I can't really say that I can recall an instance where -- at least during my watch and probably, you know, months leading up to my watch -- that a service member had been required to use combatives. So their hand-to-hand training, I mean, it is -- it is there if needed.... you know, a unit that conducts combative training, they kind of go into the training knowing that they're going to have some soldiers injured -- and, you know, hopefully not seriously injured, but someone that's going to probably miss some training hours within the next, you know, few days because of sprain, pulls or things like that.If the intent is to increase confidence and avoid crippling injuries, the program must be considered a success. One area where it has really boosted confidence is for female soldiers, because there is no separation in competitive class by sex. There is separation by weight, so women don't end up fighting men who are much larger than they are, but that is all.
And that comes from, you know, it comes from a number of things, but mostly from just working something that you haven't worked in a while, or not learning how to fall, because we've got to teach you how to fall before you start doing flips and kicks. So yes there is a concern about the loss of training time due to injuries sustained doing combative training.
Several women who fought in this year's tournament were interviewed by Sports Illustrated, and talk about their experiences and thoughts on the issue of men and women in combat, and in combatives. It makes for interesting reading given our occasional discussion of the issues. The women seem to be strong advocates of not dividing the sport by sex, and appear to be commonly more put-off by men who won't fight them equally hard than by men who try to beat them down. Yet -- SI says "perhaps because of" their experience fighting men in their weight class -- they aren't interested in joining the infantry.
Perhaps because of their fighting experience, female competitors express nuanced views on the roles of women in combat. "If we can meet the demands, if there's absolutely no changing the standards, there shouldn't be an issue," Carlson says. "Do I see myself breaking down that barrier? No, I don't."De Santis is right about the body type difference. With weight equalized, more of the male body will be muscle and bone. That's something that she's had to come up against directly. I wonder what answer they would get if they asked the men who fought these women the same question.
De Santis, who finished her five-year service with the Marines last January and is pursuing a professional MMA career, says her experiences as an instructor make her hesitant to advocate placing women on the front lines with the Marine Corps. No woman had been able to complete a specialized, seven-week, hand-to-hand combat course at the Martial Arts Center for Excellence. "I'm a female fighter and I'm all about female rights but I've pushed myself to my limits and beyond," she says, "But [men and women], physically, they are two different body types. To offer up, to force females into that [combat] field, isn't a good idea. But on a positive note, I see it progressing. I see more women trying to focus and learn in the mixed martial arts."
I've taught women martial arts -- not sport stuff, but killing stuff -- and trained with female students while learning new arts myself. I am neither one of those who won't hit them, nor one who tries to crush them. I think you owe it to your training partner to give them the full benefit of the training, but we didn't break out by weight, either, so some restraint was necessary to avoid gratuitous injury. I try to give them as much as they can handle and a little more, so they get the full benefit of the training, but aren't forced out of the program by injury and remain encouraged to continue.
All the same, I don't think you can argue with this statement from Staff Sergeant Spottedbear, a female drill instructor:
"Imagine what it's like whenever a female gets in the arena with a man and she starts to lose," says Larsen. "It's a fight. He's on top of her, punching her in the face. You have to be hardened to the idea -- you have to really believe -- that women can be treated equally to be able to put up with that. To accept that as the cost of equality."I have to admit that I've never punched a woman in the face or the head, but that's part of the restraint issue given the weight and muscle differential. You can really hurt someone that way. I have struck women in the head with training swords, though, because the fencing mask is adequate protection.
I have punched other men in the head, and it's really satisfying when you land a good blow and they roll on the floor. I have to admit that I don't think I'd enjoy it if it were a woman I'd just hit. My commitment to equality, I suppose, doesn't go as far as equally enjoying punching them!