By Staff Sgt. Gaelen Lowers, 8th Theater Sustainment Command Public AffairsMarch 12, 2013
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii (March 12, 2013) -- More than 150 service members gathered to grapple and strike their way to a medal at the second annual All-Island Army Combatives Tournament, at the Fort Shafter Physical Fitness Center, March 2-3.
More than 500 family members and fans filled the stands and hovered by the mats, yelling support to Oahu's best combatants, as they fought simultaneously across three mats.
The numbers of competitors and spectators almost doubled since last year, the tournament's inaugural year. Because as the word got out, more and more people were excited to participate in, what is quickly becoming, the island's largest combatives tournament.
But combatives isn't just an excuse to go out and punch someone in the face, it has a whole tactical aspect that benefits all service members in road clearing, vehicle extraction, searching a detainee, and a variety of other uses.
"People think that combatives is just fighting, but there is also a tactical side of it," explained Sgt. Dominique Ramos, the primary tournament coordinator with Bravo Company, Tripler Army Medical Center. "Combatives complements all of that by making you a well-rounded fighter and a Soldier."
Day one began with each fighter walking into the gym in flip flops, mat shoes, bare feet, or socks and getting prepared for a long day of matches. Besides footwear, each fighter brings with them a large variety of backgrounds including judo, wrestling, Brazilian jujitsu, and many others. Some jumped around to get their heart rate up, some rolled around on the warm up mats, while others sat quietly waiting for their turn. No striking was permitted on the first day so grappling and submissions were key to success for most fighters. There was also an exhibition by B. J. Penn, Hawaiian native and Ultimate Fighting Champion.
The following day, the intensity level was ramped up ten-fold. The mats were reduced to one so that all eyes and focus could be on the finalist of each of the eight weight classes. Fighters were given chin, knee, shin and arm guards so that they could open hand strike their opponents as well as employ their submission and grappling techniques. In the end, with a broken bone or two, one fighter from each weight class raised their arms high in victory. Each receiving a medal, gear from the event's sponsors, and their individual winning wall bracket.
A tournament like this one doesn't just happen, it takes a lot of manpower, equipment and logistics to pull off a tournament of this scope.
"It takes a lot of resources to run a tournament like this, a lot of manpower," said Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Napier, the senior level four noncommissioned officer at the event, and who provided the manpower to run the event. "We at the [8th Special Troops Battalion, 8th Theater Sustainment Command] were more than happy to provide personnel, equipment and anything else we could help out with."
Ramos agreed that without the help of Napier and the 8th STB, the tournament wouldn't have been successful.
"I couldn't have done this without [Napier] and the 8th," she said. "It still involved a lot of door knocking and a lot of behind-the-scenes work that a lot of people don't get to see."
The future of this tournament looks bright said both Napier and Ramos. As long as fighters seem interested in it, Ramos and the 8th STB will find a way to make it happen.
"It took us a lot of work, but when you have an end result like this, it's all worth it. I would do it a thousand times over," Ramos said.