Soldier runs Combatives program in Korea
Sgt. 1st Class Eric Roberts, HHB 6-52 Air Defense Artillery Battalion, demonstrates how to properly assume side control during Combatives Training at Suwon Air Base, South Korea April 15.

SUWON AIR BASE, South Korea - Sgt. 1st Class Eric Roberts firmly placed his chest and arms onto his opponent, forcefully applying pressure while he spun his entire body in a clockwise rotation.

Roberts reminded the students standing around him, "The key to this drill is to pin down your opponent with the maximum amount of force as you transition to a more advantageous position to defeat him."

He warned his students that "if you even release a bit of pressure, your opponent will exploit your weakness to escape or even worse overtake you."

Roberts was instructing his students on a unique conditioning drill, known as the "spin drill" as part of the 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Battalion's Modern Army Combatives Program, taught monthly at Suwon Air Base.

"Now everyone partner up and start spinning!" Roberts told his students.

The Soldiers who successfully graduated from the Iron Horse Battalion's Combatives Course will become officially Army Combatives level-I certified.

A closer look at the training this morning, however, reveals that Roberts is teaching no ordinary Army Combatives course.

Roberts, who had been a senior instructor at Fort Bliss Army Combatives Program for more than three years before coming to Korea, carried with him a revolutionary concept in the training and conducting of the MACP.

"What we are doing here is teaching the Soldiers what we called 'Battlefield Combatives' back at Fort Bliss," Roberts explained. "The concept was first devised by Eric Howard, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces lieutenant colonel and the current director of the Fort Bliss MACP."

According to Roberts, Battlefield Combatives is a "Combatives training modular driven by real-world scenarios during which a Soldier could find him or herself involved in hand-to-hand combat with an enemy while on the ground or standing up."

The objective for the fight, if such a fight did take place, Roberts continued, "is to start the fight with the intent to kill utilizing all Combatives technique in your arsenal ... and the more you know the higher chance of your survivability."

"Many people refrain from teaching advanced techniques in level 1 course, but I like to do the exact opposite," Roberts laughed and said. "I teach my students how to kick, punch, box and use advanced judo or jujitsu submission techniques ... after all, most of these Soldiers will be deployed downrange before they will attend advanced Combatives training."

Pfc. Jorge Delgado, one of the students going through the course, seemed to really enjoy the training.

The medic, assigned to Headquarters Battery, 6-52nd Air Defense Artillery Battalion, said, "I went through Combatives training at Basic and Advanced Individual Training ... but what separates this course from others is that it is more realistic and teaches us advanced techniques that could save our lives if we were involved in a life-threatening, hand-to hand-combat situation in the near future."

One of the scenarios taught in Robert's class was how to defeat an opponent armed with a weapon. Students watched in awe as the instructors demonstrated the proper way to engage, block, disarm and then finally take down the assailant.

"We [course instructors] strive to teach our students as many techniques as possible, in addition to the standard Combatives level 1 drills," said Roberts. "In fact, we want to force our students to understand not only the how but also the why behind the drills."

The purpose of the spinning drill, for example, is to teach Soldiers how to pin down the enemy and prevent him from escaping while buying more time to execute the finishing technique.

Roberts, an Atlanta native and a veteran air defender, first came to know Modern Army Combatives fighting style in 1993 while deployed to Southwest Asia.

"At the time, I was looking for a new way to instill warrior spirit into my Soldiers," Roberts recalled. "I thought to myself that we spent billions of dollars on enhancing the Soldier's equipment but we spent significantly less in building the mental and physical toughness of its operators."

An attachment of infantry Soldiers demonstrated to Roberts and his Soldiers a bourgeoning fighting program, which became known years later as the Modern Army Combatives Program.

Roberts immediately recognized the program's potential.

He went on to win the title of Fort Bliss Heavyweight Combatives Champion for three consecutive years, became the guest Combatives instructor for 7th Special Forces Group and even earned a spot as the senior instructor at the legendary Relson Gracie Jujitsu School in El Paxo, Texas.

Years later, Roberts still held onto that same conviction, as he studied the sweaty and bruised faces of his students.

"The only way you can build the fighting spirit in a Soldier is to take away all of his weapons, gear and other protections and force him to fight only with his body, intelligence and heart," Roberts said. "I think they [my students] have finally understood that they are the real weapon while everything else are merely tools to enhance their lethality."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16