What are the chances of a civilian winning in hand-to-hand combat with a U.S. Marine?

What are the chances of a civilian winning in hand-to-hand combat with a U.S. Marine?

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Stewart Blackwell, left center, and Cpl. Tyler Viera, assigned to 3rd Platoon, Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team Company, Central Command (FASTCENT), demonstrate a counter to a front headlock as part of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program in Bahrain Jan. 28, 2014. (Photo courtesy of DVIDS)

A question posted recently on Quora asked, "What are the chances of a civilian winning in a hand-to-hand combat with a U.S. Marine?" Take a look at how these veterans answered and add your own response in the comment section below. 

By Jon Davis, Sergeant of Marines 

Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) will not render a Marine invincible.

I would suspect that even with MCMAP a regular Marine would probably have much better odds against a single person, but when dealing with additional combatants the fight gets exponentially harder. Now if we consider if someone might get killed, then the Marine is at quiet an advantage. MCMAP is one of the only true pure "combat" fighting styles in existence. Lethality is something that can be taught.

I remember in one MCMAP lesson thinking about how it would be great later in life to monetize this to teach to people. Then the instructor started showing us places to stab and I felt that what that target dummy experienced was truly... gruesome. I can't teach this to children and civilians. Crap.

As far as the original question, I would bet that an average Marine with a grey belt in MCMAP would be able to take down two people, but be stopped by the third. A black belt in MCMAP might be able to take down 5-8 and a very great one might be able to take down 12 or more average people. I really don't have more adequate measurements than someone who has done martial arts for several years and been through much of the MCMAP program, but I hope that can give a reference to anyone who wants to know.

By Bob Younger, USMC officer 

You've framed the question incorrectly.

No one, Marine, SEAL, or otherwise is invincible. Marines (and SEALS, and others) are well known for winning battles because they are trained as a unit, and fight as a unit with weapons they are trained and experienced in using; NOT because individually they are great H2H combatants. Marines are not looking to place or to find themselves in a "fair" fight. Battles are won primarily because an appropriate amount of planning was done based on sound intelligence information to ensure that a military unit (any size) is able to apply overwhelming force to the enemy at a particular time and place of their (the Marines') choosing.

Even when a unit may be expecting an ambush or other surprise attack, planning ensures that even though the enemy may have chosen the time and/or place, the Marines will respond with overwhelming force. My father (a US Army officer) once told me that if I ever found myself in a fair fight, I'd clearly not done sufficient planning.

By Kent Fung, Martial Arts 

In single, unarmed combat (note: combat, not a few rounds in the ring) against a serious practitioner of a martial art? If the Marine in question has done a tour (or more) in a combat zone, I'd give him the edge, 55-45. Otherwise, I'd bet on the civilian (say, 60% odds.) (This assumes height and weight to be roughly equal, no weapons, and no other individuals involved.)  If the Marine is fighting multiple skilled civilians, he'd have little chance. He's not Superman.  Not sure about weapons. In general, put a weapon in the Marine's hand and I'd give him the edge any day; however, the variance that would result that comes from permutations of who has what kind of weapon make such a scenario too difficult to predict..

When assessing the H2H capabilities of a U.S. Marine, one proxy that might help give you an educated guess is the case of Brian Stann, a battle-hardened Marine badass who has a black belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (and was an instructor at the school there). 

Stann, a decorated veteran, was briefly the light heavyweight champion in the World Extreme Cagefighting championship, which was sort of a feeder for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. (The WEC has since been shut down.) At the UFC, Stann has had a respectable, but not dominant record of 11-5 in the UFC. 

This is an inexact estimator for several reasons. Firstly, Stann is an outlier: As a Marine, he went through more hand-to-hand combat training than the average Marine (though that's not saying much -- see below), and he supplemented that with training at Greg Jackson's elite MMA academy. So he's arguably more skilled than your average Marine.

And of course, MMA is still not a real fight. It has rules, controlled conditions, a referee. An MMA competitor can be reasonably sure he's fighting one on one, that no weapons will be involved, that the terrain is flat and clean, and that someone (the ref) will save him if he gets into serious trouble. This is not the case, obviously, in a fight.

So the case study is interesting, but only tangentially useful. It comes to physical skills and mental preparedness, then.

Military personnel in general do not receive extensive training in hand-to-hand, one-on-one combat. Our armed forces fight as units, and they use weapons -- guns and explosives. For a soldier in the field, lots of things have to have gone wrong before it comes down to just him, his fists, and his feet -- and so the bulk of training focuses more on preventing such a catastrophe than on H2H, which comes into play only as a last resort. Thus, while I have the utmost respect for their strength, endurance, capabilities and -- of course -- heart, Marines (or anyone in the military) should not be considered a gold standard for hand-to-hand combat capabilities. This is true even for members of elite special forces units like SEALS or SAS.

Let's take the Marine H2H program -- in which Stann has a black belt. To get a black belt in MCMAP, a Marine must have gone through 150 hours of training. That's not much. If you train four days a week , three hours each time (which is not unusually frequently), that's 12.5 weeks -- three months! No martial artist would call himself skilled after just a few months of training.

Noted instructor Wim Demeere talks a bit about military fighting systems and H2H training. While noting that some guys -- particularly in special forces -- seek out their own training, he found in conversations with such individuals (who had sought him out for instruction) that officially, they get very little H2H. Because after working/training on physical conditioning, weapons, strategy, and specialized skills (field medic, communications, vehicle/transport, parachuting, wilderness survival, explosives, specialized terrain (mountains, jungles, whatever) etc. etc.) they have no more time left in any given week. And all those other things I mentioned are more important -- even for say, a SEAL or an LRRP or whatever.

Demeere notes: "A quote from perhaps one of the deadliest soldiers I know. Somebody who has “converted numerous enemy combatants from vertical to horizontal” as a friend of mine would say. Somebody who will remain anonymous for obvious reasons: "In an average 60-80 hour work week? Combatives get 2 hours per week. Flat."

So the skills of your average Marine -- probably not much compared to a serious student of the martial arts. But what aggression and mindset? These things matter in a fight, don't they? Of course they do.

My understanding and belief is that a Marine who has undergone basic training is an individual of respectable mental toughness. No doubt about it. But so, too, is a serious martial artist. So that's a draw.

I think the only factor is experience -- experience actually dealing with violence. A Marine who's done a tour of combat will most likely be more mentally prepared for a real fight than a civilian martial artist, even a serious one.