From as far back as World War 2 through the Vietnam war era to the present day, the USMC selected specific techniques from various martial arts to for the nucleus of their program. This included eastern martial arts systems such as judo and karate.
MCMAP evolved into it's present form by combining the best combat-tested training techniques, with Marine Corps core values and leadership training. It is interesting to note that one of the subject-matter experts consulted in preparation of MCMAP is Jack Hoban, a former Marine captain and long-time Bujinkan Ninjutsu practitioner. Many of the MCMAP techniques are essentially Bujinkan techniques with very minor modification. MCMAP makes liberal use of wrist locks (particularly in pistol retention and knife defense), judo throws, and grappling that would be familiar to many serious martial artists.
MCMAP today consists of three components; mental discipline, character discipline, and physical discipline. Each component is divided into blocks and presented systematically at each belt level. A belt ranking system with five basic levels is used; tan, grey, green, brown and black. Progression through the belts includes passing the mental and character discipline requirements, and the physical techniques for each belt level. In addition, each Marine is required to show he has maintained proficiency in the physical disciplines of the current belt as well as the physical techniques of the next belt level. This is monitored through the use of training logs.
A very brief summary of techniques required to progress through the belts is as follows:
Tan - punches; falls; bayonet techniques; pugil strikes; upper and lower-body strikes; chokes; throws; counter strikes; armed manipulations; and, knife techniques.
Grey - advanced techniques for the above; and, weapons of opportunity and ground fighting.
Green - as above, with more advanced techniques.
Brown - any 15 techniques from any of the above techniques; throws; unarmed vs hand-held weapons; firearm retention; and, firearm disarmament.
Black - any 20 techniques, selected at random by the assessors, from any previously taught; and, more advanced techniques.
There are a total of approximately 250 techniques within the MCMAP, and the techniques build on each other as the Marine progresses through the colored belts. By the time a Marine qualifies for black belt, he is well trained in a range of lethal and non-lethal techniques, and is more than capable of overcoming any physical threat, either with or without weapons. Aside from being tested on the physical techniques for each belt, Marines are examined on such topics as: explain the concept of the leader and the follower; leadership styles; mentoring; maneuver ware fare; decision making; USMC values and beliefs; and ethical leadership.
One particular aspect that is emphasized throughout MCMAP is the mental development of a combative mindset. The aim of this is to develop and maintain mental focus (together with correct physical technique) when fatigued or under other physical and mental pressures. Different mechanisms that affect combat mindset in the MCMAP are detailed and worth summarizing below:
For most people, the natural response to a combat situation is to flee. However, if you imagine yourself in situation where an individual grievously threatens you or your loved ones, you will most likely find that your reaction will be to remove that threat by whatever means necessary - fight. Unarmed combat, shooting and weapons skills are all aimed at developing the ability to close and enter, taking the fight to the opponent and eliminating them as a threat.
Predatory behavior is usually associated with stalking prey. The predator experiences very little autonomic arousal and is usually extremely focused on his prey, making little or no noise, waiting to exploit the best opportunity. This non-emotive, almost detached state is the ultimate aim for any combatant, but very hard to achieve in practice.
Many martial artists spend years trying to cultivate this mindset, with mixed levels of success. Effective behavior, conversely, includes both overt physical and vocal displays. An individual demonstrating effective behavior experiences physiological changes such as rising arousal levels, adrenaline running through the body, sweating, heart rate increase, and labored breathing as the need for oxygen increases. Effective behavior is difficult to sustain and is an extremely ineffective state to be in for a combative engagement. An excellent explanation of predatory behavior is in the ADF Military Self Defense pamphlet.
To become a MCMAP instructor, a Marine must first complete a three-week instructors course. The instructor trains Marines at the small-unit level and is responsible for teaching up to the belt level he holds, but cannot test to that same level. He teaches the physical techniques, which are the basis of the physical discipline and develops the small unit with character and mental training, which aims to enhance the units cohesion, esprit de corps, and readiness. The minimum requirement for attending the course is to be a grey belt, be corporal or above, have their commander's consent, obtain a first-class pass on their physical-fitness test and be medically screened. The next course, the instructor-trainer, is seven weeks and develops the instructors within a unit. They can then run instructor courses at unit level, and train and test Marines up to black-belt instructor.
To conclude, MCMAP combines the physical disciplines of combat with the leadership and core-values training characteristic of the USMC. What makes this such a complete program is the blend of all three disciplines; all three components are inextricably linked to each other, and to the advancement process within the belt-ranking system. This ensures that, as a Marine develops the physical skills to make him a formidable exponent, he also develops a commensurate level of maturity and self-discipline.
Remember, how you practice is how you perform under pressure, and your mental attitude during such training will become your reality.
About the author: Ian Robertson is a major in the Australian Army who deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 with the US 82nd Airborne Division. An active Military Self Defense Instructor, he also holds black-belt ranks in Shotokan Karate and Bujinkan Ninjutsu. He also passed the examination for his MCMAP black belt while deployed.
Major Robertson would like to thank Corporal 'Leo' Lyons (RAAF ADG), Captain Dana Ogle (MCMAP black belt), Corpral Justin McGee (MCMAP black belt instructor) and Sergeant Lucas Eastman (MCMAP black belt), for assistance in preparing this article.
Keeping secrets in this century is increasingly difficult — just ask the NSA, CIA or any government organization living in the "black ops" world. Given this reality, it is interesting how some police trainers remain convinced that their training is a "secret" that provides an edge against the bad guys. Guarding these "black arts" as national secrets would be laughable were it not for the danger it poses to officers who must live in the real world. They must survive reality, not a video game. The police training community must open its eyes.
The phrase "black arts" came to my attention over 40 years ago, at the beginning of my martial arts training. It was mostly a gimmick that sold classes. Every black belt with a studio held back some super-secret death-dealing technique only "special" people could learn—if they kept paying their dues long enough. Those few making it that far usually found these secret arts rather anti-climactic. Sure, reputable teachers make sure practitioners have the mental and moral strength to use lethal techniques properly before passing them on, but the techniques have been around for a thousand years or more. So these secrets became running myths, tongue-and-cheek jokes among most of us—including those masters who reportedly possessed these secret skills. Relegated mostly to the fantasy world of movies and video games, most true practitioners simply chuckle. So encountering this same mythology in the police world was a bit surprising. Having already trained in several martial arts for 15-plus years before becoming an officer, I just shook my head and laughed.
Unfortunately, little has changed today. Recently, a fellow trainer touted the need to protect the "black arts" from the general public. Why, because it gives officers an edge? It took every ounce of self-control to not break into laughter. I've attended a lot of training courses over the years, and most of the teachers within secret military or LE circles learned the techniques from a civilian. Going as far back as the 1970s, much of the knife training came from Asian martial arts of one form or another. Walter Nishioka, the founder of the International Karate League, brought in current Asian "masters" to teach to our military in the 1950s, so this is not new. Any police trainer who believes what they are teaching should be a secret, unavailable to the public, is living in a fantasy world. Not only are these skills available to the public, including those we must fight, but they probably started there.
Convincing a line officer the hand-to-hand fighting technique or firearms training they learn provides some edge over the general public, including bad guys, is downright lethal. It just makes them more surprised when their adversary is better trained, more practiced and more willing to apply this "secret" training. People today can learn more watching YouTube than many agencies receive in actual training. Several agencies have adopted MMA-style training, something anyone can acquire, and unlike officers, non-LE personnel can train every day. The idea that training in a particular field four times a year provides you some edge is patently ridiculous. Telling officers that "not everyone" has access to their training is a lie—and it sets LEOs up for failure. What we teach is not a secret or special. And you aren't some 16th century samurai incarnate. You are a trainer, so do your job and train your officers.
A lot of firearms training programs around the country are run by "black ops" types who make money passing on their elite skills. Their classes are populated by civilians, often with no background check or vetting other than a valid credit card. And, unlike most officers, they have the best equipment money can by. The same is true for both unarmed and edged-weapons training. Seminars occur daily, and most are open to the public. The reality is simple: Officers remain behind the curve, not in front of it, and nothing we do is secret. Leave the shadow world and enter this one; the advent of the internet and social media has made training free to anyone with a computer. There's no need for a secret instructor in black pajamas. Leave the "black arts" where they belong—in movies and TV shows. Stick to reality. It'll save an officer's life!