Photo Information

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Cpl. Terence D. Hardy, a M1A1 tank crewman with Company B, 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, struggles to maneuver through the obstacle course during his fifth consecutive trip. As part of a four-hour long evaluation known as the final drill, the obstacle course is just one of the many events that tests students of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Course on all the skills they've learned throughout the duration of the course.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Adam Johnston

Marines learn mind over matter with MCMAP

12 Mar 2006 | Lance Cpl. Adam Johnston

Since its launch in October 2000, the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program has been preparing Marines for unarmed combat in a wartime scenario. The whole purpose of the program is to train Marines how to use the most lethal weapon in their arsenal, the mind. But to become more than just a user, to become a Martial Arts Instructor, Marines will need more than brainpower alone to succeed.

MCMAP is an integrated martial art designed for, and executed by, all Marines throughout their careers, according to Marine Corps Order 1500.54B. It is a synergy of mental, character and physical disciplines with application across the full spectrum of violence. In concert with proven Marine Corps leadership, rigorous training in these three disciplines enhances the Marine both on and off the battlefield.

“When Marines first come here, they are usually very surprised at the emphasis placed on the academic portion of the program,” said Sgt. Christopher Beard, the chief instructor trainer of the Martial Arts Instructor Course aboard Camp Geiger. “We generally give two classes each day on issues ranging from sexual harassment to components of wellness.”

Students of the MAIC also learn about Marines who have achieved the Bronze Star or higher for heroism, specifically those who were involved in close combat situations.

“We discuss the Warrior Case Studies because it’s important to learn about the Marines who have gone before us,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jermal Rogers, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the MAIC aboard Camp Geiger. “By studying their experiences, students can get a feel for how important this training really is.”

The course, which is about three weeks long, is conducted from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. Most days begin with a form of physical training known as combat conditioning.

“In war, there is no second place,” said Rogers. “That’s why it’s crucial for these students to be able to consistently execute at a maximum level, regardless of how fatigued they are. Combat conditioning drills, like the fireman’s carry, simulate what Marines will face in a real combat situation.”

After combat conditioning and academics, it’s time for the students to begin the physical portion of the course. Instructors teach the techniques using the Explain, Demonstrate, Imitate and Practice method.

“Each day they’re here, the students are constantly being evaluated,” said Beard. “Our job, as instructor trainers, is to make sure the Marines who complete this course are ready, both mentally and physically. But even if a student passes all the academic and physical requirements, that still doesn’t mean they’ll graduate. We have the authority to drop Marines from the course who we feel aren’t mature enough and lack the character to be an instructor.”

The culmination of the MAIC is a four hour-long event known as the “Final Drill.”  Similar to the Crucible at the end of boot camp, students are constantly moving from station to station with little rest in-between. Events in the “Final Drill” include ground fighting matches, pugel stick bouts and multiple trips through the obstacle course.

“It’s a gut check,” said Beard. “To make it through, you really have to want it; you definitely need heart.”

For those who pass the final test, they will graduate the following day as a Martial Arts Instructor, which is an additional military occupational specialty. As a MAI, Marines are authorized to train other Marines at their current belt level, but can only conduct belt certification tests at one level below their own.

“When I was deployed to Iraq, the biggest thing I noticed was the need for more training in unarmed manipulation,” said Sgt. David McFadden, a machinegunner with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, who recently graduated from the MAIC. “This course taught me the importance of force continuum and how to keep a situation from escalating to an excessive level. I’m going to take what I learned here back to my unit and teach it to my junior Marines.”

To be eligible for the MAIC, students must be a Corporal or above, have a first-class Physical Fitness Test, be Combat Water Survival-2 qualified, be at least a gray belt and have one year or more of active-duty left on their contract.

“If you’re looking for a challenge and the freedom to teach your Marines MCMAP at a moment’s notice, then this course is for you,” said Rogers.

For more information, e-mail Rogers at, or go to the MCMAP website at and click on the Martial Arts link.