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Soldiers stationed around the world descended on Fort Hood, Texas, recently to fight for top honors at the 2012 All-Army Combatives Tournament.
For the fighters, the competition represented the culmination of many hours of honing their skills.
It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, said Tony Lee, noncommissioned officer in charge of combatives for the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. For the last three and a half months, our Soldiers have been training every day, eight hours a day, to make it here.
The tournament kicked off with medical checks and weigh-ins July 25, and the first round of fighting started the following day.
We start out with grappling, said Alex Mestre, an instructor assigned to 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment. Its all about positions and holds.
After hundreds of bouts, the winning fighters moved on to Day 2 and a new set of rules striking.
Intermediate rules allow punches to the body, slap to the head, and kicking, Mestre said.
With the finals one day closer, fighters gave it their all for the chance to earn a championship bout in the fabled octagon.
On July 28, the field house was transformed with a full light show, thumping music and spectators surrounding the eight-sided ring.
Advanced rules are similar to a Mixed Martial Arts bout, Mestre said. The only differences are the fighters cant spike their opponents on their head, strike the back of the head, or use knees for blows to the face.
The team representing Fort Stewart, Ga., and the 3rd Infantry Division spent the months leading to this tournament training in hopes of bettering its third-place finish at the 2011 tourney.
It finished the 2012 tournament in second, narrowly losing to three-time champion III Corps from Fort Hood by a margin of 21 points.
For the competitors, combatives is about more than one week of bouts.
Nathaniel Freeman, the 2012 heavyweight champion, of 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, said his combatives skills saved his life while deployed to Iraq from 2006-2007.
I had a gentleman pull a knife and almost stab me with it, he said. If it wasnt for combatives, I wouldnt have been able to keep myself disengaged, disarm him, and take him down without hurting myself or him.
With the Modern Army Combatives Program, it teaches combat along with teaching you to be healthy and be safe.
The longer you keep working, it clears any doubt in the back of your head about your ability to complete the mission.
With a solid second-place finish, the Marne team is already looking forward to next year.
We want to build on all this hard work and keep the program strong, Lee said.
We will be back next year ready to bring home the trophy.