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Chief Austin Randolph knows the value of getting punched in the face.
New Jersey National Guard Chief Randolph led the Guardâ€™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 â€śAchieve the Clinch,â€ť where a student had to subdue a punch-throwing aggressor intent on landing a haymaker to his jaw.
â€śAt the beginning of the course, maybe two-thirds of the class had taken a punch to the face before,â€ť Randolph says. â€śBy graduation, everyone had.â€ť
But â€śAchieve the Clinchâ€ť isnâ€™t about being tough. Itâ€™s about being calm. Thatâ€™s why Randolph thinks every soldier and athlete can learn from Combatives and MMA trainingâ€“even those who never have to throw a punch in real life.
â€śA lot of people have never been in a fight,â€ť Randolph says. â€śBut once they overcome the natural fear of getting hit, theyâ€™re able to react faster under pressure.â€ť The most important thing soldiers take away from Randolphâ€™s class isnâ€™t the martial arts skills, but self-assurance. â€śCombatives is about building confidence to perform when lives are on the line,â€ť says Randolph.
Randolph played strong safety for Western Connecticut State University. He says fight training isnâ€™t just great for conditioning, it also helps instill a strong work ethic. â€śThe thing about MMA is you canâ€™t get by on sheer talent,â€ť he says. â€śYou have to have the discipline to train every day.â€ť
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 momentâ€™s notice. Combatives teaches soldiers to â€śroll with the punchesâ€ťâ€”literally. Sometimes you have to duck and protect yourself, but eventually an opportunity will arise. Be ready to take advantage of it.