ARLINGTON, Va. — First the Marine Corps made Chuck Norris an honorary Marine. Now the Corps wants all Marines to follow in his footsteps.

All Marines must now qualify for their tan belt in the Corps’ version of martial arts by the end of 2007, Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway said in a recent Corps-wide message.

The move mostly affects those who joined before 2001, when the service made the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program part of basic training and the Basic School, said 1st Lt. Brian P. Donnelly, a spokesman for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

The Corps originally hoped to have all Marines earn their tan belt by the end of fiscal 2003 and then have Marines attain higher belts by the end of fiscal 2004.

Now the higher belts are no longer goals but requirements for Marines, Donnelly said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

“All infantrymen will be trained to green belt by the end of CY [calendar year] 2008,” Conway said in the July 16 message. “All other combat arms Marines will be trained to gray belt by the end of CY 2008.”

The changes apply to all Marines, including reservists, said retired Lt. Col. Joseph C Shusko, director of the Martial Arts Center of Excellence.

“A Marine is a Marine,” he said.

The tan belt shows that Marines have mastered basic skills such as how to fall, move, throw punches, choke an opponent and counter someone coming at you, Shusko said.

The gray belt is the next step up and shows Marines have learned techniques such as lower-body strikes, chokes and how to get out of a headlock, he said.

The green belt is third in the series and shows Marines have learned skills such as how to rip muscle from bone, Shusko said.

The martial-arts training also teaches Marines how to hone their mental skills as warriors, Shusko said. This involves learning about other cultures such as the Spartans, Zulus and Apaches.

Another component of the training is character development, which ties the physical skills Marine learn with what they do as good citizens, he said.

Conway praised the character development aspect of the martial-arts training in the message.

“It has, at its center, the Marine Corps ethos that includes our core values of honor, courage, and commitment, as well as the legacy of selfless and honorable services passed from one generation of Marines to the next,” Conway said in the message.

The switch to mandatory martial arts training came after Training and Education Command recommended revamping the program as part of changes to Marine character training, Shusko said. Those changes include moving the climactic “Crucible” exercise — where Marines march about 40 miles over 54 hours with little food or sleep — to the end of basic training.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now