What is a Combathlete?
They train to complete 26 mile endurance events, run obstacle courses, perform feats of strength, like pushing and pulling cars. They condition their bodies by executing sprints, subjecting themselves to harsh training conditions like hypoxia training and training in intense heat. They develop their mind and bodies to be in tune so that they can fire at and hit precise targets on a firing range while sustaining an accelerated heartrate. They train in the martial arts of wrestling, boxing and kickboxing and in the arts of meditation, relaxation, mental programming, reprograming and self hypnosis. So what is the Combathlete? …..Simple a combat athlete.
Combat athletes are a different breed; a hybrid. They know the importance of standard athletics and apply them to combat. With the complexity and technology of war getting more intricate and advanced each day; so is the training of the average soldier. Today’s Special Operations soldiers are equivalent to any professional athlete. In the world of Bodybuilding, Fitness and Mixed Martial Arts, one can see that former Special Operations soldiers are finding more and more of a home in professional competition after their tour of duty is over. The combat environment is more dynamic today than it ever was and this has caused a need for the average soldier to become more dynamic and accept new roles. Fitness and athleticism are more important today than ever. The average soldier carries more equipment than ever; and conducting combat training while sustaining an accelerated heartrate is more than just a great way of conditioning and creating muscle memory.
Lt. Colonel Retired; David Grossman; one of the foremost experts in post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and author of award winning books “On Killing” and “On Combat” uses Special Operations training as examples in “On Combat”. He cites how Special Forces soldiers conduct high intensity exercises before executing live fire training exercises and the positive training affect this has on mitigating the onset of PTSD. Because PTSD is caused by trauma which has physiological affects, this training at accelerated heart rate levels mimics many of the physiological affects of combat or a traumatic situation. Not only does training at an accelerated heartrate level engage the midbrain, the primitive part of the brain; it reproduces a like state of what may be experienced or felt in combat. Thus, the fatigue, rapid heart rate and adrenaline experienced in a combat situation become familiar to the subject and the overall scenario is a less traumatic scenario. Its more than just physical; its about attaining the physical and mental edge.
Bo Jackson was famous because he was a well rounded athlete, then everyone wanted to be like Mike because he could play Basketball and Baseball. For the Combathlete being well rounded is more than just about getting paid more and getting better endorsements … Its about life and death. The combathlete understands the importance of being versatile and well rounded and knows that its not just about one play; but the entire game. So what attributes might a Combathlete try to develop?
From 26 mile marathons to forced road marches with up to 75 lbs of weight minus water; the Combathlete understands that the ability to endure long movements on foot. One to six kilometer swims or fins may also be important. The Combathlete never knows when he may have to swim for it. Climbing and cycling are other endurance events that Combathletes often focus their efforts on.
For the Combat Athlete, the sprint is just as valuable as the marathon. High explosive movements and sprints are all too common in the dynamic world of Urban Combat. Being able to move quickly across short corridors, jump over fences and climb over obstacles are all part of the urban terrain landscape. This is why obstacle course training and sprints are also important. Training explosive movements also means developing large muscle groups. Pushing cars, pulling trucks and flipping tires, all activites that one might encounter while getting a vehicle stuck in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan or the thick relentless jungles of Africa.
For the Combathlete, precision training requires being able to shoot targets, tie a variety of knots and maintain mental focus and clarity while the heart is accelerated. Shooting firearms or different varieties and even throw grenades and drop them in precise locations are examples of precision training. The ability to recollect and observe while in a dynamic everchanging environment are all attributes the Combathlete desires to attain and maintain.
Boxing, Wrestling, Judo, Jujitsu and Kickboxing are all sports that the Combathlete finds solice in. Combathleticism is all about practicality and the Combat Athlete may not only find that he trains in these arts to be well rounded and prepared for the worst; but for their own competition as well. The Combathlete realizes that the “Warrior Spirit” is cultivated through the most basic combat sports.
The Mental Edge
US Army Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (S.E.R.E.) School at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg teaches their trainees about the importance of the “Mental Edge”. Basically stated; the mental edge is that thing or idea that allows the subject to mentally reframe their thinking of a situation no matter how bad things may seem. The mental edge is what puts one in control of the situation. The Combathlete has the mental edge because they know that they are highly trained and conditioned to endure hardship. The “Mental Edge” is an unseen sense of confidence that comes from physical and mental training and conditioning.
The Combat Athlete
While Baseball, Football, Hockey players and other athletes are making millions for their relatively safe performances on the playing field, the Combathlete risks it all for but a fraction of the spoils; and trains just as hard or even harder in many cases. No endorsements no big contracts. For many when the war is over and they return home and re-patriate into the civilian life, they still maintain their Combathlete training habits and routines. Many move on into the combat sports of Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts or Endurance and Adventure Racing. A few compete in all of the aforementioned. Not every Soldier, Marine, Airman or Seaman is a Combathlete, but there are many and their ranks are growing. A true Combat Athlete understands that the term “Warrior” and knows how to combine the fighting spirit of the Spartans with the strategy of Sun-Tzu the finesse of the ancient Samurai and blend them with the modern scientific mental and physical training methods of the NFL, UFC and the Tour de France. Make no mistake the Combathlete is a combination of old and new; physical and mental.