Saturday, March 10, 2007

Developing the Warrior Spirit

Essentially, the whole of Marine Boot Camp is oriented to one thing; combat.

Hand to hand combat is a rare event now days, but it is an aspect of training that gives multiple benefits. Besides developing fitness and stamina, it gives the young Marine more tools for his Warrior toolbox. When it came time for the hand to hand training I had a blast, for the most part. I had grown up competing, in all kinds of different sports.

One of the last that I had most recently started was karate.

I really liked the sparring because it was like a physical game of chess, with a forced move time limit. You had to think quickly on your feet and analyze your opponent. You could agree to focus on one aspect of sparring to develop a skill set, or you could just go all-out to test your stamina.

The Marine training was necessarily a little rigid. They have to boil down the concepts enough to be able to trail them to a large number of recruits in what I am sure they feel is nowhere near enough time. As always, though, the Drill Instructors provided the motivation for us to give our utmost effort, all the time. Finally, we had trained enough to spar.

Standing in line, waiting for one's turn to spar, a recruit had to perform a number of exercises. There were stations with dip bars, jump rope, pull-up bars, etc. The concept was again oriented towards combat. Total exhaustion, no other weapons available except for your fists, what are you going to do?

While going through the stations, I was idly counting the number of matches before me, and decided to count the number of recruits in the other line to see who I would be matched up against. I figured that the recruit I would fight was a pretty scrawny guy who I out-weighed by a good 20 pounds,


Unfortunately, I had forgotten about 'Recruit Murphy'.

The boxing rings themselves were tiny little things. If I remember correctly, you have room enough to circle your opponent, and not much else. Basically, the recruits are at about arms-length distance, and expected to slug it out. The Drill Instructors line the sides, providing motivation and instruction. If things got out of hand, all they had to do was reach into the ring to grab a recruit. Getting into the ring, I was confident.

About 5 seconds later, I was fighting for my life.

Turns out the little guy was some sort of junior golden gloves champ.

Needless to say, I got my ass unceremoniously beat down.

Looking for redemption, I eagerly awaited the pugil stick competition. A pugil stick is kind of like an over-sized q-tip. It is meant to stand for a rifle, and what techniques you would use a rifle for if you were out of ammo and had to beat someone down with it. Surely, I thought, I would do better in this. I had done some wooden staff training, and while this was also different training than what I was used to, unless I got paired up with a former Shaolin Monk in the pugil ring, I figured that I would do pretty good.

Again, you go through the stations, awaiting your turn. This time, however you can't see your opponent. He is on the other side of the building. The 'ring' is actually a small building, slightly recessed in the ground. As you approach the building, you see through the doorway that there is a short hallway leading into the only room. There is another doorway on the other side, from which your opponent enters. Windows near the top of the room provide for the Drill Instructors viewing pleasure.

While waiting for my turn, the Drill Instructors outside were explaining the rules. Make sure that you have all of your protective gear on. Even though the tips of the pugil sticks are padded, if you get whacked with one, you will feel it. Fight until the Drill Instructors tell you to stop. A head shot is usually a killing blow. If you are a coward, the Drill Instructors will let you get your ass beat for longer, so you might as well go in swinging. Etc. etc.

I was pumped.

For some reason, I didn't figure that Recruit (first class) Murphy was there for that training period. With a motivated war cry, and a burning desire to make up for the earlier boxing fiasco, I charged down the hallway at the first milli-second of the starting whistle...and tripped entering the room. Flying through the air, I had just enough time to see my opponent enter the room, and then I did a passable imitation of a human lawn-dart, head first, into the sand. Before I could spit the sand out of my mouth or open my eyes, I could feel my opponent attempting to drive the pugil-stick through the back of my skull, repeatedly.

An easy win for him.


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