PHILIPPINES - They come from diverse backgrounds, speak different languages and fight under separate flags.
Enduring long days in the oppressive Zambales heat alongside their Filipino counterparts, Philippine and U.S. Marines reaffirmed their warfighting ethos and forged stronger bonds through a skill prized by warriors across the ages: hand-to-hand combat.
Martial arts, long part of the U.S. Marine Corps training regimen, took on a decidedly Filipino flavor during these past few weeks as U.S. Marines learned the finer points of an art called Pekiti Tirsia Kali, a style that traces its roots back to 1897.
Before the crushing heat took hold and using only a dirt floor to cushion their blows, Marines started each day before sunrise on a makeshift training ground. During the class, they were handed rattan sticks to swing, furiously swinging in an X pattern as their feet glided in practiced triangles.
“The sticks are a training tool used to represent the blade,” said Staff Sgt Carlito Englatiera Jr., Philippine Marine Battalion Landing Team 5. “Any movement you do with a weapon you can do with your empty hands in fighting.”
The indigenous martial arts of the Philippines have been here for centuries and have many names such as Arnis, Escrima and Kali. The Filipino people has have used these arts against hosts of invaders including the Spanish, the Japanese and even the American military during the Philippine insurrection.
“It has been an interesting experience learning from the Philippine Marines, even though there can be a language barrier sometimes we are able to pick up the techniques by watching their movements,” said Lance Cpl. Melanie Chestnut, 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion. “Their style is very practical and blends well with the techniques we learned in MCMAP.”
The U.S Marines teach the AFP the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) which is a modern martial art that blends techniques from several styles such as karate, judo, boxing, Jiu Jitsu, and others. MCMAP draws upon anything that will enable success on the battlefield but also in police-type engagements, the modern Marine may find themselves in today.
After warming up, the instructors teach the AFP how to fall safely which comes in handy during the training. They then move to the Reaping foot sweep, a technique that lands their opponent flat on their back. Next, they learn techniques of arrest and control. These moves are designed to restrain an attacker not permanently disable them.
"We've learned a lot from MCMAP by teaching us locks and pressure points. I think that we're gonna need this for the incoming national election in this country,” said Sgt Francisco Fronda, Philippine Marine Battalion Landing Team 3. “On election day, they don't allow us to have a weapon in the election precinct, so if someone wants to interrupt the ongoing voting, we will be using these techniques.”
In the end after all the sweat and sore muscles, the two Marine Corps units are drawn closer by their mutual love of training in hand-to-hand combat.
“I enjoy the exchange of techniques and working together with the Filipinos,” said Staff Sgt. Romy Doria, MCMAP instructor, 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion. “At first meeting I thought we were different nations, but when it comes down to it, they are Marines just like us.”
Balikatan is an annual Philippine-U.S. bilateral exercise. Humanitarian assistance and training activities enable the Philippine and American service members to build lasting relationships, train together and provide assistance in communities where the need is the greatest.
This work, Philippine, US Marines train for hand-to-hand combat, by PO1 Chris Fahey, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.