Story Number: NNS200219-01 EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (NNS) -- Back on Jan. 13, 24 Marine students at the Center of Naval Aviation Technical Training Detachment Eglin began their three-week martial arts training to advance to gray belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
As part of the MCMAP, the Marines spent up to two hours a day trying to advance to gray belt, which is the second level of the program after the tan belt. MCMAP is a mixture of techniques from other known martial arts such as karate, taekwondo and Brazilian jiujitsu.
When the dust settled, 23 of those Marines had achieved gray belts – an accomplishment that has energized the confidence of several Marines.
“I was a little nervous and excited during the first week, as I have always wanted to do mixed martial arts after having taken a little boxing in the past,” Lance Cpl. Justin Mar said. “[By the third week] I felt good and confident because I could already do a hip throw on a bigger person. I want to explore other fighting styles outside the Marine Corps.”
Pfc. Dominic Niklas, who had taken Brazilian jiujitsu prior to enlisting, said he was just as nervous as Mar was, especially because the test for gray belt was approaching. He is excited about his future in martial arts.
“I want to keep going and will talk to the martial arts instructors at my future command,” Niklas said. “MCMAP teaches me to defend myself and come out on top in a real-world scenario.”
Just like jiujitsu, the Marine Corps divided the increasing levels of difficulty to five belts but stayed with earth tone colors: tan, gray, green, brown and black. This is for practicality as each Marine wears this belt as part of their camouflage uniform.
The lowest belt, tan, focuses on the basics and fundamentals for bayonet techniques, unarmed manipulations, armed manipulations, chokes, throws, upper body strikes, lower body strikes, counters to strikes and knife techniques. This is taught to every Marine during recruit training, and sets the foundation on which all other belt levels build upon. It is the only belt that is mandatory for all Marines.
The gray belt focuses on ground fighting, combining close-quarter combat techniques, hand to hand fighting and instruction to the Warrior Ethos. It also promotes character development and teamwork through the three MCMAP disciplines: mental, physical and character. To get to gray belt, a Marine is required to about six hours of sustainment from the previous belt. On the last day of training, the students are tested for previous belt knowledge and must demonstrate gray belt techniques and tie-ins (i.e. ethics, morals, Corps values) with at least 80 percent accuracy.
When students fail, no retest is given for 24 hours. This is to allot time for the student to sustain (practice techniques) before they are able to test out again.
“Safety is paramount to our training,” Sgt. Brandon Masoni said, the martial arts instructor trainer for CNATT Det. Eglin.
Masoni, in his tenure as instructor, he has trained over 200 gray belts, six brown belts, two green belts, two instructors and has never had a student become unfit for duty due to a MCMAP related injury.
Overall, MCMAP is safe with proper risk management, but requires a lot of time and dedication from students and instructors alike. An amazing sight to see is Masoni recover from a hip throw from another instructor during a student demonstration.
“We train like we fight,” Gunnery Sergeant Joseph Linnus said, CNATT Det. Eglin’s training chief.
As for the students’ future advancement in the MCMAP, Masoni said that will come later, at a different command.
“We will not be offering green belt to those that just got their gray belt here, because we want them to go to their next command to be mentored and molded by their future non-commissioned officers,” Masoni said.
Young and eager Marines like Pfc. Roel Malcolm are ready for the next challenge.
“About the third week of training, I felt more confident and I wanted to improve more,” Malcolm said. “I want to focus on techniques, and I am ready to take on the next belt.”
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