Daegu soliders giving "Fight Tonight" a new definition
DAEGU, Korea - As a soldier in the U.S. Army, there is a set of values that must be embodied. The Warrior Ethos instruct soldiers to "always place the mission first, never accept defeat, never quit and never leave a fallen comrade." It is through training, mentally and physically, that a soldier has the opportunity to not only understand these values but also implement them in their personal and professional lives.
Over the last few years, combatives tournaments have grown in popularity across the peninsula. In order to provide service members stationed in Area IV with the opportunity to not only compete, but embody the warrior spirit, the United States Army Garrison - Daegu command, in coordination with Family Morale Welfare Recreation, hosted the first Fight Tonight Challenge at Kelly Fitness Center on Camp Walker, Feb. 24.
"As we have moved through the years, combatives has replaced boxing as the sport," said Col. Ted Stephens, USAG-Daegu commander. "In other locations, and even on the pentagon channel at Fort Benning, they have an annual tournament that gets a lot of publicity and promotes the warrior spirit and we wanted to bring that here."
In preparation for the Fight Tonight Challenge, service members were required to compete in preliminary competitions at both Camps Carroll and Walker earlier in the month. As a result of the preliminary rounds, 24 fighters qualified in seven respective weight classes to compete in the final challenge. Though it was not required, a majority of the participants invested many hours before and after work training in preparation for Friday's fights.
"I have had people come down to my gym and they have done a multitude of training," said Staff Sgt. Michael Showes, 498th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion combatives instructor. "Now that we are doing the rules that are intermediate and advanced where you are striking, focus has been more on punches, kicks and takedowns."
To start the night, all 24 competitors took to the mat for the semi-finals in hopes of placing in the top two for their respective weight classes in order to move on to the final rounds. Semi-final matches were regulated under intermediate rules with one ten-minute round per weight class. Intermediate rules include the addition of strikes such as slaps to the face, punches to the body and the ability kick without limitations.
After the completion of the semi-finals, participants were provided the opportunity to rest while the 168th Multifunctional Medical Brigade personnel provided competitors with medical care such as bandaging and concussion checks. During this time, the Twins Gym of nearby Chilgok, Korea provided multiple demonstrations on traditional forms of martial arts including wushu, hapkido and the official martial arts of the Korean Special Forces, teukgong moosool.
Moving into the finals, advanced rules were implemented. This meant the ability to punch the opponent in the face while wearing four-ounce gloves was added. Instead of one long round, the rules require three five-minute rounds.
Each fighter, throughout the rounds, was allowed to have one or two people selected to coach them from their corner of the mat. When selecting who he wanted cheering him on and advising him throughout his final fights, there was no question whom 1st Lt. Nathan Santhanam, 6th Ordinance Battalion, would pick. These last few months, Santhanam has been volunteering at Daegu American High School as a varsity wrestling coach. For him it was a no brainer, it was time to flip the tables by selecting wrestling team members Jake Dexter, a senior at DAHS, and Hunter Lane, a junior at DAHS.
"It was pretty obvious when I thought about who I wanted to coach me and I knew it was these guys," said Santhanam. "These two specifically work as hard as they can at practice everyday to get better and I feel that we built a connection throughout the season. If I needed anything for this fight it was going to be motivational and to keep my head clear. I knew these guys would do exactly that. It was awesome having them out here for me."
Going into to the final matches, Dexter and Lane advised Santhanam to "not worry about the weight difference and attack everyone as if they were the same as him" while also remembering small technical things throughout his fights. Santhanam did just as they suggested and came out a champion in the Lightweight Class during the final matches.
"It is really good and exciting," said Dexter. "He put in a lot of work for us and a lot of time. The least I could do was come out here and watch him win."
All first place finishers were awarded a medal at the conclusion of the event and the remaining participants received certificates of appreciation for their participation on behalf of Col. Ted Stephens and Gen. John P. Sullivan, 19th ESC commanding general.
The winners in each weight division were as follows: flyweight champion was Pfc. Jacqueline Delagado, 188th Military Police Company; lightweight champion was Santhanam; welterweight champion was Spc. Latrale Noland, 551st Inland Cargo Transfer Company; middleweight champion was Sgt. Donteai Rushing, 551st ICTC; cruiserweight champion was Pfc. Caleb Nuss, 2-1 Air Defense Artillery Battalion; light-heavyweight champion was 2nd Lt. Tobin Cooper, 551st ICTC; heavyweight champion was Spc. Peter Cwalina, 2-1 ADA.
Moving forward, service members in Area IV can expect to see a growth in training at the fight house on Camp Carroll and more combatives tournaments. The Fight Tonight Challenge left the Kelly Fitness Center standing room only and showed an increased interest from personnel across all services on the peninsula.
"In the perfect world, we would have battalion or even company size level fights," said Stephens. "The units would have teams and they would compete as teams. We would have individual competition followed by awarding the team competition as well."
Units can anticipate an increase in training opportunities outside of the normal workdays for their members to participate in.
"Now that the tournament is over, I would like to set a schedule with some days oriented toward kickboxing and others toward things like wrestling and jiu jitsu," said Showes. "The more interest that comes from the training, subsequently there will be more interest in competitions that come later."
For information regarding the fight house hours and training opportunities, contact Showes at Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org or DSN 765-1044.