Combatives Soldiers compete
A Fort Benning Soldier battles a competitor at the Pan Am Jiu Jitsu Championships in California over the weekend. Fort Benning Soldiers participated in the four-day competition.

FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Fort Benning sent Soldiers who are combatives experts to Irvine, Calif., to compete in the Pan Am Jiu Jitsu Championships, hosted April 8-12 by the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation.

Three Soldiers from the Combatives School, two from the Ranger Training Brigade, and one each from the 75th Ranger Regiment and the 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell, Ky., comprised the Army team and faced fighters from several countries including Mexico, Canada, Japan and Brazil.

It was the first time the Army, as a team, competed at the international level, said the Soldiers.

The four-day competition was broken down into the standard belt, gender, weight and age classifications, said Staff Sgt. Iiko Kalili, the team's coach and a senior instructor at the Combatives School.

In competition, the objective is to force a submission or score more points than your opponent, Kalili said.

"What we teach in the combatives program is to finish the fight. You'll see a lot of guys go for points but won't go for the finish," he said.

For Spc. Christopher Scott Burton, who has been teaching combatives for about a year, this was his first tournament.

"I wanted to see where my skills are at and this is the best way to tell," he said.

Competing in the white belt class, Burton went the full five-minute round, but his opponent scored more points to claim victory.

"He wasn't better in strength or technique," Burton said. "He just stayed on top and won with advantage points."

Staff Sgt. Wilder "Kawika" Smith, from 4th Ranger Training Battalion, defeated his first-round opponent in 3:39 but lost in his second fight when he came up short on points after the five-minute round.

The Gi, the uniform worn for the competition that weighs as much as eight pounds, "slowed me down," Smith said.

Competing in his first Jiu Jitsu tournament, Smith said combatives is a little different "because we train to finish the fight."

Sgt. 1st Class Donnie Bowen, with the 5th Special Forces Group, said he's done jiu jitsu for a while but this was his first competition.

"It's baptism by fire for me, pretty much," Bowen said.

Bowen earned a bronze medal, the only medal for team Army.

1st Sgt. Jason Martin of the 4th Ranger Training Battalion lost via decision to an opponent who went on to win the silver medal.

"I usually place when I fight in tournaments," Martin said, "but the fighters here are some of the best in the world."

Staff Sgt. Pedro Lacerda of the 75th Ranger Regiment, won gold at the tournament three times - in 1998, 1999 and 2002 - prior to joining the Army. He captured the welterweight title at the 2009 All-Army Combatives Championship on Fort Benning.

"Before I joined the Army, I trained all day. Now, I'm a Soldier and I'm training my Soldiers to be ready to deploy," said Lacerda, who is from Brazil.

Lacerda won his first-round match but tapped out in the second round.

"I was ready for war but a fight is a fight and you never know what is going to happen," he said.

Burton said participating in the tournament was good publicity for the Army.

"The more people know about the combatives program and what we do to become an all-around Soldier, the better," he said.

Page last updated Thu April 15th, 2010 at 19:02