Posts Tagged ‘MCMAP’

The colored belt ranking system is a commonplace feature of modern martial arts. It’s even a part of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP), with colors like tan, grey, brown, green, and the ever-present black. Most other martial arts still use what have become the usual colors, with white, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, red, and black. I’ve even earned a camouflage belt in Taekwondo once. Every organization has their own order for the colors, as well as their own meaning. Some systems even assign meanings to the colors themselves (white means a blank slate, purity, and so on). What is clear is that, whatever you think of the current trend in belt ranks, it will probably be a feature of martial arts training for a long time.

As for Jiu-jitsu, I stumbled upon a nifty explanation for it’s belt system. The visual metaphor is effective and makes use of the popular martial arts visual of seeing techniques as tools. Read and tell me what you think…

A nifty visual for understanding the Jiu-jitsu belt system...

A nifty visual for understanding the Jiu-jitsu belt system…

How do you define your art’s belt system?

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?