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The Marine Corp Martial Arts Program

Combative Measures (formerly referred to as Hand-To-Hand Combat) has been a part of the U.S. military since we've had militias.  Initially consisting of bayonet techniques, knife fighting, and unarmed techniques, this combat program was taught in varying degrees to all branches of the military, with an advanced program taught to Special Forces of each branch.  The unarmed techniques were generally a combination of blocks, strikes, throws and takedowns, and finishing techniques.  The history of Combative Measures as used in different branches of the military with specific emphases attached to it by any particular branch is both interesting, informative, and sometimes fascinating, but beyond the scope of this article.  What is relevant is the evolution of Combative Measures from a standard program to a belt rank system by the U.S. Marine Corp.

As a brief historical overview, hand-to-hand combat techniques became more sophisticated during World War II, where the traditional bayonet techniques were supplemented with many unarmed techniques.  Following World War II, techniques became more standardized, and remained fairly intact until 1956.  At that time, a new curriculum was ordered developed, and depended more on the scientific utilization of techniques on the same lines as many Japanese JuJutsu styles.  Not only were the Marines training in this, but Special Operations Forces from all service branches were taught the system as well.  In the early 1980s, the program evolved further and was known as the LINE System, though it was ultimately felt that many of the techniques were inflexible, and did not allow for non-lethal responses to certain situations and conditions.  The Marine Corp Close Combat Training Program came about in 1997, and a belt rank system became part of the program.

The belt colors of the Marine Corp Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) are Tan, Gray, Green, Brown, and Black, with 6th Degree Black Belt currently the highest rank which can be earned.  A Marine earns his/her belt not in technique alone, but consideration includes mental attitude, character, time in training, and military rank.  With each belt advancement, there are additional requirements, such as leadership training.  Once the rank of Green Belt is earned, one may begin teaching others training for Tan and Gray Belts, and they may award these belts when deserved.  In order to receive the Green Belt and Instructor status, a Marine must first be recommended by a senior Instructor, and hold the rank of Corporal or higher.  The same process applies to Brown and Black Belt rank, with the minimum rank of Sergeant needed prior to the awarding. 


Presently, all Marines are required to earn a Tan Belt, and infantry Marines are required to earn at least a Green Belt.  Other combat arms of the Corp are required to earn a Gray Belt.  Included in the rank requirements are evaluations in the areas of Warrior Studies, Character Development, Physical Conditioning, and of course, the Techniques themselves.

Questions arise from this program.  Examples are, is it necessary to have a belt rank system in Combative Measures, and if so, should a program of this nature be taught to police and/or civilians?  Are there any legal restrictions for teaching this program outside the military?  In answer to these questions, it does indeed seem necessary to have this program implemented in the Marine Corp.  Logic dictates that any program which will increase military personnel's chances for survival would certainly warrant its implementation.  Should the program be taught to police or civilians?  Given the differing functions and goals of police from military, coupled with the fact that there are Taiho-Jutsu (and other Police Tactics) programs available to police and other branches of law-enforcement to serve their particular needs, there seems no reason to teach the police the techniques found in the MCMAP.  What about civilians learning the program?  It appears there would be practical and ideological factors which would mitigate against this.  Civilians have a wide array of martial arts systems available to them, some with lethal techniques as part of the curriculum.  Herein lies the ideological problem.  The more we see people learning the lethal techniques from the available "reality combat" courses, the more it seems that we develop a "wild west" mentality, where, rather than having everybody carrying a gun on their hip, they carry lethal techniques in their armamentarium.  Regarding legal restrictions, the answer is absolutely, "yes".  Carrying a pistol, knife, rifle, bayonet, using sentry neutralization techniques, as well as the other lethal techniques which are part of the MCMAP do in fact carry not simply restrictions, but oftentimes severe penalties in all states.  One cannot claim "self-defense" if lethal techniques are used beyond what the law deems appropriate use of force to stop the attack.

There is, however, one exception to the above answers.  Given the nature of S.W.A.T. units, there seems to be nothing problematic in their being trained in the MCMAP.  These officers already have extensive time-in-rank in law-enforcement, have been screened and okayed for S.W.A.T. responsibilities in the physical and psychological realms, and do encounter situations where the advanced techniques would help save lives, both their own and others.

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