Real US Army soldiers involved in life-or-death combat around the world, are bringing down the enemy with Mixed Martial Arts techniques and capturing them. Sound far fetched? It was not so long ago that a soldier’s only choice would have been to shoot and kill the enemy. Instead of using their weapons, they choke them out and are able to capture and interrogate the enemy. Mixed Martial arts (MMA) has come a long way since 1995, when John McCain called the Ultimate Fighting Championship “human cock fighting.” Today, McCain’s military brethren in every branch of the service are undergoing Combatives training that is rooted in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.
MMA is becoming more and more mainstream. MMA competition is sanctioned in most states and it is extremely popular in the military as a spectator sport, training regimen and intra-service competition. Even though the Army distinguishes between its “Combatives Program” and Mixed Martial Arts (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai and other disciplines), MMA has become a primary tool used when a soldier engages in hand-to-hand combat training.
The UFC has held events exclusively for the military on military bases. and many UFC stars Royce Gracie, Matt Hughes, Randy Couture among them have visited Army bases to train soldiers. The use of MMA gives soldiers who have lost their primary weapon, or who are in a fight and cannot access their weapon, more options to survive. It affords them effective strategies for fighting on the ground, standing up or with someone clinging to their back.
MMA is a portion of the combatives program at Ft. Benning, Ga (Go Airborne!). Some of the training more closely resembles the Israeli Krav Maga discipline in that, quite a bit of time is focused on on fighting with weapons and learning how combatives fit into missions. Soldiers are always armed and the person they are fighting is usually armed, so grappling over control of the weapon is what’s really going on. You don’t see too many people at your typical MMA gym grappling over control of a rifle or a knife with the exception of Krav Maga training.
In 1995, the Army began to reassess its hand-to-hand doctrine and was given the task of developing and implementing a new grappling-based system. It was purely coincidental that the Army’s interest in MMA evolved simultaneously with the sport’s explosion in our culture. What made it popular to Army policy makers was that it saved lives. Not only does it save the lives of U.S. soldiers, but it also saves enemy lives, says the Army. When a soldier is well trained, he has the option to use a lesser amount of force. There are many situations now that involve soldiers restraining and detaining people whom they could clearly have killed under the rules of engagement. In an era of Shock and Awe campaigns and bunker-busting bombs, the general perception is that hand-to-hand combat was becoming obsolete. Not true, 900 post-action interviews with service men and women who have engaged in hand-to-hand combat in either Iraq or Afghanistan say otherwise.
Because of the nature of the war, soldiers are going into buildings more and more while doing routine searches. When a soldier enters a building they do not know if they will end up helping someone or fighting for their lives. The Army has gone beyond training, there are competitions that culminate with the Army Combatives Championships every October. The competitions are seen as a motivational tool for soldiers.
MMA futures Grey Hat, Branden Chevrefils takes part in the Combatives program. “Fighting does more for you than just being able to fight,” says Chevrefils. “It makes you faster, it makes you stronger, it makes you drive and push to get better. It also builds confidence; once you’re confident, you can walk around with your chest out a little bit more. It gives combat Soldiers something to do, it gives them a goal. And It puts them around the type of people that you want combat Soldiers to be around.”