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Two Soldiers give it their all during the recent JBLM Combatives Tournament. The blood and bruises on the faces of competitors are badges of honor.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -- Warriors prepare for battle, either real or the vicarious combat of sports, in different ways. Specialist Christopher Cooper looks at it as an opportunity to exercise his singular resolve.

"Luck is when preparation meets opportunity," said Cooper, a Soldier with 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. "If the door of opportunity is not there, then you create your own, and if the door locks, you kick that door in and go through it."

Many participants were standing on the threshold of success during the second annual Joint Base Lewis-McChord Combatives Tournament May 2 to 5, but only a chosen few were able to break through the barricades and stand victorious.

"The biggest goal for Army combatives, as it is taught, is to give the Soldiers the tools needed to defend themselves in a hand-to-hand situation," said Sgt. 1st Class James Rogers, the senior combatives instructor at the Warrior Training Academy on JBLM, "whether it is deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, or protecting themselves even here out in town."

One sentiment widely felt throughout the three-day event was how important training is for Soldiers, especially when taking part in events like the tournament.

"We all train together," said Cpl. Johnny Shadwick, a Soldier with 593rd Sustainment Brigade and coach of the brigade's combatives team. "Some of my teammates came during lunch to train with me."

After a decisive win in last year's tournament, Shadwick kept his streak alive by taking first place in the lightweight class. And he wasn't shy about sharing his championship knowledge with his teammates and fellow competitors.

Shadwick said not getting too excited during matches, taking time to correctly perform submissions and avoiding tiring themselves out too quickly were just some of the pieces of advice he gave to his team members.

"A lot of guys try to go 100 percent the whole time and end up with nothing left in the tank at the end of the fight," he said.

"I felt my (championship) match went extremely well," Shadwick said of his last performance. "It was right where I needed it to be."

"I wasn't expecting to get kicked in the groin like I did, but the fight went where I wanted it to," he said. "I was envisioning dominating everyone I competed against in the tournament."

As a black belt in a fighting style called Kempo, Cooper knows what it takes to successfully prepare for fighting tournaments.

"Train hard, and train for at least six to seven months before you even think about stepping foot into the ring," said Cooper, whose next step in his journey is either competing for the All-Army team or preparing for deployment. "It takes every facet of one's being, and it's hard. I've been doing this almost my entire life, and it's still difficult to me. But if you're going to do it don't be scared to get punched and make that commitment, so you can take it to where you want it (fighting skills) to go. Own it, envision it."

Staff Sgt. Paris Childress has only been at JBLM a few months, but he wasted no time getting himself ready for the tournament.

"I got out here in January, and the first thing I asked was when the (combatives) tournament was," he said. "I had a couple of people out here supporting me, but it was all me."

While Childress might agree that it's key to have the proper training and preparedness, he also feels that will and determination are at least equally important.

"Heart, heart, heart, heart ... if you have the courage to step inside that ring, then you're already a winner," said Childress, who was victorious in the welterweight class. "All you have to do is take that little bit of time it takes to do what's necessary and do what no one else is willing to do, if you have to run that extra mile, throw that extra punch and train that extra minute."

"Once you get into the ring it all comes together," he said.

Childress said after seeing his final opponent fight the previous day he already knew the competitor had some vicious kicks.

"His kicks are off the chain, so after he threw the first kick I tasted it and felt the kicks weren't as hard as I first thought," he said. "So, I baited him, and as soon as he threw another kick I countered with a punch that stunned him."

When Childress noticed his opponent had a weak jaw, he went in to finish the job.
"Just like a shark I saw blood and I got him," he said.

With cheers, waves and fist pumps throughout the entirety of the three-day tournament, the crowd showed Childress its approval with his performance.

Page last updated Thu May 12th, 2011 at 17:00