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Chief Austin Randolph knows the value of getting punched in the face.
New Jersey National Guard Chief Randolph led the Guard’s Combatives program from 2008 to 2010 at the Warrior Training Center at Fort Benning, Ga., where he taught soldiers Judo, Greco-Roman wrestling and Muay-Thai fighting skills that could save their lives.
Lessons culminated in a drill called “Achieve the Clinch,” where a student had to subdue a punch-throwing aggressor intent on landing a haymaker to his jaw.
“At the beginning of the course, maybe two-thirds of the class had taken a punch to the face before,” Randolph says. “By graduation, everyone had.”
But “Achieve the Clinch” isn’t about being tough. It’s about being calm. That’s why Randolph thinks every soldier and athlete can learn from Combatives and MMA training–even those who never have to throw a punch in real life.
“A lot of people have never been in a fight,” Randolph says. “But once they overcome the natural fear of getting hit, they’re able to react faster under pressure.” The most important thing soldiers take away from Randolph’s class isn’t the martial arts skills, but self-assurance. “Combatives is about building confidence to perform when lives are on the line,” says Randolph.
Randolph played strong safety for Western Connecticut State University. He says fight training isn’t just great for conditioning, it also helps instill a strong work ethic. “The thing about MMA is you can’t get by on sheer talent,” he says. “You have to have the discipline to train every day.”
Just like life, a fight is unpredictable. Randolph and others in the National Guard have to be able to respond to any situation at a moment’s notice. Combatives teaches soldiers to “roll with the punches”—literally. Sometimes you have to duck and protect yourself, but eventually an opportunity will arise. Be ready to take advantage of it.