Deterrence through confidence: the power of Gracie Jiu Jitsu

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Christen Ornella
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
Just as the nuclear force provides America with a strategic deterrent, Gracie Defense Systems provides individuals with the means to deter assailants and finish them if necessary.

A team of six Jiu Jitsu trainers and practitioners visited F.E. Warren Air Force Base Feb. 24 to 28 to teach approximately 100 Airmen and spouses how to defend themselves from a sexual assault or any compromising situation.

"Gracie Defense Systems is about avoiding the assault and preventing potential attacks through assertiveness and through confidence," said Rener Gracie, head instructor of the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy based out of Torrance, Calif.

This one-week, intense train-the-trainer course was run by the long-standing Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy and brought to Warren to build Airmen's self-defense techniques and confidence so they can spread their knowledge to other Airmen, family members and friends.

"My grandfather created Gracie Jiu Jitsu specifically for him to be able to defend against larger, stronger opponents and spent 85 years developing the techniques," Gracie said.

When the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy became aware of the growing threat of sexual assault in the armed forces, they created Gracie Defense Systems, which is their modified solution course specifically for military personnel to help reduce frequency of sexual assaults on military installations, Gracie explained.

Eve Torres, GDS head trainer, hopes they lit a fire in the participants for learning the techniques and sharing their new knowledge with others.

Toni Rieken, GDS participant and spouse of Tech. Sgt. Kevin Rieken, Air National Guard Recruiter, said she felt a new sense of confidence and empowerment at the end of taking the course.

"I couldn't get enough of it," Rieken said. "I want to teach people these skills."

Gracie and Torres strive to give the participants teaching methodologies to be able to spread these methods and techniques to other Airmen who could not attend.

Their goal is to give participants a foundation so they can then hone their skills once the course is complete by practicing with their fellow participants and by teaching other interested Airmen.

"In one week, you can't expect everyone to perfect every single technique, but what we hope that is accomplished in this week is not only for them individually to feel like they've gained confidence and techniques in the principles of self-defense, but we've maybe changed their mind about what is possible and what self-defense and reducing sexual assault is all about," Torres said.

Mary Brown, GDS participant and 90th Missile Wing's Sexual Assault Response coordinator, said that even though there is still room for improvement, she thinks everyone will be more aware of their surroundings because of this course.

"I think you are just more cognizant if you would ever have to use these skills because it is now more of a reflex," Brown said.

When introducing new techniques, the instructors begin by describing a sexual assault scenario where the assailant identifies an unsuspecting target. The initial defense is awareness.

"Part of what we're learning today is the confidence to be able to look [the assailant] in the eye and to not be the unsuspecting target," Torres said.

When the assailant identifies the target, the assailant will then try to subdue the target. Here, the instructors focused on defense techniques to avoid getting subdued, such as how to strike the assailant effectively, how to get out of wrist grabs, how to escape a choke and other standing defenses.

Participants then learn what to do if the assailant is able to take the target to the ground to try to control and exhaust him or her.

"We are perfecting techniques as we force the opponent to deplete their energy so that we can disengage and escape a bad situation," Gracie said.

What sets GDS apart is that the techniques they teach are based on leverage concepts, timing and energy efficiency in such a way that a smaller individual can use them against a larger attacker.

"The more effectively you are able to defend yourself, the less likely you are to ever need to," Gracie said.

"What's unique about this program is that these are all neutralizing techniques, meaning every single technique is neutralizing an assailant rather than escalating the situation," Torres said.

These skills not only help reduce the risk of sexual assault occurring but they also give participants the confidence that they can get out of a situation before it occurs.

"We can pre-emptively prevent an assault because of the confidence and the assertiveness that someone shows once they have these skills," Gracie said. "It's not just to prepare them when it happens. It is actually a deterrent."

All we are doing is giving the participants the confidence and authority to establish physical, emotional, verbal and psychological boundaries and enforce them if they are violated, Gracie said.

"People are only going to establish boundaries that they are willing and capable of enforcing," Gracie said.

"Once you're confident, it goes way beyond protecting yourself," Gracie said. "The new skills they have acquired can be used to intervene and to prevent an assault from taking place by establishing and enforcing a boundary to protect their wingman."

The participants trained for about six hours per day for five days straight.

"I had a hard time sleeping the first night," said Master Sgt. David Pickard, GDS participant and Air National Guard Quality Assurance non-commissioned officer in charge. "I am so motivated to help somebody else protect themselves. If I can show one person one self-defense move that gets them out of a bad situation, I will be so happy.

"This is something we can take with us whether you're at F.E. Warren or go to another base. Whether you're in a parking lot, in your house, on a date, this will help you build confidence to walk proud."