Students John McCormick (top) and Kenny Wilson spar, or "roll," during a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class Monday night at Gaffney Fitness Center. Experienced instructors teach the century-old form of martial arts three days a week in the gym's Combatives Room.

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (July 19, 2012) -- Six years ago, Kenny Wilson began training in Jiu Jitsu. His training slowly evolved into fighting at amateur mixed-martial arts events throughout the area.

Although Wilson now focuses on striking forms of martial arts, in order to remain a well-rounded competitor he continues to hone his ground fighting skills with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu courses at Gaffney Fitness Center.

"It flows right into my MMA training," he said.

The free class for men and women meets three times a week in Gaffney's Combatives Room to train in the century-old form of martial arts. The combative sport and self-defense system is taught by experienced instructors who don brown and blue belts.

Promoting the concept that smaller and weaker fighters can defend against a bigger and stronger foe, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu uses leverage, joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the opponent.

"It's basically what happens when you get thrown to the ground -- how you fight with a person on top of you," said instructor Deke Richardson.

For two hours on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, more than a dozen students train in the fundamentals and basic skills of the sport, while the more experienced participants work on advanced techniques and moves.

The format of the class allows all levels of ability to work out and learn the skills, Wilson said.

In pairs, students learn a number of techniques -- from takedowns to chokeholds -- under the supervision of the veteran instructors. Instructors teach each technique by demonstrating the various ways their opponent would react to the move and how to block the defense.

Participants are also taught to defend and reverse the various attacks.

"It's a good class for people who want to get into it and people who are already into it," Wilson said. "It's good for all walks of Jiu Jitsu."

While those such as Wilson have been training for years, several students are new to the sport. Instructor and student Mike McDonnell said participants work together and improve each other's skills -- passing off tips during training.

"You learn just as much teaching," he said.

To help each other develop into better fighters, students are not separated by skill level, but train against each other. Toward the end of class, participants spar, or "roll," with each other as newer students compete against experienced fighters.

On Monday night, Mike Jernigan took on Wilson for a four-minute round. Jernigan, who started learning Jiu Jitsu about two months ago, said this method of training has helped him learn the sport quickly.

"I didn't know anything, so I got my butt kicked a lot," Jernigan said. "But it's full immersion. They just throw you in with all the guys who have been here for a couple years. After a little while you start picking up on it and you learn the moves."

With the sport's growing popularity, there are a variety of schools in the area that draw more seasoned students. But Wilson said the courses at Gaffney are equal to the other schools -- without the cost.

"This is one of the best classes I've been to," he said. "We get a pretty good group of people here that would rival pretty much any school in the area."

Page last updated Fri July 20th, 2012 at 11:52