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Before beginning their service, CIA officers receive extensive training in both the physical and academic skills they’ll need to manage the threats the United States faces on an ongoing basis. Although hand-to-hand combat may be called upon while officers are on the job, trainees typically spend more time learning how to deescalate and neutralize situations so that fighting isn’t necessary.
CIA Training Basics
From the way the movies portray the Central Intelligence Agency, you’d think that CIA training focuses heavily on the physical side of things. But, in truth, the training that CIA officers go through is similar to the training that soldiers receive in the military, in which trainees are required to get in good physical shape while also learning the important mental skills they might need during assignments.
Among those skills is CIA fighting techniques like hand-to-hand combat. However, this part of the training often gets more attention than the mental preparation officers do before taking a position with the agency. In addition to hand-to-hand combat, you’ll be trained in fighting with improvised weapons, which could come in handy if you’re in a situation in which your weapon is taken from you.
CIA Agents and Martial Arts
Another misconception about CIA officers is that they all work out in the field, serving undercover to unravel threats against the country. In fact, many agents work at desk jobs throughout the agency, including those who analyze cyberthreats. Although officers may receive similar basic training, those who train in skills like CIA hand-to-hand combat are more likely to be stationed in the field than at a desk.
One example of a position in which you’d likely need to learn CIA fighting techniques is a paramilitary operations officer, which requires at least eight years of active-duty experience before you qualify. You’ll already need experience in military combat situations along with advanced combat skills to even qualify for this type of position, so you’ll arrive pretrained in the physical skills you need. An entry-level officer will likely serve in a position like operations officer, in which training includes practical exercises and on-the-job experience earned through short-term assignments.
Krav Maga and CIA Training
One reason many civilians assume that CIA hand-to-hand combat training is part of preparing to be an agent is that the type of training that agents undergo is thought to be based on a method called Krav Maga. Krav Maga is a self-defense system that focuses on preparing participants mentally, tactically, technically and physically. After making their way through the program, participants have the skills they need to go on missions.
Krav Maga isn’t limited to CIA fighting techniques, however. In fact, it’s used in law enforcement and the in military to teach recruits how to wisely use their tools in any combat situation, whether those tools are their hands or weapons. With Krav Maga, you receive training, first and foremost, on how to deescalate a situation so that it doesn’t lead to a fight. From there, you learn to remain calm while you do everything necessary to neutralize the threat.
CIA Training in Virginia
Once accepted, CIA officers are sent to a highly classified training center near Williamsburg, Virginia. This location is designed to remain as top secret as possible, so what happens there isn’t for public consumption. However, training sessions are thought to include marksmanship, types of foreign weapons, interrogation and spying, and counterterrorism tactics. If hand-to-hand combat or Krav Maga is part of this training, that information has not been released to the public.
The facility near Williamsburg is built for new recruits. Current employees who need continuing education, on the other hand, are sent to CIA University in Chantilly, Virginia, where they attend two-week-long courses in topics like communication and project management. It’s also a great place to learn about combat-related topics like chemical weapons and dirty bombs, although there are no reported courses in hand-to-hand combat in that program.
- ClearanceJobs: Spy Training – What It Takes to Make it in an Intelligence Career
- CIA.gov: Browse Jobs by Category
- CIA.gov: Paramilitary Operations Officer
- CIA.gov: Operations Officer
- Krav-Maga.com: Military Krav Maga Training for All Units and Special Forces
- Krav Maga Institute: What is Krav Maga?
- CIAAgentEdu.org: Requirements for CIA Jobs in Virginia
- CIAAgentEdu.org: Central Intelligence Agency Training
Stephanie Faris is a novelist and business writer whose work has appeared on numerous small business blogs, including Zappos, GoDaddy, 99Designs, and the Intuit Small Business Blog. She worked for the State of Tennessee for 19 years, the latter six of which were spent as a supervisor. She has written about business for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2011.