SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii – It didn’t matter who the draw was for Sgt. 1st Class Erixs Reyes, he just wanted to fight.
In late November 2022, Reyes submitted an application to compete in a Fight 2 Win jiu-jitsu match in Honolulu, about 25 miles south from where he’s stationed on Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
Reyes, a cavalry scout platoon sergeant with Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, got his start in mixed martial arts in 2010, when he was a Pfc. assigned to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky.
“At Campbell, my friends got me in the gym as an alternative to going out and it was by far the best thing I could’ve done,” said Reyes. “Ever since then, I’ve just kind of stuck with it.”
Not only has jiu-jitsu become Reyes’s passion, it also helps him stay physically strong and mentally focused.
“When you are on the mat grappling, you focus on the problem in front of you and nothing else matters. Just like in life, you can only focus on the problem in front of you, because if you don’t do that, it’s easy to spiral."
Reyes takes that same approach when mentoring the junior Soldiers in his platoon. In an era where mental health issues are on the rise, he’s committed to helping his Soldiers become mentally stronger.
“There are so many benefits to stepping in the ring, especially in the Army. I’m always seeking opportunities to build the warrior ethos in my Soldiers."
For Sgt. Gary Matthews, a dismounted team leader in B TRP, 3-4 CAV, he feels lucky to have a leader like Reyes and understands the value of hand-to-hand combat training.
“You never know what’s going to happen in a real conflict or where the enemy might be,” said Matthews. “Getting the chance to fight during PT helps prepare you for the unexpected and makes you mentally stronger.”
On Dec. 29, Reyes received an offer from the Fight 2 Win organizers for an opponent that matched his skill level and weight class – he readily accepted the bout with just eight days to prepare.
On Jan. 7, 2023, Reyes submitted his opponent in 2 minutes and 54 seconds.
His company never doubted the outcome.
“When I heard Reyes was competing in a jiu-jitsu tournament it was pretty exciting for all the Soldiers in our unit,” said Capt. Andrew Miller, commander, B TRP, 3-4 CAV. “Reyes is a competitor and we all knew he was going to go out and dominate his opponent.”
Despite the routine moves that often accompany a career in the Army, along with deployments and training exercises, Reyes continues to find jiu-jitsu academies at every duty station to continue his training.
As a purple belt now, Reyes is halfway toward his goal of earning his black belt.
Fortunately for Reyes, his whole family has taken to the sport, so time in the gym has become a family affair and has helped them grow closer together.
More important to Reyes than winning any competition is leaving a positive influence on the Soldiers that will one day replace him in front of the formation.
For Matthews, Reyes has already left his mark.
“Sgt. 1st Class Reyes is one of the best platoon sergeants I’ve ever had. He’s able to bring an old school Army approach and apply it to how the Army is now. He understands how to connect with Soldiers today.”