The U.S. Marine Corps now requires
all its troops qualify for the lowest level belt (tan) of its six year old
martial arts program. That goal was to have been achieved three years ago, but
proved more difficult than anticipated.
The marine martial arts effort is a program of
well, street fighting. The Martial Arts Training Program is taught like most
other martial arts, allowing for degrees of proficiency, and colored belts to
indicate how far a marine has gone from tan (the lowest level) to grey, green,
brown and black (the highest.) The marine program is notable for elements that
accurately represent actual combat conditions. For example, before doing the
actual combat fighting, trainers wear the marines out with vigorous physical
exercise. In combat you are likely to encounter the enemy face to face only
after a lot of running around. Another realism element is the random
introduction into the training area of items that could be used as weapons (a
knife, pipe, piece of lumber). These realism touches make the Marine Corps
Martial Arts Training Program popular and effective.
The fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has reinforced
the importance of this program. So all marine infantry must achieve the green
belt by the end of 2008. All combat support marines must get the grey belt by
early 2009. The first (tan) belt only requires about 28 hours of training, but
the others need more (from 47 to 72 hours for each level). And, you have to be
in very good shape to even get started on the tan belt. But the skills obtained
have proved to be lifesavers, especially in raids and search operations, where
a nearby civilian often turns into an armed hostile on very short notice.