The History of Modern Army Combatives
In 1995 the Commander of the 2nd Ranger Battalion LTC Stan McCrystal ordered a reinvigoration of martial arts training. It didn’t take long for serious problems with the existing program to surface. There was the feeling among the men that the techniques would not work and that it was a waste of valuable training time.
A committee was formed, headed by SSG Matt Larsen, to develop a program that was more effective. The first step was to examine successful programs from around the world. What was found is that most of them had one thing in common, one underlying reason why the program was successful. Countries with an indigenous national program, Korean Tae-Kwon Do, Japanese Judo, Muay Thai in Thailand, would have much easier time developing an effective combatives program. One exception to this rule is Russia. They are one of the few who take an essentially untrained population, and yet have good success in training their soldiers.
The Russian system of SOMBO was developed specifically for the Military. SOMBO combines the techniques of Judo and Greco-Roman Wrestling as its foundation. The feeling was that the success of SOMBO was linked in its similarity to wrestling, making its basic components easier to learn, and less dependent on size and strength. Another feature of SOMBO is that it has a competitive component that serves to spur on further training. However, it also has some distinct problems, not the least of which was that the competitive form has, in the opinion of some, changed the techniques that were emphasized. Nonetheless, the Ranger committee tentatively decided that the new system would be based on grappling.
Realizing that there were not enough SOMBO instructors available the Rangers began looking for a similar system as a base for their program. Head Coach J. Robinson of the University of Minnesota Wrestling Program, himself a former Vietnam Era Ranger, came out to evaluate the...