Marines enhance martial arts training in Iraq

1 Sep 2004 | Cpl. Joel A. Chaverri

Throughout the years, the Marine Corps has recognized hand-to-hand combat as a fundamental part of basic training.

The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program is a system embedded within the training that recruits receive during boot camp. MCMAP is just one example of the Marine Corps' pursuit of excellence in combat preparation.

In an effort to continue this training, Lt. Col. Edward H. Hart, information management officer, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, created a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class for the Marines deployed here.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that focuses on joint locks and grappling techniques to maintain control of the opponent.

"I wanted to pass on to Marines what I have learned in martial arts," expressed Hart.

Hart has taken marital arts for a while, but did not become very interested until just a few years ago.

"I didn't get serious in training until I took MCMAP," explained the 43-year-old native of Pensacola, Fla., "and then I began to take classes in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from (a master instructor)."

Martial arts requires a lot of discipline and hard work, but those are qualities that come naturally to "the few and the proud."

"The majority of the Marine Corps population is young, athletic, strong, competitive and very eager to learn," claimed Hart. "Those aspects are an instructors dream."

It can be dangerous taking a class that teaches fighting and wrestling techniques; therefore, safety is paramount.

"We approach (these classes) like a sport," Hart pointed out. "We have rules that we follow very closely to ensure no one gets hurt." 

"This art teaches a student how to develop a lot of power," he added, "so we also teach how to control that power. Power without control is useless."

Held at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation center here, the classes are open to all military personnel aboard the air base and have created a strong following.

"I really like this class," declared 20-year-old, Marietta, Ga., native Lance Cpl. Thomas B. Haddle, field radio operator, Company P, 4th Low-Altitude Air Defense Battalion, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. "It's a rush. I can't wait to come back."

"I love being able to come to these classes," stated St. Louis-native Sgt. Michael J. Wagner, combat engineer, Combat Service Support Battalion 7, 1st Force Service Support Group. "I live to fight and fight to live."

Every Marine is a rifleman, but there are times when combat requires more skill than merely squeezing a trigger from a distance.

"It's important for Marines to know hand-to-hand combat," believes the 26-year-old Wagner. "Some people say, 'Why train in martial arts? I can shoot you from far away,' but you never know what might happen, and it's vital that you be prepared."

With the growing popularity of the class, Hart envisions it becoming a permanent fixture during his deployment, as well as when he returns home.

"I want to continue this as long as I'm (in Iraq) and hopefully train other instructors to keep it going," Hart emphasized. "I'm really interested in starting a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu team within the Marine Corps."

Being in a war-zone, it's not always easy to find the best facilities to practice such an intense sport.

"MWR has been very accommodating with their (gym)," Hart noted, "but we're trying to get our own space. I think (my students) are worth it."