SF veteran Greg Hoisington, “We had a few hours of instruction in ‘Combat Judo’ during Phase I when I attended SFTG in the early 1970s. It was fairly basic, mostly throws and take-downs. I think it was mainly to spark our interest in the martial arts after we graduated.” And so the trend continued.
Big John Delavan, SF veteran, said it seemed to him that “all combatives training Army wide stopped in either the late 60s or very early 70s. This is not to say individual unit training or special unit training. But from what I could ascertain it included general combatives training for all soldiers in general with the decision to justify and employ combatives training left to the (unit) commander.” Civilian martial arts in the U.S. in the late 1960s through the 1980s was in a major state of flux as martial arts popularity in the US exploded with a large influx of styles and systems. The tendency of American martial artists to mix styles into hybrid systems was also mixing the pot. Masters back in the originating countries, Japan and Korea foremost, tried vigorously to exert some degree of control over those crazy, disloyal Americans and keep them in line and in the fold. But, still the blending and hybrids continued.