News: Soldiers at Camp Arifjan wrestle with Marine Corps style combatives
Story by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Hill
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - The soldiers turn and face each other, their knees sinking into the soft sand beneath them as they raise their arms up to shield their sweat streaked faces.
They eye each other, breathing heavily. The soldiers are clearly exhausted, but the slight smiles on their faces betray their eagerness to start the fight again.
They spring into action the instant the instructor yells for them to begin, wrestling with each other and trying the movements they just learned at the beginning of the combatives class.
The instructor moves in slow circles, winding his way through the group and offering corrections or advice when needed.
This service member, however, stands out from the group of 36 soldiers and airmen that are grappling in the sand, he is the only Marine in sight, and his Marine martial arts class is open to all service members deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
“I’m not going to get this opportunity to do it anywhere else in the Army so I figured I’d take it,” said Army Staff Sgt. Daniel L. Cox, a student who graduated from the course in November of 2013 and plans on taking the green level in December.
Service members stationed at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait have the unique opportunity to learn a different style of combatives, known as the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, which has been used by the Marines since January 2000.
“It’s not very often that we teach soldiers, I taught a class last July and I taught 23 soldiers,” said Marine Sgt. Timothy M. Lavalley, the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instructor for the class and a Pembroke, N.H., native.
While many of the techniques and moves have similar names, they may be executed differently in the Marine program, so soldiers may have to break old habits to adapt to the Marine style of combatives, he said.
“It’s based around a combat scenario, we don’t focus on anything in particular, we focus on anything you can utilize in a combat scenario and how to quickly kill your opponent,” said Lavelly.
One of the first moves a student may be surprised to learn in the Marine program is an eye gouge, however the students do not practice the move with a partner due to safety reasons, said 1st Lt. Joshua Edwards, the training officer for the 371st Sustainment Brigade and a Columbus, Ohio, native.
Edwards, a former Marine who graduated from Lavelly’s class in November, says he believes that this exemplifies the main difference between the Marine martial arts program and Army combatives.
“We learn small joint manipulations and how to put people in submission; in Marine Corps combatives, we start standing up and we take the fight to the ground and it normally ends in killing your opponent rather than putting them in submission,” said Cox, an operations sergeant with the 371st Sustainment Brigade, who is Level 2 certified in Army combatives and has instructed deploying Ohio Army National Guard units in the program.
The students train in their boots and body armor and the class also incorporates a rigorous physical conditioning portion that includes running, buddy carries and push-ups in addition to learning the Marine martial arts movements, said Edwards.
Service members who are interested in martial arts or enjoyed the training they received in Army combatives, may view the opportunity to become certified in Marine combatives as a new challenge or useful skill.
“I’m already certified in Army combatives and since this was an option for me, I thought it would be a good choice,” said Cox, a Hilliard, Ohio, native.
Lavelly is impressed with the amount of motivation and enthusiasm he receives during the class and doesn’t believe teaching other service branches is very different from teaching Marines, he said.
“Everyone has the same inspiration, they came out here to train so I tend to get the best,” said Lavelly.
Near the end of the combatives class the Lavelly gives the students a short break. Most gulp down water, joke with their fellow martial arts enthusiasts and try and catch their breaths.
Cox stands off to the side of the group, taking quick sips from his bottle of water and smiling as he wipes the sweat from his brow.
“You definitely have to have a different kind of mentality when you take Marine Corps combatives,” said Cox.