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ARMY COMBATIVES COURSE
Hand-to-hand combat is an engagement, between two or more persons, with or without hand-held weapons, such as
knives, sticks, or projectile weapons within the range of physical contact.
Combatives are the techniques and tactics useful to soldiers involved in hand-to-hand combat. Proficiency in Combatives
is one of the fundamental building blocks for training the modern soldier.
In 2001, Matt Larsen, then a Sergeant First Class, established the United States Army Combatives School at Fort
Benning. Students are taught techniques from the 2002 and 2009 versions of FM 3-25.150 (Combatives), also written by
Larsen. The regimen is focused on teaching Soldiers how to train rather than attempting to give them the perfect
techniques for any given situation. The main idea is that all real ability is developed after the initial training and only if
training becomes routine. The initial techniques are simply a learning metaphor useful for teaching more important
concepts, such as dominating an opponent with superior body position during ground grappling or how to control
someone during clinch fighting. They are taught as small, easily repeatable drills, in which practitioners could learn
multiple related techniques rapidly. For example, Drill One teaches several techniques: escaping blows, maintaining the
mount, escaping the mount, maintaining the guard, passing the guard, assuming side control, maintaining side control,
preventing and assuming the mount. The drill can be completed in less than a minute and can be done repeatedly with
varying levels of resistance to maximize training benefits.
New soldiers begin their Combatives training on day three of Initial Military Training, at the same time that they are first
issued their rifle. The training begins with learning to maintain control of your weapon in a fight. Soldiers are then taught
how to gain control of a potential enemy at the farthest possible range in order to maintain their tactical flexibility, what the
tactical options are and how to implement them.
The three basic options upon encountering a resistant opponent taught are:
Option One, disengage to regain projectile weapon range
Option Two, gain a controlling position and utilize a secondary weapon
Option Three, Close the distance and gain control to finish the fight.
During the graduation exercises the trainee must react to contact from the front or rear in full combat equipment and
execute whichever of the three tactical options is appropriate and to take part in competitive bouts using the basic rules.
The Combatives School teaches four instructor certification courses. Students of the first course are not expected to
have any knowledge of combatives upon arrival. They are taught fundamental techniques which are designed to
illuminate the fundamental principles of combatives training. The basic techniques form a framework upon which the rest
of the program can build and are taught as a series of drills, which can be performed as a part of daily physical training.
While the course is heavy on grappling, it does not lose sight of the fact that it is a course designed for soldiers going into
combat. It is made clear that while combatives can be used to kill or disable, the man that typically wins a hand-to-hand
fight in combat is the one whose allies arrive with guns first.
See FM 3-25.150 Modern Army Combatives
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