The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program has been the basic hand-to-hand combat system employed by the United States Marine Corps since 2002, and as I’ve written about in the past, it tends to get dragged through the mud by young guys with limited experience and a lot of bravado. In order to complete recruit training, you need to show competency in the program’s Tan Belt syllabus (comparable to other martial arts’ white belt) and depending on your occupational specialty, many Marines stop seeking continued training in the discipline except when mandated by their command.

You’ll often hear young Marines (or older ones that have managed to avoid getting hit in the face throughout their careers) say things like “MCMAP doesn’t work,” only to find that they never made it past their tan or follow on grey belts and have limited experience in any other discipline. That’s a lot like a guy spending two weeks training in Brazilian jiujitsu and then walking away dismissing the entire discipline because it hasn’t made him Royce Gracie yet. Doing it doesn’t really say much about the martial art, but it does say a lot about how naive you were as  you approached the mats. Learning to fight takes time, discipline, and effort – things that come from within, rather than things that can be mandated through a syllabus.

There are certainly elements of the MCMAP syllabus I learned along the way to my black belt that I didn’t feel worked particularly well for me, but just like my training in other martial arts disciplines, I approached MCMAP with the mindset that I would find what worked, adopt it into my repertoire, and strive to better understand why other techniques didn’t seem as effective, in hopes that the broader understanding would make me a more capable fighter. Learning to defend yourself with your hands, like learning to drive or shoot, means repetition, analysis, adjustment, and trying again. If you approach the process expecting to become Randy Couture in a matter of weeks, the problem isn’t the program … it’s you.

And nothing better represents the distinction between the pseudo-tough guys that “already know how to fight” and students eager to become more proficient fighters than the time-honored rear hand punch.