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Fairbairn €“Sykes method of keeping it super simple with Alex Mair

Commando memorial Fairbairn-skyes training ground Spean Bridge

Meet Alex Mair third generation Fairbairn-Sykes instructor

Brett met Alex last year on a Survival course as part of the KAPAP UK group. Avi Nardia asked if Alex would provide some survival training for the UK group. Being both ex-infantry they got on like a house on fire. Joining roughly the same time in 1986. Brett was with the Royal Anglian Regiment – Alex with the Royal Marines, where he served with the unit for 28 years. His main role was teaching unarmed combat the Fairbairn €“Sykes way.

Alex Mair ex Royal Marine unarmed combat instructor

Sadly – these valuable skills are not taught in the Royal Marines anymore and the fear is they will be lost. Martial arts are still taught but from more traditional sources. Second generation Fairbairn €“Sykes instructors have passed away and many of the skills they taught have not been documented and lost. This is where Alex wants to keep these alive and still continues to this day to teach combative’s alongside his fitness club.

Fairbairn Sykes history in brief

So, in the spirit of the training method, let’s get straight to the point.

British Lt. Co. W.E. Fairbairn certainly came from the hard school of knocks. Bluffing his way into the army (Royal Marines) at the age of 15 he was posted to Japanese occupied Korea in 1903. He basic became a martial arts bum spending his time practising various forms of martial arts with Japanese and Korean fighters.

When he left the army he joined the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) serving in the most colourful parts of Shanghai dealing with the worst of the worst. Surviving being stabbed he continued to soldier on through this huge boiling pot of violence in what at the time was considered the world’s most violent city.

In 1919 in the same city he met Eric A. Sykes who was working for the British Secret Service. Sykes being an expert marksman he was asked to help form and oversee a team of civilian and police snipers for the SMP and eventually became head of the unit in 1937.

Combining their experience, the pair of them designed a fighting system especially for the SMP called Defendu. A mixer of Savate, ju jitsu, judo, wrestling and boxing.

Code name – Dangerous Dan

In 1940 Fairbairn resigned his post and returned to UK to train the toughest soldiers which included British and Canadian Commandos, U.S Army Rangers, SOE, OSS Spy Operatives and Special Air Services in hand-to-hand combat, knife fighting and pistol… Sykes followed and with Fairbairn created the notorious commando training programme in at Achnacarry House near Spean Bridge.

Fairbairn-Sykes method training with KAPAP GY in norwich

The Self Defence Seminar

So, firstly we have to state that the aim of the seminar was self defence and no silent killing of sentries or enemy combative took place. Believe it or not the actual fighting system is primarily a female system. Yep straight up folks it basically had to work for them, but it’s not sure if many could crush a raw potato in their hands, apparently to become an instructor grip strength was primary and was a test that had to be passed.

Anyway, sorry, side tracked again. Turnout was awesome! As usual plenty of our KAPAP GY crew turned up from both the Great Yarmouth and Norwich clubs. Plus a few lads from Aylesbury Krav Maga club had come along for the show.

Alex wanted to spend the day working on basic striking skills so thankfully we had invested in plenty of strike shields for the occasion. One thing that did strike home was how the principles really were very much the same as KAPAP. Work is unrelenting when it comes  to drilling basic skill sets until they come instinctive, whilst the good old military methodology of keeping it “super simple” is employed.

Get tough with W.E. Fairbairn

“Get tough” Yep, that’s what we do!

For both Fairbairn Sykes method and KAPAP, the aim is to instil mental and physical toughness. Conditioning minds as well as bodies so that if need be we can fight back and protect our loved ones and property. Aggressive spirit required but also the self control of the ‘No Fight – Fighter’.


Great session and confirmation that we go about business the right way. Stick to the basics, don’t over complicate things and you can always win!

We look forward to seeing Alex in May.


The completion of the Alex Mair (Fairbairn-Sykes method) KAPAP GY seminar in Norwich


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This post was written by Compostella


After having been attending Brett’s KAPAP training two nights a week for the past 4 months, I can certainly attest to the INCREDIBLE value for money of his program and the wonderfully pragmatic and effective approach to self defence it takes. There are no frills or rituals, only techniques that to my lay mind seem entirely rooted in reason and principal.

Alec, Norwich