A man enters the UFC octagon for a mixed martial arts fight. He’s a tough dude.
A man enlists in the Army to defend his country. He’s definitely a tough dude.
How about a man who enlists, receives mixed martial arts training, then steps into the ring? That is one seriously tough dude.
Thanks to the Modern Combatives Program [MCP] started by Matt Larsen, this is the type of soldier the Army is now churning out on a regular basis. Here, Larsen, director of the MCP, explains how the program came to be and what it’s doing for trainees.
STACK: What role does mixed martial arts have in the Army today?
Matt Larsen: Every solider who comes into basic training receives instruction on the fundamentals of mixed martial arts, and they are required to compete against each other in basic training and in their units.
STACK: How did mixed martial arts make its way into the Army?
ML: When I was a squad leader in the 2nd Ranger Battalion, I started training my guys in mixed martial arts; they started whooping guys in the platoon. So then I trained the guys in the platoon, and they started whooping guys in the company. Pretty soon, I was training the entire battalion, and eventually the whole Army. Over the last 12 or 13 years, it grew into what it is now.
STACK: The All-Army Combatives Competition crowns the best fighter in the Army. Has the competition been a success?
ML: This was the third year we held the championships, and the level of competition was much higher. A black belt in Brazilian jujitsu lost a match to place third; and four brown belts in Brazilian jujitsu didn’t even make the finals. A team from the 101st Airborne fought in this two-day tournament and deployed to Iraq the next day. They spent their last two days in the United States in our competition. There’s no way around those stories; it’s been a success.
STACK: The armed services often refer to a warrior ethos. How does it relate to the mixed martial arts training of your Combatives Program?
ML: Around here, we say a warrior’s defining characteristic is his willingness to get close with the enemy. So if guys in the building across the street want to kill you, a warrior will go over there and get after them. The mixed martial arts equivalent is stepping into the ring. A lot of people who know about mixed marital arts sit in the stands and talk about what the guy in the ring should’ve done. Only a handful of people actually step into that ring at any given fight; those are the warriors. There’s a real correlation between going through a door to attack the enemy in combat and stepping into the ring. The Combatives Program uses mixed martial arts and combative competition as a way to instill that willingness.