Risk Management Magazine

Search for Articles

Staying in the Fight

Staying in the Fight


Combatives training is an important part of being a prepared Soldier. It provides the skills to help you protect yourself, as well as your comrades, in combat. Unfortunately, this training can sometimes take Soldiers out of the fight if they don’t take the proper precautions.

Like any other Soldier in the Army, I received instruction in combatives during Basic Combat Training. But this was mainly just an introduction. As a high school and Division II college wrestler, I knew about this topic, which meant the instruction at BCT seemed a little slow to me because it was geared toward Soldiers who may have less experience in this area.

My first real introduction into modern Army combatives occurred at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, which was my first duty station. No, I was not a resident of this fine penitentiary; however, I was required to conduct monthly inspections of the United States Disciplinary Barracks. Anyone conducting business regularly within the USDB had to receive a four-week preservice training before they could enter the facility. The curriculum provided a wide variety of information, which included prison weapons, gang tattoos, inmate interaction and two days of hand-to-hand combat training.

Everything was going well with the self-defense/hand-to-hand combat training. The instructors provided us with useful background information, as well as their standard safety briefing. The pace of the instruction was good and I was performing quite well against my fellow classmates; therefore, the instructors chose to use me for demonstrations. Because of my enthusiasm and confidence, I agreed to participate. The class leaders instructed me to tap out if I felt like I was in too much pain or if I was going to lose consciousness. During the exercise, however, my stubbornness kicked in. I believed I was tough enough to take anything they tried on me.

The instructor demonstrated chokes from the mount position, starting with a cross-collar choke. The instructor grabbed my lapels with opposite hands, and tightly drew his hands together. This cuts off the blood circulation to the brain, causing an individual to lose consciousness. Within a few seconds, I began to feel dizzy. The next thing I remember was waking up with my two instructors standing over me. The rest of my classmates were stunned, and I noticed the shocked looks on their faces. The instructors thought this incident provided a great demonstration of the effectiveness of the choke. I was not seriously injured, but it did scare the hell out of me.

What happened to me is not uncommon. In fact, there have been dozens of reported Army combatives training-related injuries over the past decade. Accidents and/or injuries are categorized according to severity. Class A is the most serious type, resulting in death or total permanent disability. Class B accidents result in a permanent partial disability. Class C accidents include any injury that requires time taken away from work and does not fall within Class A or B.

The majority of the combatives training-related accidents are classified as Class C. Although these injuries are less serious, they still take Soldiers out of the fight for which they are being prepared. Most of these injuries involve overextended joints in the knees, shoulders and elbows, as well as muscle strains and blows to the head or face. Many of these injuries are preventable by using the proper precautions. The following tips are meant for you, the Soldier, to use to avoid injury.

Follow instructions

The instructor’s role is to provide information Soldiers can use in a combative situation without injuries occurring during the training. Do not ignore the direction provided during drills. Ignoring instructions could lead to Soldier injuries.

Ask questions

If you are unsure about the proper technique to use on your partner, ask questions before participating in drills. Taking time to ensure you understand the correct way to perform a skill will keep you and your partner safe. Beginning a drill feeling uncomfortable is an excellent way to become another statistic. When it comes to safety, there really is no such thing as a stupid question.

Strength training and proper warm-up

Soldiers are required to conduct physical training every day in the Army. Many experts say core strength training is the key to preventing injuries in sports such as wrestling, grappling and mixed martial arts. Core strength training includes the gluteus maximus, abdominal muscles and back and chest muscles. Staying limber is also helpful in avoiding injury. Proper warm-up is an important start before any type of PT, including combatives and hand-to-hand combat. Exercising without warming up properly can lead to injuries, including, but not limited to, pulled and strained muscles, knee and joint injuries and additional soreness following the activity.

Know your limits

Overconfidence is a major risk factor for many Soldiers. Knowing your limits and not being afraid to let your partner know when to ease up is important to avoid serious injury. Avoid taking additional risks when participating in combatives training. While you may enjoy combatives training, it’s important to remember that pushing your body further than it is able to tolerate can lead to injury, which means less actual participation.

Be a good partner

Understand that you are not there to injure yourself or your partner. Proper combatives training requires you to train hard; however, listening to and understanding your partner is the key to preventing injury. When pairing with a partner, choose someone who is similar in size and ability level. Pay close attention to warning signs that your partner may be under too much physical stress. This may include verbal or nonverbal communication such as tapping or vocalizing their discomfort. If your buddy taps out or says “stop,” discontinue what you are doing immediately. Combatives training is not the time to deal with negative issues you may have with another Soldier. It is completely unacceptable to address personal vendettas during this type of training. The goal is to prepare your fellow Soldiers for possible hand-to-hand combat situations in a realistic, yet controlled, setting.


Combatives training provides skills to help you to protect yourself and your comrades in combat. Ignoring the tips provided increases your risk of harming yourself or others. Don’t take yourself or a buddy out of the fight.


Watch Your Mouth

Injury Prevention Program
Army Public Health Center (Provisional)
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland

Losing a tooth doesn’t make you look tougher or cooler. Even worse, tooth loss or other mouth injuries can be painful, expensive to fix, result in lost time from work or training, and even cause permanent facial disfigurement. Fortunately, there’s something you can do to protect your smile.

Mouthguards have been studied in different military and sports settings and are proven to substantially reduce the risk of these injuries. For that reason, Army Regulation 600-63, Army Health Promotion Program, requires personnel to use mouthguards for military training activities that have been shown to have a high risk of mouth or facial injuries. These activities include obstacle and confidence courses, one-on-one combatives training, rifle and bayonet training, and pugil stick training.

In addition to these military-specific activities, several sports have been shown to have a high potential to result in injuries to the face or mouth. The American Dental Association and International Academy of Sports Dentistry have identified 29 sports and exercise activities in which they highly recommend mouthguards be worn. Many of these activities are popular with service members, including football, basketball, martial arts, wrestling, soccer, skiing, extreme sports, volleyball, racquetball, softball, skateboarding, lacrosse, rugby and equestrian events.

While all mouthguards offer some protection, some offer more than others. Other factors, such as comfort and cost and how frequently you will need to wear it, should also be considered when deciding which to use. The three types of mouthguards commonly used in sports and recreational activities include:

  • Custom-made. These mouthguards are made from an impression of the individual’s mouth, which is taken by a dentist. Constructed of high-quality materials, they offer the best level of protection. They stay in place and provide the highest level of comfort and fit. Custom-made mouthguards are also the most expensive and usually must be obtained from a dentist.
  • Boil and bite. These mouthguards are softened in hot water and then inserted into the wearer’s mouth to mold to their bite. While not as good as custom-made, boil-and-bite mouthguards provide more protection than stock ready-to-wear types. They may lose thickness and cushioning throughout use, inhibit speaking and have trouble staying in place. They’re inexpensive and widely available at sporting goods stores.
  • Stock (ready to wear). This type of mouthguard is used as purchased and must be held in place by clenching the teeth. They offer the least protection and require the mouth to be closed to use. Stock mouthguards may inhibit breathing or speaking when worn. Like boil and bite, they’re inexpensive and commonly found in sporting goods stores. Sizes are limited, however, usually ranging from small to large.

Use the information above to help decide which mouthguard is right for you. Once you’ve made a selection, routinely clean and inspect your mouthguard and replace it when necessary. For more information, contact the Army Public Health Center’s Injury Prevention Program at usarmy.apg.medcom-phc.mbx.injuryprevention@mail.mil.

  • 1 January 2016
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 5594
  • Comments: 0