JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
I walked into the 2-14 Calvary Squadron’s gym with a confidence my fellow classmates found unsuspecting. After all, I was the only member wearing tiger stripes and gold rank on my collar. And, in all honesty-I loved it.
Although I’m a young Air Force officer at the age of 23, I’ve already heard all the jokes- chair force, desk-jockey, butter bar. So, being a somewhat experienced fighter, I started the Modern Army Combatives Program Level One course at Schofield Barracks ready to prove to my Soldier comrades exactly what an Airman, one who has tenacity and heart, can do.
I wasn’t always interested in martial arts. In fact, growing up, I veered as far away from it as possible. I participated in team sports in high school and got two certifications to teach yoga while I was in college.
Then, as a student in my career field’s technical school, I stepped out of my comfort zone and signed up for a boxing class.
My life changed.
My incredible fear of being hit in the face transformed into an eagerness to learn to defend myself, and then a slight obsession with the true beauty that lays within the art of combatives.
Driven by the desire to learn more, I incorporated more boxing classes into my schedule, and later supplemented them with classes in Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and mixed martial arts. When that wasn’t enough, I looked for ways fighting could fit into my job, a difficult feat for a second lieutenant in public affairs. But alas, a spot opened in the MACP course and I began the exercise of balancing a combination of Air Force desk work and Army war-fighting combatives.
The training consisted of 11 early mornings of striking and grappling with 21 fearless Soldiers from the 2-14 Calvary. We learned that to master the basic fight strategy, one must close the distance and gain dominant body positions. Considering the expert instructions we were given (how to achieve clinches or choke with precision, for example) these tasks weren’t too difficult. The third piece of this strategy was learning how to finish the fight. Again, mastering techniques like arm bars and sweeps to “finish the fight” didn’t seem impossible with repetition and practice. But, upon my reflection of the course as a whole, I took “finish the fight” to mean a little bit more.
How could I learn to apply the skills I was taught as a student of combatives into my life as an Airman? While I had my past fight training to back up the poise and self-assurance I had walking into the Cavalry’s gym, the things I learned from those Soldiers will go unmatched. The unwavering strength of comradery; the brilliance in respect; the humility that comes with perseverance.
I have a lot to learn-about martial arts, about being an officer, about being an Airman. More than anything, it’s all incredibly exciting. The opportunity to delve into new endeavors with newfound perspective comes with the chance to teach and be taught.
I hope to continue to live with the warrior ethos to “finish the fight,” even when my hands aren’t in gloves and my feet aren’t on the mat.
To get involved with the Modern Army Combatives Program, contact a local Army unit near you.