It's Men vs. Women at US Army Combatives championship

by David S. Cloud | source: latimes.com
 

Inspired by Jacare Cavalcante, in the mid 90s, Ranger units in Georgia started incorporating BJJ into the training curriculum. The sport got its hooks in, and now all members of the U.S. Army take a crash course in MMA, through the Army Combatives Program.

The greatest BJJ exponent in history, Rickson Gracie, was asked once what he would do if faced with a gun. "I carry a gun," he replied. Soldiers ordinarily have firepower at their disposal many times in excess of a handgun, but the Army understands that in addition to practical fighting skills, MMA training imparts confidence, control, and aggression to those that fight.

Unwilling to simply practice, starting in 2008 the Armyhas been putting on Combatives events. The three-day championship offers grappling on the first day, Pancrase rules with no ground striking on the second day, and full amateur MMA on the third.  Over the first two days the event safely weeds out those fighters who would be unable to compete under full MMA rules.

Although there are weight divisions, because you can't choose the skill level or sex of who you engage with on the battlefield, there are no separate divisions for women, and no separate skill levels.

Although the Army still bars women from fighting in combat units, they fight men here.

Because the events are held on Federal property, like  MMA events held on native lands, there is no governing Athletic Comission.

The LA covers a recent event in Ft Hood, Texas.

 

In the most recent cage-fighting competition, more than 300 men and 25 women — up from five last year — competed over four days in February at Ft. Hood in Texas.

One woman made it to the finals. But at least three female fighters were carried out on stretchers. Others limped to a green canvas tent that served as a first-aid station. One fighter burst into tears, upset that a referee had halted her fight before she felt beaten.

Most of the women fight in the lightest weight classes: bantamweight and flyweight. To help balance the odds, they are allowed to outweigh men in the same class by 10 pounds.

Pfc. Yennyfer Usuga, a 26-year-old immigrant from Colombia, joined the Army a year ago and started serious fight training only in January. Quiet and seemingly frail at 116 pounds, she seemed out of place among male fighters with bulging biceps. But she won her first few fights, which by luck of the draw were all against other women.

Between bouts, Usuga changed from camouflage fatigues into capri pants and shook her shoulder-length reddish brown hair out of an Army-regulation bun.

"She's very feminine," said her coach, Sgt. Dwan West.

Her opponent in the semifinal round was the wiry, heavily-tattooed Gregory Langarica. Standing 5-foot-5 and weighing less than 115 pounds, he had boxed and trained in jiu-jitsu for years and had no qualms about fighting a woman.

Usuga came out swinging wildly and tried kneeing Langarica in the groin. She missed. The artilleryman pummeled her with body shots, threw her to the mat and staggered her with a bare-handed slap to the cheek.

She stumbled off in defeat, her eyes dull.

The Army remains hyper-macho, but the wars of the last decade showed that women faced considerable danger even in the support jobs to which they were limited. In Iraq, 109 female service members have died, mostly in ambushes and firefights, and 29 have died in Afghanistan, even though they were truck drivers, civil affairs advisors or in other ostensibly noncombat jobs.

As a result, many male soldiers — as well as women — consider the ban on women in combat roles to be outdated.

Fighting a woman in a cage is not necessarily a picnic for male soldiers. They face ridicule if they lose and little glory if they win.

The women's motivations vary. "I just like to fight," said Spc. Amber Sellers.

The bouts "teach us to react in the moment without a weapon" and not to back down, said Pfc. Vanessa Edwards. When her mother found out she was fighting men, "she told me to kick their ass," Edwards said.

Spc. Dariana Chesser, 24, decided to join the cage fights last year after serving on a security squad for a senior officer in Afghanistan. "I want to transfer to a combat job," she said. "I think this helps us prove we are worthy of fighting in combat with men."

Chesser was considered an early favorite among the female fighters. In the month before the tournament, she dropped 38 pounds, down from nearly 170, thanks to twice-a-day training sessions and long bouts in the sauna. She figured she stood a better chance as a flyweight, which has a 135-pound limit for women.

But a day before her first fight, dehydrated and weak, she was rushed to a hospital and hooked to an intravenous drip. The next morning, she charged out of her corner and flipped Spc. Alex Seaton. But he quickly snared her in a chokehold.

She tapped, ending the match. "I knew I had her good," Seaton said. "She felt weak."

A few hours later, Chesser was in the stands, glowering. "We don't have instant adrenaline like males do," she said.

Although she had lost her shot at the title, she fought again that afternoon in a consolation bout. This time, she was unstoppable.

Chesser tossed Spc. Gary Boyd on his back, grabbed his legs and spun him like a top. The mostly male crowd erupted in shouts of delight. When Boyd scrambled to his feet, Chesser leaped on him, twisting his collar to cut off his circulation.

Two taps on the mat signaled he was done. Chesser thrust her fists in the air.

Only Jackelyn Walker, a 33-year-old Oklahoma native who served three tours in Iraq as a forklift driver and supervisor, was the lone woman to make the final round. She is 5-foot-2, lithe and strong.

Her semifinal opponent, a male sergeant, was disqualified for a vicious elbow jab to her ribs. After nearly five minutes face-down on the mat, she got up slowly.

"I tried not to show anything, but it freaking hurt," she said.

The next day, she was back for the bantamweight championship match against Langarica. The fighters made their way to the cage, both punching the air. Pounding music and billowing smoke lent a touch of Las Vegas glitz.

"I was mad because he was smiling, like, 'Oh, she's going to be easy,' " she said later.

When the horn blared, she charged out of her corner and unleashed a flurry of jabs that sent him backpedaling. She slammed him to the mat and straddled him, clamping on a chokehold.

Langarica thrashed and kicked, finally escaping.

The crowd roared for more. "Come on, Sgt. Walker!" yelled an Army colonel dressed in fatigues. "You can do it!"

In the second round, Langarica regained the momentum. He started landing blows that made Walker wince. Her energy flagged. She leaned against the cage and finally dropped to the mat.

She was carried out on a stretcher, her eyes rolled back in her head.

"I wanted to be the first female champion on the base," she said after she was released from the base hospital. "We can be just as tough as the guys. We can do it."

Langarica was magnanimous in victory. He hadn't beaten a woman, he said.

"It was a warrior."

Read entire article...

 


Dariana Chesser grapples Linda Martinez


Yennyfer Usuga vs. Ike Mathes, Pancrase Rules


Jackelyn Walker vs. Gregory Langarica, Amateur MMA rules


Jackelyn Walker vs. Gregory Langarica, Amateur MMA rules


Championship belts

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Recent Comments »

HELWIG site profile image  

7/22/12 5:04 PM by HELWIG

Awesome when a female firefighter shows up and cant carry a 230lb man out of a burning building. Because she got to take a reduced version of the actual test to qualify.

georgejonesjr site profile image  

7/22/12 2:26 PM by georgejonesjr

So if its not a change in training techniques (including nutrition) why aren't the best women of today beating the best men of today? Why isn't Usain Bolt running against the fastest women to see who is quicker, instead of giving women a separate division?If its not biological, then there's no reason at all to have separate events for men and women. Are you suggesting that we remove women's divisions from sport?

Megatherium site profile image  

7/22/12 6:17 AM by Megatherium

A sex equality policy on the battlefield would pose an existential threat to the population of the loser nation in a real war.

Megatherium site profile image  

3/23/12 11:33 PM by Megatherium

The respective fighting abilities of the sexes differs enormously of course, but people tend to forget these days the fundamental reason for female populations traditionally being off limits in war; the case of catastrophic population loss. A relatively intact female population enables a country to regenerate it's numbers after catastrophic defeat to a culturally functioning level as in the case of the Paraguayan War(the War of the Triple Alliance)where Paraguay took on the allied forces of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay and it's male population incurred losses estimated in the 6o-90 percent range and yet with it's female population left relatively unscathed was able to restore itself in just a couple of generations.We often lose sight of some of the simple rules of human existence in our irrational rush toward PC utopia.

jsize03 site profile image  

3/23/12 9:41 PM by jsize03

This. The worst part is, the Army knows it's not true. Hence, the seperate standards for the APFT. The APFT(for those that don't know) is a fitness test comprised of pushups, situps, and a 2mi run. The pushups and sit ups are timed...2 minutes, as many as you can do. Standards for situps are the same, but the pushups and 2mi run are drastically different. For example, the minimum number of pushups I could do and pass is 40 and my minimum run time is 16:36. For a female of the same age, the minimum pushups needed to pass is 17 and the run is 19:36. This shows that the Army knows there is a HUGE difference in strength between males and females, and even in levels of cardio. Yet, the Army allows them to fight because of EO. Ridiculous.

Megatherium site profile image  

3/23/12 8:35 PM by Megatherium

It's sad that political pressure has forced the army to live every PC cause as if it were the truth.

ShannonRitch site profile image  

3/23/12 8:17 PM by ShannonRitch

can you say STUPID! this shouldnt even be allowed. If they want to fight MMA, then do it the right way! BJJ or submission Tourney? men vs men and woman vs woman.wow I was stationed at FT HOOD, and Started a MMA school there. The 1st one. It was not popular at all....now they have events there. Crazy how times have changed.I had the 1st mma event there, PRIDE FIGHTER FUGITA even fought for me, also Cedric Marks, Pete Spratt, etc... I guess I was too early.lol at this intire thread...

Jeff Yurk site profile image  

3/23/12 2:57 PM by Jeff Yurk

"Some National Guard or Reserves train as their job full-time, for example, a primary or alternate instructor at a training gym."  Cool. What does this have to do with anything? It's "unfair" that some Soldiers commit their extra time to train? "I understand NG and RSVS have jobs as well, but you are sadly confused if you think the active duty and civilian sector share an equal amount of "off-time" for the most part." I guess I am sadly confused then, because that is EXACTLY what I am saying. "Also, I have seen some pretty bad injuries in combatives, as I posted earlier, in a level one cert course, during the clinch drill, I witnessed an instructor break a students jaw and was told to get back up. His jaw was wired as a result of the break, I was asked to sign a sworn statement but declined because I did not want to get involved in that stuff." Well, guess what, Combatives Courses are not basket weaving courses. Being in the Army is NOT for everyone. If a couple boo-boo's here and there are acceptable in the grand scheme of training doctrine.  "Your replies are full of attitude like I stole your lunch money, when in fact I never took a jab at you. I understand pleading your case and defending your views but were on a keyboard here, there is no need to show arrogance on a keyboard; if you weren't and I perceived it wrong then my bad. And please understand I post from experience, pull up the results of the last few All-Army Tourneys and research the finalists name, I think the number was around 70% for pro finalist in 2011." You are incorrect to assume I was approaching this with any arrogance toward you. It is simply my opinion you do not have the knowledge base to understand the program as a whole. You competed in a couple Combatives Events? Great. That experience will give you a small perspective.  Also, it is important to note that 81.7% of percentages are made up. "Again, I respect the program, I have fun training Soldiers, but been doing it long enough (pretty much since MACP started) to recognize the flaws. However, the good thing is Soldiers are getting better every year, but those are only a handful of guys who train on their own time. I speak for the average Soldier's safety and I'm sorry graduated rules is a measure but not effective enough due to tourney by's, injuries, or no-shows that could result in a Soldier being pushed to a Semi-final pancrase style match" It would take an absolute perfect storm of issues for an inexperienced Soldier to end up in a Semi-Final match with only a single win in Standard Rules. Even then, what is the issue? They may get "slapped" to death? It's so unfair? It is a VOLUNTARY event. Sure, injuries happen. I broke 3 ribs due to an illegal knee during a Semi-Final Match at the Army Combatives Championships; yet the next day, there I was in the Finals fighting with broken ribs. Amazingly, I did not die and recovered just fine. I guess I am still searching for your overall point? If we gave everyone a "participation medal" and stopped Soldiers from hitting too hard, would that be better for you? Maybe in the same vein, we could ask our Soldiers not to use real guns in combat?    

RoidsGracie site profile image  

3/23/12 9:47 AM by RoidsGracie

valetudosuperfight - Blacks faced the same hostility and went on to dominate in sports in a fairly quickly amount of time.

jonnierockets20 site profile image  

3/23/12 2:11 AM by jonnierockets20

I guess i have to break this down to be a little more clear after 3 times and since you still don't get the point of what I am posting.Some National Guard or Reserves train as their job full-time, for example, a primary or alternate instructor at a training gym. I understand NG and RSVS have jobs as well, but you are sadly confused if you think the active duty and civilian sector share an equal amount of "off-time" for the most part.Also, I have seen some pretty bad injuries in combatives, as I posted earlier, in a level one cert course, during the clinch drill, I witnessed an instructor break a students jaw and was told to get back up. His jaw was wired as a result of the break, I was asked to sign a sworn statement but declined because I did not want to get involved in that stuff.Your replies are full of attitude like I stole your lunch money, when in fact I never took a jab at you. I understand pleading your case and defending your views but were on a keyboard here, there is no need to show arrogance on a keyboard; if you weren't and I perceived it wrong then my bad.And please understand I post from experience, pull up the results of the last few All-Army Tourneys and research the finalists name, I think the number was around 70% for pro finalist in 2011.Again, I respect the program, I have fun training Soldiers, but been doing it long enough (pretty much since MACP started) to recognize the flaws. However, the good thing is Soldiers are getting better every year, but those are only a handful of guys who train on their own time. I speak for the average Soldier's safety and I'm sorry graduated rules is a measure but not effective enough due to tourney by's, injuries, or no-shows that could result in a Soldier being pushed to a Semi-final pancrase style match



 

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