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Capt. Jason Cyr, bottom, battles Marine Corps Capt. Chris Esrey during the Army Combatives tournament last year  at Fort Benning, Ga. Combatives officials say they are considering awarding colored belts to designate soldiers' skill at its Combatives hand-to-hand fighting system.

Vince Little/U.S. Army
Capt. Jason Cyr, bottom, battles Marine Corps Capt. Chris Esrey during the Army Combatives tournament last year at Fort Benning, Ga. Combatives officials say they are considering awarding colored belts to designate soldiers' skill at its Combatives hand-to-hand fighting system. Vince Little/U.S. Army (Vince Little/U.S. Army)

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — The Army might introduce colored belts to designate the level of soldiers’ training in its Combatives hand-to-hand fighting system.

Matt Larson, director of the Modern Army Combatives Program, said last week that Combatives instructors are looking at a belt system, something the Marine Corps introduced in 2001.

“There is a potential for us to do something like that in the future,” he said. “The Marine Corps has had a lot of success with their belt system. We will work within the Army system to make sure that whatever we are doing makes sense as an Army program.”

Leathernecks train for 40 to 70 hours to earn their first, tan-colored belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, according to Staff Sgt. Justin Pauley, a MCMAP black belt based in Stuttgart.

The Marines’ belts, which run from tan through grey, green and brown to six degrees of black, can be worn with their camouflage utility uniforms, the 27-year-old Sioux Falls, S.D., native said.

“It gives the Marines a sense of accomplishment and shows them a progression through a martial system,” he said. “It allows them to see more advanced techniques as they advance through the belts.”

The highest ranked belts require the most study, Pauley said. For example, it took him seven weeks of training at the Martial Arts Center of Excellence in Quantico, Va., to progress from a brown to a black belt, he said.

“The hours we put in are quite a bit longer (than soldiers learning Combatives),” he said. “There’s combat conditioning and classroom studies and we do knife and bayonet fighting and train in the use of weapons of opportunity.”

Introducing martial-arts belts to Combatives could be a way to inspire soldiers to develop their skills, Larson said.

“The sporting aspects (of Combatives) are very important,” he said. “It is the best tool we have to motivate people to train to a very high level.”

However, Larson said he doesn’t want Combatives to become too much like a sport.

“These [belts] are just aspects of a program that is about training for combat,” he said. “If people don’t stay focused on combat, they will soon be training for [martial arts instead].”

robsons@estripes.osd.mil

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