MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- A gust of wind whips over the field creating a cloud of sand that dusts the helmets of the Marines training nearby. A seemingly agile Marine can be seen using his hardened fists to throw punches in front of a group of Marines looking on. Another strong breeze burst through the air lifting up the demonstrator’s sweatshirt revealing a thick, brown belt.
Sergeant Timothy D. Dankemeyer, chief martial arts instructor at 2d Transportation Support Battalion, 2d Force Service Support Group has been training in various types of martial arts from the age of five.
He has trained himself in several arts including Tae Kwon Do, Muay Tai and Jeet Kune Do.
“Tae Kwon Do is a very modern martial art from Korea that is known for its fast, high and spinning kicks,” said Dankemeyer. “Muay Thai, on the other hand, is very intense and incorporates head blows, brutal knee strikes and various deadly elbow strikes. Muay Thai is an extremely lethal art.”
All of this training prepared him to be a more efficient and well-rounded fighter. After graduating high school, he decided to test himself at a higher level.
“Once I turned 18, I started competing in full-contact fighting. I participated in No Holds Barred for a while. No Holds Barred is considered to be a mixed martial art,” he said.
Mixed Martial Arts is a general term that can describe any event or style that combines martial arts. The terms NHB and Vale Tudo mostly apply to a type of training, fighting or event in which there is striking allowed and there are less rules than in standard MMA. NHB is simply a term referring to no rules or “holds” being illegal. “Vale Tudo” on the other hand is a Portuguese term that translates to English meaning, “Anything Goes.”
The discipline Dankemeyer instilled in himself through years of martial arts training helped prepare himself for the journey he was about to embark on in the Marine Corps.
Dankemeyer worked in concrete construction before enlisting in the Marine Corps July 1997 at the age of 18.
After boot camp Dankemeyer attended motor transportation school at Fort Leonardwood, Mo., where he become a truck driver.
Dankemeyer continued to compete in fights while deployed overseas.
“I fought in the Fight Club in Okinawa,” he said. “Although, with all my years fighting in competitions, I’ve only had two broken ribs and I broke my nose twice.”
During Dankemeyer’s second enlistment in December 2000, he was transferred here and assumed a secondary assignment as a Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor.
For three years, Dankemeyer has been a brown belt instructor for 2d Transportation Support Battalion.
Dankemeyer, along with sergeants Chad Lachance and Cary Ballard and Cpl. Timothy Nolte, all of whom are green belt instructors, employ themselves by honing Marines fighting skills.
Working with groups of 10 to 20, Dankemeyer and the other instructors train and certify students through the second belt level, or gray belt.
Dankemeyer and the other instructors are able to train and test students up through gray belt. Dankemeyer said, the Marines learn so many different techniques in the duration of the entire MCMAP program, that being able to retain all of them in a real-life situation is unlikely, but he added, “I would rather master five techniques, than learn 30 techniques I can’t do.”
The belt system for MCMAP begins with the tan belt, and moves through gray, green, brown and black, which has six degrees.
Once a Marine sergeant attains his green belt, he is eligible to become a black belt instructor trainer. Marines at this level can train and test any Marine, for any preceding belt, said Dankemeyer.
Dankemeyer believes in preparing his students for reality.
“As an instructor I want them to understand the MCMAP syllabus, but once they do you can start taking them into ‘what if…?’ situations,” he said.
The more techniques you know, the better fighter you become, claims Dankemeyer. “It’s all about aggression and not hesitating. You hesitate, you die,” he said. “All in all I think, with a lot of patience and practice it will prove to be very beneficial.”
Overall, the amount of patience and discipline Dankemeyer instilled in himself since the age of five prepared him for the many tasks the Marine Corps has asked of him, and prepared him for any situation he may be faced with in the future.
The leaves on the trees still blow strong as the Marines finish up training for the day. They remove their flak jackets and helmets, and wiped the hard earned sweat from their brow. They brush the sand from their knees and the blood from their elbows as they return to their homes to recover from the first of five, seven-hour days of training.