Monday, October 29, 2012

It's Kind Of A Big Deal

   Gilbert is in the bottom row, far right
   I am one proud wife! Last Friday my husband got his third stripe. Most people don't really know what this means. They don't understand the blood, sweat, and tuna fish that went into this.
   The Marines have their own style of martial arts, MCMAP (pronounced mic-map). MCMAP was started by the continental marines in the 1700's. It developed and evolved since then. Along with physical combat skills Marines are taught moral and ethical values, coping mechanisms and self control.
   It's not like other types martial arts. It's not for exercise, mediation or sport. It's not even like boxing or MMA. Both are brutal, but they have rules, and the ultimate goal it to knock out or tap out your opponent. In MCMAP the ultimate goal is to take out your opponent as brutally and efficiently is possible, so that they don't get back up. It is to kill.
   This point was made obvious to me years ago when Gilbert and I were laying in bed talking about the course he was going through. I asked him how I should defend myself if someone broke into the house while I was sleeping. He climbed onto me and showed me how to break a choke hold. Cool. But he wasn't done.
   "Then swing your arm under here, and if you have a knife stab here, while you push him off. Then you can mount him and stab him in the neck."
   I was shocked into silence. I was expecting some female empowering thing were I yell "STOP" while defending myself long enough to get away and call for help. But that wasn't the reason my husband was learning this stuff. He's doing it because if he is ever in a situation that he needs to use it, it's not going to be because of a break in. He'll be doing it because he is fighting to stay alive.

Now that you are slightly horrified, let me explain the process. Just like in karate, MCMAP has different levels, identified by belts. Marines graduate basic training with tan belts. After that they take courses to "upgrade".

   The order of the belts is on the left. On the right the ones with the snazzy tan strips are for instructors. The coveted red stripes are for instructor trainers.
   To upgrade a Marine has to attend an upgrade course. From a purely logistical standpoint these are a nightmare to plan. Marines have to take these courses in conjunction with their normal duties. So find a time when the instructor, and a large enough class are free, and then getting cleared to do it by your unit can take months. It's like waiting for the stars to align.
   Each belt has different skills and moves to learn. Fighting multiple opponents, disarming and using the opponents weapons, killing moves vs. capture and containment. There are also lectures and warrior studies (essays on people, cultures, battles...).

   And each belt level has a certain amount of hours that need to be completed doing MCMAP work. To go from a tan to gray belt it is a minimum of 25 hours. For the higher level belts it is up to 300 hours. These courses are not easy. In the last course Gilbert ran (meaning he was the instructor) he led his Marines on a five mile hump (hike) with a 30 pound ammo can, and a huge jug of water in his pack. That was just the warm up. After that they started the actual training. The point of this was to get then used to fighting when they are already exhausted. In most combat situations they are not going to be fresh as a daisy.

   They learn to fight in mud, water, sand and any other place you can imagine.

   That's just the training to get a belt upgrade. To become an instructor they have to go to a special 3 week school. And to become and IT (Instructor Trainer) they go to Quantico, Virginia and attend an arduous 2 month course. I say arduous because when Gilbert went he called and told me about a guy who got a compound fracture on his leg, on the second day! By the time he was done Gilbert had lost around 10 pounds (he only weighs a buck sixty-three normally) had tendinitis in both arms and legs, blackened both of his eyes, partially torn a ligament in his forearm, and been stabbed by a stick. Not to mention bumps, bruises and muscle fatigue. 

      He was telling me that to upgrade to third degree black belt one afternoon he had to take don his partner 180 times. Then his partner had to turn around and do the same thing to him. Can you imagine getting knocked on your ass 180 time in one afternoon? No wonder he can come home and eat ice cream with brownies, fudge, caramel, and whip cream. And sprinkles. While maintaining like zero percent body fat. Bastard.
   There are around 200,000 men and women in the Marine Corps. Out of those 200,000 less then 20 carry those three red stripes. And Gilbert is one of them.
   I can't properly express how proud I am of him. How in awe I am of his achievements. Good job Devil Dog. Your girls miss you! Only 53 more days until we see you again!


  1. Hello,

    I have a quick question about your blog, do you think you could email me?

    I look forward to hearing from you,