Does the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) Help BJJ?

If you’ve served in the US Marine Corps, you’ve had some training in MCMAP (Marine Core Martial Arts Program) which blends aspects from many different disciplines to create a holistic approach to close-quarters fighting. This training may have kindled a love of martial arts that stayed with you even when you returned to civilian life. But how much carryover does it have into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

MCMAP can help you grasp some fundamentals essential to BJJ, but it does not prepare you fully for a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training environment. MCMAP has to cover many forms of close-quarters combat situations so only some techniques and training will carry over to BJJ.

This article will go over some MCMAP basics and how the skills you learned there help you on your BJJ journey. We’ll see what advantages you may get from it and what you’ll need to refine and work on to adapt your skills to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  

How Long Does It Take to Become a Black Belt in MCMAP?

To become a black belt in MCMAP, you need 40 hours of strenuous training on top of the 27.5 hours of entry-level training. As a black belt, you can teach all the levels beneath you and qualify instructors. There are six black belt levels you can achieve. 

Of course, the MCMAP journey doesn’t end when you get to the black belt, just like in any martial art. If you wish to become a true master of it, you have to keep practicing it and refining your skills throughout your life. 

If you just stop practicing after you reach the black belt level, your training will not be as useful as it could be if more time is spent training. The more you practice MCMAP, the better your general martial arts skills will be. If you solidify your techniques with hours spent training, it will be more likely to translate into advantages when training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

For the most part, MCMAP does not require as much time to receive black belts because it mostly tests knowledge and basic applications, and not high levels of combat proficiency. A MCMAP black belt will train 40 hours while a BJJ black belt likely has trained 1000 hours. Time spent training is the biggest factor in building competency, so with these standards being so different, there can be significant differences in grappling ability.

What Martial Arts Are Taught in MCMAP?

MCMAP teaches techniques from many martial arts, including BJJ, Krav Maga, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Karate, Boxing, Kickboxing, and Taekwondo. Additionally, MCMAP teaches rifle and bayonet techniques alongside utilizing weapons of opportunity and edged weapons.

We can see that the range of martial arts skills that MCMAP teaches is wide and designed to provide broad fighting competency. This broad competency can provide a great base for learning martial arts in the future.

Of course, not everything will be useful and carry over into civilian martial arts—for example, rifle and bayonet techniques won’t do anything in BJJ or almost any other popular martial art available, but the unarmed combat skills will come in handy in any fighting situation. 

Often, when sparring, MCMAP is practiced with very high intensity against other strong and fit individuals. These skills and stress tolerance can translate well into winning combat sports competitions. As it’s essentially a mixed martial art, MCMAP can provide a great basic foundation for MMA, as you’ll already know at least the basics of punching, kicking, and grappling. 

One ex-marine reports that he easily won civilian MMA matches with the help of his MCMAP skills. While MCMAP skills can help with these matches, ultimately with such an anecdotal individual account it cannot be generalized for all people who have received MCMAP training, but it is undoubtedly useful to have the training.

Do Marines Know Jiu-Jitsu?

Marines do know some jiu-jitsu, as it is a part of the mix that makes up MCMAP. However, the short time dedicated to teaching and learning MCMAP doesn’t allow a marine to become truly well-versed in jiu-jitsu, so additional training to be a better jiu-jitsu athlete is necessary. 

Whether marines know jiu-jitsu or not depends on how you define knowing the martial art. If by that we mean true proficiency and deep knowledge of the art, then marines will fall a bit short here since BJJ is its own discipline and its own combat ruleset that requires specialized knowledge and training to truly excel in it. 

However, if by that we just mean being acquainted with the basics, then we can say that definitely they know some jiu-jitsu. After all, any hybrid martial art that includes grappling (as is the case here) will at least provide some knowledge that can translate into fundamentals for BJJ. 

Of course, it also depends on the individual and any other athletic or martial arts background they have. Anybody who has had wrestling experience in school or is naturally gifted in grappling will definitely look like their MCMAP training helped a lot more with their BJJ when they start training.

Extremely fit individuals will also look far better when moving over to jiu-jitsu. This competency will be way more visible with natural gifts or background than somebody who only has MCMAP training from their time in the military. So it is important to look at the whole picture when evaluating how it translates.

How Well Do Marines Do Against BJJ Students?

Marines can do well against BJJ students, especially at lower levels where aggression and fitness play a proportionately bigger role. However, the advantage diminishes against advanced students, who have more experience in grappling and can adjust to deal with more fit and aggressive opponents.

Let’s compare a Marine who’s coming to a BJJ gym for the first time to a regular person who’s also there for the first time.

The Marine is at an advantage because they have trained at a high intensity in the past, have some martial arts background from MCMAP, and are more likely to be strong and fit than an average BJJ hobbyist. They will on average be better inoculated to the stress of combat due to training and potentially due to being in real stressful combat situations.

A hobbyist is likely to come in less aggressive and less fit overall, especially if they are picking up BJJ later in life. Generally speaking, a white-collar working hobbyist will not have the experience to physically handle a better conditioned and more aggressive opponent and will have trouble with people who have been in the military at the beginning stages of training through about the purple belt.

However, if you compare the same Marine to a higher-level BJJ student, the student will have a clear advantage. This is because they’ll have far more experience in the martial art and a better understanding of it. They are also more likely to have competed or experienced high-intensity grappling situations. With more in their technique toolkit and familiarity with higher intensity rounds, they are far better equipped to deal with what a Marine might bring to the table in a grappling round.

Final Thoughts

MCMAP is really a crash course in building general close combat skills and is not completely applicable to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a martial art or combat sport. It seems like MCMAP is highly translatable, but it really is more correlated to the grind associated with training it as well as the fact that a Marine will generally be more aggressive and conditioned, which is extremely helpful in any combat sport, including jiu-jitsu.

When total training in BJJ increases, those advantages diminish but do not disappear for a Marine in terms of how they would perform in grappling rounds in the context of a typical Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school.

For more check out What Should I Expect in My First BJJ Class?


Hi, I'm Andre and I am the author of this website. I currently train primarily in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but supplement with other grappling martial arts as well as help to coach my kid's blended grappling program.

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