About Combatives

Combatives Lineage

Today, it is impossible to find living instructor who trained directly under Fairbairn, Sykes, Applegate or Underwood (first generation students). All have passed away. There are however a few second generation students.

Charles Nelson

Charles Nelson was a WW2 veteran and former Marine hand-to-hand combat instructor and was the last known person who could trace his lineage straight back to Fairbairn.

Nelson was originally trained by one of Fairbairn’s students, Sgt. Kelly, a Marine who served in Shanghai in the 1930’s. Kelly in turn had studied under another of Fairbairn’s top students Detective Dermot ”Pat” O’Neil of the Shanghai Police, who would later become the close-quarters combat instructor for the famous “Devils Brigade”.

Nelson also studied under Col. Anthony Drexel Biddle, a Marine unarmed combat instructor who was mentored by Fairbairn. Nelson bunked with John Styers, yet another Marine hand-to-hand combat expert who trained with Biddle and penned a classic titled “Cold Steel”.

After the war, Nelson returned to New York City, where he taught combatives for more than 45 years.

Michael “Mickey” Davidow

As a teenager Mickey Davidow became a student of a Brigadier Morris, a Briton who had immigrated to the Republic of South Africa after the Second World War to start a new life. It seems this was the case with many Britons during those painful years of recovery that followed, who having lost so much during the war decided to look for a place to start anew.

In 1952 Brigadier Morris established a gym in downtown Johannesburg on the corner of Eloff and Bree streets on the first floor which he named the “Apollo gym”. The gym taught physical fitness, boxing, wrestling and a type of “self-defence” system (the brigadier called it Judo but some years later Mickey Davidow ruled out Judo) the brigadier had been taught during the war. Upon cross referencing the techniques, the system proved to be the very same taught to military personnel in Scotland during the war. This would place Brigadier Morris at one of the commando training centres where Fairbairn and or Sykes had taught originally. The only logical conclusion to this digression from combat to civilian “Self Defence” application by the brigadier would of course be to make this system more palatable for the average South African citizen. He did however teach what he called “deadly techniques” to a select few students.

Being an eager to learn teenager, Davidow “sponged up” this knowledge and a few years later discovered Judo and Ju Jutsu under the tutelage of Professor Jack Robinson. This is where he confirmed that the system that brigadier Morris had taught him was not Judo. There is no doubt to this fact since Mickey Davidow is a 7 time unbeaten judo champion and knows Judo well.

Judo and Ju Jutsu were introduced to South Africa by the late Professor Jack Robinson who had immigrated to South Africa from England in 1934. “Prof Jack” as he was called by his students was taught both systems by the founder of British Judo, Yukio Tani. This clearly established the lineage of Ju Jutsu in South Africa as that of Tenjin Shinyo Ryu.

Further proof of Tenjin Shinyo Ryu lineage is corroborated according to a diagram of lineage drawn by the hand of the late Heribert Czerwenka Wenkstetten (of the Austrian Shobukai and Chief Technical Director of the Original E.J.J.U. European Ju Jitsu Union) and Vernon C. F. Bell (the late chairman of the International Ju Jitsu Federation I.J.J.F.). It shows Seishi Teppei also had a part in teaching Tenjin Shinyo in South Africa (1927-28) and Davidow is clearly placed directly below the pair of Prof. Jack Robinson and Seishi Teppei.

Davidow however seemed to have followed the exact same teaching routine to a select few students at his home dojo (in Cyrildene) away from the main school (in Glenhazel a suburb of Johannesburg). First teaching students what he had learned from Brigadier Morris’ system and only if more interest was displayed, were they introduced to its roots, Tenjin Shinyo Ryu Ju Jutsu.



Historically it is unclear as to where, when and with which masters Seishi Teppei studied Tenjin Shinyo Ryu. It is said that for a time he was in Japan at the Kodokan however no records of this exist. Teppei sensei was often at odds with the Kodokan due to their tendency of "Watering" down the more forceful technical application of pure Tenjin Shinyo Ryu ju-jitsu and after repeated confrontations with the teachers regarding this point he departed from the association. One could only logically assume that his records would have been expunged from their system of records which would explain their absence. There is however no doubt cast upon his expertise since his technical skill is evident in his legacy in South Africa and is therefore unquestioned.