Combatives is a term used by the United States Army for its hand-to-hand combat training program. Although the key for military personnel during missions is to never find one’s self in a situation without a rifle, sidearm or knife, sometimes a soldier has to defend himself with his bare hands.
Initialized by Rex Applegate during WWII and presented in his book Kill or Get Killed (1943), American combatives’ foundation lies in the close quarters combat techniques developed by British armed forces officers William E. Fairbairn and Eric A. Sykes while working for the Shanghai Municipal Police between 1907-1940.
In 2002, Matt Larsen created the Modern Army Combatives program, which incorporates Judo, Escrima, Boxing, Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The effectiveness of combatives’ training methods come from their short, easily repeatable drills, so soldiers can rapidly learn and effectively perform combatives techniques.
The civilian world has also adopted the term combatives for real life self-defense training.
The History of the Modern Army Combatives Program (MACP)
In 1995 the Commander of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Stan McCrystal, ordered a re-invigoration of martial arts training for the United States Army. It didn’t take long for serious problems with the existing program to surface. There was the feeling among the men that the techniques would not work and that it was a waste of valuable training time.
In 1995 a committee was formed, headed by Staff Sergeant Matt Larsen, to develop a program that was more effective. The first step was to examine successful programs from around the world. What was found is that most of them had one thing in common, one underlying reason that the program was successful. Countries with an indigenous national programs, Korean Tae-Kwon Do, Japanese Judo, Thailand’s Muay Thai Kickboxing, would have a much easier time developing an effective combatives program. One exception to this rule is Russia. They are one of the few who take an essentially untrained population, and yet have good success in training their soldiers.
The Russian system of Sambo was developed specifically for the Military. Sambo combines the techniques of Judo and Greco-Roman Wrestling as its foundation. The feeling was that the success of Sambo was linked in its similarity to wrestling, making its basic components easier to learn, and less dependent on size and strength. Another, feature of Sambo is that it has a competitive component that serves to spur on further training. However, it also has some distinct problems, not the least of which was that the competitive form has, in the opinion of some, changed the techniques that were emphasized. Nonetheless, the Ranger committee tentatively decided that the new system would be based on grappling.
Realizing that there were not enough Sambo instructors available, the Rangers began looking for a similar system as a base for their program. Head coach J. Robinson, of the University of Minnesota’s wrestling program, himself a former Vietnam Era Ranger came out to evaluate the emerging program and gave some valuable advice. Finally, after looking at many different systems, the Rangers sent several men to train at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Torrance, California.
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as taught at the Gracie Academy fit almost every aspect of the Military’s needs perfectly. It was easy to learn, had a competitive form, and was proven effective within the arena of hand-to-hand fighting. It did however have some problems. One aspect of Jiu-Jitsu was principally designed for one on one arena fighting, and the other, sport Jiu-Jitsu, had great potential to change the art into something not oriented toward fighting.
With actual combat experience as a guide, the Rangers designed a system with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as the technical base that was oriented to the needs of the Army. A systematic approach to training emerged, which detailed the techniques that would be taught, and in what order. Rangers would start with the basics of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ground fighting, and progress into the throws and takedowns of Judo and Wrestling, and the strikes of Boxing and Muay Thai. All of this could combine with marksmanship and weapons training into a totally integrated system of Close Quarters Combat, henceforth, yielding Rangers who could transition smoothly between ranges of combat, with or without weapons, individually or as a group.
As the Rangers who were trained in this new system spread throughout the Army, the system spread with them. Colonel Michael Ferriter who had learned of the system while commanding the 3rd Ranger Battalion later commanded the 11th Infantry Regiment and successfully integrated it into the program of instruction of Officer Candidate School, the Infantry Officer Basic Course, and the Infantry Captain’s Career Course. He, with the help of Staff Sergeant Matt Larsen laid the foundation for the Army’s train the trainer program.
The program continues to grow. As of January 2002, with the publishing of the new FM3-25.150, written by Staff Sergeant Larsen, has become official Army doctrine.
Combatives for David Chan
David was introduced to the Modern Army Combatives Program (MACP) while serving in the US Army. Impressed by how effectively the program taught the necessary skills and techniques for a soldier to survive a hand to hand combat, David pursued to learn as much Combatives as possible.
After years of training David was officially certified as a instructor in May 2010 at Fort Dix, New Jersey by Staff Sergeant Sang Troung.
Today you can find David teaching classes at the Institute of Combative Arts in Quincy, Massachusetts. He dedicates his time empowering as many people as he can with the world’s most effective forms of Combatives. Inspired by his instructor Staff Sergeant Sang Troung’s passion to help soldiers, David made it a high priority to provide students with a high level of realistic training one would have if attending a Combatives Training Academy.