MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- The Marine Corps Martial Arts program is developing more than just fighters, but ethical warriors who are prepared to lead both in combat and at home as quality citizens.
Martial arts instructor trainers at Edson Range host several Martial Arts Instructor Courses each year to build a cadre of instructors to teach Marines the unique blend of physical techniques and character building discussions of MCMAP.
During the three-week course, students are challenged with rigorous physical exercise, full contact body sparring and classes in many different subjects such as combat conditioning, instructional techniques, the proper application of force and Marine Corps history, said Sgt. Erik A. Christianson, martial arts instructor trainer, Weapons Field Training Battalion. The instruction focuses on three core disciplines: physical, mental and character.
Most students arrived with the perception the course consists largely of grueling physical exercise and martial arts techniques, said Sgt. Matthew T. Owen, martial arts instructor trainer, Weapons Field Training Battalion. Some students are surprised to discover a greater emphasis on instruction and academics.
Future instructors learn how to deliver a class with clear speech, efficient gestures and frequent interaction with pupils. The trainers evaluate students by having them teach classes and martial arts techniques, as well as pass a written test and martial arts examination.
“I came into the course expecting to be pushed physically,” said Sgt. Carlos Camachorojas, parachute rigger and delivery specialist, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. “But when I was asked to perform academically immediately following our morning routine, it was definitely the hardest part for me. I’m not usually strong with academics, so the course challenged me a lot.”
Christianson, a native of La Crosse, Wisc., said martial arts instructors must focus equally on all three disciplines to develop Marines into ethical warriors who know how to responsibly use the techniques they are taught. He compared MCMAP to a three-legged stool that cannot stand if one of the legs is removed.
“If you don’t have equal focus on all three disciplines, you’re not going to be a well-rounded martial arts instructor,” said Christianson. “A warrior should be somebody who not only can overcome any sort of adversity, but should also be more mature and be the one that everyone should follow.”
Leadership is a critical quality of martial arts instructors because they serve as the embodiment of MCMAP for the Marines they teach, said Owen, a native of Arroyo Grande, Calif.
“The martial arts instructor needs to be a poster boy Marine,” he said. “He needs to be physically fit at all times because the Marines are going to look to him for advice about combat conditioning and nutrition. He needs to be living that lifestyle and not just preaching it. He needs to make sound ethical decisions.”
Ethics are especially important to 1st Marine Division units because they are frequently deployed to the front lines and more likely to encounter enemies and civilians in a combat environment, as well as serve as ambassadors to allied forces, said Camachorojas, a native of Mesa, Ariz. Marines must be prepared to pull the trigger at the right time and at the right target.
“If and when a Marine takes the life of another human being, he should know that it comes with a consequence,” said Camachorojas. “When you take a persons’ life, that decision is permanent. That person doesn’t get to see his family or children. Being prepared for that mentally is crucial. Knowing how and when to apply the different levels of the continuum of force could prevent unnecessary deaths, courts martial and dishonorable discharges. That’s why creating the ethical warrior is so important within the 1st Marine Division.”
While Marines in combat arms fields have much to benefit from MCMAP, all Marines should utilize the program to prepare for combat and become better citizens, said Camachorojas.
“Some in society think we are a bunch of drunken, mindless killing machines,” he said. “That’s not the images we want our people to see. If we as martial arts instructors can prevent a Marine from getting into an altercation, then we have created an ethical warrior that can not only fight but also think on his feet.”
The most recent martial arts instructor course here graduated four martial arts instructors serving with 1st Marine Division units. The MAITs at Edson Range train the students to take the skills and lessons of MCMAP back to their units and develop their own Marines into ethical warriors.
Owen said his favorite part of teaching an MAI course is sharing his values and experiences with many Marines through his instructors.
“It’s pretty rewarding because for every instructor we produce, we put a little part of ourselves in them with the things we teach and emphasize,” said Owen. “They go back to their units influenced by us, and they’re teaching their Marines. It’s a way to spread my legacy throughout the Marine Corps.”