Although Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) seems to be a relatively new phenomenon to the general population, it is a combat form that has been used by the US Military for decades. Just over 10 years ago, the military made it mandatory for every soldier to learn Asian martial arts. As the military tends to be more active in peacekeeping missions than traditional warfare (recent wars excepted), soldiers are told to learn martial arts so they will have the skills to restrain civilians and build confidence in the army. To enhance the army’s reputation among civilians, it is necessary for soldiers not to overreact when faced with a hostile situation.
Introduction of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu & Taekwondo
Brazilian Ju-Jitsu is one of the martial arts of choice and is part of a program designed to instill discipline in troops. A Marine Corps Commandant was a platoon commander in Vietnam in the 1960s and noticed how South Korean soldiers performed Taekwondo and managed to intimidate their own men. It was rumored that even the Viet Cong wanted to avoid combat with South Korean marines. The American Commandant introduced martial arts training to his camp in 1986 and immediately noticed a startling change.
How Training in Martial Arts Affected Troops
First of all, the rate incidents fueled by alcohol consumption dropped and then the number of soldiers involved in fights off-base also plummeted. According to another high-ranking officer in the US military, martial arts teach soldiers how to control their aggression and enable them to use force only when necessary.
Code of Tradition & Ethics
15 years ago, the average US Marine knew just two non-lethal wristlocks and was completely unprepared for incidents where restraint was required above violence. When on a peacekeeping mission, all it takes is a single misjudgment and an innocuous incident could escalate into a serious problem. Marines that were stationed on Okinawa studied the famous form of Karate that developed in the Japanese island. The US Marines now use a system that takes various elements from different martial arts including Judo, Ju-Jitsu, Aikido and Karate. The core values of these disciplines, including courage and honor, are adhered to with the main combat focus on striking, restraining, grappling and kicking.
Real World Situations
Ultimately, the mixed martial arts programs learned by the US military must stand the test of a life and death combat situation. All useless techniques must be cast aside, as there are no rules on the battlefield and no such thing as ‘fighting dirty’. In most training schools, gouging and strikes below the belt are forbidden but no such rules exist on the street or on the battlefield.
As well as teaching restraint for situations when a calm head is required, US military martial arts programs teach soldiers how to use any form of weapon that comes to hand such as a stick or a rock. There is also an increased emphasis on using the legs and hips which replaces the outdated focus on the upper body as this put female soldiers at a disadvantage.
In the end, the US military is attempting to teach recruits martial arts techniques that will sustain them in combat yet instill a discipline that ensures they remain restrained when the situation demands it.