China banking on MMA after border brawl with India

Indian Army's high-altitude training arguably more suitable for armed mountain combat than MMA

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Orphan competing for Enbo (center). (Pear video screenshot)

Orphan competing for Enbo (center). (Pear video screenshot)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China is adding more members of a controversial mixed martial arts (MMA) gym to the ranks of its border guards after a bloody melee broke out between Indian and Chinese soldiers two weeks ago.

On June 15, China National Defense News announced that former members of the Mount Everest Olympic torch relay team and fighters from an MMA gym called Enbo Fight Club were among new troops dispatched to Tibet. The next day, on June 16, a melee broke out between Indian and Chinese troops on a disputed stretch of border in the Ladakh region, with the Indian side suffering 20 dead and the PLA counting at least 35 slain, including a commanding officer.

As per previous agreements, neither side discharged firearms, but the Chinese allegedly used rusted metal rods with nails attached to them. The Indian side alleged that PLA troops had laid ambush to Indian soldiers, but during the course of the clash, some Indian troops were reportedly able to disarm their opponents and use their own weapons against them.

According to an Indian official, the Chinese soldiers were trying to implement the PLA's "Walk in Strategy" in the Galwan Valley. However, PLA troops were met with fierce resistance by Indian soldiers and had to evacuate "nearly 35 soldiers and officers," who were either wounded or killed in the melee.

The official said the "Chinese side lost the commanding officer of the battalion deployed near Patrolling Point 14 of the Galwan region where the two armies clashed." In addition, the government source said the battalion’s "second-in-command" was also killed in the clash.

In an apparent bid to toughen up PLA troops stationed on the border with India, CCTV on June 20 announced that 20 fighters from the Enbo Fight Club would form the Plateau Resistance Tibetan Mastiffs. The club, founded by Enbo, a Tibetan former armed police officer, has come under fire in the past for allegedly exploiting some 400 orphans that are trained to fight under his wing.

When the MMA recruits were first announced on June 15, Tibet military commander Wang Haijiang (汪海江) said that they would “greatly raise the organization and mobilization strength” of troops and their “rapid response and support ability," reported the China National Defense News. Although the state-run mouthpiece did not confirm that the deployment of the MMA fighters was linked to border tensions, it stated that they had been dispatched with the goal of “strengthening the border and stabilizing Tibet."

As for the Indian side, even Chinese military experts have praised them for their mountaineering training, which Huang Guozhi, senior editor of Modern Weaponry magazine this month described as "an essential skill for almost every member of the Indian mountain army. To this end, India even recruited a large number of professional mountaineers and amateur mountaineers from the private sector." Learning to fight a single, unarmed opponent in a confined cage is arguably less valuable in the high-altitude environment of the Ladakh border than the acclimatization to low oxygen and extreme cold and training in rock craft, ice craft, endurance, and tactical operations that are taught in the Indian Army's High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS).

In addition, unarmed combat appears to be on the way out as India's government on June 21 changed the Rules of Engagement (RoE) on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to allow field commanders to use firearms. The new rules now give military commanders in the field "complete freedom of action" to use firearms under "extraordinary circumstances," reported Times of India.