Soldiers on the battlefield have to be ready to fight for their lives, whether it’s with weapons or their bare hands.
Wednesday, the best fighters in the U.S. Army Alaska went head-to-head – or rather, hand-to-hand – as they battled for first place in this year’s combative tournament.
It’s a display of strength and power and for one soldier, a chance to stand out.
Capt. Kimberly DeFiori won three matches and is ready for her fourth.
“I just enjoy it. It’s really practical, just being a soldier and being an MP so it really transitions well and keeps that competitive spirit,” DeFiori said.
She’s the only woman fighting in the finals and her opponent is a man, but DeFiori sees it as good practice.
“You can’t make that decision in Afghanistan or Iraq so you may as well learn how to deal with it here,” DeFiori said.
Tournament organizers say they teach mixed martial arts style fighting so soldiers are ready for combat.
In today’s war zones, the enemy can get close before soldiers realize who they are.
“If they’re close and you have a weapon, they control the weapon just as much as you do. Then you have to resort to hand to hand combat,” said Staff Sgt. Stewart Tignor, the tournament’s director.
It may not be a weapon they have to use often, but it’s one they need to have in their arsenal.
“No matter what your job is, no matter what your MOS may be or your daily life, you’re still a solider and you’re trained as a soldier to close and destroy the enemy,” Tignor said.
The soldiers battle with kicks, punches and takedowns. It’s combat in the octagonal ring.
Here, it’s not life or death, but winning is incentive enough.
DeFiori placed fourth in the lightweight division. That’s fourth in the whole US Army Alaska.
First place finishers get bragging rights and a medal.