Col Rex Applegate

Colonel Rex ApplegateWith great regret, honor, and respect we have to report that Colonel Rex Applegate died on July 14, 1998. He will be best remembered for his development of Close Quarters Combat (CQC). John Kary of American Combatives is faithfully carrying on Rex Applegate's legacy of CQC. We will miss him and wish his family condolences. We salute you Colonel.

We Will Not See the Likes of Him Again
The Life and Times of Col. Rex Applegate
by Thomas J. Nardi, Ph.D. (M.A. Training / January 1999)

"You probably have never heard of him, but the man who taught our spies during World War II has died." So said the announcer on the all news radio station. I could not help but reflect on the sad irony. The announcer was right. Most people- even martial artists- probably never heard of Col. Rex Applegate. Applegate did much more than train our spies. He revolutionized the practice of personal combat. He was the last of the original masters of Western hand-to-hand combat. When he died in July, he was 87. At the time of his death, he was addressing a law enforcement group, talking about the methods of combat hand-gunning that he had helped devised, long before most of the attendees had ever been born.

A Spy is Born

During World War II, Applegate served with the Office of Strategic Services, later to be known as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He also worked with the Counter Intelligence Corps. and the Military Intelligence Division of the War Department. He did, indeed, train spies at the Military Intelligence Training Center at Camp Ritchie, Maryland. He also trained President Roosevelt's personal bodyguards. Applegate, along with Great Britain's William Fairbairn, was responsible for developing the close-quarter combat techniques taught to all Allied Forces. Their methods of hand-to-hand fighting were simple to learn, easy to remember and devastating. Thousands of men and women owed their lives to the combative effectiveness of Applegate's system. Applegate's system was not devised in an Asian temple or a strip mall studio. rather, his methods were down-and-dirty fighting techniques, proven and refined in the true "ultimate" contest: World War II's European and Pacific theaters. Applegate and his instructors routinely went out on dangerous missions behind enemy lines to "field test" what they taught. They
knew from personal experience that their methods worked under the most extreme conditions of life or death warfare.

Colonel Rex Applegate at deskKill or Be Killed

In 1943, Applegate wrote a book that was to become the bible of close-quarter combat. The book was Kill or Be Killed, and the title was not mere hyperbole. The severity of his methods matched the gravity of the world's situation: The Nazi war machine and the Imperial Japanese Forces were attempting nothing less than total world domination. Freedom and democracy were the prizes that Applegate's system was designed to preserve. The importance of Kill or Be Killed is seen in its longevity. For more than a half century, edition after edition has been published and eagerly studied by those interested in combat-proven fighting techniques.

Point Shooting

Being a pragmatist, Applegate taught more than unarmed combat. He co-designed the Fairbairn-Applegate fighting knife and taught its use. He also developed what is known as "point shooting," an instinctive method of handgun use. This method is taught to FBI and DEA agents as well as to military and police units.

Colonel Rex Applegate with pistolThe Legacy Lives On

Fortunately, the Colonel's methods live on. John Kary, of West Virginia, is one of Applegate's followers and admirers. Kary's American Combatives is a close-quarter system in the Applegate-Fairbairn tradition. Kary has not only preserved the original methods, he has expanded and adapted them for modern use. Applegate wholeheartedly endorsed Kary's organization. During their many conversations, Applegate would share his wisdom with Kary. Applegate often told Kary that things should be simplified. "People want to make things more complicated than necessary to effectively neutralize an enemy," said Applegate. "Keep it simple and it'll work every time."

I regret that I, personally, never had the opportunity to meet Colonel Applegate. But from my studies of his works and from training with Kary, I think the best epitaph for the Colonel comes from William Shakespeare's Hamlet. What Hamlet said about his father, we can say about Colonel Rex Applegate, "he was a man, all in all, we will not see the likes of him again."

About the author: Thomas J. Nardi, a New York-based psychologist, has been training in the arts for more than 20 years.

The following is a letter written by Rex Applegate to
John Kary dated September 30, 1997.

I have been away the past several weeks. I am a member of the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Assn. And this has been occupying most of my time. Over the past few years, I have been hearing very favorable reports regarding your instruction and technique and am pleased that we are in direct communication.

I wish to thank you for the book American Combatives. Also for the kind comments and I am in complete agreement with not only the techniques but the way it has been presented. It appears to me that police close combat techniques are and have always been, too defensive orientated in nature. This was confirmed, again, last month when I attended one of Bruce Siddle’s conferences in St. Louis. I am also aware that the techniques that you advocate and that I have advocated in the past are to say the least, controversial in the eyes of many law enforcement administrators. However, in any life threatening situation that an individual faces they are justifiable, etc.

I had a good time at Hocking College where they put on their first training program for law enforcement instructors in combat point shooting. Again, it is the same old principle. "KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID". It works with unarmed, or armed combat situations, at close quarters.

With regard to assisting you, I would be glad to do so in any way possible. I think that law enforcement generally is gradually coming around to those techniques, both armed and unarmed, which depend on basic motor skills, and not complicated ones that have been taught for many years. We must also remember that those law enforcement trainers and so called "experts" in close combat, who are teaching techniques involving fine motor skills are really becoming more and more in a defensive position. Their "egos" are also being involved. I hope that some of these days we have an opportunity to cross paths, and I did get to meet Sgt. Burner of the West Virginia State Police. In fact, I believe I sent him some additional material on my return from Hocking College. I enclose a video copy of a speech I made to law enforcement firearms trainers in Provo, Utah, several months ago. It was a rude shock to most of them. More of the same will be forthcoming.

Meanwhile, keep up the good work and I will be glad to assist in any manner in which I can.


Rex Applegate