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Fairbairn's book "GET TOUGH!"

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World War Two772 of 1354Small lead USN Cruiser?Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife
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Posted 5 years ago


(51 items)

PLEASE: If "Squeamish" or easily upset; do NOT view this post, especially Photo's .3 & .4. as it is necessarily "graphic" regarding military combat bloodshed!

This is a fantastic book from my WW2 Collection; “Get Tough”, Written by William E. Fairbairn, first published in 1942 by D. Appleton-Century Company New York & London. Size 5 ½” X 7 ¾” in softcover with 121 pages. This is a modified version of All-In Fighting for the American market. Note the first edition has Fairbairn’s rank as ‘Captain’ all subsequent (1940's) editions as ‘Major’, this edition is from 1942.

These two links will take Collectors Weekly Members and Viewers to two websites that freely offer the FULL book " Get Tough" via two different methods:

Note: In Photo .2 Major Fairbairn refers (Page 96) to the knife being attached to the clothing or equipment of the combatant, in Photo .3 (top) you will notice the sheath for the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife, has four "leather tabs" these are for the combatant to sew the sheath onto his battledress or personal equipment, in the position chosen by himself, in the position best suited to his personal fighting style. The positioning of the knife was never "laid down" or standardised. This is just one of the interesting insights contained in this book.

Preface to “GET TOUGH!” by the author; Captain then Major and finally Lieutenant-Colonel W. E. FAIRBAIRN:

“The method of hand-to-hand fighting described in this book is the approved standard instruction for all members of His Majesty's forces. The Commandos, and parachute troops, harrying the invasion coasts of Europe, have been thoroughly trained in its use. Britain's two-million Home Guard are daily being instructed in its simple but terrible effectiveness. The units of the United States Marine Corps who were stationed in China between 1927 and 1940 learned these methods at my own hands when I was Assistant Commissioner of the Shanghai Municipal Police.
There will be some who will be shocked by the methods advocated here. To them I say "In war you cannot afford the luxury of squeamishness. Either you kill or capture, or you will be captured or killed. We've got to be tough to win, and we've got to be ruthless - tougher and more ruthless than our enemies."
It is not the armed forces of the United Nations alone who can profit by learning how to win in hand-to-hand fighting. Every civilian, man or woman, who ever walks a deserted road at mid-night, or goes in fear of his life in the dark places of a city, should acquaint himself with these methods. Once mastered, they will instil the courage and self -reliance that come with the sure knowledge that you are the master of any dangerous situation with which you may have to cope.
The methods described in this book I have carefully worked out and developed over a period of many years. They owe something to the famous Japanese judo (jiu-jutso), and something else to Chinese boxing. But, largely, they were developed from my own experience and observation of how most effectively to deal with the ruffians, thugs, bandits, and bullies of one of the roughest water-front areas in the world.
Although every method described in the following pages is practicable - and so proved by the author and his students by years of experience, it is not essential to master them all. I suggest that at first you select about ten which, for reasons of your height, weight, build, etc., seem most suitable, and specialize in mastering these thoroughly.
Do not consider yourself an expert until you can carry out every movement instinctively and automatically. Until then, spend at least ten minutes daily in practice with a friend. At first, practice every movement slowly and smoothly. Then gradually increase your speed until every movement can be executed with lightning rapidity.
I should like in conclusion to give a word of warning. Almost every one of these methods, applied vigorously and without restraint, will result, if not in the death, then certainly in the maiming of your opponent. Extreme caution, then, should be exercised in practice, care being taken never to give a blow with full force or a grip with maximum pressure. But, once closed with your enemy, give every ounce of effort you can muster, and victory will be yours.”

William Ewart FAIRBAIRN (28 February 1885–20 June 1960) was a British soldier, police officer and exponent of hand-to-hand combat method, the close combat, for the Shanghai Police between the world wars, and allied special forces in World War II. He developed his own fighting system known as Defendu, as well as other weapons tactics. Notably, this included innovative pistol shooting techniques and the development of the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife: See my companion Collectors Weekly Post:

Fairbairn served with the Royal Marine Light Infantry starting in 1901, and joined the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) in 1907. During his service with the International Police in Shanghai, Fairbairn reportedly engaged in hundreds of street fights in the course of his duties over a twenty-year career, where he organised and headed a special anti-riot squad. Much of his body, arms, legs, torso, even the palms of his hands, was covered with scars from knife wounds from those fights. Fairbairn later created, organised and trained a special anti-riot squad for the Shanghai police force, as well as developing numerous firearms training courses and items of police equipment, including a special metal-lined bulletproof vest designed to stop high-velocity bullets from the 7.63 x 25mm Mauser pistol.

During World War II, he was recruited by the British Secret Service as an Army officer, where he was given the nickname "Dangerous Dan". Together with fellow close-combat instructor Eric Sykes, Fairbairn was commissioned on the General List in 1941. He trained British, American and Canadian Commando forces, along with Ranger candidates in close-combat, pistol-shooting and knife-fighting techniques. Fairbairn emphasised the necessity of forgetting any idea of gentlemanly conduct or fighting fair: "GET TOUGH, get down in the gutter, win at all costs... I teach what is called ‘Gutter Fighting.’ There’s no fair play, no rules except one: kill or be killed,” he declared.

For his achievements in training OSS personnel, Fairbairn eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel by the end of the war, and received the U.S. Legion of Merit (Officer grade) at the specific request of "Wild Bill" Donovan, founder of the U.S. O.S.S.

After joining the SMP, he studied boxing, Kodokan judo and then Chinese martial arts. He developed his own fighting system—Defendu—and taught it to members of that police force in order to reduce officer fatalities. He described this system as primarily based on his personal experience, which according to police records included some 600 non-training fights, by his retirement at age 55 from the position of Assistant Commissioner in 1940.

Together with Eric A. Sykes he developed innovative pistol shooting techniques and handgun specifications for the SMP which were later disseminated through their book Shooting To Live With The One-Hand Gun (1942), along with various other police innovations such as riot batons, armoured vests and other equipment. He is perhaps best known for designing the famous Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife, or 'Commando' knife, a razor-sharp stilletto-style fighting dagger used by British Special Forces in the Second World War, and featured in his textbook Scientific Self-Defence. Fairbairn also designed the lesser known Smatchet, which has it's own chapter in "Get Tough"; and collaborated on the design of several other combat knife designs.

See my CW Post of my F-S Fighting Knife:

Other Publications by Fairbairn:

Defendu, first published in 1926 in Shanghai by the North China Daily News & Herald Ltd. Size 7” X 10”, hardcover, cloth bound with 171 pages.

Scientific Self-Defence, first published in 1931 by D. Appleton and Company New York & London. Size 6 ½” X 9 ½”, in hardcover with 165 pages.

A slightly modified/updated version of Defendu.
All-In Fighting, first published in 1942 by Faber and Faber Limited London. Size 5 ½” X 8 ¼” in hardcover with 132 pages.

Self Defence for Women and Girls, first published in 1942 by Faber and Faber London. Size 5 ½” X 8” softcover with 48 pages.

Hands Off! (Self Defence for Women and Girls), first published in 1942 by D. Appleton-Century Company New York & London. Size 5 ¼” X 8” in softcover with 41 pages. This is a modified version of Self Defence for Women and Girls for the American market.

Shooting to Live, co-authored by Eric Anthony Sykes, first published in 1942 by Oliver and Boyd London England. Size 4 ¾” X 7" in hardcover with 96 pages.


  1. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    This is the Link to my "Companion CW Post" for this book:
  2. Hems303 Hems303, 5 years ago
    Thanks for all the "love it's" AR8Jason, pickrknows, BELLIN68, petey, walksoftly, pw-collector, blunderbuss2, miKKoChristmas11 and kerry10456!

  3. ballyhooligan, 3 years ago
    Great book!
  4. LaniPai LaniPai, 3 years ago
    I have 3 copies of this book. One has a different cover. I believe they are all original first edition. Any idea where to start on finding their value?
  5. Hems303 Hems303, 3 years ago
    Hi LaniPai
    Book dealers all give different values. The ultimate test is to put it to auction and let the market decide. The different covers on the first and early editions came about because it was published simultaneously in USA and UK; as it was used by both countries forces personnel in training. The contents are still being used to this day in various places around the world!
  6. LaniPai LaniPai, 3 years ago
    Thanks so much!
  7. Hems303 Hems303, 3 years ago
    LaniPai, I'm just so sorry it took me so long to answer your question. I'm afraid I seldom visit the site nowadays, "Collectors Weekly" has changed so much, and coupled with an increasingly busy lifestyle, it now just never seems to happen!

    Well perhaps infrequently, like now! I do feel that if I can't "maintain" the posts I have put up, perhaps I should take them all down, but then again, I do feel I have put some interesting things out for people to enjoy or even research further.

    Regards, Steve
  8. Machiavelli_Sun_Tzu Machiavelli_Sun_Tzu, 2 years ago
    I just purchased a 1942 copy of "Get Tough" from the area of the original OSS training grounds in Maryland, so I'm assuming that it is possible that it was originally bought by a member of that organization. Regardless, do have an approximate value for this book? I have studied the methods of Fairbairn, Sykes and Applegate since the early 90's and have a hardcover copy of this book that is listed for around a hundred bucks.
  9. LaniPai LaniPai, 2 years ago
    I have 3 copies of this book. One paperback and two hardcover. All original. No price valued yet. Not sure what to charge though some have said the range of $100-300 would be fair.

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