Marines spar with their instructors

Photo Credit: Romney Smith

As part of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program Marines learn how to spar to get themselves physically and mentally ready for combat.

Instructor Sgt. Robert Stull says Marines spar to review all of the basic fundamentals of striking including punches, hooks, and uppercuts. Lance Corporal Alicia Caldwell says she focuses on a few key elements while sparring with the instructor. "Keep my eyes on his hands and I kept blocking where he was going to go, and try not to cross my feet so I wouldn't trip over myself" says Caldwell.

The instructor says the goal is to engage the Marines mentally and physically. "It's making every individual think about what they're doing, what's the next move? So I'm going to say about 50% is what everyone is supposed to be at. Some may be 50%, 75%, and it depends on the intensity of the course also" says Stull.

No two sparring matches are the same, and Marines say that's reflective of real life. "When we go into combat we have the muscle memory and we have the physical memories of doing it so when we're terrified of what we're about to do that we unconsciously remember how to survive" says Caldwell.

Sgt. Stull says females train with males because both males and females deploy and they may have to engage a male enemy. Instructors say sparring is mainly to make sure all Marines know what they're doing. "We do instructors with the students for the instructors to check on the maturity level of the student. That way if somebody slips up they're not going to take out all their anger and lose track of what they're supposed to do" says Stull.