As 31 Soldiers from the Military District of Washington converged on Wells Field House last week for the first in a series of combatives training sessions, Fort Belvoir took a major step in being recognized as a training center for the Modern Army Combatives Program.
The MACP's humble beginnings go back to then Sgt. 1st Class Matt Larsen's attempt to create a way incorporate strategy into fighting at Fort Benning, Ga. He came up with combatives, best described as a combination of muay thai striking and jiu-jitsu grappling.
While the main combatives school remains at Benning today, Belvoir serves Soldiers in the National Capital Region in learning these techniques with several sessions of Level I and II certifications this year.
The training is free to Soldiers, considered an official facet of Army training.
Increased efficiency is also a key aspect in combatives. The cost of sending MDW Soldiers to Benning for training is less effective than introducing combatives locally.
Sgt. Sean Nugent served as lead instructor for the first combatives class. He described it as a weeklong course in 19 basic ground-grappling moves. By the end of the week, class members must "instruct the instructor" as a final test.
There's an aspect of fun in this work as well. Nugent described a game called "Braveheart," named after the Mel Gibson historical drama. The class is divided in half and lines up on either side of the gym. Nugent then allows them to "go at it," employing the skills they've learned over the week.
"The team that wins doesn't have to clean the mats," he joked.
Level I certifications serve as the foundation for more advanced training. "It just stacks on each other," Nugent said.
Capt. Erik Salus also assisted with the certifications. "The course is a consolidation of resources between [Forts] Myer, Belvoir and Meade," he said. "Our hope is to build an instructor base here at Belvoir who can train additional units. "It's part of the Army warrior tasks."
According to Salus, the training gives Soldiers quick moves to utilize in various situations, including those that may require fighting in heavy gear.
Salus said combatives initially took off at a grassroots level and started spreading throughout the ranks. "It's much better than the 'kick-toss' combat training we used to have," he said. "There was really nothing we could actually use."
The training is extremely beneficial because it is carried on through the ranks. "The Soldiers who are here now can go back to their units and train other Soldiers," Salus said. Then they can move up to Level II combatives and we can have that training here. The goal is to keep building."
Nugent hopes the seeds that have been planted with Belvoir's combatives program continue to grow with time. "My fear is that I put my heart and blood into this and work these guys long hours, and ... somehow, the program falls flat. We've got to build that base."
Level I certifications run through September. The next Level I session is March 23 to 27. Level II combatives are offered in September and October.
For more information on combatives certifications, contact Sgt. Emma Young at email@example.com.