Army Maj. Brandon Tackett, a Columbus, Ohio, native and the deputy chief of support operations for the 371st Sustainment Brigade, demonstrates a martial arts move with Army Sgt. Stephen Lacey, a Shreveport, La., native and a horizontal construction engineer with the 844th Engineering Company, during Tackett’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class Oct. 25, 2013 at Camp, Arifjan, Kuwait. Tackett is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and has been practicing the martial arts form for more than 13 years.
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – Students from a variety of services, backgrounds and ages roll around the blue mats on the floor of the gym grappling with their fighting partners.
Some wear the traditional gi of martial arts; others wear their military uniform with their blouses and boots removed, but all listen intently as their instructor leads them through different martial arts moves.
While the students practice with their partners, trying out moves they learned a few minutes ago as the tall brown-haired instructor walks among the group, stopping occasionally to correct forms or give advice.
Often the instructor simply rolls around or grapples with one of his students, patiently talking them through each move until they are comfortable enough to do it on their own or with their partner.
At the end of the class, the students are sweating and clearly exhausted, yet they smile as they bow to the white gi clad instructor making their way off the mats and out of the gym.
“Anyone could walk in off the street and plug right in and still get something out of the class,” the instructor says as his students leave.
The class is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and is taught by Army Maj. Brandon Tackett, the deputy chief of support operations for the 371st Sustainment Brigade, an Ohio Army National Guard unit based out of Springfield, Ohio, and currently deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, since July, 2013.
“Before I got here I started researching because I knew I wanted to start [a class], luckily there was a guy already teaching so after he left I took the classes over,” said Tackett, a Columbus, Ohio, native.
Tackett, who holds a brown belt, has been practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for more than 13 years and wrestled throughout high school and college, thought that teaching classes would not only be a great way to spread his passion and improve service members’ physical and mental fitness, but also to improve his own skills.
While Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a demanding form of martial arts and takes years of practice to develop the skills it teaches, Tackett’s classes are open to all levels, from beginners to advanced, he said.
“It takes a very long time to get good at; comparatively speaking it would take about three years to get a black belt in tae kwan do. In Jiu Jitsu it takes anywhere from 10 to 15 years to get a black belt,” Tackett said.
The instruction is physically demanding, however, Tackett does an outstanding job training the class at a beginner level and working with each student individually so their ability and skills continue to improve throughout the training, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kyle Gettys, the supply and services officer with the 371st Sustainment Brigade and a Cardington, Ohio, native.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is used in the world of Ultimate Fighting and mixed martial arts events, and a scaled down version is even used in Army combatives, which was written by a purple belt practitioner of Jiu Jitsu, said Tackett.
The class offers not only physical but mental benefits for practitioners, helpful for deployed service members who may have trouble dealing with stress, said Master Sgt. Cole Derringer, a the fleet manager with the 371st Sustainment Brigade and a Springfield, Ohio, native.
While the class benefits service members’ physical and mental fitness and provides a valuable resource to those deployed to Camp Arifjan, Tackett also benefits from teaching others.
He hopes to compete in the World Championship for Brazilain Jiu Jitsu in June 2014 and believes that he is at the level of training and skill where in order to learn more and continue improving, he needs to teach others, said Tackett.
“This is the time in my Jiu Jitsu journey where I need to be teaching, before I teach every class I’ve already studied that class twice and taken notes on it,” he said.
Tackett wants his students to understand that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is not about being a tough guy or about beating your opponent down, he said.
“Some of the challenges are people with anxiety who don’t like physical competition and tough guys who just want to beat people up,” he said.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a “gentle” martial arts that focuses on disarming and subduing your opponent and less on physically hurting them, said Tackett.
“People need to understand that it’s not what they think it is,” he said.
Click for more photos from Staff Sgt. Kimberly Hill