BLT 3/6 Marines undergo new Marine Corps martial arts training

15 Dec 2001 | Sgt. Andrew D. Pomykal 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

"Ready...strike!" barked the instructor. His commands echoed off the steel bulkheads. More than 15 Marines assigned to Weapons Company, Third Battalion, "Fightin'" Sixth Marines are learning a new "discipline" while deployed aboard the USS Bataan, LHD -5, on the Arabian Sea. Staff Sgt. Larry J. Harrington of Gastonia, N.C., and Sgt. Carlos R. Gonzales of Denver, are passing on to their Marines the finer points of the Marine Corps' new Martial Arts program. "This [martial arts program] incorporates the old close-combat training and martial arts techniques to enhance the individual Marines' fighting skills," said Gonzales. Today' s Marines are commonly involved in military operations other than war, such as peacekeeping missions and non-combatant evacuations, where deadly force may not be authorized. Marines might be forced to make split-second decisions regarding the escalation of force and must understand both the lethal and non-lethal results of their actions. "We're going back to the basics," said Harrington. "This is a discipline. We're not just teaching Marines how to go out and beat people up." The instructors provide their pupils the proper tactics, techniques and procedures for close combat. During the program, the students are familiarized with the fundamentals of close combat, strikes, blocks, throws, target and pressure point areas of the body, and a defensive posture - "the warrior stance." Follow-on training will give the leathernecks the knowledge of lethal and non-lethal weapons, such as knives and batons and their employment. They will also learn several chokes, holds and ground fighting moves as well as "pain compliance" measures like the wristlock takedown, a restraint maneuver. He said that this training allows younger Marines that might not have ever been in a fight before, to get more physical. "We also teach the use of weapons of opportunity, such as our Kevlar helmets and the E-tool," said Gonzales, a heavy machine gunner. "Additionally, they become proficient with bayonet fighting." Harrington set up the class in the Bataan's forecastle (a large, open compartment in the bow that houses the ship's anchor chain assembly) to provide several hours of instruction for two to three weeks. "We have to work around our Navy shipmates and other commitments," he said. "It's very intense. We key on fundamentals by using repetition drills, " said Gonzales. The new martial arts program is less than three years old and has five skill levels: tan gray, green, brown and black. After completing 30 hours of entry-level instruction and passing a written exam, the graduates are awarded the tan belt. According to Harrington, there are less than five sixth degree black belts in the Marine Corps. "It's a confidence builder," said Lance Cpl. Joseph R. Justice of Shirley, Mass. The 81mm mortarman worked up a sweat during an early morning session recently. "This is great conditioning." Lance Cpl. Marlon R. Jones of Jacksonville, N.C., admitted that the martial arts training has been the hardest physical training that he has endured yet. "Even after a few lessons, I think I can take care of myself in a fight now," he said. The 26th MEU is scheduled to return to Camp Lejeune in mid-March.
26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)