Army North NCO wins Jiu-Jitsu championship, strives for greatness

By 1st Lt. Karlee Skaggs, U.S. Army North Public AffairsFebruary 28, 2024

Winner's podium
Staff Sgt. Reggie Lowery is receives a medal for his win in the 2023 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Championship on September 2, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nev. (Photo Credit: 2nd Lt. Karlee Skaggs) VIEW ORIGINAL

ATLANTA – U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Reginald “Reggie” Lowery won the 2023 World Master International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

At first glance, Lowery, a communications noncomissioned officer with ARNORTH’s Defense Coordinating Element Region IV most striking feature while milling about the office is his humility. His posture is relaxed, he makes easy conversation, and is quick to assist with menial tasks, such as locating an extension cord for visitors to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region IV building. His high level of athleticism and refined ability to neutralize a threat with nothing more than his hands, are almost undetectable.

Before Lowery donned the uniform himself, his father’s 20-year career in the military whisked his family around the world. From Italy to Germany and back stateside, Lowery developed an appreciation for culture and challenge from a young age. His own tour in Italy as an enlisted soldier was no different, as he quickly became involved in a new type of challenge: the rigor and discipline of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ).

“My [first] classes were all taught in Italian, so I had to really watch my instructor and focus on the techniques,” said Lowery. “This forced me to focus on the details, which really improved my game.”

Despite the difficulty of acclimating not only to an unfamiliar sport, but doing so in a foreign country, Lowery was hooked.

Victory formation
Staff Sgt. Reggie Lowery is crowned a 2023 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Championship title winner in his respective weight class on September 2, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nev. (Photo Credit: 2nd Lt. Karlee Skaggs) VIEW ORIGINAL

“The first day of class, you get destroyed by everyone,” he said. “But, if you keep showing up, you start to notice yourself improving a little more each day.”

BJJ is a martial art characterized by grappling and submission tactics rather than the explosive striking techniques of Karate or Tae Kwon Do. Originating from Brazil in 1925, BJJ emphasizes the ability of smaller individuals to overtake bigger, stronger opponents.

What was at first Lowery’s participation in entry-level BJJ has since become a six-year career with an intense training regimen incorporating five 90-minute BJJ sessions per week (including technique familiarization and sparring portions) and at least two 45-minute lifting sessions.

According to Lowery, tournament preparation is even more intense.

Eight weeks prior to a tournament, fighters go through a “Fight Camp” that increases training session frequency and dials in their diets.

“I have to eat six meals a day when I am in camp to prevent dropping weight or muscle, since I have to make my weight division,” Lowery said.

The U.S. Army’s Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer declares “no one is more professional than I.” The NCO Corps fills a unique niche in the U.S. Army, supplementing gaps in knowledge across the force, maintaining technical and tactical proficiency, and serving as mentors to young service members. Lowery artfully balances these core tenets both in uniform and on the mat.

Fixing commo
Staff Sgt. Reggie Lowery conducts a routine maintenance check on communications equipment during a certification training exercise in Atlanta, December 5, 2023. (Photo Credit: 2nd Lt. Karlee Skaggs) VIEW ORIGINAL

“Being an athlete and an NCO have a lot in common. There is self-doubt sometimes,” said Lowery, who cites preparedness as his most influential tactic against doubt.

Lowery describes his mindset as an NCO as very similar, ensuring to ask the right questions, do his own research, and fully understand regulations in preparation for the various challenges a career in the U.S. Army has to offer.

“Lowery is an outstanding noncommissioned officer,” said Defense Coordinating Officer for DCE Region IV, Col. Arthur Mosel. “He consistently embraces the Army Values.”

The difficulty of maintaining a consistent BJJ training regimen is heightened by the mobility of an active-duty Soldier, Lowery said.

Since enlisting, Lowery has been stationed in Hawaii, Italy, Texas and Georgia, forcing him to find a new gym at each location since beginning in 2017.

“Soldiers move often, and after finding a new gym at a new duty station, it’s not difficult to find friends instantly,” he said. “Some of the best friends I have to this day are the ones I trained with at previous duty stations.”

At the 2023 World Masters, Lowery placed first in the medium-heavy blue-belt category, making him an international champion.

“It was an amazing feeling,” he said. “The feeling of finally accomplishing something that seemed impossible at the beginning of my career can’t be described in words.”

Lowery’s wife Francesca whom he met in Italy at the beginning of his BJJ career and cites as his greatest support system, shared similar sentiments.

“I am so proud of him; he has been working so hard,” Francesca said. “He has been training so much.”

Lowery describes his wife as the reason he’s remained devoted to BJJ.

“I went through a long period of time where I wasn’t winning any tournaments or even getting close to placing on the podium,” he said. “It almost made me think the sport wasn’t for me. My wife reminded me to enjoy the journey, and that it won’t just happen overnight.”

Despite being a reigning world champion, Lowery has no intentions of lessoning his BJJ involvement any time soon; he intends to continue participating as long as his body lets him.

“Winning [the championship] motivated me to see how far I can go in this sport,” he said, potentially pursuing even more substantial titles or programs like the Army’s World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) at Fort Carson, Colorado.

Lowery emphasizes the importance of preparedness not only in BJJ but in everything people do.

“Preparation is key,” he said. “If you have a goal, make sure to prepare and do everything in your power to accomplish that goal and then make a new one.”