Military training involves several disciplines to sharpen a soldier’s existing skillset. It’s one thing to be adept with firearms, but as mentioned in a previous piece, proficiency in unarmed combat is likewise essential.
As a service member, you have to be as lethal with your limbs as you would with a gun, and that goes without saying. That then begs the question: what is the most effective discipline for military training? Out of the many martial arts in existence, there has to be one that stands out, correct?
This article aims to answer these questions. And we’ll do so by looking at four martial arts disciplines utilized in military training.
Four Martial Arts Disciplines For Military Training
We’ve developed a short list of disciplines that translate well into military training. These martial arts involve the requisite techniques we mentioned in our previous article.
MMA: The Ultimate Unarmed Combat Art
No holds barred first came into existence as the answer to numerous playground debates about who would win in a fight between a boxer and a kung fu fighter. It was a spectacle, a once vilified bloodsport that eventually evolved into what we now know as mixed martial arts.
MMA is as effective as a military training discipline and an elite form of prizefighting. You have the striking arts that involve all eight limbs, along with wrestling and grappling styles for when the tussle gets into closer range.
The US Marines utilize MMA for boot camp, known as The Crucible. For 54 straight hours, recruits undergo a series of physically demanding exercises to see if they are Marine material. Part of the training in The Crucible involves hand-to-hand combat techniques standard in MMA.
However, aspiring Marines utilize modified versions specific for a non-sporting scenario.
All that training comes to a head in what’s known as the Battle of Belleau Wood, a 60-second sparring session where recruits put these techniques into practice. Rules prohibit headshots from avoiding concussions, so combatants stick to body punches.
Chief Drill Instructor GySgt. Regina Qiokata explained the primary purpose of these drills.
“It’s meant to kind of get them prepared for any aspect of combat. You could be fighting an enemy that you don’t really know anything about. Although they know each other and they’re in a platoon together, there are still a lot of things they don’t know about each other.
“This is a way to just kind of keep them on their toes and keep them cognizant of their actions or the other person’s actions.”
Submission Grappling: For Gentle Pacification
Certain moments in combat require gentle pacification. You don’t always have to exert force. Sometimes, it all comes down to merciful restraint. Enter submission grappling.
Submission grappling involves different techniques from disciplines like sambo, Greco-Roman, catch and freestyle wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It amalgamates all these styles to form one effective fighting style.
The US Army utilizes submission grappling for its military training program, with modifications to prepare for real-life scenarios—no need for black belts here, as long as you perform the techniques with utmost efficiency.
The Marines, of course, came up with a more physically taxing version: Shallow water grappling. Both combatants start on their knees, and the objective is to pin the other person down on their back and submerge their head into the water. All while wearing a 20-pound plate carrier on their chests.
But before these shallow water dust-ups, Marines must go through a grueling obstacle course called the Shamrock Drill. The regular exercises are jumping through logs, conquering monkey bars, and climbing ropes.
An eight-station course on the beach follows to add a little physical challenge before the water grappling. It involves pad work drills, fireman’s carries, push-ups, and burpees.
Just watching it would make you throw up out of exhaustion.
Gunnery Sgt. Freddy Torres’s goal is to put the body through intense physical exhaustion in preparation for combat. It’s about pushing oneself to the limit and beyond.
And for Sgt. Torres, the Marines do it like no other.
“It is pretty physically demanding across all branches. We do have the highest standard when it comes to physical fitness. We do have the hardest physical fitness test, the longest run, the most pull-ups, and most crunches.
“Your body can go through a lot. You just have to tell it to shut up and go.”
Krav Maga: MMA’s Deadlier Cousin
Experts wouldn’t dare classify Krav Maga as a martial art, even if it follows the definition. This Israeli fighting style is more oriented toward self-defense, primarily inflicting as much damage as possible while getting out unscathed.
As the title states, Krav Maga is MMA’s deadlier cousin, and there are no exaggerations here. Similarly, it’s a hybrid fighting style combining several disciplines. But in this case, a grappling scenario would entail kicking your opponent away and escaping. Such moves will never fly in a sport jiu-jitsu setting.
YouTuber Laurie Shaw got to try different disciplines, including Krav Maga. As he explains, the absence of rules spells the most significant difference.
“I’ve realized that Krav Maga isn’t a martial art. It’s not a sport. Because there cannot be rules in a pure self-defense fighting system. In real-life situations — which is what Krav Maga tries to replicate — there are no rules.
“I’ve got to stop trying to compare Krav Maga to the Muay Thai (and) jiu-jitsu training that I’ve done. It’s on a completely different level.”
If training Krav Maga is something you see yourself doing, be prepared for a physically demanding environment.
Kali: For Effective Weaponization
You read that right: weaponization. Krav Maga includes some weapons training but is less focused than Kali. Should you get into this brutal and highly functional martial art, expect a lot of stick and knife fighting. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
This Filipino martial art bears one central philosophy: practicality. Fighting with sticks may seem silly on a superficial level. But the underlying principle here is that you can use any similarly-shaped object as a weapon. It could be an umbrella, flashlight, broomstick, or a tightly-rolled newspaper. Wield it the right, and you have a potentially lethal object in your hand.
Many of you probably think, ‘Is Kali just about the weapons?’ If you’ve seen any of the films from the Jason Bourne franchise, that should answer this question.
What Is the Most Effective Martial Art For Military Training?
Short answer: there is no number one. All four fighting arts have their relevant contributions to military training. So how do you answer this question?
Former CIA officer and security specialist Jason Hanson summed it all up perfectly.
“There’s a million and one ways to skin a cat. The most important things are what works best for you? What can you execute the easiest? What is the most comfortable for you? The other thing is, what is actually gonna work?
“When it comes to life and death and self-defense, it’s got to be simple to execute and it’s gotta be fast.”