Before combat comes combat training. Aboard the depot, drill instructors give recruits a course integrated with the rest of recruit training that teaches recruits about close-hand combat.
The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program is exactly that – a program that compiles different techniques with different weapons, including the M-16 A2 service rifle with a bayonet. There is also a weapons of opportunity class.
The program was introduced into the Marine Corps and became a part of recruit training in early 2000. According to Sgt. Sergio Esquivel, Instructional Training Company close combat drill instructor, the program is proficient.
“Because it is basic motor skills, it is something the Marines can remember,” said Esquivel. “The program also takes into consideration the gear we will be wearing in combat. Even under the physical and mental stress of combat, Marines can remember the moves.”
From the basic warrior stance to the angles of movement to leg sweeps and chokes, safety is always taken into consideration. ITC instructors observe training to make sure recruits execute the moves using the proper techniques and safety precautions.
“Safety always depends on what the event is,” said Staff Sgt. John Johnson, ITC drill instructor. “We take into consideration the type of ground if we are doing break-falls, to mouth pieces, helmets and flak vests. There is always a corpsman and a safety vehicle standing by.”
In order to receive a tan belt, recruits must meet the minimum requirements of 27.5 hours in MCMAP training. To facilitate the process of obtaining their belts, the hours are augmented into other parts of recruit training.
On the obstacle course, recruits run a number of different low and high obstacles. While waiting to move onto the next obstacle, recruits practice pad drills to help retain moves.
During the third phase of boot camp, recruits are tested on their knowledge of the program. For three hours, a series of recruits will go through different stations to demonstrate the proper techniques. Passing the MCMAP test is a graduation requirement.
“(Its purpose is) to sustain recruit training,” according to Esquivel. “MCMAP does not only teach close combat, but develops mental character and physical discipline.”
Once recruits graduate with their tan belts, they will be able to train for higher-level belts. The gray belt follows the tan belt, but Marines will not be able to proceed higher than a gray belt until they become noncommissioned officers.
Since August 2005, almost every drill instructor who has graduated from Drill Instructor School here has attended the Instructors’ Course at the depot’s Marine Corps Martial Arts Program facility.
The course is designed to give drill instructors more knowledge and experience with the materials taught in MCMAP before they teach it to the recruits.
“Instructors’ courses are recommended for all drill instructors to make them more proficient in MCMAP to help the recruits out,” said Staff Sgt. Jeff J. Vandentop, course instructor on the depot.
A minimum of a gray belt, the second of five belts that can be earned in MCMAP, is required to attend the class. If a Marine does not yet have his gray belt prioir to the class, he will first go through a week-long gray belt course before starting the instructors’ class, said Vandentop.
The course is comprised of numerous fast-paced, but thorough, lessons. Instructors must ensure each Marine who leaves the class is proficient in the material he learns. Marines are tested on their knowledge of MCMAP before receiving their instructors’ tab, which allows them to teach other Marines martial arts so they can upgrade their belts as they excel through the belt system from tan through black.
Company C recruits execute counters to rear chokes during a Marine Corps Martial Arts Program training session.
However, an instructor is not able to advance a belt user past his own belt. For example, a green belt instructor cannot certify a belt user higher than a green belt.
Because of the amount of time spent with each Marine, the material is understood and enjoyed by the students who attend the course.
“It’s a good course,” said Staff Sgt. Jose M. Mariscal, Company C drill instructor, Platoon 1021. “It took away the comfort zone by pushing us beyond the limits that we mentally set.”
Although MCMAP is a martial arts-based program, a lot more is put into the making of a warrior than just physical training.
Aside from the physical discipline necessary in the Instructors’ Course, Marines who attend the class are taught two other MCMAP disciplines.
“We teach mental and character discipline as well,” said Vandentop. “The synergy of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program is based on these three disciplines. They are the backbone of the program.”
Developed over years, MCMAP spawns from a variety of different martial arts styles and disciplines and remains available to Marines in the fleet who desire to upgrade their belts and become more knowledgeable and proficient in the unique fighting style.
“It’s our history,” said Mariscal. “MCMAP has helped Marines before me and will continue to serve them after me.”
The Instructors’ Course is offered to all noncommissioned officers and above.
Marine recruits take sparring to ring
Two recruits yell at the top of their lungs as they rush into the small wooden ring. Both tired and hungry, they give everything they have left to come out on top.
Body sparring is an event on the Crucible in which recruits put their Marine Corps martial arts moves to use.
The Crucible is a 54-hour training event conducted during Marine Corps Recruit Training at Edson Range, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. It is here where Marine recruits go through simulated combat stress scenarios, which consist of food and sleep deprivation, and overcome mentally and physically-demanding obstacles.
Although recruits are tested daily throughout recruit training, the Crucible is the most anticipated event, where they apply everything they have learned in recruit training up to this point.
Around the ring, the drill instructors yell advice to the recruits to help them learn to follow instructions and think clearly in stressful situations.
“Some recruits have never been in a fight before, so it takes everything they have learned here,” said Sgt. Evan J. Sterner, Drill Instructor, Platoon 3207, Company I. “We would like to see that they can apply it in a real situation.”
Around the ring, the rest of the platoon awaits their turn at stations. At each station there is a different exercise or MCMAP move they must complete, such as push-ups, squats or lead-hand punches.
“The stations help to build mental and physical toughness,” said Sgt. Andrew W. Gabriel, field instructor, Field Co., Weapons and Field Training Bn. “You won’t be fresh going into a fight.”
In the ring, the recruits are able to find the strength needed to push themselves further than they thought, said Sterner. Even here, on the Crucible, they continue to work on self-improvement and confidence.
“I was very motivated and pumped up to get in the ring,” said recruit Luke B. Vanotterloo, Platoon 3207, Co. I. “It gave me confidence knowing I could take a hit.”
Before earning the title U.S. Marine, the Crucible is the final test that recruits will go through to see if the Marine Corps’ core values have sunk in their minds.
“The Marine Corps’ core values are drilled into the minds of the recruits from day one,” said Sterner. “Here they are tested to see if they can use them in their day to day lives.”