CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan – After three rigorous weeks of obstacle course line-drills, aquatic training, and countless hours of free sparring, six Marines earned their instructor tab signifying they are now Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instructors.
Marines prepared to embark on the course with a common goal in mind to become MCMAP instructors. As the course took its toll on the martial arts instructor hopefuls, the number of Marines with that goal diminished.
“This course is not for everybody, you have to come with a 100% mindset that you want to be an instructor and start realizing that you are doing something bigger than yourself,” said Sgt. Rishab Kohli, the lead martial arts instructor trainer with 12th Marine Regiment.
According to Kohli, many Marines start the course expecting to walk away with a shirt and tab on their belt.
Before they do, they have to earn it.
When some Marines start the course they start to think it isn’t worth it.
“It is truly a challenge for them,” said Kohli, who instructed Marines from Marine Corps Installations Pacific-Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler. “The physical discipline, the knowledge, the tests and everything they go through. That is where we start to lose our numbers. That’s just the nature of the course. It produces the highest quality martial arts instructors.”
Marines on the first day of the course only get a taste of what is to come for the remaining 15. They must complete and achieve a first class score on both the Marine Corps physical fitness test and combat fitness test, followed by combat conditioning.
“It was pretty rough,” said Sgt. Luis Rodriguez III, class 205-19 commander and platoon sergeant for service company, 7th Communications Battalion. “I was not expecting to jump right into it. I thought we were going to get some time off, but the instructor trainers did not hold back.”
The course is split up into three weeks. One week for a review of each belt; tan, grey and green, according to Kohli.
Week one entailed class work, and hours combat conditioning and physical training. The students’ received hands-on training about warrior ethos, martial culture studies and how to teach MCMAP techniques.
As the second week began, the students were placed into roles to become the teachers. The Marines mastered teaching tan through green belt techniques. They were evaluated on their ability to teach and demonstrate the individual techniques, all while the physical training only intensified.
“We teach the students how to instruct through our instructor methodology E.D.I.P., which is explain, demonstrate, imitate and practice,” said Sgt. Logan Bowes, one of the martial arts instructor trainers with MAI course 205-19 and a network administrator with the Communication Training Center, Camp Hansen. “That is how MAIs teach martial arts techniques. They teach their students tie-ins, case studies and martial culture studies using that same methodology.”
In their final week the students completed their classroom work, according to Bowes. The students are outside for the majority of their time and physical training is at its peak.
If the students make it this far, they will do anything to finish out the course, explained Bowes. The Marines conquered the obstacle course, the pool, the endurance course, grueling combat conditioning and final testing.
“Someone is always going to be better than you at something,” said Bowes. “We teach our students to always help out their buddies, so they finish together, as a team.”
On the last training day, the students took everything they learned over the past three weeks and put it to the test in the culminating event.
The Marines began before sunrise, running the three-mile endurance course on Camp Hansen. The course can be challenging for even the most experienced Marine, offering obstacles like ascending and descending hills, crossing through muddy water and maneuvering through thick jungle. The course is designed to test the individuals’ abilities and teamwork.
Marines of MAI course 205-19 conducted exercises, grappling and open-ended discussions on how the workout can be applied to real-world scenarios.
Upon completion of the endurance course, the Marines geared up with rubber rifles, flak jackets, kevlars and their packs to begin a perimeter run on Camp Hansen while frequently conducting strength exercises.
Physically exhausted from the run, Marines were lead to the pool where they conducted aquatic workouts before the final test.
For the final test, Marines completed the Marine Corps obstacle course finishing with a climb to the top of the rope to retrieve their new martial arts belts, complimented with the new tab they earned.
The “Gung Ho” award was awarded to the Marine who demonstrates mental, physical and character discipline throughout the course.
Rodriguez, the recipient of the award, said he could not believe he made it through the course.
“The whole course was very intense,” said Rodriguez. “After day one, I was like ‘Man, I got 14 more days of this,’ I just took it day by day. There was never a point where I thought I made it. I knew I had to survive and get through the day to make it to the next. That’s the mentality I had every day.”
A couple hours later the six new Marine Corps martial arts instructors stood and graduated together. MAI course 205-19, is a testament to the challenges that the course has to offer and what it stands for.
“Those six never quit,” said Gunnery Sgt. John Trickler, a 3rd degree black belt in the MCMAP, one of the instructor trainers for the course and a faculty advisor at the Staff Noncommissioned Officers Academy on Camp Hansen. “No matter what it was, no matter how hard the objective, no matter how many hours they spent studying, they never quit. When it comes down to the others, the martial arts program is not for everybody.”