The Art of War

January 26, 2009

Matt Larsen, Creator of the U.S. Army Combatives

I have finally gotten around to enrolling in the hand-to-hand combat class known as Modern Army Combatives or just Combatives.  In the past I have avoided this class like the plague.  The core elements of the class are ground fighting/grappling techniques.  If you have ever watched UFC on TV, the class teaches you the same techniques and skills.  As a boxer it is completely unnaturual for me to find myself wrestling on the ground.

After day one, I can say I have found a new respect for the class.  Today I spent basically 8 hours getting my ass kicked.  I have found myself sitting in front of the computer, completely dehydrated, sore from head to toe; I am drinking glass after glass of water and doping up on Bayer.

The morning started with the 14 of us learning Combatives Drill One.  This included achieving a dominate position over your party/enemy, whether this is to  be on top of your foe or to achieve a position that leaves your counterpart with their back to you.  Next we learned to escape your foes dominate position and place yourself back in a dominate position.  We drilled this over and over,  at a slow speed so everyone could learn each of the steps.  I can tell you, it was incredibly repetitive and became very boring.  But, with everything in the military and in life in gerneral, you must crawl before you walk and you damn well better walk before you run.

After breaking for a brief lunch, we returned.  We continued to learn a few submission moves to include arms bars and chokes.  Once we ran through those for the next we moved on to our run stage.  First we grappled one versus one to achieve the dominate position, next moving to one versus one to achieve submission.  From their we moved on to a drill known as the bull ring.  Here, you fought everyone in the class.  If you found yourself the “bull” every member of the class would grapple with you one after another with no rest in between.  Just as you thought you were done with one person, another would be shooting in to achieve a dominant position and ultimately make you submit.

I must state it was definately a brutal day.  I am excited, but at the same time cringe when I realize that this is only day one and their are four more days of progressivly harder drills.  I will continue to keep you posted on the outcome of the days.  For now I leave you with the history of the Modern Army Combatives Program (MAC-P).


The first thing you must learn which puts MAC-P into perspective is this: The of a hand-to-hand fight is the one whose buddy shows up first with a gun.

In 1995, the commander of the 2nd Ranger Battalion ordered that his units start a reinvigorized program of martial arts training.  As the men of 2nd Ranger Batt. began training it became obvious that their were many shortcomings with the current training program which had not been updated since World War II.

A committee, headed by Matt Larson, to develop a new training regiment that was more effective.  The committee study many successful programs from all over the world, Korean Tae-Kwon Do, Japanese Judo, and Muay Thai from Thailand just to name a few.  The committee quickly realized that most of these programs succeeded because of their everyday nature on the indiginous population in those countries.  There was only one exception to this, Russian SOMBO.  This program  was a used to train the Russian Army which consisted of a virtually untrained population. The success of SOMBO was linked to motivation and mans naturual instinct to want to be the best.  If you have a reason to learn and be the best, whether it be the best in your Platoon, Company, etc…, you will train better and strive to be better.

Unfortunately, there were not enough available SOMBO instructors.  The Rangers began looking for a similar system of training.  After evaluating many programs the Rangers sent several men to train at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy  in Torrence, California.

The course of Brazalian Jiu-Jitsu, taught at the Gracie Academy, was quickly adopted.  The Rangers were impressed by the ease it was taught and learned, it’s competitive nature and it was proven  effective in the hand-to-hand ring.  The fighting style suffered one downfall, it was designed for one versus one fighting.  However, with additional trainining adopted from other fighting techniques, the base system of training could easily be adapted and overcome the short comings of the style.

The MAC-P is now taught to all  members of the United States Army and has even become a testable Army Warrior Task.  The training has been broken into four levels of training which build on each other.  This had led to the creation of the Army Combatives School in 2005 and has led to this becoming one of the building blocks of the modern Soldier.

Modern Army Combatives - History


4 Responses to “The Art of War”

  1. The Art of War : A Soldier’s Mind | on January 26th, 2009 6:30 pm

    [...] Continue here: The Art of War : A Soldier’s Mind [...]

  2. Terri on January 26th, 2009 6:37 pm

    Wow! Anthony it sounds like you definately had a tough day. I’ve heard that the combatives were pretty tough. I know of at least twice that Marty came home after doing combatives, wore all over and usually with some kind of minor injury. Keep us posted on how it’s going.

  3. jim on January 27th, 2009 5:15 pm

    The Art of War in its truest sense is the balance of medic combat-healing with the close-combat warrior skills. In the wild west when our US Cav went after Geronamo the US Cav could not understand how the Native Indians came back the next day for battle having witnessed the same Indian had received serious wounds! What the Native Indian learned first was how to heal a sustained wound. both for himself AND his enemy. The sap from a bark tree held the healing properties of that day.The warrior code was, once a battle ended…that was it. It was time then to heal all wounds which gives way to a greater peace in the community, The Samurai, as well were taught to heal-self from battle and then the wounds of your enemy. To not help a enemy heal was considered a “dishonor” i n warrior codes. This places the Shogun in world of sustained peace with not a “former enemy” but a new, neighbor. Thank you for youe article.

  4. Anthony on January 28th, 2009 4:30 am

    Jim, I would completely agree with you. Possibly a poor title for the article. There are MANY aspects of warfare that make up the entire big picture known as the art of war.

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