FORT SILL, Okla. (Aug. 1, 2013) -- Because the modern Soldier spends more time clearing rooms and engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat than in previous conflicts, a renewed emphasis has been put on the importance of subduing an enemy without a weapon.
The Army offers the Modern Army Combatives Program, which has come a long way throughout history to perfect maneuvers needed to subdue or restrain the enemy.
The objective of the MACP is to enhance combat readiness by instilling the confidence and fighting skills that are only gained through engagement with an opponent in a combat situation.
In 1995, then-Lt. Col. Stan McChrystal, 2nd Ranger Battalion commander, ordered a reinvigoration of martial arts training. There was a feeling among the men that the techniques would not work and that it was a waste of valuable training time, so a committee was formed, headed by Staff Sgt. Matt Larsen, to develop a more effective program.
The first step was to examine successful programs from around the world. After looking at many different systems, McChrystal sent several men to train at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Torrance, Calif. Brazilian jiu-jitsu fits almost every aspect of the military's need perfectly. They would start with the basics of Brazilian jiu-jitsu ground fighting and progress into the throws and takedowns of judo and wrestling, and the strikes of boxing and Muay Thai.
The program continues to grow as Soldiers continuously prepare themselves for possible hand-to-hand combat in any environment.
Soldiers from the 214th Fires Brigade, trained hard to become Level 1 certified during MACP training at Fort Sill July 22-26, which taught basic hand-to-hand fighting techniques.
"I believe the most important part of the combatives training was the slap drills because it put in my mind what it feels like to get hurt," said Spc. Marcus Smith, B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 4th Field Artillery discussing an exercise where Soldiers slap one another to prepare them for being punched.
"After going through and completing the training, I would absolutely recommend it to Soldiers who have not completed Level 1 combatives," he said, "because I feel everyone should have some knowledge on what combatives is."
During the 40-hour Level 1 course, Soldiers learned fighting positions, chokes, pummeling, how to escape from the mount, shrimp escape, arm bars and more.
Spc. John Sunga, a quartermaster and chemical equipment repair specialist, assigned to B Battery, 168th Brigade Support Battalion, has been interested in the combatives program and wanted to learn more about it. All it took was for his executive officer to start talking about the program, and they decided to conduct the training together.
"Completing the training has taught me a good ground game and defense, but I want to learn more about the striking and the other things combatives has to teach Soldiers," said Sunga.
There are four certification levels in the MACP. Each certification builds on the previous levels and teaches more advanced techniques. Upon completion of the Level 2 course, which is 80 hours and teaches about 55 fighting skills, the Soldier becomes an instructor and can help with Level 1 certification courses.
Staff Sgt. Anthony Scales is Level 2 certified and a MACP instructor at the combatives facility. He is planning on going to levels 3 and 4 when he gets the chance.
"Level 3 is more intense then the first two," he said. "You get more into the skill sets of takedowns and kicking boxing.
"Once you finish Level 3, you can go back to your battalion and certify Soldiers in Level 1 combatives," said Scales.
"I believe the most important thing about combatives is it gives the Soldiers the confidence in what they are doing," he said. "If they find themselves in a situation where they would have to do some type of hand-to-hand combat or to get someone off them, they would know what to do."
Before the instructors teach the fighting skills and allow the students to practice, they wear them out by having them conduct the stretches and drills learned from the previous days of training.
"The Soldiers come into the training with good attitudes and the female Soldiers are just as aggressive as the male Soldiers I like that," said Scales.
To ensure as much safety as possible for the class, the instructors used composite risk management and experience to identify safety problems. They had about five instructors present during the course to watch for unsafe conditions and correct them as needed.
"We have been getting a lot of good Soldiers in who are highly motivated and want to learn," he said. "With that type of attitude, it makes it fun and easier to teach Soldiers about combatives."