Level 1 Combatives: A Hands On Experience

By:  SFC Kelli M. Harr

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Not all effective Army training courses require a Power Point presentation. Not all effective Army training courses even require boots.

One course, Modern Army Combatives, is unique in that it goes against the grain of normal military training. Instead of sitting behind computers and taking notes, Soldiers report to a gym every morning and do hands on training. Not just training; effective training.

The Modern Army Combatives Program (MACP) has been around for a while but up until 1995, it failed to be valuable for units. A total reconstruction of the program and its concept established one of the most essential and sought after courses in the military. Creating qualified instructors and integrating the program into units were two significant changes to MACP in the late 90’s. The program is now organized and efficient enough to hold classes with the necessary qualified instructors for certification.

The 103rd ESC recently held two MACP classes with three of the top instructors taking charge. Staff Sgt. Shawn Sherman, Level 2, 2nd BN/377th BCT, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Sample, Level 4, 95th Division and Sgt. First Class Troy Nuckles, Level 3, 9th BN, Army Reserve Careers Division, certified over 40 students in two weeks.

SSG Sample has been doing combatives since 2002 when he and a fellow squad leader bought a boot-leg instructional tape overseas during their deployment. “The tape wasn’t even in English but we would watch it and mimic the moves on each other until we felt confident enough to teach our squads,” said SSG Sample.

SSG Sample attended his first official MACP course in 2005 and reached level four in 2007 after completing a year on the trail as a Drill Sergeant. He was then hired to teach combatives at the Fort Sill Combatives Training Center. His MMA experience started as a trainer with Captain Jason Norwood but eventually his competitive spirit took over and he began training with the Fort Sill post team. SSG Sample competed in his first fight this past Saturday in Dubuque, winning by an Arm Bar submission in the first minute.

SFC Nuckles started his MACP experience when his unit sent him to Level 1 as a young Ranger. His natural ability and enjoyment of the instructions kept him involved with the program.

“I loved the class and was naturally good at it so I asked to be sent to level 2 and 3 and the unit agreed,” he said. “I like that this class is unlike any other. Students actually get to roll with each other and do hands on training.”

SFC Nuckles has been a Level 3 instructor since 2005 and taught over 20 classes. “It’s amazing to watch how much the student’s progress from the first day to the last,” he said. “I know I’ve done my job when they use the drills we’ve taught on one another.”

SSG Shawn Sherman started training MACP in 2006 and has been teaching a few classes a year ever since. As a Drill Sergeant he was required to become certified in combatives to teach young troops.

“I love being an instructor and take every opportunity to teach,” he stated. “I don’t compete but I train on my own and train whenever another instructor is local.”

Level 1 teaches students how to close the distance, gain a dominant position and finish the fight through several drills. Through textbook instruction and personal experience, the instructors demonstrate drills on each other than let the students try. Their training and awareness of technique significantly decreases the number or severity of injuries during a week-long course.

Sgt. Seth Stednitz, 4224th USAH, has provided medical support for several MACP courses and noticed how few injuries resulted from the course.

“The instructors understand the details and techniques and stress that throughout the course,” he said. “There are fewer injuries in MACP versus playing basketball for the same number of hours. If there are injuries, they are minor such as a broken toe or jammed finger. I’ve yet to see a concussion.”

Illegal techniques are also addressed during training. Toe holds, ankle locks and grabbing the fingers are just a few prohibited moves during a standard competition. This alleviates injuries and keeps the competition safe.

Warrior Ethos comes into play when learning combatives. Students go up against various sizes of opponents to simulate realistic fighting. Instructors constantly tell students to imagine they are in combat and need to save their battle buddy in the room next door. Gender is not a factor in combatives.

“It’s important for both male and female Soldiers to learn combatives and to fight against each other,” said SFC Nuckles. “In a real combat situation, you don’t get to pick who you’re fighting; you just fight for survival.”

At the end of the course students are asked to provide an After Action Review (AAR) covering the instruction. All of the Soldiers had positive comments and praise for the instructors. Several Soldiers noted that the course increases self-confidence and pride while others added the physical strength and endurance to complete the course have made them better Soldiers.

One student added that these were “the best instructors ever, I would love to take level 2 with them.”

Every student in the course enthusiastically requested to attend Level 2 and SSG Sherman, SSG Sample and SFC Nuckles are hoping to make that happen sometime next year.

More information on MACP can be found in FM 3-25.150.

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4 Responses to “Level 1 Combatives: A Hands On Experience”

  1. Shawn Sherman Says:

    Great article. Another example how we prepare the next generation of warriors for what lies ahead. Instilling the never quit attitude and giving the soldiers of tomorrow the confidence to face what very few will ever have to face.

  2. miah5544 Says:

    SFC Harr
    Thank you very much for coming and covering the training. The class was well motivated and your coverage was superb. My combative comrades in arms were, as always, top nothc and I look forward to training with the 103rd and additional USAR units soon.

  3. Troy Nuckles Says:

    I had a great time teaching Combatives to a great group of Soldiers. I want to say thanks to my fellow instructors, to the students and a big thank you to the 103rd for setting up the class. Looking forward to teaching a level 2 down the road.


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