Marine Corps Martial Arts Program

The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) is a combat system developed by the United States Marine Corps to combine existing and new hand-to-hand and close-quarters combat (CQC) techniques with morale and team-building functions and instruction in what the Marine Corps calls the "Warrior Ethos". The program, which began in 2001, trains Marines (and U.S. Navy personnel attached to Marine Units) in unarmed combat, edged weapons, weapons of opportunity, and rifle and bayonet techniques. It also stresses mental and character development, including the responsible use of force, leadership, and teamwork. The MCMAP program has several nicknames, including "semper fu".


The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) was officially created by MCO 1550.54 as a "revolutionary step in the development of martial arts skills for Marines and replaces all other close-combat related systems preceding its introduction." MCMAP comes from an evolution dating back to the creation of the Marine Corps, beginning with the martial abilities of Marine boarding parties, who often had to rely on bayonet and sword techniques. During World War I these bayonet techniques were supplemented with unarmed combat techniques, which often proved useful in trench warfare. After World War I and before World War II, Major Anthony J. Biddle began the creation of standardized bayonet and close combat techniques based on boxing, wrestling, and fencing. Also during this period, Captains W.M. Greene and Samuel B. Griffith learned martial arts techniques from Chinese Marines and brought this knowledge to other Marines throughout the Marine Corps. These different techniques eventually evolved into the LINE System in the early 1980s. Later, the system was found to be lacking in flexibility and techniques for use in situations that did not require lethal force, such as peacekeeping operations. The Marine Corps began searching for a more effective system. The result was the Marine Corps Close Combat training Program implemented in 1997-1999. MCMAP, which was finally implemented as part of the CMC's initiative of the summer of 2000. General Jones assigned LtCol Geaorge Bristol and MGySgt Cardo Urso, with almost 70 years of martial arts experience between them, to establish the MCMAP curriculum to be taught at the Martial arts Center of Excellence (MACE).

Structure & Belt System

The program uses an advancement system of colored belts similar to that of most martial arts. The different levels of belts are:

  • Tan belt, the lowest color belt and conducted during entry level training, signifies the basic understanding of the mental, physical, and character disciplines. It is the minimum requirement of all Marines with a training time of 27.5 hours and has no prerequisites. Recruits receive these belts after completion of the Crucible in Recruit training.
  • Gray belt is the second belt attained after 46 hours of training. It signifies an intermediate understanding of the basic disciplines. The pre-requisites for this belt are as follows: The Marine must complete Fundamentals of Marine Corps Leadership MCI, and most instructors will require a report be completed on The Marine Raiders.
  • Green belt is the third belt, requiring 54.9 hours of training. This belt signifies understanding of the intermediate fundamentals of the different disciplines. This is the first belt level in which one can be a MAI (Martial Arts Instructor) and can teach tan through green techniques with the power to award the appropriate belt. The prerequisites for this belt include a recommendation from reporting senior, rank of LCpl or higher.
  • Brown Belt is the fourth belt level requiring 64.9 hours of training. It introduces Marines to the advanced fundamentals of each discipline. In addition, as with green belts, they may be certified as MAIs and teach tan through green techniques. Prerequisites for this belt include recommendation of reporting senior, rank of Cpl or higher (able to waiver to LCpl), and appropriate PMEs completed for rank (Such as Corporal's Course).
  • Black belt 1st degree is the highest belt color and requires 71.5 hours of training. It signifies knowledge of the advanced fundamentals of the different disciplines. A 1st degree black belt may teach fundamentals from tan to brown belt, and a MAI may award the appropriate belt. In addition, they can also be a MAIT (Martial arts Instructor Trainer) which authorizes them to teach tan through black belt 1st degree and award the appropriate belt. Prerequisites include recommendation of reporting senior, rank of Sgt or above, and appropriate level of PME completed (Such as Sergeant's Course.)

There are an additional 5 degrees of black belt, with several of the same common prerequisites, including recommendation of reporting senior, appropriate level of PME completed, must be a current MAIT. Black belt 2nd degree to 6th degree signify that the holder is an authority in the Marine Corps Martial arts Program. In addition to the above prerequisite, each belt also has its own rank requirements.

  • Black belt 2nd degree requires the rank of Sgt or above.
  • Black belt 3rd degree requires the rank of SSgt or above.
  • Black belt 4th degree requires the rank of GySgt for enlisted and Major for officers or above.
  • Black belt 5th degree requires the rank of MSgt/1stSgt for enlisted and Major for officer and above.
  • Black belt 6th degree requires the rank of MGySgt/SgtMaj for enlisted and LtCol or higher.

Because the belts are worn with the Marine's Utility Uniform, the complete range of belt colors such as red, yellow or purple are excluded as a practical consideration. Once a Marine obtains his grey belt, he can attend additional training to become a martial arts instructor (secondary MOS 8551). MCMAP instructors can train other Marines up to their current belt level, and certify Marines at one level below their current belt level. A green belt instructor can therefore certify others for tan and gray belts, a brown belt instructor can certify tan, gray, and green, etc. The instructor status is signified by one vertical tan stripe on the MCMAP belt. A Marine must have attended at least the Martial arts Instructor (MAI) course to advance beyond first degree black belt. The only one who can train a Marine to be an instructor are black belt Martial arts Instructor-Trainers (MAIT). An MAIT's status is signified by a vertical red stripe on the MCMAP belt and a secondary MOS of 8552. To become an MAIT, a Marine must have already completed a local MAI course. The Marine then attends the MAIT course at the Martial arts Center of Excellence in Quantico, Virginia.

MCMAP techniques can be taught to other services and to foreign military members, and belts awarded to those who complete the course.


"MCMAP is a synergy of mental, character, and physical disciplines with application across the full spectrum of violence." The disciplines are the foundation of the MCMAP system, as it serves a dual purpose. MCMAP was implemented to increase the combat efficiency, as well as to increase the confidence and leadership abilities of Marines. As stated above, the three disciplines of MCMAP are mental, character, and physical. Marines are required to develop the mind, body and spirit simultaneously and equally. Safety is also of importance, so equipment such as mouthguards and pads are used in conjunction with techniques such as half-speed practice and break-falls to prevent injury.

The Commandant of the Marine Corps has recently determined that the disciplines studied in MCMAP are integral to the function of Marines, and had ordered that all Marines will attain a tan belt qualification by the end of 2007. Additionally, all infantry Marines are required to attain a green belt qualification, and other combat arms must qualify for a grey belt by the end of 2008.


Warrior Studies focus on individuals that have shown exemplary service on the battlefield, as well as discussion and analysis of combat citations.
Martial Culture Studies focus on societies that produce warriors either primarily or exclusively. Some of the martial cultures that are studied are the Marine Raiders, Spartans, Zulu and Apache. By studying these cultures, Marines learn fundamental tactics and methods of the past and reconnect themselves with the warrior ethos of the Marine Corps.
Combative Behavior studies interpersonal violence, as well as Rules of Engagement and the Force Continuum (which dictates when and how much force can be used in response to the mission, up to and including lethal force).
For some belts, Professional Military Education (PME) courses are prerequisites.
The development of this discipline also stresses situational awareness, tactical and strategic decision-making, and Operational Risk Management (ORM).


Development of this discipline involves discussion on Marine Corps core values, ethics, and good citizenship. An instructor can fail a marine if he or she feels that the student does not adequately possess honor, courage, and commitment. Some belts also require the approval of the commanding officer before awarded.
The force continuum is discussed, allowing a Marine to responsibly use the minimum amount of force necessary, including lethal force. Leadership qualities are also stressed.


In MCMAP, only a third of the training involves techniques and physical development. The physical discipline includes the training of fighting techniques, strength, and endurance.
This discipline also includes sustainment of skills and techniques already taught, in order to improve skill as well as develop weak-side proficiency. Ground fighting, grappling, pugil bouts, bayonet dummies, and other techniques are used to familiarize Marines with the application of the techniques used. In addition, physical strength and endurance are tested and improved with various techniques that often require teamwork or competition, such as calisthenics, running with full gear, log carries, and boxing matches. Techniques can also be practiced in water or in low-light conditions to simulate combat stress.


The techniques used by MCMAP vary in degrees of lethality, allowing the user to select the most appropriate (usually the least) amount of force. For example, a Marine facing a nonviolent but noncompliant subject can use an unarmed restraint to force compliance with minimal damage and pain. A more aggressive subject could be met with a choke, hold, or a strike. Lethal force can be used on a subject as a last resort. The majority of techniques can be defensive or offensive in use, with or without a weapon; allowing Marines flexibility in combat and operations other than war (such as civil control or humanitarian missions, as well as self-defense).

Tan Belt

The tan belt syllabus focuses on the development of the basics of armed and unarmed combat. Students start with the Basic Warrior Stance and break-falls are taught for safety, then move to:

  • basic punches, uppercuts, and hooks
  • basic upper-body strikes, including the eye gouge, hammer fists, and elbow strikes
  • basic lower-body strikes, including kicks, knee strikes, and stomps
  • bayonet techniques
  • basic chokes and throws
  • counters to strikes, chokes, and holds
  • basic unarmed restraints and armed manipulations
  • basic knife techniques
  • basic weapons of opportunity

Students must prove proficiency with 70% of 50 techniques to pass and earn their belt. The tan belt syllabus is part of the boot camp curriculum.

Grey Belt

The grey belt syllabus expands on the basic techniques with:

  • intermediate bayonet techniques
  • intermediate upper-body strikes including knife-hands (karate chops) and elbow strikes
  • intermediate lower-body strikes including kicks, knee strikes, and stomps
  • intermediate chokes and throws
  • counters to strikes, chokes, and holds
  • intermediate unarmed restraints and armed manipulations
  • intermediate knife techniques
  • basic ground fighting
  • basic nonlethal baton techniques
  • intermediate weapons on opportunity

Green Belt

The Green belt technique shifts focus from defensive to offensive techniques with:

  • intermediate bayonet techniques
  • muscle gouging
  • intermediate chokes and throws
  • counters to strikes
  • intermediate unarmed manipulation
  • intermediate ground fighting
  • intermediate nonlethal baton techniques
  • advanced weapons of opportunity

Brown Belt

  • advanced bayonet techniques
  • advanced ground fighting and chokes
  • advanced throws
  • unarmed vs. hand held weapons
  • firearm retention
  • firearm disarmament
  • advanced knife techniques
  • advanced nonlethal baton techniques

Black Belt 1st Degree

  • advanced bayonet techniques
  • advanced chokes, holds, and throws
  • advanced ground fighting
  • basic counter firearm techniques
  • advanced upper-body strikes, including strikes and smashes
  • advanced knife techniques
  • pressure points
  • improvised weapons

Black Belt 2nd Degree

  • rifle vs. rifle
  • short weapon vs. rifle
  • unarmed vs. rifle


External links

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