A group of 16 Fort Gordon soldiers worked off their turkey feasts Friday.
The men, representing four signal battalions, competed in a single-elimination tournament testing their skills in a highly physical fighting form known as modern Army combatives. Pvt. Eric Cataline, from the 447th Signal Battalion, won the tournament.
Although the bouts closely resemble Greco-Roman wrestling, combatives also takes the basics of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, boxing and Muay Thai kickboxing and molds the fighting forms into a whole new martial art that's become an Army hand-to-hand fighting form, officials said.
"We're teaching them how to survive on a battlefield if the need arises that they have to use their hands to defend themselves or take somebody down," said 1st Lt. Kalin Reardon, a level three combative who teaches hand-to-hand combat at Fort Gordon. "These moves will help them stay alive."
For safety reasons, the action was tamer than it would be in real combat situations. Punching, eye gouging, hair pulling, elbow jabbing and small joint manipulating were not allowed.
Instead, competitors twisted and pushed one another for five minutes at a time - except the eight-minute-long final - and whoever earned the most points or forced a surrender won.
Points were awarded for maneuvering an opponent into one of the dominant body positions, equivalent to "pummeling them" in an actual fight, 1st Lt. Reardon said.
"Winning by submission basically means that if the move is in combat, it would cause serious bodily harm," he said. "We have safety devices in place so that doesn't happen, though. The person taps out to signal they're done."
Several of Pvt. Cataline's victories were from taps. The private joined the Army six months ago, which also is when he began hand-to-hand combat training.
To train for Friday's tournament, he said combatives drills replaced his normal physical training twice a week for the past month.
He credited his victories in all five rounds with his ability to keep his cool.
"I was just trying to control everything out there, trying not to lose all my air too fast - that's the biggest thing," he said after being presented with a trophy.
"I'm a little winded but otherwise feeling pretty good."
Event organizer Capt. Angel Graylau, with the 73rd Ordnance Battalion, said this was the first combatives competition at Fort Gordon, but that he'd certainly like to have more.
"For the soldiers who can't get home for Thanksgiving, this provided some entertainment and allowed them to watch their fellow soldiers compete," he said.
Reach Dena Levitz at (706) 823-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.