From the ancient Spartan hoplites to the modern Special Forces, martial arts have always played an integral role in military training.
At its core, military training is about preparing soldiers for the physical and psychological challenges of combat.
It’s about instilling discipline, enhancing physical capabilities, and providing soldiers with the tools they need to protect themselves and their comrades in the field.
Martial arts fit perfectly into this remit.
The various styles of martial arts around the world, with their different philosophies and techniques, offer a broad range of skills and mindsets that can be crucial in a military context.
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How Martial Arts Contribute to Discipline, Fitness, Self-Defense, and Combat Readiness
Discipline is a fundamental aspect of martial arts.
Training in any martial art involves learning to control one’s actions, emotions, and reactions.
This translates directly to military discipline, where following orders precisely and quickly is essential for the safety and effectiveness of the unit.
Martial arts also contribute significantly to physical fitness.
They enhance strength, flexibility, endurance, and coordination.
These are all vital physical attributes for soldiers, who might have to endure long marches, carry heavy equipment, or engage in close-quarters combat.
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In terms of self-defense, martial arts provide a range of techniques for protecting oneself from harm.
These can be particularly useful in situations where soldiers are unarmed or in close combat scenarios.
Techniques can range from strikes, grapples, and throws, to the disarmament of opponents, all skills that can save lives on the battlefield.
Finally, martial arts can play a key role in combat readiness.
They train individuals to stay calm and focused under pressure, to anticipate the moves of an opponent, and to react swiftly and decisively when attacked.
This mentality, often referred to as the ‘warrior mindset’, is invaluable in preparing soldiers for the realities of combat.
In the following sections, we will explore some of the most effective martial arts for military training, including their origins, philosophies, and how they contribute to making a soldier combat-ready.
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7 Best Martial Arts for Military Training
Here are 7 of the best martial arts used for military training.
- Krav Maga
- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
- Muay Thai
Let’s take a deeper look into these 7 martial arts and why they are good for military training.
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Krav Maga, which translates to “contact combat” in Hebrew, is a hybrid martial art developed in the 1930s and 40s by Imi Lichtenfeld, a Slovakian-born Israeli martial artist.
He designed Krav Maga to be practical and easy to learn, combining elements of boxing, wrestling, judo, and street fighting.
The philosophy behind Krav Maga is focused on real-world self-defense, emphasizing aggression, speed, and simplicity in techniques to neutralize threats quickly and effectively.
Why Krav Maga is Suitable for Military Training
Krav Maga’s practicality and emphasis on real-world scenarios make it particularly suitable for military training.
Here are a few reasons why:
Krav Maga teaches techniques that are easy to learn and execute, even for those without prior martial arts experience.
This means soldiers can quickly develop proficiency in self-defense and hand-to-hand combat.
Krav Maga encourages adaptability, teaching soldiers to use their environment and available tools to their advantage.
This mindset is crucial in the unpredictable circumstances of military operations.
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Krav Maga emphasizes aggression and decisive action, which can be essential in high-pressure combat situations.
This mindset enables soldiers to overcome hesitation and act quickly to neutralize threats.
Focus on self-defense
Krav Maga’s primary focus is self-defense, which is highly relevant to military personnel who may find themselves in close combat situations or unarmed confrontations.
Real-Life Examples of Militaries Using Krav Maga
There are a few examples of when they use Krav Maga in real-life situations.
Here are some examples of when they use Krav Maga:
Israel Defense Forces (IDF)
Krav Maga has been an integral part of the IDF’s training since its inception.
It is used to train soldiers in hand-to-hand combat, self-defense, and weapon-disarming techniques.
Various branches of the US military, including the Army, Navy SEALs, and Marine Corps, have incorporated Krav Maga into their training programs to enhance close-quarters combat skills.
Many European militaries, such as those of the UK, France, and Germany, have also integrated Krav Maga into their training regimens, recognizing its practicality and effectiveness in real-world combat situations.
Overall, Krav Maga’s focus on real-world self-defense, simplicity, and adaptability make it an ideal martial art for military training.
Its adoption by various militaries around the world is a testament to its effectiveness and relevance in preparing soldiers for the rigors of combat.
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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, commonly known as BJJ, is a martial art that emerged in the early 20th century in Brazil.
Derived from Kodokan Judo ground fighting and Japanese Jujutsu, BJJ was developed by Carlos and Helio Gracie.
Its philosophy revolves around the concept that a smaller, weaker person can effectively defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using leverage and proper technique, specifically by applying joint locks and chokeholds to defeat the opponent.
Why BJJ is Beneficial for Military Training
Several factors make BJJ an attractive choice for military training:
Combat scenarios often lead to ground fighting, and BJJ is a dominant martial art when it comes to groundwork.
It teaches various techniques to control, submit, or escape an opponent on the ground, making it a practical choice for military personnel.
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Leverage and Technique
BJJ’s emphasis on technique and leverage over raw strength aligns well with the military’s need to train soldiers of varying sizes and physical abilities.
Soldiers trained in BJJ learn to use their opponent’s strength and momentum against them.
Discipline and Strategy
BJJ is often likened to a physical “game of chess,” because it requires strategic thinking and foresight.
This mental aspect can help soldiers develop patience, discipline, and tactical thinking.
Fitness and Endurance
BJJ is a physically demanding martial art that significantly improves fitness, flexibility, and endurance—attributes essential to any soldier.
Real-Life Examples of Militaries Using BJJ
The US Army Combatives Program, which aims to train soldiers in hand-to-hand combat, has incorporated BJJ into its training curriculum.
The US Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) also includes BJJ techniques in its training.
The UK military has recognized the benefits of BJJ and incorporated it into their close combat training.
The Royal Marines, in particular, have utilized BJJ techniques in their martial arts program.
Naturally, the Brazilian military integrates BJJ into their training, given the martial art’s roots and popularity in the country.
In summary, BJJ’s focus on ground combat, strategic thinking, and its principle of utilizing leverage and technique over brute strength make it a valuable addition to military training regimes.
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Systema (Russian Martial Art)
Systema, meaning “The System,” is a Russian martial art that traces its roots back to the 10th century.
It was primarily used by the Russian military forces, especially the Spetsnaz, the special forces group of the Russian army.
Systema encompasses more than just combat; it’s a comprehensive system that includes physical conditioning, survival skills, and spiritual practices.
Its philosophy revolves around four main principles: relaxation, proper breathing, correct body positioning, and fluid movements.
Why Systema is Suited for Military Training
Systema’s unique approach to combat makes it an excellent choice for military training.
Systema isn’t confined to a set of predefined movements or techniques.
Instead, it emphasizes adaptability and creativity, training soldiers to react effectively to any situation they might encounter.
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Systema includes aspects of combat training, physical conditioning, and survival skills.
This comprehensive approach aligns well with the multifaceted nature of military training.
Emphasis on Breathing and Relaxation
Systema teaches soldiers to control their breathing and remain relaxed during combat, reducing panic and promoting clear decision-making under pressure.
Unarmed and Armed Combat
Systema includes training in both unarmed combat and the use of weapons, making it highly relevant for military training.
Real-Life Examples of Militaries Using Systema
Systema has been a part of Russian military training for centuries.
The Spetsnaz, Russian special forces, are known for their use of Systema in their rigorous training and combat operations.
Other Eastern European Countries
Owing to historical ties and geographical proximity, several other Eastern European countries have also adopted Systema in their military training regimes.
In conclusion, Systema’s adaptability, comprehensive approach, and emphasis on relaxation and proper breathing make it a highly effective martial art for military training.
Its longstanding use by the Russian military attests to its practicality and effectiveness in real-world combat situations.
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Muay Thai, also known as “The Art of Eight Limbs,” is a martial art that originated in Thailand during the medieval period as a form of close-combat warfare.
Muay Thai utilizes the body to mimic the weapons of war.
The hands act as the sword and dagger; the shins and forearms are trained to be hard as armor.
The elbow to fell opponents like a hammer, and the legs and knees are the axe and staff.
The philosophy of Muay Thai revolves around physical preparation, mental discipline, and a deeply spiritual element tied to its Buddhist origins.
Why Muay Thai is Suitable for Military Training
Muay Thai’s unique characteristics make it beneficial for military training.
Here are some examples of the benefits:
Muay Thai uses a wide array of techniques involving fists, elbows, knees, and shins, making it a comprehensive striking art.
This versatility in attack methods can equip soldiers with a broad range of combat skills.
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The intense physical conditioning required in Muay Thai is ideal for building the strength, agility, and endurance needed by soldiers.
The rigorous training, discipline, and focus required in Muay Thai can contribute to the mental resilience needed in military operations.
The striking and clinching techniques in Muay Thai are effective for self-defense, which can be crucial for soldiers in close combat scenarios.
Real-Life Examples of Militaries Using Muay Thai
Given its origin, Muay Thai is extensively used in the Thai military for close combat training and physical conditioning.
The U.S. Army’s Modern Army Combatives Program, which teaches hand-to-hand combat as part of basic training, includes techniques derived from Muay Thai.
Due to the effectiveness of Muay Thai in close combat situations, it has been adopted in the military training regimens of various countries, including Israel and Brazil.
In summary, Muay Thai’s emphasis on a wide array of striking techniques, physical conditioning, and mental discipline makes it an excellent choice for military training.
Its use by various militaries around the globe is a testament to its effectiveness in preparing soldiers for the demands of combat.
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Judo, meaning “gentle way,” is a Japanese martial art founded by Jigoro Kano in 1882.
It evolved from the ancient martial art of Jujitsu and is based on the philosophy of using an opponent’s strength against them.
Judo involves throws, pins, joint locks, and chokes, with an emphasis on safety and full physical activity for top conditioning.
Why Judo is Beneficial for Military Training
Several aspects of Judo make it beneficial for military training.
Let’s take a look at some examples of these benefits:
Throws and Grappling
Judo’s focus on throws and grappling is highly effective for self-defense and disarming opponents, particularly in close combat situations that military personnel may encounter.
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Physical and Mental Conditioning
Judo training improves physical strength, flexibility, and endurance, as well as mental resilience and discipline—all crucial attributes for soldiers.
Use of Opponent’s Strength
The underlying principle of Judo—using an opponent’s strength against them—can be particularly useful in scenarios where a soldier might be facing an adversary who is physically larger or stronger.
Emphasis on Safety
Judo’s focus on safety and avoiding injury is beneficial in the military context, where the preservation of a soldier’s health and combat readiness is of paramount importance.
Real-Life Examples of Militaries Using Judo
As the birthplace of Judo, Japan incorporates this martial art into the training regimen of its Self-Defense Forces.
The French Foreign Legion, renowned for its rigorous physical training, includes Judo in its martial arts curriculum.
Various branches of the U.S. military, such as the Marine Corps, have incorporated Judo into their martial arts programs.
Russian special forces (Spetsnaz) also incorporate Judo techniques into their hand-to-hand combat training.
In conclusion, Judo’s focus on throws and grappling, physical and mental conditioning, and its principle of using an opponent’s strength against them make it a valuable addition to military training programs.
Its use by militaries worldwide demonstrates its effectiveness and practicality in a combat setting.
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Sambo is a Russian martial art and combat sport that originated in the early 1920s by the Soviet Red Army to improve their hand-to-hand combat abilities.
It was developed by combining Judo and wrestling techniques with traditional folk styles of wrestling such as Armenian Koch, Georgian Chidaoba, and others.
Sambo is an acronym for “SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya,” which translates as “self-defense without weapons.”
The philosophy of Sambo revolves around the quick neutralization of threats without the use of weapons.
Why Sambo is Suitable for Military Training
Several aspects of Sambo make it suitable for military training.
Here are the suitable aspects:
Sambo includes a wide range of techniques, including throws, strikes, and groundwork, making it a versatile choice for combat training.
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Sambo teaches techniques for disarming opponents, a valuable skill in military situations.
Sambo encourages adaptability and improvisation, training soldiers to react effectively to the unpredictable nature of combat scenarios.
Fitness and Endurance
The physical demands of Sambo training improve overall fitness, flexibility, and endurance, which are vital for soldiers.
Real-Life Examples of Militaries Using Sambo
As the origin of Sambo, it’s extensively used in the Russian military and special forces training. The Spetsnaz, in particular, are known for their use of Sambo techniques.
Former Soviet Republics
Many countries that were once part of the Soviet Union, such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan, continue to use Sambo as part of their military training.
Elements of Sambo have been incorporated into the training regimes of various U.S. special forces units, recognizing its effectiveness in real-world combat situations.
In summary, Sambo’s emphasis on versatility, weapon disarming, adaptability, and physical conditioning makes it an ideal martial art for military training.
Its use by various militaries, especially those of Russia and former Soviet republics, testifies to its practicality and effectiveness in preparing soldiers for combat.
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We’ve explored a variety of martial arts—Krav Maga, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Systema, Muay Thai, Judo, Boxing, and Sambo—that have been effectively integrated into military training across the globe.
Each of these disciplines offers unique techniques and philosophies that can enhance a soldier’s combat readiness, physical conditioning, discipline, and tactical thinking.
From Krav Maga’s focus on practical self-defense and aggressive counter-attacks, BJJ’s ground-fighting emphasis, Systema’s adaptability and comprehensive approach, to the striking techniques of Muay Thai, the throws and grappling of Judo, the hand-to-hand combat skills from Boxing, and the versatile techniques of Sambo, each martial art brings a unique set of skills to the table.
Encouragement for Further Research and Personal Exploration of These Martial Arts
If you’re a service member, a future recruit, or simply someone interested in martial arts, we encourage you to explore these disciplines further.
Engaging with these martial arts can not only enhance your combat skills but also provide a range of physical and mental benefits.
Many of these arts have civilian schools and classes available, providing an opportunity to experience their benefits firsthand.
Final Thoughts on the Importance of Martial Arts in Military Training
In conclusion, the integration of martial arts into military training has a multitude of benefits that extend beyond simple combat effectiveness.
Martial arts foster discipline, mental fortitude, physical fitness, and tactical thinking—skills that are invaluable to any military personnel.
Moreover, they prepare soldiers to be adaptable and effective in the face of unpredictable combat scenarios.
The continued use of these martial arts in militaries around the world serves as a testament to their enduring relevance and effectiveness.
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