Most athletes train for one purpose — to be the overall champion at the end of the season. All of their efforts and dedication are geared to culminate in the trophy, the ring, the crystal ball or the emblematic gold medal.

For nearly 300 Soldiers who competed in the 2013 Fort Bragg Army Combatives Championship Invitational, Dec. 12 to 14, the tournament itself acted as an important training opportunity to make them more prepared for real-life combat situations.

“I’m honored that we were able to host this competition at Fort Bragg. This combatives tournament represents an opportunity for us to promote a very important tactical skill for our troopers here and across the Army,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Isaia T. Vimoto, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg command sergeant major.

As an instructor at the 82nd Airborne Division’s Combatives and Advanced Tactics School, Staff Sgt. Nick Grady teaches these tactics to Soldiers on a daily basis.

“You can’t shoot everything all the time,” Grady said. “I think that being prepared as a warrior should also include being prepared in hand-to-hand combat.”

In the midst of instructing, Grady found time to hone his own skills during training at lunchtime. He competed in the tournament and won his fight with a knock out, in the finals at Sports USA, Dec. 14. Grady placed third in the 205-pound-and-up weight class.

Ultimate Fighting Championship Mixed Martial Arts fighter, Tim Kennedy was there to watch Grady and the other finalists.

“Combatives is very important,” Kennedy said. “It creates talent and a mentality that saves lives.”

A Green Beret, Kennedy, who still serves in the Texas National Guard, has experienced the advantages of combatives training first hand.

“I was able to save my own life, civilians’ lives and my fellow Soldiers’ lives,” Kennedy said.

Grady and other instructors at the division’s combatives school like Sgt. Jesse Hertzog, who took first place in the competition’s 140-pound weight class, instill these life-saving skills in their students.

“When we teach the techniques, we want to show our students the tactical application so they understand how to do this in an actual combat situation,” Hertzog said. “Army combatives is training to be a better warrior, especially as a paratrooper.”

In their role as the nation’s global response force, the 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers need to be prepared to respond to missions ranging from peace and stability operations, to those of a more combat or lethal nature, such as a joint forcible entry.

“Combatives training is an essential component in developing the total Soldier,” said Command Sgt. Maj. LaMarquis Knowles, 82nd Abn. Div. command sergeant major. “We consider it critical in developing resilient paratroopers ready to respond to any contingency.”

In addition to the paratroopers of the 82nd Abn. Div., Vimoto sees the benefit the Army combatives and its tournaments offer Soldiers across the Army.

“This competition offers Soldiers an opportunity and motivation to continue honing their unarmed combat skills,” Vimoto said. “Whether they’re qualifying on their weapons, taking a physical fitness test or competing in a combatives tournament, we always seek to give our Soldiers a chance to strive for measureable excellence in the training environment. These opportunities better prepare our troops for real-world missions.”

As with most Army training, the combatives competition was not only a chance to practice important technical skills — it also offered the troops an opportunity to build esprit de corps and build character.

“Combatives is a great platform for showing our warrior ethos at every level,” said Capt. Jon Anderson.

Anderson, of Fort Benning, Ga. won first place in the 170-pound weight class. After winning awards in three, of the last four, Army combatives championships, he plans to vie for a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic wrestling team.

While Anderson’s individual goals are unique, his relentless character and spirit is shared by Soldiers throughout the Army.

“We have the most technologically advanced equipment in the world, but the most important assets in our Army are the men and women who serve,” Vimoto said. “The Army Combatives Program gives them essential mental and physical skills to rely on themselves and each other in any situation.”