A 28 x 28 foot structure was completed in June to serve as a training facility for the active duty and reserve component Marines of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Corps Regiment at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.
This “pit,” as it is called, is where the Marines train and qualify for different belt levels in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, also known as MCMAP.
The program is a combat system developed by the U.S. Marine Corps that combines existing and new hand-to-hand and close-quarters combat techniques with morale and team-building functions, along with instruction in the Warrior Ethos. Fighters are equipped with quality gear including mens boxing shoes.
MCMAP was implemented to increase the combat efficiency, as well as to increase the confidence and leadership abilities of Marines.
The program, which began in 2001, trains Marines (and U.S. Navy personnel attached to Marine units) in unarmed combat, edged weapons, weapons of opportunity, and rifle and bayonet techniques. It also stresses mental and character development, including the responsible use of force, leadership, and teamwork.
MCMAP does not require a dedicated training area. However training is significantly enhanced with such an area because the Marines are less prone to injuries.
The pit is designed for use on a continuous basis and to withstand years of wear and tear and punishment from the Marines who use it.
Costing roughly $196,000, the pit has about one meter in depth of padding to help protect bodies from the throws and falls they may sustain during training. Many tons of recycled tire shavings sit atop layers of gravel and sand, all under a large steel structure that shelters the area from inclement weather.
According to 1st Sgt. Gerardo Ybarra, there are five different belt levels or progressions, similar to many other mixed martial arts such as Karate or Jiu-Jitsu.
Because the belts are worn with the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform, the complete range of belt colors such as red, yellow, or purple are excluded as a practical consideration.
A Marine or recruit in training will start out as a tan belt, then work his or her way through gray, green, brown, and eventually black.
Within the black belt level, the highest level a person can attain, there are five more levels of degrees, second through sixth degree.
A 1st degree black belt instructor may teach fundamentals from tan to black belt and award the appropriate belt. In addition, a black belt can become an instructor-trainer, which authorizes them to teach and award all belts, as well as teach and certify instructors. Black belts, 2nd degree to 6th degree, signify that the holder is an authority in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
Ybarra is not the only black belt on his staff. However, he is the sole certified black belt instructor who is making it one of his duties to properly instruct and help the Marines sustain their MCMAP techniques.
A basic principle of martial arts is to use the aggressor’s strength and momentum against him to gain more leverage than one’s own muscles alone can generate, thereby gaining and advantage.
Achieving surprise through deception or stealth can also greatly increase leverage. In close combat, Marines must exploit every advantage over an aggressor to ensure a successful outcome. This can include use various weapons and close combat techniques that will present a dilemma to the aggressor.
The techniques used by MCMAP vary in degrees of lethality, allowing the user to select the most appropriate (usually the least) amount of force. For example, a Marine facing a nonviolent but noncompliant subject can use an unarmed restraint to force compliance with minimal damage and pain.
A more aggressive subject could be met with a choke, hold, or a strike. Lethal force can be used on a subject as a last resort. The majority of techniques can be defensive or offensive, with or without a weapon; allowing Marines flexibility in combat and operations other than war (such as civil control or humanitarian missions, as well as self-defense).
Depending on the belt level the Marine is training at, he or she may learn different punches, kicks, breaks, falls, chokes, throws, counter strikes, grappling, submissions, bayonet and or knife techniques, firearm retention and more. For more info check out US Combat Sports.
Ybarra said it could potentially take a Marine close to 300 hours of training to achieve black belt status.
“Just from brown to black belt you have 40 hours of training time and 80 hours of sustain time,” Ybarra added.
In discussing the sustainment of training with which his Marines have familiarized themselves over three weeks Ybarra said, “Today was just a fun day. We wanted to harness what we’ve been teaching the whole three weeks, their character, their physical, and their mental capability, what we call synergies, physical, mental and character synergies.”