FORT STEWART, GA -- In combat, hand-to-hand fighting is rare and usually a last resort. But being forced into hand-to-hand combat is a fight for your life, where personal equipment will probably not play a role, but physical training and conditioning may tip the scales in a life or death situation. This dire situation is what Army combatives prepares Soldiers for, giving them the tools to fight and win, regardless of the odds stacked against them.

Although hand-to hand combat is a form of battlefield training, Army combatives begins in a gym with the sound of bodies hitting mats, and the echo of coaches shouting advice and constructive criticism.

For the Soldiers of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, this training started Sept. 23 at Carro Gym.

"Combatives instills motivation and discipline into the Soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Chris Issac, 1st Battalion 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division combatives instructor.

Combatives teaches the Soldiers the ability to fight and defend themselves, even in the direst situations of hand-to-hand combat, where Soldiers will have to depend on their knowledge and skills in a life or death situation, Issac said.

Much of the Army combatives techniques are designed for ground fighting, energy conservation and to disable the opponent as quickly as possible. It is similar to Judo and combatives uses many of the same holds and chokes one may see in a televised, mixed-martial arts match.

"The Soldiers here today are in the beginning phase of the level one certification training," said Issac. "They will learn to trust the men and women around them, no matter what happens.

"I love to see the Soldiers when they first come to the training. They all are apprehensive and not sure of what the experience of training will be like," said the instructor of six years. "The best feeling is seeing the change in the Soldiers as they grow and become more motivated and confident with the moves."

Combatives certification training is a unique "train the trainer" experience. Once Soldiers complete the first level of training, they will be certified to instruct combatives at a company level. Further instruction grants the Soldiers the ability to instruct at the battalion level, all the way to instructing brigades, said Issac

"It's been pretty fun so far," said Pvt. Michael Harmon, 1-3 Brigade Troops Battalion, 1st BCT, 3rd ID, as he receives his first level of instruct with Army combatives.

"I think I'll be better trained, having completed this course and have a better chance of protecting myself if I am ever forced to use the hand-to-hand combat techniques," said Harmon.