FORT SILL, Okla. -- It was a night for Soldiers to practice their training Aug. 21 inside Rinehart Fitness Center where the gymnasium was packed with fellow Soldiers, family members and friends ready to witness the Fort Sill Combatives Tournament.

Modern Army combatives is a mixture of basic Brazilian jiu-jitsu ground fighting that progresses into the throws and takedowns of judo and wrestling, and the strikes of boxing and Muay Thai, according to the combatives handbook. The goal is to teach Soldiers how to defend themselves while in combat and ultimately make it home safely.

Capt. Jason Norwood, Fort Sill Fight House officer-in-charge, said the black chain-link cage in which they fight is a laboratory of sorts. It's used to test different moves and perfect those life-saving skills. The Soldiers fight each other with respect to the end goal, which is to practice and perfect their Army combatives training.

The event may have looked similar to the now popularized mixed martial arts competitions, such as Ultimate Fighting Championship but the purpose is not for prize money or fame.

"To understand combatives is to understand what Soldiers are about. Soldiering takes discipline, soldiering takes confidence and soldiering takes heart. You are going to see all those things here tonight," said Maj. Gen. David Halverson, U.S. Army Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general.

Pfc. Markus Williams, assigned to 77th Army Band, did the national anthem justice and with the words, "Let's get ready to rumble," uttered by the voice of Fort Sill, John Beemer, the fights were under way.

Each Soldier donned a Fort Sill-Oklahoma P.R.I.D.E. T-shirt and came out to a song of their choosing with their state flag leading the charge. Cheers came from the crowd as the viewers either knew the competitor or shared the same geographical reference.

The gym was packed as people watched in what was reminiscent of the Roman gladiator days. But instead of a warrior and against a lion, it was two warriors battling to see who had the tougher mindset. Timid fighters were nowhere to be found as each Soldier and one airman did as they were taught in combatives: 1. Close the distance, 2. Gain the dominant position and 3. Finish the fight. Different fighting styles were displayed either by opportunity or technique as some ended with knock outs, submissions or referee stoppage.

"I think combatives is one of the best programs the Army has implemented," said Sgt. 1st Class Matt Allen, 6th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. "I think this teaches Soldiers a very important part of combat, coming from a guy who's been there. It's all about your attitude and not giving up. This sport is not all about whether you can beat the crap out of somebody. It's how much can you get the crap beat out of you and still have the will to stay in and fight through it."

Allen took third place in the 155-pound weight class with a rear naked choke.

An interesting match up of the night was 1st Lt. Amanda Rowse vs. 2nd Lt. Stephen Vories. The gender-integrated ring caused mixed reactions from the crowd as they fought in the 125-pound weight class. Norwood said women fighting men is necessary training as that's what women Soldiers will most likely be up against in actual combat. To add to that, he said he is not worried about women Soldiers being able to defend themselves which was evident in the Rowse vs. Vories bout.

"I've seen a lot of females give men the business. Females that fight have a tendency to be more technical because of the strength weight differential. And normally they do excel just as well as men do," said Norwood. "At the end of the day whether they're a paper clip inventory specialist or an infantrymen toting a rifle a Soldier's job is to be a warrior first."

The evening concluded as each fight was as good or better than the last. The heavyweight fight quickly ended with one swift knockout handed down by Pvt. Dylan Swanson in the first round.

"We are not going to win a war because we're better hand-to-hand fighters. We will, however, win wars because we have what it takes to become better hand-to-hand fighters. Those that have the where withal and the physical and mental intensity to close the distance with their opponent to try and finish him are the type of people that are warriors by mindset. And those are the type of people we want to have in the Army," said Norwood.

Those who took first in this year's tournament have earned a spot at the U.S. Army 2010 Championship Combatives Tournament at Fort Benning, Ga. Weigh-ins and medical screening will be conducted at the end of September with the actual tournament Oct. 1-3.

Seven warriors walked away victorious out of the 99 who entered the Fort Sill Combatives Tournament.

The winners were:

125-pounds: 2nd Lt. Stephen Vories, C, 1/56 ADA
140-pounds: Spc. John Florez, 512 SIG, 214 BDE
155-pounds: Staff Sgt. Neal Lang, FCoE
170-pounds: Sgt. Frederick Walker, E, 4/3 31ADA
185-pounds: Capt. Jason Norwood, FCoE
205-pounds: Spc. William Bonner, 4/3 ADA
Heavyweight: Pvt. Dylan Swanson, 6th ADA Brigade.