HELMAND PROVINCE, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – After watching Royce Gracie use Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to force wrestlers, boxers and martial artists to tap out, Staff Sgt. Noel B. Min, a utilities chief for Regimental Combat Team 7, was hooked.
"In the Ultimate Fighting Championship 1, I saw this little guy, Royce Gracie, tack on these big dudes using BJJ, and I wanted to get to know more about it," said Min. "I started with wrestling, and I progressed even further. I've been doing BJJ seriously for the past four years."
Min's skills led to a 3rd degree blue belt in BJJ, and entered many competitions before deploying. While stationed in Va., Min won the East Coast Grappling Championship in the blue belt, 150-160 pound categories.
It was very satisfying having years of hard work pay off. But more than that, what I got out of it was the learning experience, said Min. "I found out what I was weak at, what I could improve on and what my strengths were."
Now in Afghanistan, Min, a certified Marine Corps Martial Arts black belt instructor, continues to keep his skills sharp by teaching fellow Marines BJJ.
"I'm learning a lot of variations of techniques," said Cpl. Chris N. Meza, a Marine Corps Martial Arts green belt instructor for RCT-7. "I wanted to give a different insight to my Marines. BJJ helps a smaller person like me use techniques to my advantage."
In sports like boxing, a taller fighter with a longer reach could have a significant advantage over a smaller opponent. But in BJJ, the art was specifically designed for the smaller man to overcome larger opponents with technique.
The creator of BJJ, Helio Gracie, was a short man, with very little muscle, but was still able to overcome opponents with leverage and technique, said Min, from Huntsville, Ala.
"It's a mental game," said Min. "Using what you have and maximizing it."
Similarly, not every Marine has beastly strength and is a 6 ft. tall. Yet, smaller Marines can be seen doing the same jobs bigger Marines do.
"With the Marine Corps, it's always known; do what you can with what you have. I think that in itself is what the Marine Corps is all about," said Min.
According to Min, BJJ can also teach how to keep calm under stress.
When grappling, practitioners of the sport work to keep their minds clear in order to execute their attacks with ease.
"It's all about keeping calm under stress and being able to really think and take advantage of your opponent's weaknesses," said Min.
As Min and his students practice their moves, the elements of BJJ they learn could prove to be an invaluable asset during their deployment in Afghanistan.
"Just like all martial arts, it's about control and self discipline. BJJ teaches you a lot about using your mind, using leverage and not muscling everything," said Min. It's about winning or learning, and either way whether you win or lose your always learning about yourself, about other people, how other people react and how you react in certain situations.
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