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Face of Defense: Reservist Trains Fellow Marines in Martial Arts

The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program is designed to increase a Marine’s warfighting capability and self-confidence and is based on the principle that every Marine is a rifleman.

At the Marine Corps Reserve Training Center here, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jake Benson, Detachment 3 Supply Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 451, is responsible for teaching martial arts to approximately 150 Marine reservists.

Every drill weekend, Benson trains the reservists in combat techniques and sustainment conditioning.

“We get some hours in,” he said. “We log it in the log books, and when they complete the required hours I let them test for the next [martial arts] belt.”

Levels of Expertise

The belt system consists of five levels, Benson said, with the black belt being the highest. After Benson earned his black belt, he continued to advance, earning an instructor’s tab. A qualified Marine Corps martial arts instructor can teach the program up to their own belt certification.

“I belted up in five to six years,” Benson said. “I started in 2009, and earned my instructor training tab in 2016. The physical part is challenging, from the combat conditioning to sparring and learning techniques, but I underestimated the mental and character disciplines of the program.”

Benson said that he doesn’t qualify a Marine to advance to the next belt on physical prowess alone. Being mentally strong and having good character is just as important.

“It’s easy to do what’s right when no one is looking,” Benson said. “Not every situation will have someone looking over your shoulder telling you, ‘Don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it.’ The program will help you assess a situation and say, ‘I’m not going to execute this technique because it may hurt the person more than necessary.’ It gets you thinking about how to deal with all situations, not just fighting situations.”

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Justin Golden, Detachment 3 Supply Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 451, trained with Benson. Golden said Benson’s knowledge, skills and attitude enhance the MCMAP here.

‘An Outstanding Marine’

“Staff Sgt. Benson is an outstanding Marine,” Golden said. “Everything I’ve seen from any Marine who’s attended the Martial Arts Instructor Training Course at the Martial Arts Center of Excellence is at the highest caliber. They’re physically fit and physically demanding. Staff Sgt. Benson is fair and direct, but he’s tough, not afraid to put anybody in their place when it comes to the day-to-day activities, especially when we’re doing MCMAP.”

Benson said the MCMAP motto, “One mind, any weapon,” effectively describes the program, what it is to be a Marine, and a mindset.

“It’s not just about martial arts, it’s about building character in an individual and making them a better human being … not just physically but mentally,” Benson said. “Whether you’re in a combat situation or you’re out with a Marine, you feel comfortable knowing if you’re put into a situation you can take care of a Marine to your left or right and they can take care of you.”