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Train the Trainer

Diligent effort is needed to perfect the various hand-to-hand combat techniques, to apply them instinctively, and to teach others to safely master them.


Professional instruction is the key to success in combatives training. Instructors must be physically fit and highly proficient in the demonstration and practical application of the skills. They must review and be familiar with this manual. Confidence, enthusiasm, and technical expertise are essential for success in teaching hand-to-hand combat. Assistant instructors must also be properly trained to help supervise and demonstrate maneuvers. Selecting the trainers is the first step in establishing an effective program.


Diligent effort is needed to perfect the various hand-to-hand combat techniques, to apply them instinctively, and to teach others to safely master them. The following instructor responsibilities are the core of planning and executing combatives training.

a. Seek maximum efficiency with minimum effort. Continually strive to reduce all unnecessary explanations, movement, and activity. Streamline the training without compromising content, efficiency, or safety.

b. Stress cooperation and technical mastery. Promote suppleness and controlling aggression.

c. Reinforce the details of each technique and provide positive feedback when warranted. Use occasional humor to motivate soldiers, but avoid degrading or insulting them.

d. Ensure serviceable training aids are present in sufficient quantities for all soldiers being trained. Ensure training areas are well maintained and free of dangerous obstructions.

e. Ensure instructors and assistant instructors are well-rehearsed and prepared before all training sessions. Conduct instructor training at least five hours weekly to maintain a high skill level.

f. Develop as many skilled combatives instructors for each unit as possible. Instructor-to-soldier ratios should not exceed 1 instructor for 20 soldiers. Encourage after-duty training and education for instructors.

g. Require strict discipline of all soldiers.


To prevent injuries, the instructor must consider the following safety precautions before conducting combatives training.

a. Supervise all practical work closely and constantly. Never leave a group unsupervised.

b. Familiarize the soldiers with each maneuver by a complete explanation and demonstration before they attempt the moves.

c. Do not allow the soldiers to get ahead of the instruction.

d. Ensure the training partner offers no resistance, but allows the maneuver to be freely executed during the learning stages and while perfecting the techniques.

e. Ensure there is adequate space between soldiers during all practical work; for example, allow at least an 8-foot square for each pair of soldiers.

f. Ensure that soldiers empty their pockets, and remove their jewelry, and identification tags before training.

g. Stress that only simulated strikes to vital points, such as the head, neck, and groin area are to be executed. Soldiers may use light blows to other vulnerable areas; however, they must exercise caution at all times.

h. Ensure that soldiers understand the use of both physical tapping and verbal signals to indicate to the partner when to stop the pressure in grappling and choking techniques.

i. Make sure soldiers warm up and stretch properly before practical work.

j. Teach and practice falls before conducting throws.

k. Ensure that the soldier to be disarmed does not place his finger in the trigger guard during rifle and bayonet disarming.

l. Make sure soldiers keep scabbards on knives and bayonets firmly attached to rifles while learning bayonet disarming methods.

m. Use bayonet scabbards or rubber knives during knife disarming training.

n. If utilizing a sawdust pit, inspect all sandbags on retaining wall before conduct of training to ensure that all bags are serviceable, at least 75 percent full, and that the entire retaining wall is covered with sandbags. Any bag placed where personnel are likely to fall will be filled with the same consistency filler as the sawdust in the pit and will also provide a minimum of 6 inches of sawdust.

o. Maintain a buffer zone of 6 feet from retainer wall and demonstration area during all training, especially training requiring throws and takedowns by students.

p. Rake the training pit to loosen sawdust and remove all sharp objects. Properly inspect the pit so that all safety hazards are removed before instruction or demonstrations are executed.

q. Perform inspections of the depth of sawdust with enough time before training to resurface the pit. Remember that new sawdust will need to be raked and inspected for foreign objects that may cause injuries.

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