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Minnesota National Guard
Fighting the Good Fight

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait -- It’s a great workout, it teaches discipline, it’s a good stress reliever say Soldiers It is Brazilian jiu-jitsu

At Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Soldiers deployed in support of Operation New Dawn gather at the gym three nights a week to practice the martial art together

It may seem like just an extracurricular activity, but Brazilian jiu-jitsu is much more closely related to the US military than one might think Aside from the physical and mental benefits available to anyone who practices the sport, our Modern Army Combatives Program (MACP) would not be what it is today without the base that Brazilian jiu-jitsu provided

In the mid-nineties, the leadership of the 2nd Ranger Battalion decided to reinvigorate their combatives program The Ranger’s program, headed by Matt Larsen, sought a new base for what was to become the MACP

The Gracie dynasty had been honing the art of jiu-jitsu for nearly a century before the US Army took notice of its style and effectiveness



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It began with brothers Carlos and Helio Gracie in Brazil Helio’s oldest son, Rorion Gracie, was the first to bring the Gracie style of jiu-jitsu to the United States He is also a founder of the Ultimate Fighting Championship His younger brother, Royce Gracie, was the winner of UFC 1, 2, and 4

After evaluating a number of different systems, the Rangers sent several men to the Gracie Academy to study their methods With the tools offered by Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Larsen added his own military knowledge and combat experience to create a program tailored to the needs of the Army

“[The Rangers] had a chance to train with the Gracies and find out their technique and notice that it works in pretty much every situation,” said Cpl Junious Grady, 342nd Transportation Detachment, La National Guard

Grady is one of three blue-belt level jiu-jitsu instructors involved with running the class at Camp Arifjan He is also a level two MACP instructor and an officer with the New Orleans Police Department’s Fifth District Task Force when he’s not fulfilling his duty with the Army Reserve

Grady stated that he’s had to use jiu-jitsu plenty of times on his job Moreover, it helped him to use something that’s not lethal while on duty

“Also, it’s a good stress reliever With all the different stress, especially in deployments, jiu-jitsu is a way to … unwind and unleash that stress in a controlled environment,” Grady adds

‘Controlled environment’ may not come to mind when you see people grappling and rolling each other into submission on a mat, but the growing numbers of participants can’t be wrong In 2001, the United States Army Combatives School was established at Fort Benning There, Soldiers learn the techniques of Brazilian jiu-jitsu as they have been modified for the modern-day Soldier

Spc Sean Stebbins, forward observer, C Battery, 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, has been an avid participant in the jiu-jitsu class since he arrived at Camp Arifjan two months earlier He is a former North Saint Paul High School wrestler and competed in the 2010 All-Army Combatives tournament for the state of Minnesota

“Jiu-jitsu’s good for a lot of things It helps you obviously stay in shape you can easily get a whole body workout in a half hour,” said Stebbins “On top of that it teaches discipline You get what you put into it”

Though Soldiers like Stebbins are generally the most eager to participate in a sport like jiu-jitsu, there are Service members of all types and skill sets involved

“The class is very controlled We take our time and explain to the students that here, there’s nothing to prove, there’s no ego involved We’re here just to learn from one another,” Grady explains

Just as the Rangers were able to learn from the Gracies, the US Air Force has begun learning from the Army In 2008, the USAF implemented a program based on MACP Grady mentions that he is a big advocate for martial arts programs within the military setting, from extra-curricular tournaments, to actual programs like MACP, now adopted by the Air Force, as well as the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program

“I’m glad that Camp Arifjan has this class,” said Grady “It’s a chance for people from combatives to continue to train and also transition into the world of Brazilian jiu-jitsu”

Thanks to instructors like Grady, there is always someone to help them make that transition

“They’re real knowledgeable and it’s good to have them here They keep the class going We had twenty-five guys today so it’s a pretty strong program right now,” Stebbins said “Every time we get someone new coming in we try to get them to put the word out to their units That’s kind of what keeps the program going”

With no end in sight, the sport of Brazilian jiu-jitsu continues to become a practice amongst Soldiers and other Service members alike

Video interview with Cpl Grady: http://wwwdvidshubnet/video/128584/fight-good-fight-interviews

Story, photos and video by Pfc Linsey Williams
1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division






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