September 4th, 2009 13:12 EST
Calm in mind, swift in action
Kneeling on my knees on the mat coming In around 6`4 230LBS, my arms and chest flexing in anticipation of what I was sure to be quick rolling session waiting for the signal to begin. Across from me, also on his knees is my opponent. Coming in around 5`10 170-180LBS. To be an outsider, one would look at this match up as a massacre. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The time bearer gives the go, I rush in with the strength and determination of a bull, hell bent on ending this match fast and furious.
My target sits there cool and calm, just watching me, within a minute I find myself in his guard, him on his back with his legs wrapped around my waist, effectively neutralizing my lower half and keeping my upper half a fairly safe distance away from him. Thirty seconds later, my arm is twisted in a way that I`m feverishly tapping my hand on him or the mat, a sign of letting your opponent know the match is over. A minute thirty or less for a guy some 6 inches shorter and 50-60 LBS lighter to have me immobilized and one of my limbs to be contorted to the point where I surrender the match. This is Jiu-jitsu.
Jiu-jitsu originally started in feudal Japan, designed for warfare. Through the years as technology has advanced itself, the need for Jiu-jitsu wasn`t needed on the battlefield anymore, as someone with a gun can kill you from a distance as opposed to a sword. In 1915 a Japanese man by the name of Esai Maeda was in Brazil helping to establish a Japanese colony. At this point Brazil had the largest population Japanese other then Japan itself. It was during this time that Esai met a man named Gastao Gracie. In return for Gastao`s help in stabilizing the colony he taught Gastao`s son Carlos the basic techniques of jiu-jitsu. In turn Carlos taught his brothers Oswaldo, Jorge, Gastao, and Helio.
The brothers would eventually open their first school and jiu-jitsu was cultivated in to a more effective martial art and sport known as Brazilian jiu-jitsu. What made this version of Jiu-Jitsu more effective was the constant exposure of its practitioners to real situations. Between their own schools, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu players would compete in a sportive way to keep the techniques of their art sharp. The Gracie family would issue a challenge to all others to fight without rules. In these no rules or `vale tudo` fights, the Gracie family and their students would evaluate the techniques of their fighting art.
Many modifications have been made to the art through the years. But the public eye was opened in the early 1990`s by a man named Royce Gracie who fought in the early years of the U.F.C (ultimate fighting championship). Royce fought with a grappling style unknown to most other fighters. Whether they were boxers, wrestlers, shooters, or up right strikers, once on the ground, no one knew what to do to fight back. The main factor in this was that Royce Gracie was probably one of the smallest fighters of all time usually going into a fight with opponents of much greater size and strength.
Many modifications have been made to the art over the years, most being made by Helio Gracie. Just like Royce, Helio didn`t have the strength to apply or escape from the some of the more traditional moves due to a lack of upper body strength, so the techniques were developed to allow him to still perform and apply holds to concur a bigger opponent. The popularity of the art of Jiu-Jitsu has risen to such an extent that the U.S. Army has now adopted what is called combatives, which is based off of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Once again with the philosophy in mind of having a smaller person take down and effectively stop a bigger person in a fight.
Here at FOB Sykes, every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, soldiers gather in the MWR(moral, welfare and recreation) gather together to learn this art form that has had so many alterations to the perfected techniques used today. The main instructor is Sean Barber, 31years old and has been practicing/studying the arts of Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. His assistant instructor Juan Ortiz, is 32 years old and has been studying the arts of Kempo and Judo
The classes usually range from 10-15 people, lasting for an hour, but at the end no one ever leaves. Most will stay around for another hour rolling. The classes begin with the traditional bowing to the instructor, a form of showing proper respect to him and the art he teaches. This is followed by 15-20 minutes of warm up exercises and stretches to minimize injuries. Even in practice, there are plenty of injuries abound.
This way we reduce the risk for unnecessary ones. For the next 30-40 minutes we learn 2-3 moves and practice them, whether they be arm bars, chokes, how to counter moves, defensive and offensive. Rolling is the term used when two combatants spar off in a 3-6 minute session, trying to attain as many taps as possible. It doesn`t seem like much, but when you have the majority of your muscles working in unison together straining against another`s you get tired pretty fast. Many aspects I have learned from the classes thus far are:
Always remain calm and focused, when you start losing your cool, you begin making mistakes that your opponent can capitalize on-match over.
Control your breathing- you get out of breath and your muscles don`t receive the proper oxygen to operate at full capacity, you lose strength-match over
Never under estimate your opponent as you read the first paragraph that was a true story/lesson I learned my very first night. Always going into the match as the bigger stronger person I learned real quick that technique and proper knowledge will prevail as the art was modified to work precisely against bigger stronger opponents- match over
Practice, practice, practice, just because in training you can slap in arm bar on someone, it`s completely different when they fight back and are working their strategy on you at the same time.
So while were all away from our families for long lengths of time, practicing and learning the art of Jiu-jitsu allows us to remain disciplined and learn a skill that always has the potential to help during life`s troubling times. Worst case, you have a bad day at work, it`s a great release of energy and stress, in a controlled and positive manner.