What Kind of Martial Arts Do Green Berets Usually Use?

If you’re like me, it means you’re fascinated by all forms of battle, especially the battle training most military units receive. The US Army, popularly famous for the name of the Green Berets, is a very good military unit. They are somehow known to get training in different martial arts and use them effectively.

They are professionally skilled to kill and usually have great combat skills. As professional martial artists teach them, therefore they are hard to fight. They can knock you down within minutes. However, you may be wondering what type of martial arts the Green Berets (Special Forces) learn during the training of hand-to-hand fight? 

Different martial arts skills such as Muay Thai, BBJ, boxing, and others are taught to the Green Berets. The Modern Army Combative Program (MACP) in the United States explains to recruits how to defend themselves in various scenarios by using martial arts to either retreat or fight the opponent. In this training, the recruits learn how to fight with an opponent, strike if you are clinched with your competitor, and fight without any weapon if this kind of situation arises. 

The MACP teaches young Green Berets the fundamental martial arts skills they’ll need in combat. I will go through the skills the recruits get to learn, the martial arts on which MACP is somehow based, and various combat systems used by the US Special Forces in this article. 

Also read: Wrestling vs BJJ – Everything You Need to Know

Modern Army Combative Program (MACP)

The MACP is basically a program that teaches recruits in the United States Army how to deal with a possible enemy. The Combatives course is designed to tell the recruits how to protect themselves unarmed and to control different threats using non-lethal means if possible. 

Matt Larsen, a former US Army Ranger, designed this program in 2001. He is a martial art expert specializing in Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Karate, Boxing, and various martial arts. He began teaching this course at Fort Benning with his martial arts experience, and later Green Berets are being led by his method. 

The MAC field is divided into certain chapters; two are devoted to ground combat, one to takedowns, and one to striking. The remaining chapters cover how to practice as well as different circumstances such as protecting against or striking with any weapon. 

Learning of Different Techniques in The MACP

The MACP involves methods from various martial arts to create an exclusive and comprehensive system of self-defense. This program is specially made for the US Special Forces, and it is going great so far. Now I’ll go over the martial arts used in the MACP, what new recruits are being taught, and everything we can read from the Field Manual.

Basics of Jiu-Jitsu (BBJ)

The first chapter of the program is mainly about the basics of Jiu-Jitsu and its techniques. The MACP places a strong emphasis on ground combat, and for a decent reason. The first UFC event demonstrated to the world that BBJ is the most efficient combat style, with wrestling coming in second. 

Ground combat is divided into two (2) chapters in the Field Manual of Combatives, which are:

  • Basic
  • Advanced

In the basic chapters, the MAC manual teaches how to gain a strong submission and position and defend submissions. 

The positions that are listed in the given manual are as follows:

  • Full Mount 
  • Side Control
  • Back Mount
  • The opponent in the range of your Guard

After that, the manual goes over a few options to enhance your situation. First, the field manual explains how to properly stand on the ground (without being hit), a technique known as Standing Up in Base. 

The recruit is then taught how to recover from a mount by trapping the arm and leg of the competitor from a similar side. The individual then uses his or her hip to push the opponent and then turns over into the guard of his/her opponent.

The remaining position progression techniques demonstrate how to get out of side control, get into the rear mount, pass guard range, and get out of the rear mount.

Following that, the field manual goes over some submissions, including:

  • Rear Naked Choke
  • Guillotine Choke
  • Armbar Mount
  • Kimura Armlock
  • Cross Collar Choke
  • Armbar Guard

The rest of the given chapter goes over several workouts to help you develop your skills and some fundamental submission cover.

Also read: Best Martial Arts for Smaller Guys

Advanced BBJ

The next chapter covers advanced ground combat, focusing on attacking your rival while retaining your main position. The two new postures are introduced in this chapter which is the North-South and Knee-On-Belly position. Following that, it demonstrates some new guard-passing methods. It then goes on to show some new chokes, which are listed below:

  • Leaning Choke
  • Sleeve Choke
  • Nutcracker Choke

If you’re not familiar with these chokes, it’s because most of them require the competitor to be wearing a uniform to perform the choke. The field manual then shows how to use these chokes during certain transitions, when on the back of your opponent, when in side control, when in knee-on-belly, and when you can use these chokes in the range of their guard.

Then it becomes more intriguing because the field manual of MACP introduces some leg locks, which are as follow:

  • Straight Ankle
  • Straight Knee Bar
  • Figure-Four Ankle

The chapter concludes with instructions on how to attack and defend against strikes in different positions. After the end of this chapter, you might become able to knock down your enemy within minutes. 

Wrestling & Judo

The following chapter demonstrates various aspects of Judo and wrestling to the recruits, primarily throws and takedowns. It starts by showing you how to break a certain fall, both backwards and forwards. This is a common warm-up exercise in Jiu-Jitsu and Judo classes. 

The program then teaches a variety of throws and takedowns, which includes:

  • Basic Takedown
  • Hip Throw
  • Takedown by a Leg-Hook
  • Rear Takedown

The instruction manual then demonstrates how to defend alongside a guillotine and a harmful bulldog choke. Following that, it demonstrates a few different methods in which utilizing a wall can assist you in completing a takedown. 

Before going on to strikes, the chapter concludes with a few techniques to complete both types of takedowns i.e., single-leg and double-leg.

Muay Thai

The next chapter only covers the Muay Thai style of combat. All styles of standup combat are covered in this section. The chapter begins with a list of some common strikes:

  • Jab
  • Hook
  • Elbow
  • Cross
  • Uppercut

The MAC program then suggests combining your punches together in different combinations to make those punches more efficient. The chapter then goes into some other leg strikes, which are kicks that include:

  • Inside Leg
  • Outside Leg
  • Stepping Sidekick
  • Rear Leg Kick
  • Knees

The following chapter concludes with a recommendation that the fighter should also learn to manage the range in any fight. The range goes in this sequence kicking-punching-elbow range. Managing your range is very important while you are fighting. It gives you the idea of your next strike. You can know when and where to hit. Therefore, this chapter helps a lot in the management of your range. 

Most of the techniques which are learned by the Green Berets during the basic fighting training are covered in the previous three sections. In martial arts, we can say that Green Berets somehow have knowledge of Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), Boxing, Wrestling, Muay Thai, and Judo. However, each person can continue to learn and grow on their schedule, so this is not the end of their abilities. 

Also read: Best Karate Weapons

Other Combat Styles Used by the Green Berets

The MACP has only been operational for a short time. It was first used by the Army in 2002 and then by the US Special Forces in 2007. There was a different type of program known as LINE prior to the MACP.

LINE is the short form of Linear Infighting Neural Override Engagement. In 1998, the US Special Forces devised a very simple close-quarters fighting system. It had various limits on the certain techniques it taught, most of which were due to program demands, such as simplicity of use in dim lighting and convenience while severely tired. 

After frequent practice of the drills of the program, the LINE program was basically designed to be simple to acquire and retain. However, many people complained that the program was too time-consuming, forcing participants to repeat concepts on a regular basis to use them efficiently. Many participants were not able to retain the level of skill they had when they started learning the basic techniques due to their hectic schedules.

The MACP has numerous advantages over the LINE, and therefore the LINE was replaced by the US Special Forces to MACP in 2007. It is less demanding, more efficient, and simple to learn. The MACP is superior to LINE because it includes the far more basic yet efficient techniques from numerous martial arts.

This makes the MACP look a lot like Krav Maga. Krav Maga is a self-defense system that combines multiple different combat techniques into one basic system. Despite being as easy as the MACP, it becomes more efficient because it uses unusual or “dirty” approaches. So it can be said that the Green Berets are learning mostly Krav Maga and its techniques. 

Use of a System of Colored Belts by The Green Berets

As many of you are aware, many classical martial arts, including Karate, use a specific colored belt system to identify a student’s level of experience or proficiency. Surprisingly, the MACP features a ranking system based on belts as well.

Since 2001, the Marine Corps has used a belt system, with recruits obtaining their colored belt after practicing the Combatives for almost 50 hours. After that, they can go to green, gray, brown, and finally 6 levels of a special belt known as black belt. 

Matt Larsen, the creator of Combatives, was passionate about MACP trainees receiving belts. This was primarily due to Matt’s insistence on Combatives course to be a battle survival system rather than a sport. Larsen somehow wants the program’s focus to acquire more survival skills rather than obtaining a belt.

Despite his concerns about the system of belts, Larsen presented the MACP’s first belts in 2010. The very first belts he gave out were three black belts to the most successful fighters of the Army Championships. 

Also read: Best Striking Martial Arts

Does the MACP Hold Any Martial Arts Contests?

Since its beginnings, the MACP has held many competitions for the abilities it teaches. On the other hand, Larsen wants fighters to concentrate on core abilities rather than just winning MMA fights. He designed a tiered competition structure to guide the competitors into the core abilities they must learn. The tiers competition includes:

  • Basic
  • Intermediate
  • Standard
  • Advanced Competition

Recruits compete in the basic competition, which begins when they are on both of their knees and is a basic grappling contest with the prohibition of any kind of leg lock. The Standard competition is a regular grappling battle with the exception that just straight leg locks are permitted. Takedowns and positional superiority are used to score the match.

After that, the tournament progresses to Intermediate, when the combat is conducted according to pankration regulations. There are no interruptions in the combat, which lasts 10 minutes. The fighters can hit the head with open palm attacks and the body with closed fist strikes. The opponent’s body and legs are permitted to be kneeled. Finally, the advanced kind of competition is simply following MMA rules and does not include the attack of knees and elbows to the head. 

Also read: Best Hand-To-Hand Combat Style


Green Berets have been schooled in the necessities of martial arts and usually have a strong understanding of numerous of them. The Combatives program aids in their learning, emphasising grappling, resulting in a highly effective fighting style. 

The training to fight like a US Army (Green Berets) is not really difficult, as the official site of the US Army has all of their Combatives instruction.

So that’s everything that you should need to know about the martial arts that the Green Berets of US Special Forces use. They use a combination of different martial arts like boxing, Judo, Muay Thai, and many others. They somehow seem to use the Krav Maga martial art as it is also the combination of several martial arts. Therefore, they are very professional in fighting and knock their enemies down with a single and swift blow. 

If something is missing about the martial arts of the Green Berets, then feel free to leave a comment below. We would be happy to get new information regarding the martial arts of the US Special Forces and to get some new ideas regarding martial arts. 

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