Fort Benning, Ga. - "Not backing down" - that's what CPT Tommy Ryan said won him first place in the heavyweight division of the Maneuver Captains Career Course combatives tournament.

"It's everything you've been taught in the combatives program: not letting your opponent know you're in an uncomfortable situation. If you remain calm the entire time, you usually come out," Ryan said.
Ryan was one of about 180 Soldiers who participated in the single elimination tournament Monday at Briant Wells Fieldhouse.

The culminating combatives event for the course, the tournament builds morale while instilling the warrior ethos in the students, said SSG Timothy Farris, U.S. Army Combatives School, who assisted with the tournament.

"It's right up there on the wall: 'the defining characteristic of a warrior is the willingness to close with and destroy the enemy.' That's what combatives is," Farris said. "If you're timid when you're fighting you usually get beat. A more aggressive person, even with limited skills, is generally going to win the fight because he's going to be the guy on top, he's going to be the guy pushing the action."

In the submission grappling tournament, fighters won by either submission with a chokehold or joint manipulation or by gaining the most points in six minutes. Points were awarded for gaining and maintaining dominant body positions. Strikes were prohibited.

Although most of the captains started combatives training only two months ago, MAJ Dan Rausch, primary combatives instructor for the MCCC, said he was impressed with several of their moves.

"Just to watch them progress and get scrappy like they're doing now is great," said Rausch, who competed in the tournament and made it to the finals in the lightweight division. "I've seen quite a bit of joint manipulation and quite a few chokes as well, so that's pretty impressive."

Now that the captains know what right looks like, they are prepared to bring combatives training to the companies they will soon head as commanders, Rausch said.

"It's good to give them a structured tournament environment, basically teach them how to do it," he said. "However, we're going to continue to reinforce the teaching throughout the rest of the time they're here at the career course."

The students, who will graduate Feb. 26, are already Level 1 certified in combatives. A few are working toward their Level 2 certification.

"Everyone needs to learn a little bit to survive," said CPT Rob McQueen, who will finish his Level 2 certification in the next two weeks. "It gives you basic skills if it gets down to that point, which is good, but it really builds confidence in Soldiers and their ability to fight against another human being."

When he's out on the mat, McQueen said time seems to move slowly as he tries to anticipate his opponent's moves.

"But things change quickly," he said. "You never really know what's going to happen. It just takes one mistake and someone could capitalize (on it). It comes down to who's patient, who gets the move in and who just sticks with it. You'll be in a lot of positions when you're close to getting choked out or you're close to getting in an armbar. You can either take it and give up or you can push through."

McQueen pushed through to the cruiserweight division finals, losing by submission to CPT Chris Mercado on a cross collar choke.

"You never stop learning," McQueen said. "It's good to challenge your peers and learn something from everyone and just have a good time and get beat up a little bit. You're going to feel it whether you win or lose."