Infantry: Up Close And Personal


February 26, 2010: Combatives is what the U.S. Army calls its hand-to-hand fighting training, which is based on combat experience, and martial arts.  The army has recently upgraded its Combatives Program to reflect the experience of nearly a thousand soldiers who have participated in hand-to-hand combat in Afghanistan or Iraq. A survey of these soldiers reinforced what the Combatives program already concentrates on (grappling and striking), but also pointed out that 30 percent of the hand-to-hand encounters studied ended with gunfire (as many of these fights are struggles for control of a firearm). The large number of hand-to-hand encounters over the past eight years results from the nature of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In both places, many of the missions are raids, with the objective of arresting suspects. Since you want to take them alive, and they often don’t want to be taken, a tussle frequently results.

The army began its Combatives program eight years ago, and it proved so popular that it evolved into a competitive sport. Last September, the fifth annual Army Combatives Tournament was held. There were 318 soldiers competing, organized into 48 teams (organized by units or bases worldwide).

The army has a 40 hour course to teach the basics of Combatives. The U.S. Air Force was so impressed that it developed a 20 hour version of the army Combatives training.

Three years ago, the marines began requiring that everyone qualify for the lowest level belt (tan) of their martial arts (Combatives) program. That goal has proved more difficult than anticipated, but has got marines more focused on hand-to-hand combat. That was the goal of the new requirement. The skills obtained through combatives training have proved to be lifesavers, especially in raids and search operations, where a nearby civilian often turns into a deadly threat on very short notice.



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