SEMBACH, Germany – U.S. Army NATO Brigade hosted a week-long Basic Combatives Course for 16 Soldiers in February followed by the two-week Tactical Combatives Course for six Soldiers in March.
Staff Sgt. Jose Hernandez, a master combatives trainer assigned to the brigade’s G6 office, provided the instruction.
Hernandez, from Brooklyn, New York, likes to start combatives training with a quote from an icon of American martial arts, Bruce Lee.
“I do not fear the man who practices 1,000 kicks one time each. I fear the man who practices one kick 1,000 times.”
Hernandez said he wanted to offer the training to the brigade’s Soldiers to instill confidence and give them the opportunity to see that they are stronger than they realize.
“Just because we have a daily job working in an office does not mean we are not strong,” said Hernandez who works as an information technology specialist. “Taking the combatives level one and two courses gives Soldiers the opportunity to see for themselves how strong they are and realize their full potential.”
Hernandez has decades of martial arts experience starting at the age of eight with boxing and adding Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai and, of course, Modern Army Combatives.
“I want to try and change the narrative we are seeing in today’s society where people are criticizing how people are not as strong as they used to be or the narrative of how our society is going in the wrong direction,” said Hernandez. “I wanted people to truly see that we are stronger than what they think.”
Hernandez said he wanted to be a master combatives instructor early in his career because he missed the camaraderie he had while practicing martial arts before joining the Army.
“While attending level one and level two combatives training I saw a lot of friendly people and a lot of people dedicated to the craft,” he said. “I wanted to take that back to my unit and teach others. I wanted to show a different side to the Army uniform.”
Four of the six students in the Tactical Combatives Course were military police assigned to B Co., Allied Forces North Battalion with duty at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Mons, Belgium. All four said they were interested in building a unit-level combatives training program.
“The reason why I took the challenge to come to this course is because I wanted to hone my skills as an NCO and take the training back to my unit so I can make Soldiers push themselves to their limits like I pushed myself to my limits during this two weeks,” said Sgt. Geraldo Rullan, B Company, Allied Forces North Battalion.
“I am excited to pass this knowledge on to future NCOs,” said Rullan, a Bridgeport, Connecticut native.
Although Cpl. Giovanni Cherico, from Syracuse, New York, shares his colleagues desire to start a combatives program at SHAPE, he said he wants to hone his skills and test the limits of his and his opponents’ physical capabilities.
“I’ve been doing mixed martial arts for the last 16 months and did wrestling for a year,” said Cherico. “I’ve been asking for this opportunity for a long time, and I’m thankful that the Army gave me this opportunity to progress my skills.”
Sgt. Angel Singh-De Leon, said she signed up for the class to push herself and those around her.
“I’m here to prove that no matter how small or how big you are, as long as you learn the technique and you stick with what you learn you’ll be able to apply it to everyday life and be able to bring it back to your unit and teach whoever feels free to learn,” said Singh-De Leon, who hails from Richmond, California.
Spc. Dameyne Toney, U.S. Army NATO Brigade G6, said he also wants to introduce combatives physical fitness training and even small tournaments to his unit, but that was not the main reason he signed up for the course.
“I took the tactical combatives course primarily for promotion (points),” said Toney, an information technology specialist from Chattanooga, Tennessee. “I needed this to pick up my E-5. It’s very important to me. But I also took it to challenge myself to grow as a person.”
The training course had one non-NATO participant, Sgt. James Stanphill, a military police with the U.S. Army Correction Activity Europe in Sembach.
Stanphill, from Fulton, Mississippi, said he is grateful to U.S. Army NATO Brigade and his unit for allowing him the opportunity to attend the course.
“The Tactical Combatives Course has been a very good experience,” said Stanphill. “It’s helping me mold my craft, and something I can implement at my home unit, but I don’t intend to stop here.
“Hopefully, I will be able to attend the Master Combatives (Trainer) Course so that I will be an asset to all of my Soldiers no matter where my career takes me.”
Both Rullan and Cherico also said they were planning to attend the Combatives Master Trainer Course.
“I know that the other NCOs that I have been here with are going to grow and learn from this and we are going to develop and be stronger NCOs because of it,” said Rullan.
Hernandez added that another benefit to the Modern Army Combatives Program is that it not only instills confidence but also give Soldiers a means to reduce stress.
“Martial arts gives us the ability to be comfortable in an uncomfortable situation by understanding our level of capability,” said Hernandez. “I think that is very important when it comes to Soldiers, because we work in such a high tempo job. I think martial arts and the Army combatives program allows us to separate ourselves from the 17-hour work schedule and the stresses of life.”
U.S. Army NATO Brigade provides support to Soldiers and their families to provide ready and resilient Soldiers to the NATO alliance, maintain our joint and multinational partnerships and enhance the alliance. The brigade is the U.S. Army support element for units at 81 locations in 22countries.