Get Tough!, A Hand-to-Hand Fighting Manual (1942)

The words: Get Tough! in a large blue font appear on a yellow background. The cover also includes the phrase By Major W.E. Fairbairn. It appears that a child took a blue crayon to the front cover of the book.

In 1942, Major W.E. Fairbairn wrote the fighting manual Get Tough!: How to Win in Hand-to-Hand Fighting; As Taught to The British Commandos and the US Armed Forces. William E. Fairbairn was a British Royal Marine and expert in self-defense.  He trained many soldiers, including British, American, and Canadian Commandos before and during World War II.  He was an expert in multiple types of martial arts, including earning his second-degree black belt in Kodokan judo, and even created his own fighting system called “Defendu.”  Get Tough! is one of seven books Fairbairn published related to various types of combat. 

NO. 6—FROM A STRANGLE HOLD (ONE HAND) You are seized by the throat, as in Fig. 21, and forced back against a wall. With a smashing blow with the edge of your right hand, strike your opponent’s right wrist towards your left-hand side.  Follow up with a knee kick to his testicles (Fig. 22). Fig 21. An image shows a German soldier wearing a uniform from World War II holding an American or English soldier by his neck against a wall using his right hand. Fig 22. An American or English soldier wearing a uniform from World War II strikes back against a German soldier who was holding him by the neck.  The American/English soldier, who is standing against a wall, grabs the right forearm of the German soldier while raising his right knee to strike the German soldier in the groin in an effort to loosening the chokehold illustrated in Figure 21.

The book opens with a preface explaining part of Fairbairn’s purpose on publishing the book.  He states:

“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.”

He goes on to say that this book is not just for soldiers but for any man or woman who “…ever walks a deserted road at midnight…” and would like to know how to defend themselves in case of danger. 

To view this book, visit Special Collections in McCain Library & Archives room 305 or contact Andrew Rhodes at or 601.266.6765.