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Marines Hone Mental, Moral, and Physical Capabilities
by U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Mitchell Austin and Staff Sgt. Jessika Braden
January 11, 2022

Each morning during the winter holiday season, before the sun peaked through the mountainous horizon, the air filled with the sounds of Marines trotting along a seaward road during their Marine Corps Martial Arts Program belt advancement course.

Combat conditioning is just one of the many pillars of MCMAP. For over 20 years, MCMAP has helped develop each Marine’s warrior mindset and team-based skills so that they are always ready for any emergency or crisis.

Over 30 Marines at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, spent their end-of-year off-time conducting belt sustainment training and learning advanced martial arts techniques such as blocks, strikes, and takedowns in an effort to earn their next belt class. With each lesson, Marines collectively discussed the warrior ethos, combat leadership traits and principles, as well as mental and physical discipline.

U.S. Marines spar during a Marine Corps Martial Arts Program belt achievement event at MCAS, Japan, Dec. 17. 2021. A belt achievement event is a series of obstacles and challenges that students must overcome, using teamwork and recently acquired knowledge, in order to receive their new belts from their instructors. MCMAP is designed to improve the warfighting capabilities of individual Marines and units, enhance Marines' esprit de corps, and foster the warrior ethos in the Corps. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mitchell Austin)
U.S. Marines spar during a Marine Corps Martial Arts Program belt achievement event at MCAS, Japan, Dec. 17. 2021. A belt achievement event is a series of obstacles and challenges that students must overcome, using teamwork and recently acquired knowledge, in order to receive their new belts from their instructors. MCMAP is designed to improve the warfighting capabilities of individual Marines and units, enhance Marines' esprit de corps, and foster the warrior ethos in the Corps. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mitchell Austin)

“It’s important for Marines to train in MCMAP for the simple fact that they will come out of each advancement with a more courageous, independent, motivated mindset,” said Sgt. Cristian Bestul, a martial arts instructor with Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron. “MCMAP aims to strengthen the mental and moral resiliency of individual Marines through realistic combative training.”

Every Marine’s introduction to MCMAP occurs at their respective basic training school -- The Basic School for officers, and recruit training for enlisted Marines -- where they receive their very first MCMAP belt. The program uses a system of colored belts similar to that of most martial arts systems. From tan, Marines advance onward to grey, green, brown, and black belts while at their permanent duty station or on deployments. With each advancement comes new challenges.

“MCMAP is an immersive way to prepare Marines for close combat scenarios,” said Sgt Samuel Bilbey, a Martial Arts Instructor with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121. “It provides a basic foundation to fight anyone with or without a background in martial arts.”

Before earning their respective MCMAP belts, the MCAS Iwakuni Marines completed a belt achievement event designed to push their mental, physical, and emotional limits through a series of obstacles, technique executions, and team building scenarios.

A U.S. Marine climbs over an obstacle during a Marine Corps Martial Arts Program belt achievement event at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Dec. 17. 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mitchell Austin)
A U.S. Marine climbs over an obstacle during a Marine Corps Martial Arts Program belt achievement event at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Dec. 17. 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mitchell Austin)

“MCMAP will always be essential,” said Bilbey. “It is an honor and a pleasure training Marines through an evolving program designed to mentor each generation to fight the enemy.”

Since 2002, when it was officially introduced Marine Corps-wide, MCMAP has served as a complement to units’ physical fitness program, enhancing unit cohesion and the fitness of the individual Marine. Over time, the teachings of mental discipline, character discipline, and physical discipline have not only helped in the advancement of promotions for Marines, they have also fostered an environment where Marines develop confidence in themselves and their team while maintaining their warrior mindset, regardless of clime, place, or era.

“Maintaining a warrior mindset means that you are prepared physically and mentally when dealing with fear and fatigue,” Bestul said. “Having a warrior mindset lets you accomplish any mission given to you at a moment’s notice without second guessing yourself in the process.”

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