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Retired Maj. Kelly Grissom tells Martial Arts Instructor (MAI) soon-to-be instructor graduates to train smarter, not harder.

Photo by Jaron Hampton

Martial Arts Instructor graduates get final motivational talk from retired Marine

7 Nov 2016 | Marianne Weaver/Staff Writer Marine Corps Base Quantico


Before graduating from the Martial Arts Instructor (MAI) course, soon-to-be instructors gathered in the mat room of Yale Hall for a motivational talk (and work out) from retired Maj. Kelly Grissom.

 “If I could leave the Marines with only one thought, it is that martial arts training—the whole of Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) and especially grappling—offers many benefits to Marines besides the traditional focus of the program on hand-to-hand combat,” said Grissom. “In my opinion, the components of fitness, camaraderie, character development and decision-making significantly outweigh the basic knowledge of the hand-to-hand combat techniques.”

Capt. Matthew J. Skala, TACO commanding officer, said the MAI instructors were looking for a guest speaker to close out the course.

“Kelly's vast knowledge of martial arts and the fact that he is a former Marine holds a lot of weight with the Marines. I knew the students would get a lot out of it,” said Skala. “The big thing that was pushed is how to train.  Train smarter, not harder.”

Grissom retired in 2009, and then opened KOA Martial Arts in Stafford. While on active duty, he served as company commander in Afghanistan during Operations Red Wings and Whalers, which was made famous by the books "Lone Survivor" and "Victory Point," as well as the movie "Lone Survivor.”

“I am occasionally invited to speak about my leadership experiences during that time, but it is not something that I do frequently,” said Grissom. The dozen Marines in attendance listened intently as he spoke.

“I have a connection to the students first and foremost as Marines. Even though I am no longer serving on active duty, like any veteran Marine, I am happy to have any opportunity to interact with active duty Marines,” he said. “In this case, through my experiences as a life-long martial artist and as a career Marine, I hoped to help the Marines be more effective MCMAP Instructors.”

Grissom said he came to the talk with two goals: He wanted to impart how grappling can serve Marines as a leadership tool and how they can design grappling training for all Marines, not just those who are naturally skilled.

“Using Mr. Grissom's advice and techniques, I was able to learn how to assist those Marines who aren't confident in their abilities due to maybe they are short, lightweight or don't think they have the ability to overcome against a bigger opponent, and help them learn that the techniques we use will assist them in being better and building the skill set to overcome whatever opponent they face in life,” said student Cpl. Jeremiah T. Smith. “Mr. Grissom taught us how to accommodate for different learning abilities.  Using his advice, I feel that I will be a better NCO and leader of Marines throughout my military career.”

Marine Corps Base Quantico