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The Battle of Gettysburg, by Thure de Thulstrup. Thure de Thulstrup - L. Prang and Co. - Battle of Gettysburg - Restoration by Adam Cuerden (cropped).jpg
The Battle of Gettysburg , by Thure de Thulstrup.

Combat (French for fight) is a purposeful violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed (using weapons) or unarmed (not using weapons). Combat is sometimes resorted to as a method of self-defense, or can be used as a tool to impose one's will on others. An instance of combat can be a stand-alone confrontation or a small part of a much larger violent conflict. Instances of combat may also be benign and recreational, as in the cases of combat sports and mock combat.


Combat may comply with, or be in violation of local or international laws regarding conflict. Examples of rules include the Geneva Conventions (covering the treatment of people in war), medieval chivalry, the Marquess of Queensberry rules (covering boxing) and several forms of combat sports.

Naval combat of Iquique, 21 May 1879 - oil on canvas painting by Thomas Somerscales, 19th century. Combate Naval Iquique-Thomas Somerscales.jpg
Naval combat of Iquique, 21 May 1879 - oil on canvas painting by Thomas Somerscales, 19th century.

Hand-to-hand combat

Hand-to-hand combat (melee) is combat at very close range, attacking the opponent with the body (striking, kicking, strangling, etc.) and/or with a melee weapon (knives, swords, batons, etc.), as opposed to a ranged weapon.

Hand-to-hand combat can be further divided into three sections depending on the distance and positioning of the combatants:

Military combat

Military combat has always been between two or more opposing military forces in warfare. Military combat situations can involve multiple groups, involving guerilla groups, insurgents, domestic and/or foreign governments. A military conflict is known either as a battle or a war, depending on the size of the fighting and exactly which geographical areas in which the war/battle occurs. Combat effectiveness has always demanded that the personnel maintain strategic preparedness by being sufficiently trained, armed, equipped, and funded to carry out combat operations in the unit to which they are assigned. [1] Warfare falls under the laws of war, which govern its purposes and conduct, and protect the rights of combatants and non-combatants.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Battle</span> Military engagement

A battle is an occurrence of combat in warfare between opposing military units of any number or size. A war usually consists of multiple battles. In general, a battle is a military engagement that is well defined in duration, area, and force commitment. An engagement with only limited commitment between the forces and without decisive results is sometimes called a skirmish.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Infantry</span> Soldiers who fight on the ground on foot

Infantry is a military specialization which engages in ground combat on foot. Infantry generally consists of light infantry, mountain infantry, motorized infantry, mechanized infantry, airborne infantry, air assault infantry, and marine infantry.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">War</span> Intense armed conflict

War is an intense armed conflict between states, governments, societies, or paramilitary groups such as mercenaries, insurgents, and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violence, destruction, and mortality, using regular or irregular military forces. Warfare refers to the common activities and characteristics of types of war, or of wars in general. Total war is warfare that is not restricted to purely legitimate military targets, and can result in massive civilian or other non-combatant suffering and casualties.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Asymmetric warfare</span> War between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly

Asymmetric warfare is a type of war between belligerents whose relative military power, strategy or tactics differ significantly. This is typically a war between a standing, professional army and an insurgency or resistance movement militias who often have status of unlawful combatants.

Military science is the study of military processes, institutions, and behavior, along with the study of warfare, and the theory and application of organized coercive force. It is mainly focused on theory, method, and practice of producing military capability in a manner consistent with national defense policy. Military science serves to identify the strategic, political, economic, psychological, social, operational, technological, and tactical elements necessary to sustain relative advantage of military force; and to increase the likelihood and favorable outcomes of victory in peace or during a war. Military scientists include theorists, researchers, experimental scientists, applied scientists, designers, engineers, test technicians, and other military personnel.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Military</span> Organization primarily tasked with preparing for and conducting war

A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, with its members identifiable by their distinct military uniform. It may consist of one or more military branches such as an army, navy, air force, space force, marines, or coast guard. The main task of the military is usually defined as defence of the state and its interests against external armed threats.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Law of war</span> International regulations of warfare

The law of war is the component of international law that regulates the conditions for initiating war and the conduct of warring parties. Laws of war define sovereignty and nationhood, states and territories, occupation, and other critical terms of law.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Close-quarters combat</span> Physical confrontation with firearms at close range

Close-quarters combat (CQC) or close-quarters battle (CQB) is a close combat situation between multiple combatants involving ranged or melee combat. It can occur between military units, law enforcement and criminal elements, and in other similar situations.

International humanitarian law (IHL), also referred to as the laws of armed conflict, is the law that regulates the conduct of war. It is a branch of international law that seeks to limit the effects of armed conflict by protecting persons who are not participating in hostilities and by restricting and regulating the means and methods of warfare available to combatants.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ranged weapon</span> Any weapon that can engage targets beyond hand-to-hand distance

A ranged weapon is any weapon that can engage targets beyond hand-to-hand distance, i.e. at distances greater than the physical reach of the user holding the weapon itself. The act of using such a weapon is also known as shooting. It is sometimes also called projectile weapon or missile weapon because it typically works by launching solid projectiles ("missiles"), though technically a fluid-projector and a directed-energy weapon are also ranged weapons. In contrast, a weapon intended to be used in hand-to-hand combat is called a melee weapon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Summary execution</span> Execution immediately after being accused of a crime, without trial

A summary execution is an execution in which a person is accused of a crime and immediately killed without the benefit of a full and fair trial. Executions as the result of summary justice are sometimes included, but the term generally refers to capture, accusation, and execution all conducted within a very short period of time, and without any trial. Under international law, refusal to accept lawful surrender in combat and instead killing the person surrendering is also categorized as a summary execution.

Fourth-generation warfare (4GW) is conflict characterized by a blurring of the lines between war and politics, combatants and civilians.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hand-to-hand combat</span> Fighting without ranged weapons

Hand-to-hand combat is a physical confrontation between two or more persons at short range that does not involve the use of weapons. The phrase "hand-to-hand" sometimes include use of melee weapons such as knives, swords, clubs, spears, axes, or improvised weapons such as entrenching tools. While the term "hand-to-hand combat" originally referred principally to engagements by combatants on the battlefield, it can also refer to any personal physical engagement by two or more people, including law enforcement officers, civilians, and criminals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Modern warfare</span> Contemporary warfare as contrasted with previous methods

Modern warfare is warfare that is in notable contrast with previous military concepts, methods, and technology, emphasizing how combatants must modernize to preserve their battle worthiness. As such, it is an evolving subject, seen differently in different times and places. In its narrowest sense, it is merely a synonym for contemporary warfare.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Casualty (person)</span> Military personnel, unavailable for duty

A casualty, as a term in military usage, is a person in military service, combatant or non-combatant, who becomes unavailable for duty due to any of several circumstances, including death, injury, illness, capture or desertion.

Disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR), or disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation, reintegration and resettlement (DDRRR) are strategies used as a component of peace processes, and is generally the strategy employed by all UN Peacekeeping Operations following civil wars.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to military science:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Close combat</span> Violent physical confrontation between two or more opponents at short range

Close combat is a combat situation between two or more opponents at short range. Since the rise of ranged weapons and firearms, the term has been used to specifically refer to melee combat.

<i>J. R. R. Tolkiens Riders of Rohan</i> 1991 video game

J. R. R. Tolkien's Riders of Rohan is a computer video game from 1991 based upon the fictional War of the Ring set in the Middle-earth world created by J. R. R. Tolkien, centered in The Lord of the Rings novels. The massive-scale simulation takes part in the realm of Rohan and the player controls the forces of Good during the onslaught of the forces of Evil, namely centered on the conflict with Saruman of Isengard. It was published by Konami and Mirrorsoft.

The concept of four "generations" in the history of modern warfare was created by a team of United States analysts, including William S. Lind, for the purpose of an argument for "the changing face of war" entering into a "fourth generation". The generations of warfare are sometimes dubbed as "4GW".


  1. North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO Standardization Agency AAP-6 – Glossary of terms and definitions, p. 80


Further reading