Matt Larsen is a United States Army Ranger and Combatives instructor known as “The Father of Modern Combatives” for creating the United States Army’s modern combatives doctrine and establishing the U.S. Army Combatives School. He has been credited with pushing Hoplology, the scientific and academic study of combative behavior, into the modern era.
Larsen enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as an infantryman in 1984. He was soon stationed overseas in Tokyo, Japan with the Marine barracks at Naval Air Facility Atsugi. During this time Larsen began training in the martial arts, with judo, Shotokan karate and boxing. He continued his training in martial arts when he was transferred to Okinawa with the 3rd Battalion 5th Marine Regiment, training in Shobayashi Shorin-ryu with Eizo Shimabukuro and continuing his judo training and also trained Kali in the Philippines. During this time Larsen fought in the Japan Karate Association’s All Japan Karate Championships, Muay Thai fights in Thailand and fought a bare-knuckle fight against the Republic of Korea Marine Corps Taekwondo champion and was also on the 3rd Marine Division’s boxing team. After several years as a Marine, he reenlisted in the United States Army, working his way into the 75th Ranger Regiment, where he would stay for the next 14 years.
Initially assigned to 1st Ranger Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield, Larsen parachuted into the Torrihos/Tacumen airfield during Operation Just Cause and was also involved in Ranger operations during the Gulf War. He began getting more involved in combat sports and served as the president of the 1st Ranger Battalion’s practical shooting club. After he was reassigned to the 2nd Ranger Battalion, he started the Battalion’s practical shooting club. He soon found himself as the non-commissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) of Combatives and Close Quarters Battle (CQB) training for the 2nd Ranger Battalion, where he took the training he received achieving black belts in several martial arts, including Brazilian Jiu-jitsu with Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti and Russian Sambo, and merged them into a single, effective, fighting style. As the program grew more elaborate, he became the NCOIC of Combatives and CQB training for the entire 75th Ranger Regiment.
With his service in the Ranger Regiment, he had become established as the United States Army’s Combatives subject matter expert. When the opportunity to shape the Army’s Combatives program came, he transferred to the Ranger Training Brigade, which was in charge of developing the Combatives doctrine at the time. During this time, he refined his training methods and began putting together a comprehensive training manual. Larsen was asked to move to the 11th Infantry Regiment to design a Combatives instructor training course for their cadre. As the 11th Infantry Regiment would soon have a more rigorous training regimen, taught by the Army’s subject matter expert on Combatives, the proponency for Combatives doctrine moved with him.
His ideas were well received at the 11th Infantry Regiment and he found himself with an old warehouse that he used as a combatives training facility. Within a short time, the school had become successful enough that units from around the Army began sending their soldiers. Several new courses had to be developed in order to continue teaching beyond the initial course, with the idea of building programs within these units. Eventually the school was recognized by the Army as the US Army Combatives School. In 2002, the training manual that he had been working on since his time with the Ranger Training Brigade was published by the Army as Field Manual 3-25.150 (Combatives). In March 2005, he was inducted into the Order of Saint Maurice at the Centurion level.
Jiu-Jitsu Instructor Lineage
Jigoro Kano -> Tsunejiro Tomita -> Mitsuyo “Count Koma” Maeda -> Carlos Gracie, Sr. -> Helio Gracie -> Rolls Gracie -> Romero “Jacaré” Cavalcanti -> Matt Larsen.
Andrew Chappelle -> Max Faught -> Nate Ford -> Iako Kalili -> Monte Massey -> John Renken -> Damien Stelly
Post military career
After retiring from the Army, Larsen worked as a private contractor in Afghanistan and Iraq before being hired by the Army as the Director of the Modern Army Combatives Program (MACP) and the Commandant of the US Army Combatives School (USACS) which he established at Fort Benning, Georgia.
In 2007 he helped the United States Army Special Forces Qualification Course revamp their Combatives curriculum and was an advisor to the US Air Force, who adopted his program in early 2008. In 2008 Larsen designed the Combatives training program for the Canadian Special Operations Regiment. In 2009 he consulted with both the Royal Marine Commandos at the training base in Lympstone, Devon, as well as the British Army’s Infantry at the Infantry Training Centre Catterick on the development of their Combatives programs
He was featured on the cover of the September 2010 issue of Black Belt Magazine in a two part article continued in the October issue.
LHR Combat Knife
In 2006 Larsen linked up with knife designers William Harsey, Jr. and Chris Reeve, who designed and make the Yarborough knife presented to graduates of the Special Forces Qualification course, to develop the LHR Combat Knife based on the lessons from hand to hand fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is manufactured by Gerber Legendary Blades.
In 2008 and 2009 Larsen rewrote the US Army Survival Handbook and the U.S. Military Pocket Survival Guide: Plus Evasion & Recovery for the publisher Lyons Press.
In 2010 Larsen co-authored Sniper: American Single-Shot Warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan, with war correspondent Gina Cavallaro with a foreword written by the 31st Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. (Ret.) Richard A. Cody, architect of the Asymmetric Warfare Group and former commander of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The book is a collection of stories and impressions from dozens of snipers — Soldiers and Marines, including Rangers and Special Forces Soldiers—who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In June 2011 Larsen was in Libya assessing the rebel forces.