Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Martialist on FM 3-25.150

As you may know the newest US Army Field Manual on combatives (as defined by the manual, "... an engagement between two or more persons in an empty-handed struggle or with hand-held weapons such as knives, sticks, or projectile weapons that cannot be fired.") contains a large proportion of techniques derived from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It's here that the Martialist article by Phil Elmore has the body of his criticism. His opinion, "I am sad to say that FM 3-25.150 is a dreadful manual, the curriculum in which is an unrealistic and impractical marriage of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) to battlefield combatives."

Specifically, he criticizes the process (of choosing a system), "... anyone familiar with the process of selecting firearms for the military can tell you, however, the military is a bureaucracy first and foremost. Any weapon and any program related to a weapon owes as much to politics, budgets, influence peddling, and the conflict of individual agendas as it does to merit and efficacy."

The practicality is also criticized:

  • "The basic training program is allotted a mere 10 hours of available training time. The curriculum is built entirely around groundfighting -- escaping and achieving the mount, passing the guard, grappling for position, chokes, arm bars and sweeps, etc."
  • "... there is no discussion of the dangers of groundfighting (particularly in the hazardous physical environment of a battlefield, where armed multiple opponents are virtually guaranteed and smooth gymnasium floors are few and far between). There are no strategies or techniques offered for avoiding going to the ground and no discussion of the increased danger of being knifed (or bayoneted, if you will) while grappling." With this, I agree. I have gone through the manually pretty thoroughly, and avoiding the ground on the battlefield would seem to be primary to survival, especially in an urban environment, or where others may come to help. Mobility, it would seem, is key to avoicing getting shot.
  • On Standing Defense chapter, "It includes practical counters for various offensive moves, though these moves will be much more common in off-base bars than on war-torn fields."
  • The crux of his criticism, "no attempt to reconcile battlefield reality with BJJ sportfighting is made." And, "disturbing contamination. Gone are the brutal, practical methods of Applegate and his WWII contemporaries, replaced by popular grappling sport methodology that turns the requirements of the battlefield on their collective ear. In an environment characterized -- by definition -- by armed, plural enemies often clad in body armor, committed grappling techniques are the least suited to the pragmatic needs of soldiers. Yet it is these methods that dominate the field manual, displacing appropriate techniques while flagrantly at odds with the context in which they are to be applied."

On the other hand, for learning, BJJ without a qualified instructor, as I am, you'd probably be hard-pressed to find a better source than what is contained in the manual. I agree with Elmore as far as the needs of an infantryman on the battlefield, but for civilians like me, it's a great text for filling in the groundfighting gaps in our training.


Fucacceri said...

I'm just curious as to how much military training Mr. Phil Elmore has. The comment obout our enemies being in body armour is false. Most of the United States enemies are untrained and lack in such advanced equipment. The U.S. Army is fully aware that the Combatives program is not going to make our Soldiers Unarmed Lethal Weapons. We are counting on the Soldiers to be just a little bit better than the other guy. If you do some research you find that untrained fighters are most deadly at striking distance, and that most fights between two untrained individuals usually end up on the ground. So it was easier to teach our Soldiers dominate body positions on the ground verses the art of striking.

Believe me, the Combatives program is a major improvement from the former Hand to Hand Combat being taught.

Nathan Teodoro said...

I understand your criticism, but the amount of military training Elmore has isn't the issue. I'd love to hear from someone who can give a good rebuttal to his points.
Your points about untrained fighters and most fights ending up on the ground are valid, but I'd like to hear a rebuttal to the point about ingraining muscle memory of going to the ground as a first resort on a battlefield, or in the case of clearing a building. My (albeit uneducated) opinion is that you wouldn't want to go to the ground, but should be able to, based on the possibility that there are multiple bad guys, possibly dangerous objects in the environment, or concealed weapons. Please email me an article or links, and I'd love to read, link, and post on it.

Matthew said...

Having just gone through the training, I would definitely like to address some of the issues raised. I can't comment on where the techniques came from, since I don't know and I don't think it's that relevant.

However, what he terms the "brutal, practical methods of Applegate" (and I read the link) are basically punching and kicking techniques. Sure, they're classic and feel manly and brutal, but standing back and trading strikes gets you hit too. Not to mention once one good takedown move, an explosion, etc. knocks you down, you better know how to fight in close. The grappling, which he cricizes as taking a long time to master although it does take up quite a bit of material in the manual, becomes part of your reflexes and let you quickly turn the tables on your opponent and kill him.

And don't have any doubt, killing the other guy is the aim. Learning lots of ways to break limbs and choke an enemy, is just a very practical way to do it. And controlling his body, even if the techniques did come from martial artists, is better than just hoping he doesn't hit back harder.

On the handheld weapons section (which I might point out, is about the same as it was before) soldiers are issued rifles and bayonets, not three foot/six foot poles. Hence the lengthy and practical section devoted to fighting with a rifle and bayonet. I think it would be ridiculous to see our soldiers as pole-fighting experts and not rifle-fighting experts.

Having said all that, if you are wearing a lot of heavy armor and gear, a significant number of the grappling techniques are impractical. They seem to be directed toward situations without equipment, while the later sections assume you have equiptment.

Final note, it's very difficult to find out how much hand to hand even occurs in Iraq or Afghanistan, but rumor ( and LOTS of ACTUAL reports ( show the combatives program, especially all the real close stuff as very useful and practical in many situations.

Anonymous said...

As you go through the program more you find more information for a more well wounded soldier. Taking the enemy isn't the only fighting stratgey the Army Combatives program uses.

The biggest reasons why the program is of more success then the past programs.

1. More realistic training structured on the the focus of a noncompliant partner. Basically the cliched saying of "Aliveness" Plays a huge roll in the combat effectiveness of the soldiers training.

2. Competions. Even though competion isn't the goal or focus of the program battle field training and application is the aim. However competions play a vital role in spurring on on further training.

Diffrent theaters of operation of diffrent ROE's. It vital for todays modern day soldier to be able to handle them selves with both leathal and non lethal applictions of unarmed combat.

Phil said...

There is no conceivable combat operation in which an armed United States soldier would be called on to submit an adversary using BJJ. The fact that it's a one-on-one methodology precludes its use; combat is plural, or at least the assumption in any combat zone is that it's likely to be. And, no, I've never been in the military -- but you don't have to have been in the military to understand these most fundamental principles of warfare. To deny them is to engage in self-delusion. The military's hand-to-hand curriculum has become infected with BJJ for one and only one reason: BJJ is popular. In twenty years, it will be something else, because THAT thing is popular.

todd said...

Well Phil, I'm going to disagree with you, and since I've been in the military for 15yrs, I'm in a better position to speak about conveivable operations where grappling is required. The fact is, the battlefield IS plural, and it's littered with people you just can't shoot. Smashing them with an "axe hand" ala Applegate isn't advisable either. The old "cut off, out of ammo, surrounded, etc..." thought process is what is unrealistic. Fact is there's only two kinds of people you put your hands on in a combat zone: those you can't shoot and those you couldn't shoot. If you can't shoot them, it's because deadly force isn't justifiable and then grappling becomes the preferred method. If you couldn't shoot them you use an improvised weapon from a dominate position until you or your buddy can. The Army wisely chose BJJ because it works and provides the best base from which to build other fighting skills.

Anonymous said...

The FBI, Coast Guard, Air Force SPs, most law enforcement agencies and anyone with common sense knows the utility and practicality of ASP tactical baton training. The ASP is portable, would not add that much to the combat load, offers non-lethal advantages over close-hand ranged alternatives that communicates to the adversary that, be it by rifle, pistol, ASP baton, or bare-hands, I am ready to maintain one step above you on the force continuum - because, you are my adversary and there are is no sense in giving you equal ground!

And this is from someone with over 27 years combatives experience in fields of psychiatry, law enforcement and the military, with 3 OIF tours.

Stop decieving yourselves into thinking that BJJ is THE WAY!!! It's A way - damn good by that, but lets use some common sense and prepare our soldiers for the entire force continuum.