By Tyler Hlavac, Stars and Stripes
More than 40 sailors and local American and Japanese civilians punched, wrestled, grappled and choked their way through a mixed martial arts clinic led Saturday by a retired Ultimate Fighting Championship competitor.
The event was held at Yokosuka by head coach Mark Munoz, a Filipino-American who was born at the base to a Navy petty officer father. Munoz was assisted by three other coaches with UFC experience.
The event was broken into an hourlong wrestling and grappling techniques class, followed by a two-hour MMA clinic. The former focused on wrestling fundamentals and takedowns, while the latter taught punching, submission, movement and grappling techniques.
Participants practiced moves from a variety of fighting genres, including boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai.
Munoz said there is huge fan base for MMA in the military and that studying it can benefit servicemembers on the battlefield.
“It can save their life,” he said. “I believe martial arts can help servicemembers with their mindset, with their character, their leadership and their cardiovascular fitness. What we do is in essence what [servicemembers] do on the battlefield, for guys on the front lines. It’s the same mentality.”
Munoz added that MMA training and conditioning would be particularly useful for sailors at sea who must stay fit but don’t have the space to run and must deal with crowded gyms.
“You don’t need a lot of space in order to get in cardiovascular shape,” he said. “You can do jiu-jitsu, you can do wrestling, you can do all of that stuff … I think that’s more beneficial than lifting weights. That functional strength and endurance is going to put you on a different level.”
Seaman Trevor Allison of the USS Ronald Reagan, who attended the clinic thinking it would be more of a demonstration, was surprised to see it kick off with a group warm-up that led to attendees practicing on each other. He said the class gave participants a good foundation for further MMA training and that Munoz tailored the event to a military audience.
“In the military, this our kind of stuff,” Allison said. “[Munoz] showed us how to [take down opponents] with a gun at your side. He was trying to teach to a [military audience]. These techniques, you need to have a base before you can do them.”
The tour, called MMA Caged Crusaders, is held in partnership with Armed Forces Entertainment. It will visit Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni Sept. 4, Okinawa’s Camp Hansen and Kadena Air Base Sept. 6-7, and Naval Base Guam Sept. 9.