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Female vs. male in US Army Combatives fights

Female fights male opponent in Army Combatives fight.

US Army military combatives tournaments look like amateur MMA in really long camo shorts. However, Matt Larsen, who wrote the Army's combatives field manual in 2002, explains that combatives is not MMA.

"Combatives is not a sport. It's a training method to teach soldiers not only hand-to-hand combat but teach them how to be warriors," explained Larsen to SI. "It's more about inculcating an ethos and a skill set than anything else. In MMA, the arena is the point. But for us, the arena is only a training ground. The real fight is a real fight down range. The only value the arena has for us is that it's motivational to get people training."

While males are prohibited from fighting females under the Unified Rules of mixed martial arts, the US Army has bigger fish to fry.

"We can't go to the Taliban and tell them we're looking for a 140-pound female to fight our female," said Kris Perkins, former director of combatives for III Corps and Fort Hood,

There is still on average a major advantage in the male frame in terms of physical strength and striking power. And of course there are exceptions, like Gabi Garcia, shown below with little friend Wanderlei Silva.

Gabi Garcia

Wanderlei Silva (l) and Gabi Garcia (r) on set of TUF Brazil.

The video below is from the Combatives Finals for All-American Week 2017, held on May 24, 2017, at Fort Bragg, N.C. In it, a female combatant fights a male opponent. She get top position after he land a straight and pulls Guard, but is reversed, and eventually her back is taken.

Many will see a woman being punched by a man, and feel uncomfortable. However, Larsen explains that this is what actual equality looks like.

"Imagine what it's like whenever a female gets in the arena with a man and she starts to lose," says Larsen. "It's a fight. He's on top of her, punching her in the face. You have to be hardened to the idea -- you have to really believe -- that women can be treated equally to be able to put up with that. To accept that as the cost of equality."

And the man doesn't always win. In the video below, Elisha "Knuckles" Helsper (1-0 amateur, 0-3 pro) wins via rear naked choke. The rules were open hand strikes to the face, closed fist to the body.

In the video below from the finals of an event at Fort Hood, Texas Army Staff Sgt. Jackelyn Walker fought Pfc. Greg Langarica. The contest went back and forth, with Langarica eventually winning, and Walker leaving on a stretcher.

"We can be just as tough as the guys," said Walker after release from the hospital. "We can do it."

For his part, Langarica, who had smirked after defeating a woman the day before, said he humbled by the experience. He hadn’t beaten a woman. "It was a warrior," he said.

Again though, winning and losing in sports is not the purpose of the Army Combatives program. The goal is to create a warrior ethos, and win or lose, male or female, that is happening.