From the Halls of Montezuma…

Posted: June 25, 2013 by beforethefire in Discussion Topics
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A lot of people like to argue about which of all martial arts styles is the best, “best” meaning “most effective” most of the time in those arguments. Never heard this argument before? Go to YouTube, look up a self defense video, and proceed to the comments section below. It’ll be there. The hard part about this argument is, of course, that fighting is a form of complex problem solving, the complex problem in most cases being interpersonal violence. And, like most complex problems, violence has many possible answers whose effectiveness is hard  to quantify or measure. That is why, I believe, martial arts can be considered arts. Just like there are many ways to paint a portrait, there are many ways to navigate the progression of violent acts from an opponent. Hence so many martial arts styles.

There are a few, however, that stand apart from all other styles. These are the combat forms and martial arts of armed forces. These are the martial arts practiced by those who regularly experience combat on its grandest scale. The most notable of these arts is MCMAP, or the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. It is a heavily researched, well formulated program that tries to instill in every marine far more than simple hand to hand combat techniques. It is also the military combat training system most recognizable as a martial art, complete with a colored belt rank system. This program, I believe, is head and shoulders above all other military martial arts styles, not only for its physical training aspects, but for its mental and character emphasis as well. Their challenge is unique and daunting: to produce warriors who are not only unafraid to run towards the sounds of gunfire and engage the enemy at any range, but also capable of functioning as emotionally and mentally healthy members of the societies which they protect.

Physically, MCMAP is everything you could hope for in a combat-ready martial art. It emphasizes the use of strikes, grappling, arrest techniques, disarms, and a dizzying array of modern and improvised weaponry. It ties seamlessly into the principles of armed combat, so marines are able to switch between armed and unarmed techniques without hesitation. It is a flexible art that trains marines to be as lethal or non-lethal as is most appropriate for the situation.  Marines are more than just killers, after all, and regularly deploy on peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.

More impressive to me, however, is the fact that the Marine Corps tries to instill moral values and intellectual lessons into their warriors as part of their martial arts program. To sum it all up in a few words, these lessons of moral accountability and warrior tradition are called the warrior ethos. In an article in The Marine Corps Gazette, Andrew Lubin explains what the warrior ethos is.

“The warrior ethos is a code of conduct… that embodies a life where integrity, loyalty, honor, and selflessness, and courage are one’s guide. Starting thousands of years ago with the hunters, these concepts evolved into the warrior societies where protection for the tribe was best achieved as a group working together. The rudimentary laws arising from the successful tribes evolved into the warrior ethos practiced by the Spartans and others where courage, cooperation, and acknowledging the strength of the group over that of the individual, enabled the tribe or the nation to survive.”

I often get skeptical when I’m presented with a list of pseudo-Asian philosophical values in a martial arts class, but the warrior ethos speaks to me. I think this is evidence that there are martial arts out there that are truly American, as opposed to distillations of Asian or Brazilian culture. I wish there were more civilian martial arts schools patterned after this program, complete with bayonet training and all!

How does the warrior ethos compare to the ethics taught in your martial arts training center?

  1. patrickasay says:

    I will reply thusly:

    #1 Whenever I read the comments of ANY YouTube video I feel like I have degraded my self-existence in some way. Anonymity has transformed people into douchebags. (For the most part, of course there are exceptions and genuinely good posts, but they pale in comparison to the majority of the douchebags.)

    #2 On paper, watching YouTube videos, and listening to you talk about MCMAP, I am sold! However, my experience has been a little different. Just about every Marine or ex-Marine I’ve met (that learn about my profession) jump out and say they are a black belt in MCMAP. I’ve sparred with a handful of them. I’ve gone over reality-based stuff like weapons disarms with them. And either they are lying (which could be likely) or their training did very little to speak well for the MCMAP. I haven’t met one yet that could hold his/her own in a sparring environment, which leads me to believe they probably couldn’t hold their own in an actual violent situation (assumption noted). I would LOVE to meet a Marine or ex-Marine who can represent the MCMAP (as I’ve seen it on paper, on videos, etc.) well. The thing is that I WANT to agree with you and praise MCMAP! I just haven’t met anyone worthy of such praise yet. That could change. Maybe you know someone you could refer me to.

    #3 You know my story better than anyone who will read this and know that I have had my oddball training in different reality-based systems. What I can say for sure is that everybody is a different size, shape, gender, etc., with different strengths and weaknesses. Having a “one-size-fits-all” self-defense glove that cleanly ties up a determined knife attacker into a neat little package is just nonsense! That’s why training must be individualized. To focus on the individual’s strengths and develop them into speciality. I could go on and on, but my point is that any reality-based system that teaches a “one-size-fits-all” series of techniques is flawed.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s