OKINAWA, Japan –
In the summer of 1945, near the end of World War II, Marines stormed the beaches of Okinawa, which later became known as the bloodiest battle of the Pacific. Marines were ready to survive by all means necessary, which included hand-to-hand combat on the shores of Okinawa.
After World War II, the Marine Corps started to emphasize the importance of hand-to-hand combat, which later developed into the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program we have today. In order to teach MCMAP, Marines must obtain the job title of a Martial Arts Instructor, and the MAI course class 1-15 held true to the Marine Corps past.
Marine Corps Martial Art Instructor Course class 1-15’s culminating event took place Nov. 21 on the beach of Kin Blue, Okinawa, in which it tested what the students have learned during the course.
“One of the big reasons why I wanted to stop here for the culminating event is that we are in Okinawa, Japan,” said SSgt. Rafael Garcialopez. “These beaches here are prestigious to us. Marines who came before us who have fallen on these very beaches is in its self is a great experience for the students.”
Students participating in the class endured a long strenuous day starting with an endurance course and ending with shallow water grappling. The instructors wanted the students to grasp the history behind close quarter combat and Okinawa.
“For them to understand what Marines went through arriving on theses beaches, hitting the shores, running and having that hand-to-hand combat is an incredible realization for them,” said Garcialopez, who is a Chicago, Illinois, native.
The course was run by Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific-Marine Corps Base, Camp Butler, Japan. It was open to all units throughout Okinawa, and also included a Navy Corpsman.
“I came here because when I went to field medical school the MCMAP program was mandatory for every corpsman, but they just recently took it out of the curriculum,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Rogers, a Toccoa, Georgia, native and a corpsman with 3rd Medical Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “I want to give corpsmen an opportunity to practice (MCMAP), and I would like to be the one to teach them.”
MCMAP has been instilled into the Marine Corps since 2001 and has five belt levels ranging from tan belt, which is mandatory for every Marine before completion of recruit training, to gray, green, brown and then black, which is the highest level.
“Once they are instructors they will be qualified to run combat conditioning drills, field exercise drills and deployed drills,” said Garcialopez. “They will be able to go back to their unit and give back what they learned, by making those usual belt levels, whether tan, gray or green go up in the ranks.”
Some of the challenges the Marines encountered was the ability to come together as a team. With the course being open to all units throughout Okinawa, the course was filled with a variety of military occupational specialties giving the students a broader view of the Marine Corps.
Marines from each base on Okinawa were in the class ranging from combative jobs, such as infantrymen, to non-combative jobs, such as administrative Marines, according to Garcialopez. The MAI course brought together all aspects of the Marine Corps emphasizing the importance of a warfighting mindset.
During the duration of the course, the seven instructors are focused on efficiently and effectively teaching the techniques and philosophies behind MCMAP.
“The martial arts instructor course is a three week evolution, said Garcialopez, the chief instructor for the class. “They arrive here understanding the basic fundamentals of Marine Corps Martial Arts. Then from there we make them understand the concept of MCMAP, which embodies the three synergies, which are character, physical and mental discipline.”
After graduating the course, non-commissioned officers will be able to head back to their unit and teach what they have learned during the course. They will wear a tan tab on their MCMAP belt, signifying that they are a MCMAP instructor.
“I’m glad to say we are producing 21 new martial arts instructors, that are going to be able to push out and effectively support their units with the martial arts program as a whole,” said Garcialopez.