Story and photos by Donna Hyatt/The Bayonet
FORT BENNING, Ga. (TRADOC News Service, Nov. 18, 2005) – The first All-Army Modern Combatives Championship trophy was awarded to Soldiers from Fort Benning, home of the U.S. Army Combatives School.
The 75th Ranger Regiment won the team championship Nov. 6 following two days of competition.
Surrounded by fellow Soldiers congratulating him for winning the heavyweight division title, Sgt. James Stelly was all smiles.
“I first started doing (modern combatives) when I went through the Ranger Indoctrination Program,” he said.
Hosted by the 11th Infantry Regiment, competitors representing Army installations from around the world weighed in Nov. 4.
The competition began with 198 preliminary fights to determine the 24 semi-final positions. The standard combatives competition rules were used in the elimination matches, but the finals allowed maneuvers such as fist striking with protective gloves, throws, takedowns, chokes and locks.
“The only limitation was no elbow strikes because they’re more dangerous, no hitting the back of the head and things like that,” said Matt Larsen, president of the U.S. Army Combatives School.
He said he was happy with the number of Soldiers competing in this inaugural event.
“Competition spawns excellence by giving people the opportunity to be champions,” he said.
Modern combatives started within 2nd Ranger Battalion in 1995 when Lt. Col. Stan McChrystal, then battalion commander, ordered a review of defensive hand-to-hand training. Combining the best of several different forms of martial arts, the Rangers settled on a program based upon jiu-jitsu, with elements of judo, wrestling, boxing and kickboxing, Larsen said.
As Rangers redeployed to new commands, they took the modern combatives system with them and taught others.
It was Col. Michael Ferriter, then commander of 11th Inf. Regt., who successfully integrated modern combatives into the program of instruction for Officer Candidate School, the Infantry Officer Basic Course and the Infantry Captains Career Course in 2000.
Since then, Larsen wrote the combatives field manual, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker approved the modern combatives program under the Task Force Soldier initiative.
Elementary modern combatives are now taught at the entry level to all new Soldiers, Larsen said.
Surveying the ongoing activity, Larsen said every Soldier should be willing and able to fight when called upon.
“Being a warrior is about taking the fight to the enemy,” he said. “We’re the ones who are willing to be the fighters for this nation.”
Although the audience was comprised mostly of military personnel, civilians also watched the competition.
“I think combatives are good because of the job requirements to be a Soldier,” said retired 1st Sgt. James Todd of Columbus, Ga. “What if you get in a fighting situation and there’s no ammunition for your weapon? A Soldier would need to fight hand-to-hand.”
Attending the event for inspiration to write an English 101 assignment, Columbus State University freshman Gena Willard said she was impressed with the fierceness of the competitors.
“There were a lot of tense moments when they repeatedly smacked each other in the head or kneed the ribs,” she said. “I also understand that when you’re fighting an enemy, you don’t always have your gun, so you’re going to have hand-to-hand combat.”
The U.S. Army Combatives School followed the competition with the first combatives symposium Nov. 7 at Infantry Hall for upper-level combatives instructors.
In addition to Stelly, three other post Soldiers won individual medals: Staff Sgt. Grant Shanaman and Spc. Jamel Ellison, both of the 75th Ranger Regt., won second and third place in the welterweight division, and Capt. Ben Fielding, commander of C Company, 2nd Battalion, 54th Infantry Regt., placed third in the lightweight competition.
“All the things you can ever learn in life, you can learn in the ring fighting,” Stelly said. “It teaches you discipline and how to take pride in what you do.”
Col. James Klingaman, 11th Inf. Regt. commander, awarded the win, place and show medals.
Brig. Gen. James Yarbrough, assistant commandant of Fort Benning, presented the Rangers with the trophy.