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103rd defenders build resilience through jiu-jitsu

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Ian McMahon (top), combatives instructor and Security Forces Squadron flight chief, 103rd Airlift Wing, Connecticut Air National Guard, grapples with Tech. Sgt. Brian Davies, 103rd Security Forces defender, during an informal jiu-jitsu session at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. Jan. 23, 2020. The group that practices jiu-jitsu at the 103rd AW monthly to build camaraderie between the members while utilizing combatives skills and outside experience in the martial art. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Tucker)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Ian McMahon (top), combatives instructor and Security Forces Squadron flight chief, 103rd Airlift Wing, Connecticut Air National Guard, grapples with Tech. Sgt. Brian Davies, 103rd Security Forces defender, during an informal jiu-jitsu session at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. Jan. 23, 2020. The group that practices jiu-jitsu at the 103rd AW monthly to build camaraderie between the members while utilizing combatives skills and outside experience in the martial art. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Tucker)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Ian McMahon (front-center), combatives instructor and Security Forces Squadron flight chief, 103rd Airlift Wing, Connecticut Air National Guard, instructs a group of squadron members during an informal jiu-jitsu session at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. Jan. 23, 2020. The group that practices jiu-jitsu at the 103rd AW monthly to build camaraderie between the members while utilizing combatives skills and outside experience in the martial art. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Tucker)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Ian McMahon (front-center), combatives instructor and Security Forces Squadron flight chief, 103rd Airlift Wing, Connecticut Air National Guard, instructs a group of squadron members during an informal jiu-jitsu session at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. Jan. 23, 2020. The group that practices jiu-jitsu at the 103rd AW monthly to build camaraderie between the members while utilizing combatives skills and outside experience in the martial art. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Tucker)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chad Jarvis (right), a Security Forces Squadron defender from the 103rd Airlift Wing, Connecticut Air National Guard, grapples with Tech. Sgt. Michael Stearns, 103rd Security Forces Squadron combat arms noncommissioned officer in charge, during a jiu-jitsu session at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. Jan. 23, 2020. The two are part of a group that practices jiu-jitsu at the 103rd AW  to build camaraderie between the members while utilizing combatives skills and outside experience in the martial art. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Tucker)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chad Jarvis (right), a Security Forces Squadron defender from the 103rd Airlift Wing, Connecticut Air National Guard, grapples with Tech. Sgt. Michael Stearns, 103rd Security Forces Squadron combat arms noncommissioned officer in charge, during a jiu-jitsu session at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. Jan. 23, 2020. The two are part of a group that practices jiu-jitsu at the 103rd AW to build camaraderie between the members while utilizing combatives skills and outside experience in the martial art. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Tucker)

EAST GRANBY, Conn. -- A red mat hits the floor, and a large area that typically serves as Bradley Air National Guard Base’s emergency management classroom becomes a makeshift gym for Airmen of the 103rd Security Forces Squadron.

The group of defenders meets throughout the month during their physical training time to practice jujitsu. This outlet helps build camaraderie between the members while utilizing combatives skills and outside experience in the martial art.

“A lot of these guys do jujitsu in their off time,” said Master Sgt. Ian McMahon, 103rd Security Forces Squadron flight chief and combatives instructor. “I’ve been doing it for quite a while, so they asked if I could come in once in a while and get the group together for a good workout that’s applicable to our job.”

McMahon serves as the informal instructor for the group and brings additional experience as a U.S. Army Combatives Level 1 and Level 2 instructor, jujitsu instructor, and Connecticut Department of Correction behavior management instructor. The key with this group, though, is to have fun while learning, said McMahon.

“I always joke around and say it’s pretty primal – just a bunch of people getting together and roughhousing, but with strategy,” said McMahon. “Besides the workout, the stress relief of getting on the mat and fighting with your friends is a blast.”

Bringing people together is especially important to McMahon.

“I’ve been here for 18 years – this is my family,” said McMahon. “I love these guys and I love doing jujitsu, so it’s a great way for us to have fun and leave any stress we have on the mat.”

McMahon has seen the martial art become a source of mental strength for participants.

“I’ve seen skilled guys who are 145 pounds go against guys who are 245, 300 pounds, and with the jujitsu knowledge they take them down no problem,” said McMahon. “So it’s a huge confidence booster for guys and girls and it’s a lot of fun in an informal environment.”

McMahon’s group is tight-knit but keeps an open door.

“It’s usually the same group of guys, but we do open it up for anyone that wants to drop in, as long as they have a good attitude and respect everyone here,” said McMahon. “Usually, it’s only an hour that we meet, but at least it’s something.”

McMahon says the jujitsu can strengthen resilience.

“I’ve seen a lot of people at my gym that have had outside issues or problems,” said McMahon. “They come in there and there’s nothing else on their mind. The focus is on jujitsu, and you don’t think about whatever else you have going on, just the training. There are so many benefits beyond the physical aspects.”

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