Sen. John McCain once famously called MMA “human cockfighting”, but as the sport moves closer to the American mainstream, the U.S. Armed Forces “are using the sport not only as a way to build morale and aid in recruiting, but also as a training aid to enhance the skills of soldiers” writes the New York Times’ Michael Brick.
To rally the troops, military leaders have welcomed professional fighters with names like Ace and the Huntington Beach Bad Boy. The Army has conducted tournaments among soldiers. In an opinion article for Army Times last year, Maj. Kelly Crigger urged commanders to field a team of fighters on television in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the dominant pro league.
œMany of those viewers are eligible recruits, Major Crigger wrote. œThe U.F.C. provides a great venue to get the Army name into the minds of millions of young Americans.
Across the service, the embrace of mixed martial arts has come with some reservations. The sport™s emphasis on solitary glory runs counter to the Army™s recent efforts to shift recruiting themes from individual development (Be All That You Can Be; Army of One) to group unity (Army Strong; Go Army).
But as the sport found its audience on channels aimed at young men, recruiters and drill sergeants soon took notice.
Military officials have sought practical applications. In 2002, the Army published a new field manual section on mixed martial arts techniques. Its author, Matthew C. Larsen, the director of the Modern Army Combatives Program, considered competition a powerful motivator.
œAs long as we™re all about our values and upfront about what the Army stands for, and that™s being warriors, the question is, what kind of warriors? said Mr. Larsen, who served as a young Marine in Tokyo and earned several black belts. œThe game of mixed martial arts is just that, it™s a game. But the game can be training for the real thing.
Mr. Larsen has promoted his program cautiously, acknowledging that too much focus on competition could train soldiers to win competitions, not battles. But the shifting nature of modern warfare, especially as conducted in the cramped corridors of Iraqi homes, has helped make his case.
œThese guys could be in any situation, from a life-and-death battle with a bad guy to trying to subdue a citizen who has Stockholm syndrome, and you don™t even want to hurt that guy, Mr. Larsen said. œBut you™ve got to have all these moves for all those different situations.
Seems to me we’re long overdue for another remake of “From Here To Eternity”. I suggest the feckless Shia LeBouf would be a fine choice to reprise the role of Montgomery Clift’s Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt, refusing to take part in the military’s MMA competitions. Harrassed by his fellow soliders, Prewitt finds sole support from Private Angelo Maggio (with Jared Leto tackling one of Frank Sinatra’s finest dramatic parts).