MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
From an outsider’s perspective the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program teaches Marines defensive moves to protect themselves in hand-to-hand combat, but the focus is more than just combating an attacker. There are many life lessons Marines learn while attending a martial arts course.
“We’re supposed to be fighters.” said Staff Sgt. Timothy Hopkins, a black belt qualified MCMAP instructor with Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2. “MCMAP teaches self-control, physical training and it will teach them how to be leaders.”
MCMAP courses are taught by Marine instructors like Hopkins, who teach the physical moves, such as an armbar takedown. While they show the technique step-by-step the instructors are also teaching Marines discipline, restraint, situational awareness and even some stress management.
The MCMAP course teaches both standing and ground fighting styles. Ground fighting techniques are referred to as grappling.
“I learned to pace myself a lot more,” said Lance Cpl. Joseph Sanchez, a reproduction specialist, with 2nd Marine Air Wing, Combat Camera, who was working for his green belt.
“When we grapple and I get in a tight spot I know now to slow down and regain myself and then try and plan out my next move. I can use the same techniques at work too. If I start to get frustrated with something I know to calm down and look at the big picture instead of focusing on what is in front of me.”
“Practically, MCMAP teaches them self-defense and it really gives them the assurance that if they’re ever put in a situation where they have to use those skills they at least have them and have practiced them,” said Hopkins. “These Marines can be a diffuser of those kinds of situations. Hopefully they’ll never have to be in these situations though.”
Grappling is a form of wrestling where they do their best to either put their opponent in pain or a choke that will force them to give up. The skills learned through grappling include stamina, patience and determination. To keep MCMAP students safe, they must wear a flak jacket while training, said Hopkins. Unless they are completing their final test.
“This program has really changed a lot over the years,” said Hopkins. “When I started we were doing line-drills. When MCMAP started our instructors were a bit more hard core than what they are today. We focus on keeping our Marines safe and physically fit.”
The final test includes a list of moves and techniques the Marines have to execute while being watched by the instructor.
“It’s frustrating to have the instructors watching you because it kind of messes with your mind, it just gets you thinking too hard,” said Sanchez. “This course has really taught me how to focus and keep the right mind set. It’s a meditative thing when you mix the physical and mental parts together.”