This article is a joint publication of TheNation.com and Foreign Policy In Focus.
As I peered at Jennifer Laude’s serene face in the open casket, I saw the wound on her forehead that was barely concealed by the mortician’s makeup. I did not see the bruises on her neck and shoulders, but I was told they were severe. “They seemed to have been inflicted by a martial arts move,” said a mourner familiar with the autopsy. “That may have been one of the causes of death, along with drowning.”
A few days earlier, on October 11, Jennifer, a transgender woman, was found dead in a hotel room, her face immersed in a toilet bowl. The murder took place in Olongapo, a city adjoining the former US naval base at Subic Bay. Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton of the US Marine Corps was identified as Jennifer’s companion entering the motel room and then leaving the crime scene after about fifteen to twenty minutes.
The case has become a cause célèbre. It is destabilizing US-Philippine relations and highlighting the difficulties of the Obama administration’s push to root out the entrenched anti-gay culture of the US military.
Jennifer’s violent end, with no guns or knives involved, might be linked to Pemberton’s martial arts training, say some who have closely followed the case. Pemberton, it turns out, is scarcely out of the Marines’ famous (or infamous) boot camp, where martial arts skills are drilled into recruits. As a letter from one recruit (reproduced in Hamilton Nolan’s blog linked to the Huffington Post) notes:
We learn a ton of martial arts, which is technically called MCMAP–Marine Corps Martial Arts Program–but I call it Karate and ninja training, which my DI’s [drill instructors] don’t like one bit. It started with boring punches and kicks, tiger shulman tae kwon do style, but now we’re learning throws, counters, elbows, stomps, bayonet attacks, bayonet defenses, etc. all of which we do at full speed and intensity on each other. (sometimes w pads but often not). If the DI’s think we’re going easy on each other, they flip a shit.
The MCMAP shit is incorporated into our PT workouts, one of the best workouts we did was the martial arts conditioning course: 2 min of jab straight hook vs. a recruit w a pad throw a recruit over your shoulder, carry them back and forth btwn 2 cones 30 yards apart somersault (sp?) back and forth 30 yards apartment roundhouse kicks drag a recruit back and forth for 30 yards elbow strikes choke counters knee strikes run 1/2 mile punch blocks/throws crawl (low) in sand for 100 yards body squats run 1/4 mile.