USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At Sea -- In the belly of an amphibious warship, squeezed between two aircraft, troops gather around a fight. Two Marines are going head-to-head, taking cues from instructors standing nearby as they struggle for dominance. Confined and challenging environments cannot stop the Marines from training.
Marines and Sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit continue to improve their Marine Corps Martial Arts skills despite the challenging conditions of living and working on ships during their annual Fall Patrol.
The training is held in the hanger bay of the ship and requires dedication to commit seven days per week. For most Marines, life while deployed is defined by a hectic schedule that includes 12 hour shifts and very little personal time. Time limitations, lack of space, dim lighting and unstable fighting grounds are some of the things that make the MCMAP training more challenging at sea.
“MCMAP on ship is more of a challenge because of the lack of space and our operational tempo while deployed,” said Lance Cpl. Aaron A. Mendoza, a 22-year-old Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear defense specialist with the Command Element, 31st MEU, and a native of Whittier, Calif. “Although the restrictions are not what you typically want for training, they’re not going to stop us.”
Whether the Marine or Sailor participates in morning or night classes, students average two hours a day, seven days a week. This schedule maximizes the opportunity to learn between training exercises and operations. More than 26 training hours are required to earn each belt level because the MCMAP program teaches more than strikes and grappling.
Instructors impart the “synergy of MCMAP” to their students, a training method designed to improve the mind, body and character of a Marine. The “tie-in” conducted at the end of each learned technique improves the student’s character through guided discussions on values-based topics like honor, judgment and professionalism. Martial culture and individual warrior studies develop the mind by studying the successful training practices of a warrior culture, like ancient Sparta, or discussing the courageous achievements of Marine Corps legends like John Basilone. The third aspect of MCMAP’s synergy is combat conditioning, which are combat related workouts designed to strengthen the body and challenge students to maintain precise techniques long after he or she has passed their exertion limits.
“The synergy ensures (instructors develop) strong physical specimens but also create Marines with sound judgment and the confidence to apply the techniques in the appropriate ways,” said Capt. Tyson J. Scott, a 30-year-old MCMAP black belt 2nd degree instructor trainer with the CE, 31st MEU, and a native of Atchison, Kan.
When students complete their required training hours, they are able to test for the next higher belt level. Using a fellow Marine as a partner, students demonstrate every technique learned during the course of instruction. They are also required to demonstrate the retained knowledge from the values-based discussions. If more than 80 percent of the techniques are correctly executed, the student is given the next belt by their instructor. The belt represents the time, sweat and pain the Marines put into the program.
“They go through rigorous training and physical exhaustion to earn their MCMAP belts, and it shows in the confidence of the wearer,” said Sgt. Johnathon R. Robinson, a Marine Corps Martial Arts Program black belt instructor with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st MEU, and a native of Larned, Kan.
The 31st MEU is currently conducting their regularly scheduled fall patrol conducting theater security operations in the Asia-Pacific region. The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region and is the only continuously forward deployed MEU.