By Ally RogersAugust 28, 2009
At the heart of the Warrior Ethos, a set of principles that every Soldier strives to live by, are two powerful lines: "I will never accept defeat. I will never quit."
That's what 74 Fort Knox Soldiers demonstrated during the fourth annual Post Combatives Tournament Friday and Saturday at Natcher gym. None accepted defeat, and no one quit.
"There was no quit on the mat," said Sam Bailey, the head official for the tournament and the noncommissioned officer in charge of Palma Hall's fighthouse. "I think the biggest surprise of the tournament was the level of the competition across the board. There were guys that train on the regular who I know, and there were guys that I'd never seen before.
"Sometimes there were guys who were nervous, but each fighter gave it their all. This was an example of the great program we have on Knox and the awesome Soldiers that work here."
The Army has always taught hand-to-hand combat, but over the last few years it has become more prominent. The Modern Army Combatives program was created and developed by former Army Ranger Matt Larsen, who founded the Army Combatives School at Fort Benning, Ga. Benning began hosting an All-Army Combatives Tournament in 2007, and is planning to do so again later this year.
MAC is the Army's most up-to-date hand-to-hand training program. It starts with basic ground skills that are similar to Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The next level incorporates throws and take-downs similar to wrestling and judo. Then Soldiers learn to strike with everything from punches to kicks, kneeing, and elbowing.
"Combatives is important because in today's missions in Iraq and Afghanistan we're doing more urban operations," said Jason Keaton, Knox's combatives instructor and level IV master trainer. "In that close quarters situation shooting is priority - people commonly think that shooting and combatives are separate but they are not. What tends to happen, though, is that people enter a room and they can't get their gun on the enemy in time. So that's where combatives come in - the close-range situations when you might not have the option to shoot."
Keaton works with Soldiers every day of the week at the fighthouse. He explained that while not all Soldiers are combatives-certified, each person has undergone some type of hand-to-hand instruction, especially those who compete in tournaments.
"Each person that walks in (to Natcher for the competition) has received some kind of training," he said.
Keaton said he would like more people to participate in the tournaments - if not the post-wide competition, then unit-based tourneys similar to the one held last month by the 16th Cavalry Regiment. The ultimate goal, he explained, is to train hard enough to place in the post tournaments, where Soldiers receive trophies, champion belts, and acknowledgment for their hard work and dedication.
"This is where they get recognition for training and motivation to continue training," said Bailey.
In the first day of the tournament participants abided by pankration rules and fought on a mat. The second day matches were performed in a chainlink hexagon-shaped cage.
Final bouts were bloody and vicious - many with the winner declared by judge decision. Several matches were stopped for the full medical staff to look at gashes to ensure fighters' safety. When a competitor took a big hit, some hit the mat and curled up, trying to defend themselves, but without any offensive actions.
"Sometimes they need a little reminder like, 'Hey, defend yourself,'" said Bailey. "I want to have a good fight. I want guys to engage. I want there to be good combatives action. The biggest concern for me, though, is keeping everyone safe. I want them to go back to work Monday."
Regardless of the pain that was distributed among the competitors, each duo finished a match with a hug and encouraging words.
"At the end of the day, we are all on the same team," Keaton explained. "One thing we brief is sportsmanship. We won't tolerate any bad sportsmanship at our tournaments. Another is respect. People who train in sports like these know it takes a lot to get into the cage or on the mat. Therefore, we have a mutual respect even if we beat each other up."
Terry Gilmore won first place in the heavyweight division of the 16th Cav. combatives tourney last month. He decided to test his skills in the post tourney and placed second. He was also awarded the outstanding competitor award for a second consecutive competition.
Regardless of the bumps, bruises, and blood, Gilmore and opponent Jeff Goines fought a tough three rounds, which ended with a judge's decision.
"I feel like I did the best I could out there," Gilmore said. "I kept going. Put it all out there. First round I thought I had him, I was doing pretty good. Second and third rounds I just kept trying to hit him more than he hit me.
"If I would'a trained more I probably could've done better. He had more technical skill which helped him. It's a great tournament. It would be nice if there were more people who participated in it, (it would) give more depth to the competition."
Keaton was pleased with the competition and the number of participants, but explained that he always wants more.
"Each year we are building upon success. And this coming year is, of course, going to grow even more," Keaton said. "We are taking a tough team down to the Army championship and we have command support.
"I think next year we are going to be better than ever."
1st- Shawn Pretat
2nd- Jason Lineback
3rd- Jeff Dykes
1st- Lorne McCallum
2nd- Calvin Cunningham
3rd- Daniel Vagnozzi
1st- Antonio Bunton
2nd- Jon Palmer
3rd- Joshua Bernd
1st- Jason Rodman
2nd- Jacob Horton
3rd- Jesse Hull
1st- Bryan Lachenmayr
2nd- Frank Mulder
3rd- Benjamin Thomas
1st- Jeff Goines
3rd- Kirk Holcombe
1st -194th Team A
2nd- 16th CAV Team A
3rd- KY National Guard
Most Outstanding Competitor