Soldiers learn hand-to-hand fighting skills
February 4, 2005
BABENHAUSEN, Germany — It took only one trip to Iraq to make it clear to the 1st Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment that weapons are not always the best tool in a fight.
In tight spaces, face to face with an enemy, a soldier might not be able to raise his 3-foot-long M16 rifle fast enough. So he needs defensive tactics and hand-to-hand combat techniques to get the upper hand.
That’s the message brought to some of the regiment’s troops by the Gracie family.
The grappling Gracies are known worldwide for bringing their style of Brazilian jujitsu to the forefront with no-holds-barred fights at the Ultimate Fighting Championships. That reputation prompted the Babenhausen troops to tap the Gracies for a weeklong training course.
The goal was to train the trainers, so 1-27th troops could go on to teach their soldiers.
“It’s amazing to be working with these guys. It’s a real honor,” said Spc. Michael Leonhardy, who was one of 30 troops selected from the four batteries to train with the Gracie father-and-son team, who came from their Los Angeles academy.
“This is definitely something I’ll be able to teach troops in the future that will actually help when deployed. It’s amazing to be learning techniques that I could have used in situations I encountered in Iraq. This is completely worthwhile,” Leonhardy said.
This is the first time the Gracie family has taught in Germany, but it’s not the first time the Army has tapped the family for self-defense training.
About 12 years ago, Rorion Gracie said, he taught infantrymen with the 2nd Ranger Battalion out of Fort Lewis, Wash. Today, he said, this style of self-defense is one way the Army ignites a “warrior ethos” throughout its ranks.
Gracie’s style of jujitsu is about knowing how to subdue an opponent effectively, without the use of excessive force.
Rorion and his son, Ryron Gracie, (pronounced the Brazilian way, with the beginning “R” making an “H” sound,) tag-teamed to show troops that in most situations technique outweighs strength. About 90 percent of close-quarter combat could be handled by a soldier subduing his enemy, without ever having to raise his weapon, they said.
Rorion Gracie said he tells his students to assume their enemies will always be bigger and stronger. That way, they are trained to take anyone down.
“Soldiers could find themselves in situations where they may have to use lethal force one moment and the next moment restraint. This training helps them avoid accusations that they used more force than necessary,” Rorion Gracie said. All they need is proper self-defense training, he said.
“I think these soldiers are doing wonderful. It’s a new concept for them, but it’s applicable to their job. The weapon is a great tool, but without self-confidence, which this training instills, they could end up being a quick trigger,” Rorion Gracie said.
Maj. Will Daniel, commander of the 1-27’s Battery A, found the Gracie academy military training online. The course is called G.R.A.P.L.E. — or Gracie Resisting Attack Procedures for Law Enforcement.
The applications of G.R.A.P.L.E. techniques are both humane and lethal, depending on the circumstances, according to the Web site. After seeing the Web site, Daniel contacted the academy and invited them to Germany.
Ryron Gracie, who has never taught outside the States, said he was impressed at how quickly the Babenhausen troops picked up the defensive tactics and arrest-and-control procedures.
“We review every day and then we add another piece to the puzzle to make the training easy to learn and complete. It’s all about repetition and doing it right and these guys are doing wonderfully,” said Ryron Gracie, 23. He is the oldest of six brothers and three sisters, who all teach at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy.
Rorion Gracie suggests military units using the G.R.A.P.L.E. techniques take a refresher course every six months to ensure proper performance.
For more information on Gracie jujitsu and the Gracie family, go to www.gracieacademy.com.