Sunday, March 14, 2004

Army Combatives - Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Once again, just as I was wondering what I should post next, someone asked a really interesting question. Well, at least I thought it was interesting, maybe you will too. goes...
Question: How's it going...sir. I'm from the martial artist blog ring. I just want to know something, what forms of martial arts do you guys teach in the military?

Answer: First things first... There is a very widely used response in the United States Army when someone makes the mistake of addressing a NonCommissioned Officer as "Sir". Generally the response, given in as gruff and hard a voice as possible, is "Dont call me Sir....I work for a living". Now, nobody expects civilians to know the difference, but this is just a little tidbit of useless information about the Army that you can take away with you. Only Commissioned Officers (O1 through O10 or 2LT through GEN), or Warrant Officers (WO1 through CW5, usually helicopter pilots or some sort of technical skill), are called sir. Non Commissioned Officers are always addressed by either their rank or position. (Rank - Sergeant, First Sergeant or Sergeant Major for example) (Position - Drill Sergeant). Anyway, it doesnt offend me or anything to be called sir, in fact it makes me happy that some people out there actually want to show respect to another person. But I just figured I would put the information out there since I know there's at least one future soldier out there who reads this site lol. And now for the real subject for todays post....
Actually this is really similar in some ways to Basic Training...some Drill Sergeant running his mouth at you for a long time about something important, but completely uninteresting, and then you get to the good part lol...

Hand to Hand Combat...

Vale Tudo...

Mano a Mano...

You are scared to death. You may actually have bruises later from the insides of your knees clacking together. You are the new guy in the platoon and you are beginning to question your worth as a soldier. The other guys give you a hard time every day because you're the "cherry" and you don't know jack about life in the Army. Not necessarily in a mean way, they're good guys, but you're still getting tired of it. And now here you are about to take part in your first urban combat mission. This is your chance to do something right, to show them that you can be counted on when it really matters.

As you stack up at the entrance, your heart is pounding like a blown tire at 80 miles an hour...BOOOOM!!! The small explosive charge goes off, cutting a neat hole around the doorhandle and deadbolt. The door blows inward and you barely have time to think it odd that the lock and handle are still hanging from the doorjamb when everything goes wrong at once. This was supposed to be a simple mission made simpler by the element of surprise...but evidently nobody let the bad guys know that. Somehow instead of being asleep in their bed like they should be at this hour of the night, someone is trading bullets with the first guy through the doorway. Theres no time to hesitate though, so you follow him into the room on pure adrenaline, praying that this madness will end quickly and on our terms.

As you sidestep through the door and begin to check your sector you see one bad guy down and another just raising his rifle toward your buddy, who has taken a shot in the body armor and is on his knees, wheezing and scrambling for his dropped weapon. Screaming something that makes no sense, you put the red dot centermass and drop him just before he pulls the trigger...spraying a few wild rounds into the baseboards of the wall as he falls.

Suddenly someone steps through an inside door and grabs you around both arms. The rest of your squad is screaming at you to get out of the way, but he has a deathgrip on you and as he slams you to the floor, the sling catches on an armchair and your M4 is pulled from your grasp. Your opponent is unarmed and as the rest of the squad continues to clear the room and the rest of the house you do what a million soldiers have done in bad situations since the beginning of time. You automatically fall back on your training.
As Habib rolls on top of you you bring both legs up and lock them around his waist while you work your arms free. Now that he is effectively in your GUARD, he releases your arms and grabs you around the throat in a classic "daterape" choke with both hands. "Bad move slick" you gasp contemptuously as you secure one of his straightened arms with your right hand and reach down and grab his right thigh with your left. Raising yourself onto only the small of your back to make it easier to turn, you release your guard and spin yourself to the left. Your right leg swings up and over your unfortunate victims' head, coming alongside your left leg on top of his face. Furious that you are fighting on your back when you had only wanted this raid to go well and everyone to come home safe, you straighten your entire body, pulling the arm back into your chest and arching your hips quickly up toward the ceiling. "Ouch", you think to yourself as you hear the wet pop that signifies an end to this guys' career on the Iraqi tennis circuit.

As he screams in pain and begins sputtering something that obviously means "I'm not having fun anymore" in arabic, you realize that in the space of a few seconds your buddies have secured the premises and are watching you in stunned silence. "Holy shit, Holmes... You broke that dudes arm", Garcia says, giggling nervously as he checks the other bodies for identification and anything of intelligence value. Thankful that this turned out well, after a hair raising beginning, you just shrug and say "Yeah, well, I owe it all to Drill Sergeant Rob"


Ok ...well I typed that out as quick as I could and wasnt sure how to end it, so I figured some shameless self glorification was as good a way as any.

Now for the real discussion on Combatives training in the Army...

Several years ago, some of the personnel in the Special Ops community, were trying to come up with a better alternative to the current Hand to Hand Combat doctrine in the Army. The problem was, either units didnt train hard enough and were completely ineffective in the hand to hand areas, or they DID train hard and had an unacceptable amount of injuries using the current system of throws, chokes and strikes outlined in FM 21-150. After considerable research and study of several different systems, such as Russian Sambo (sp), Tae Kwon Do, Krav Maga, Judo and others, they decided to go with BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU. There are several reasons for this decision, and I could spend all day talking about the merits of each system, but I will try to make this as short and sweet as I can.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (which I will type as BJJ from now on since this is taking longer than I expected) first and foremost is a relatively easy system in which to become reasonably skilled in a short amount of time. The old story of "knowing just enough to get your ass kicked", although it still has a grain of truth to it, is far less true under the new system. While you may not be ready to enter any competitions after your first few sessions, you WILL BE A BETTER FIGHTER. The relatively simple to understand principles behind the grappling arts can make any barroom brawler far more effective within a few weeks. And when you get right down to it, nobody cares how cool or flashy your system is in combat. The ultimate goal is as basic as warfare kill, disable or submit your opponent in the shortest time possible, so you can continue moving on toward the objective and mission accomplishment.

The way it was explained to me when I was in school goes like this. Back in feudal Japan or China or wherever most Martial Arts systems started, warriors began their training at a very young age, usually in the single digits. They new that they had to become skilled fighters by the time they were old enough to serve in the military and they had several years to achieve this goal. However, in todays Army, we get an 18 year old, for example, and he needs to become an efective fighter by the time he is around....18. In other words we don't have several years, because in a few months, Joe Snuffy is going to be out there in the real world kickin in doors.

Secondly, BJJ and the other grappling styles are far more useful in the kind of cramped and unexpected conditions most soldiers will face if they ever need to employ hand to hand techniques. They will likely fight in the dark, wearing heavy equipment and body armor, and they will fight when they are tired, cold, hungry, and confused. They will fight in hallways, stairwells, trenches and crowded streets. Most people know that 99.9% of all fights end up on the ground at some point, as was evidenced clearly when MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) competition first achieved widespread recognition with the Ultimate Fighting Championships in the early 1990s. Unless one of the first few strikes lands squarely and disables an opponent, you can almost always count on ending up clinched and rolling around on the ground. The determining factor is then who has the better grasp of sound groundfighting principles and techniques. This came as quite a shock to the World Champions in Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu and other styles. Nobody expected such technical experts to be quickly submitted by an unknown 160 pound grappler named Royce Gracie.

I have studied a few Martial Arts both before and during my career in the military. I studied Tae Kwon Do in college and a similar style when I was a Private at Fort Polk. I enjoyed them both although I never achieved any great level of proficiency in either one. They both always seemed primarily directed towards "belts" and organized competition. Martial Arts competitions are a LOT of fun and very wothwhile, but they are absolutely nothing like a real fight, UNLESS you step into the realm of VALE TUDO or "no holds barred" competition.

Luckily for me, I was sitting in the Platoon Sergeants meeting one day at Ft Campbell, when the 1SG asked who had two names to go to the new Army Combatives school down at Fort Benning. There was a new push to get this spread through all the Infantry units, and they needed certified unit level Combatives Instructors. Of course the first name I shouted out was my own since I had plenty of time left with the unit and had some small background and interest already. To make a long story short, the Level One course was a week long and it was brutal lol. Eight hours a day of mostly drilling and fighting, learning and applying new techniques in rapid succession. (I ended up breaking a rib on the last day lol)

The first course teaches the basic system with an emphasis on good technique and teaching methods. After returning to Fort Campbell, the responsibility was ours for developing a unit program and beginning to train our respective companies. Luckily I had an outstanding Company Commander at the time who was completely sold on the idea, and soon we were working it as a Company once or twice a week and on an individual voluntary basis during lunch and after duty hours. We were also fortunate enough to have a member of the Gracie organization come to our unit and offer another week long course which I took advantage of.

The course was a great place to start, but most of my growth as a fighter came from the necessity of being an expert before I attempted to teach others, and once several of my fellow soldiers had a sound working knowledge, a stubborn refusal to lose to someone I had taught lol. Of course I did lose a few fights eventually. Anyone who fights knows that if you grapple long enough you are eventually going to be submitted, most likely through some mistake of your own. Thinking back though I believe I only lost to 3 soldiers while I was there, and only to one of them more than once. SPC W. (my assistant instructor) kicked my ass repeatedly and thoroughly the entire time I was there lol. His knowledge of grappling was every bit as strong as mine and that fool bench pressed well over 350 pounds lol.
Probably one of the most important factors in BJJs successful application in the Army is its lack of training injuries. By it's nature, a properly applied submission hold gives you the chance to submit before injury occurs in training. This makes it possible to train at full strength, only lowering the intensity just before a joint would normally pop or unconsciousness would occur. Actually soldiers do frequently get choked completely unconscious, but after snoring and being laughed at for a few seconds they wake up completely unharmed lol. This level of intensity in training allows for a rapid growth in skill, and a supreme confidence in your own ability to handle a "real" fight.
Anyway, I'm gonna end this staggeringly long post now...

The logical next step would be to ovierview some of the principles and techniques of BJJ, and I might do that later...or maybe not...if anyone's interested just let me know and I'll shoot it out there for ya.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, just wanted to give you a little info on BJJ.

First off, real quick, Royce Gracie was not some unknown grappler. Only in the US he was. The Gracie family was already very well known in Brazil, and they were the ones who actually hosted the first UFC tournament. (I believe Gracie had his own dressing room while the other fighters were in a community locker room actually.)

Secondly, the statistic about 99% of fights hitting the ground came from a study done in California based on police arrests. Get this: they determined that in about 99% of arrests where the suspect fought back, the officer and suspect went to the ground. Since police officers often purposely bring the suspect to the ground to make an arrest, it's not a surprising number.

BJJ is a great skill set to learn and know, but the idea that the army is basing their entire martial arts program on it really scares me. In the UFC, the place where BJJ was "proven" to be effective, the fighters are protected by nice little rules. No eye gouging, no groin attacks, and no weapons. Next time you all do some grappling, grab at your opponent's eyes, throat, or groin and see how well they sink their submissions. (Biting works well too.) Also, put a rubber training knife in your belt. When you get taken down, pull the knife and "stab" away. It's sure to piss people off, but teaches a good lesson.

Sorry to do the armchair general thing here, but in my experience with the martial arts, and based on the guys I know who have Been There, BJJ cannot be looked at as a be-all end-all solution.

BTW I highly recomend the book "Kill or Get Killed" by Rex Applegate (ISBN 0-87364-084-5) It goes over a lot of basic fighting techniques, with and without weapons.

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was looking for this song and here are the lyrics:

""Well my name is McRyan,

Im lying here still, In the lonely spot near where I was killed, by a Redman defending his native land at the place that they call Little Bighorn.

And I swear I did not see the irony when I rode with that 7th Calvary. Well, I thought that we’d fought for the land of the free when we rode from Fort Lincoln that morning.

And the band they played that Garryowen, drums a beating, flags blowin’. I swear if I had only known. I wish that I’d died back in Vicksburg.

For my brother and me we had barley escaped from the hill that was Ireland in forty-eight. Two angry young lads, who learned how to hate, love the idear of America.

And we cursed our cousins who fought and bled, in their bloody coats of bloody red. For the sun never sets on the bloody dead of those who have chosen an empire.

But we find a better lot somehow in the land where no man has to bow. It seemed right then, and it seemed right now that daddy he died for the union.

Oh, but Michael he somehow got turned around, he had stolen a dream that he’d thought he’d found. And I never will see the holy ground for it turned into something I hated. ""

have you ever heard it before? I can not find it and your site is the closest I have come. Anyway, it is sung to the tune of Garryowen. 8)
neoteny21-hot mail

5:29 PM  
Anonymous shadow said...

I enjoyed your post and it gives a great view of the MARTIAL arts program in the army. I love BJJ and want to learn that when i get in the military. I am shipping for ft benning on may 5th. I am going for officer. so, this is just what i was looking for, so thanks for taking your time and posting this.

9:21 PM  
Anonymous Matthew said...

I leave for ft. jackson in June. I've always had an extreme almost obsessive interest in the martial arts and I am really looking forward to the training at boot and after boot. However, I only wish they would have added another combative system such as Krav Maga. Don't get me wrong BJJ is great for rolling on the ground and should be known, however, I think Krav Maga would be a good add on mainly for weapons (knife, stick, gun....) After all, the israeli's use it and they love it, and they have been at war for how long? Just something to think about.

P.S. Since im in the guard Im planning on taking a Krav Maga Instructor course when Im finished with all of my training. CANT WAIT!!!

12:48 AM  
Anonymous Eliot B said...

Re the query about the tune that begins "my name is Mick Ryan." it's written by Robert Emmett Dunlap and your reader most likely heard it performed by Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott on their 2005/2006 live recording (released in 2012) called "We're Usually A Lot Better Than This."

6:33 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

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5:35 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm puzzled with lots of exercises. I was afraid I could not do the right time despite my hard work. I need a support person.

12:39 AM  

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