Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Failings of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program circa 2010

                When I was a young man, 19 and without any real direction in my life, I wanted two things. I wanted to have a job that would keep me in good physical shape, and I wanted to learn how to be a martial arts badass. I think it might have been a recruiting poster of some faceless man in cammies throwing a side kick that got me thinking about joining the Marine Corps.

               There were myriad reasons for my attraction to the military, but number one among them was the promise of learning a deadly martial art. Military martial arts...just saying those words evokes mystery and power. And so, it was with great sadness that I learned the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) was mostly useless.

               Here is the problem. On paper, MCMAP looks like a good martial arts system. There are punches, kicks, ground fighting, knees, eye gouges, compliance techniques- everything you could want. The problem is that nearly every technique, from the jab to the ground fighting, was taught by someone who didn't know what they were doing. Many of my instructors had taken a six week course and were thrown back to their battalions to teach MCMAP. Imagine giving a BJJ white belt with a month and a half of experience a class of 20+ students to teach.

                Things would get out of hand quick, and they did. Injuries abounded. 

                One reason behind this was inexperienced instructors. Another reason was that training only occurred every few months, and when we did, we focused on ego driven training. There was rarely an enjoyable rolling session. Usually it resembled a school yard brawl, with all your friends cheering for you while you fought for your reputation. The loser rarely learned anything, and  was often dealt with harshly. In losing there was only humiliation. This might be why people would sometimes refuse to tap, and arms were snapped.

                In the midst of all this, I was lucky enough to find a safe haven. There was a small BJJ club that met on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the on base wrestling gym. There is where I learned to relax, to release my ego and work with others to become a more effective martial artists. It paid off, in that almost no one in my company could really touch me when it came to ground fighting, and my skill level was that of a regular white belt. Also, for those that don't know, I am a small man.

               So, why isn't MCMAP effective at making Marines dangerous martial artists and what could be done about it? I'll try to lay it. 

                First, the ego driven training needs to be removed. This is part of the culture of the Marine Corps, especially among infantrymen, and it hinders all forms of learning, from CQB training, EOF drills to martial arts. 

                Second, instructors need to be heavily trained. Most of the instructors I came across couldn't throw a proper jab, hook, roundhouse, or do simple ground fighting sweeps. That's unacceptable.  

                Third, commanders should allot time to be training these techniques every day. Most days, as an infantryman stationed in North Carolina, I spent my time reading books or playing video games. One reason MCMAP isn't widely trained is because the instructors were incapable. Spending more time training ground fighting, hitting pads, practicing disarming and compliance techniques, in a egoless atmosphere, would do wonders for morale in my opinion. 

                Those three changes could seriously help the state of MCMAP. I think bringing in outside martial arts instructors to help facilitate these changes might be necessary. Regardless, if the Marine Corps' training methods don't change, MCMAP will continue to be mostly useless.

            For dramatic effect, I give you this video. Its already made the rounds, but I think its worth watching again. I want everyone watching it to understand that most Marines who have received MCMAP training, from tan belts to brown belts, even some black belts, would have fared exactly the same as this Marine did.

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