CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - Service members from the United States and Kuwait armed forces had an opportunity to showcase their martial arts skills in a combatives tournament at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, June 23, 2019.
"It's a good team building event for us because we got to show off our skills," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kenry Trowers, a noncommissioned officer in charge, Combined Joint Task Force -Operation Inherent Resolve, "and the Kuwaitis got to show off theirs as well in building comradery between us."
Five fighters in each of five weight classes, fought one time. A team won its weight class with the best out of five format. Then, the team with the best out of five weight classes won the tournament. Overall, the U.S.A defeated the Kuwaitis 3-2.
"We're both pretty excited to compete against each other and see who comes out on top," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Raymond Edel, a supply noncommissioned officer assigned to Alpha Company, Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 34th Red Bull Infantry Division. "Our competition has been pretty intense."
The tournament consisted of all ranges of experience. In addition to competitive fights, participants competed in exhibition fights. Edel, who only has five months of experience in combatives , won his exhibition fight.
"I am completely new to Brazilian jiu-jitsu," said Edel. "I've been training as often as I can or as often as work permits."
A more experienced competitor, U.S. Army Cpl. Eric Stanley, 637th Chemical Company, Ohio Army National Guard, who wrestled for four years in high school, was a highlight of the tournament. With the score tied 2-2 for his weight class; Stanley clinched the win by executing the Ezekiel choke on his Kuwaiti opponent. During the choke, the crowd could be heard shrieking with joy and thunderous applause.
"It helps build esprit de corps between us and our host nation," said Stanley. "It's definitely a competition of not only strength but will."
Service members who are deployed to Kuwait find out about combatives through word of mouth or advertisements. U.S. Marine Capt. Dylan Grayston, an assistant air officer, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, has a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and a black belt in Judo. He arrived in Kuwait about month ago and visited the gym in his first few days on ground. There, he saw a photo of Helio Gracie, who is one of the founders of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, hanging on the wall.
"I recognized that photo from training I've done in the past," said Grayston.
Grayston reviewed the practice schedule and decided to join the training club and never looked back.
"We have a great Brazilian jiu-jitsu club here," said Grayston. "I've been rolling with those guys since I've been here in Kuwait."
Service members who are interested in training with the club are encouraged to attend practice at 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, at Camp Arifjan's zone 6 combatives gym.
"It's a good opportunity to get back in shape if you're trying do better on your physical fitness test or learn some combatives skills," said Trowers, "so you can out here and train with us."