What is CQB?

What is CQB?

Nowadays, when all terms and methods are “fluid” to adapt to the necessities of marketing, it’s becoming difficult to find a good definition of what CQB really means, and the question to be asked, what is good training based on real situations with combat-proven drills?

Historically perspective

I’m not a person stuck in the past, even if I can admire and recognize the hard work as well as the difficulties that our predecessors went through to set up these concepts and associated skills. Such pioneers are William E. Fairban in the Shangai of 1910, Imi Lichtenfeld in 1948 in Israel, or Rex Applegate training the OSS (the germ of the CIA) during the WWII.

I would like to clarify this point so I don’t sound disrespectful to any of them, (and many other amazing instructors around the world), however, in the tactical field I have a saying that I always use: It’s not the big fish eating the small, it’s the faster ones who are hunting the slower. The faster we learn and adapt to new scenarios, the more survival options we have. A very special person and mentor to me was Neil Horowitz, former Vietnam Navy Veteran who unfortunately died a few years back. I learned a lot from him, especially hard work, free thinking and how to release the evil within when needed… and alive after that.

What is CQB

What is CQBCQB, or Close Quarter Battle, must be considered as a tactical concept (never a group of skills or specific drills), it normally involves fighting hand-to-hand within a few meters, with or without any kind of weapon, usually conducted by small teams or one to one. Due to the nature of the battle developing in confined spaces or areas, we sometimes use the term MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) or recently the term FIBUA, however, CQB refers to COMBAT, while MOUT involves many other elements at a larger scale, such as air support operations, logistics, heavy weapons, etc.

If you ask any US police, military, CPO’s or even civilians what does the term CQB mean, probably 99% of the time, they will refer to the use of guns within an extremely close distance, also known as CQC or Close Quarter Combat. It’s not unusual for them to connect the term CQB with Hand to Hand Combat, Knife Fight or any other kind of fighting mostly because, in many states, they have access to pistols, rifles, and shotguns… so most of they rely on the use of firearms, which is a big mistake. Why is this a big mistake you ask? because in extreme short distance, where fast action and violent contact is necessary, the possibility of losing the weapon or have a jam is high.

Pragmatism over Theory

I’m not a historical researcher of weapons, neither an armorer. I don’t care too much about how well developed this or that rifle, a knife is and which technique is better, all I want is to be effective using whatever I have at my disposal to survive, it’s a simple rule.

Pay attention to the Taliban, they used whatever they had, AK47, PKS, PKM, RPG7 and where able to control the ground in Afghanistan as well as the Tribal area of Pakistan, fighting against more advanced and technological able armies of the world.

What is CQB

The Mc Krav

During a discussion and the topic comes up of where did the term CQB originate from, normally what comes to mind is Krav Maga (Kravmaga). There are many organizations, instructors and practitioners discussing who has the right to use the name, who’s training the original Krav Maga and many other funny comments, such “this technique is not KM” or “you must kick them in the groin to make it a legit KM technique”… well, even when I’m not expert in Hebrew, expert level “37” in Krav Maga or so, I have a pretty clear point of view about this absurd comment.

The definition of Krav Maga means Contact Combat translated from the Hebrew language, no one can claim the rights to the name Krav Maga, it like someone trying to claim the rights to the words water, karate, car or basketball. Who is doing the original Krav Maga?

I don’t care and I don’t want to be involved in something which is stuck to the training model and skills sets from 1948.

Life evolves, circumstances change, just a gentle reminder in case someone forgot. So I train and teach Krav Maga that changes every month if needed, to adapt to the new operational scenarios, same with the CQB.

Probably at this point, I should clarify my point of view. I don’t care who designed this or that  CQB technique, I don’t care from where it came from, all I’m concerned about is: it’s combat tested with good results?,  then I will use it.

Let me remind you what Bruce Lee said many years ago: “Absorb what is useful.” Many Krav Maga professionals are not telling you where all their techniques originated from, such as Greco-roman fight, Boxing, Judo, Wrestling to name a few. So the founders took what they considered good enough to fight, and now, after a few generations, we are discussing the sex of the angels.

Only the best instructors, not too many, are involved in a deep restructuration and evolution of training drills, protocols, and techniques, for this reason, I am collaborating with the IKF, because Col. Chaim Peer is a retired member of the Sayeret Matkal unit, but also a worldwide respected Ju-Jitsu and Martial Arts Master as well, close to him leading the organization is Amit Himelstein, another Israeli talent, interested in developing the organization for the best benefit of the people.

Going back to the acronym CQB, this is an internationally accepted term where everybody understands that it refers to a fight, combat or battle inside a building, as an individual or as small teams. Don’t be dogmatic, don’t be too much focused on the names but rather on what you can do in this situation, with what you have, be pragmatic. Moving on,  let’s analyse the key concepts in a Close Quarter Battle Situation

Few “Critical Action Factors” during CQB

What is CQBSpeed: You may have many reasons to move fast due to some crisis like hostage situation, active shooter or suicidal terrorist just to name a few,  keep something in mind, the faster you move, the less time the adversary have to prepare an effective defence or counter-attack.

Violence of Action: Nothing productive is coming in a CQB environment without forcefulness, go hard or don’t go at all. Violence in the sense of Legal Use of Force, Force Escalation and Use of Lethal-Force.

Surprise: in the ideal scenario we will take the initiative, starting the combat or battle in the best moment for us hit the target (e.g. anti-terrorist operations, you always try to enter in from 02am – 04am because it’s when the body and mind are more tired (of course it depends on the situation and scenario at hand).

Adaptability: Best combat plan is to resist for the first five minutes of contact with the enemy, this is an old and very true statement. In the case of CQB it takes just one second to know if your plan has to be adjusted, if you are not capable to react and confront the new situation, you die.

Control: CQB action, will not be finished when the target is down, the hostage freed or the criminals arrested, it’s finishing when we have the full area under control, in fact, I used to say that the operation is over when I’m back home drinking a coffee.

Team Work: Even in a small Two-Man-Team, the coordination of the work and techniques used, must be previously trained, internalized and visualized, without this factor, we are exposed to a failure, it means chaos and death in this kind of business.


What is CQBOften I see comments referring CQB as a synonym of Anti-Terrorist operation or involving terrorist situations and especially around organizations connected with the Krav Maga “industry” (clearly I’m referring people and groups using the name Krav Maga without a deep knowledge and operational experience on the streets in police or military service, Mc Krav Experts). I’m unsure of the reason for this but in my opinion, it’s absolutely wrong.

Below a list of some of the situation which may involve Close Quarter Battle but not limited to:

  • Spontaneous barricade suspect
  • Prison Cell Extraction
  • Domestic Violence
  • Active Shooter
  • Active Threat
  • Terrorist Suspect
  • Terrorist Operation
  • Military Operation
  • Peacekeeping Environment
  • Law Enforcement Hostage Rescue
  • Dignitary Protection
  • Diplomatic Security
  • High Threat Protective Operations

However, according to the FBI in 2017 out of the 927 cases involving firearms, 224 were connected with people experiencing mental distress at the time of their death, this equates to 24% of cases. This is an interesting question because could force the utilization of Lethal-Force than would be unnecessary in a different case. CQB is affected by a wide range of situation and scenarios.


The human resources available and equipment/weapons available, we can select the scenario according to the list below:


  • Solo work
  • Two-Man Team
  • Four-Man Team
  • Large Escale Operation
  • Tactical Team + K9


  • Unarmed
  • Pistol
  • Shotgun
  • Rifle / SMG
  • Operator+Dog
  • Assault equipment (including Flash-bang, cutting equipment, Explosive Entry…)

As we can see there are many possibilities and scenarios involving a potential CQB situation. Every single mission has to be addressed in a different way, with different techniques and different mindset but the basics, as well as the concepts, need to remain the same, however, the level of application and even the equipment will vary according to each operation. That said we’ve got to be ready to adapt because a simple Domestic Violence operation can turn into a Terrorist Situation, you never who you dealing with.

Many years ago while I worked as a consultant and trainer for Special Units in Brazil and Mexico, I detected a tendency of complacency or dropping their guard especially involving Domestic Violence or minor crimes. I alerted them to this issue and made my recommendation:

“You never know if you are just going to arrest a someone accused of minor crime, but the situation may escalate into something else because you don’t have the full information about the person, facility or neighborhood, I have bad experience myself about.

A few days later, the sad news came in, when a couple of officers were killed delivering an official request. It seems during this normal routine, the person they were delivering those papers, was accused of murder and was a drug lord… so he thought that the police was there to arrest him for big crimes. The reaction was ballistic, never better said,  trough the door, he opened fire on them with an AK.

Who is the CQB training aimed at?

As I wrote above the situations potentially involving a CQB scenario are many, let’s not forget to mention the home defence. If anyone is interested in this kind of training I have a few recommendations.

  • Choose instructor with cross-knowledge in any kind of environment, with real combat experience (recently and updated if possible).
  • What type of equipment is being used during training, the phrase “train as you fight, fight as you train”, is a very popular statement used by US Navy Seals, however, I’m not sure if the students have a clear view of what it means. Take a look on Youtube or any other video platform, we can see people training in full tactical gear, uniform, vest, helmet, even night vision, but I’m sure in most cases, those people are Civilians or Close Protection Officers.

Where is the purpose to train with full equipment looking like “The Rock” in “Fast and Furious 17”  when you are working in plain clothes?

What about my experience

During my CQB courses, I always encouraged students, independent of the units they serve, to use exactly the equipment and uniforms they are going to use in their day-to-day operations.

It’s not a problem when every person looks different or if they are coming from different agencies or service, because a training course is for learning, not for photo-report to be share on the Internet.

A good instructor will always address the scenarios during the class and then explain to you why some equipment or weapons must be used or not, how to use that and when. Don’t worry about your Instagram pictures, be focused on learning, because during combat, you can’t show cool pics to the bad guys, just fight to survive or accomplish the mission.

I’m always teaching for reality, remember always this concept: is not Reality-Based, is REALITY ORIENTED, you can learn more in this article http://www.davidrivashuete.com/operational-training-for-reality/

A good CQB instructor, will mix Hand2Hand techniques, with Knife, Pistol and Rifle or Shotgun, depending on the course as well as the duration of the training and the level of the people attending the event.

Training in CQB

Private Industry and Private Citizens

Some of the most professional Private Security Companies and Military Contractors, maintains a Crisis Response Unit, (with a strong component of CQB training), dedicated to providing support in case of emergency, one of the most famous of these, was the Mamba Team from Blackwater, operating in Iraq with large success, I’m a first-hand witness.

Police Units

The CQB training is one of the basic components of the typical SWAT Training in the US, the basics are well known, however, a majority of SWAT teams are not training on a regular basis, whatever the denomination they use, such SRT, ESU or any other acronym. Of course, on the one hand, we have excellent units such SWAT’s from LAPD, LASD, Las Vegas, Chicago, NY, New Orleans or Miami, to name a few, as well as Hostage Rescue teams and tactical groups from FBI, ICE and DEA.

Military Units

All infantry units all over the world are training CQB live-fire scenarios because in the modern battlefield it’s mandatory to clear the buildings one by one, house by house, level by level and room by room. No discussions about.

Some of the most secretive and elite units on earth, are famous for their tactics, including the American Navy Seal and Delta Force, British SAS and SBS and, Sayeret Matkal or Duvdevan from Israel, to name a few.

Close Protection and Diplomatic Security Units

What is CQBIt’s a relatively new skill for these professionals. These professionals are confronting new threats, potential scenarios of hostage taking, evacuation under fire and other similar possibilities. Few samples of potential use of CQB techniques we saw during the Mumbai Attacks in 2008 and more recently during the Nairobi hotel attack, during the first one, by a coincidence, the former regional president of Madrid, Mrs. Esperanza Aguirre, was at the lobby of the hotel in the moment of the incident and was evacuated under fire by her Close Protection team, in a mix of tactical evacuation and CQB fight.

If you want to know more about CQB, I will be teaching in May alongside with Eran Casher from Israel, showing two different methodologies for better coverage of the concept.

To know more follow this link https://ikfcqb.com/events/tactical-shooting-course


Thanks for your time reading my blog, see you soon.


David Rivas