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Airmen find resiliency through BJJ

Master Sgt. Raymond Cruz, 460th Space Communications Squadron network operations and communication focal point section chief, left, stands next to contestants at the Colorado Open jiu-jitsu tournament Aug. 19, 2017, in Denver, Colo. Cruz took home the gold medal in the No Gi category at the competition. (Courtesy photo)

Master Sgt. Raymond Cruz, 460th Space Communications Squadron network operations and communication focal point section chief, fights an opponent at the Colorado Open jiu-jitsu tournament at the National Western Complex Aug. 19, 2017, in Denver, Colo. Cruz took first place in the No Gi category and second place in the submission-only category. (Courtesy photo)

The Portela Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu team poses for a photo at the Colorado Open jiu-jitsu tournament at the National Western Complex Aug. 19, 2017, in Denver, Colo. Airman 1st Class Sebastian Capola, 460th Space Communications Squadron client systems technician, and Master Sgt. Raymond Cruz, 460th Space Communications Squadron network operations and communication focal point section chief, competed in the competition. (Courtesy photo)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- When they’re not at work, most Airmen search for an outlet. Whether it’s an active sport or a sedentary pastime, everyone is encouraged to find their mental escape.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a form of martial arts that is commonly used in military combatives, is used by Airmen on base as an avenue to maintain physical and mental readiness.

“For me as an Airman, jiu-jitsu is definitely an outlet – a place that’s not work related; it’s where I can go and be myself,” said Airman 1st Class Sebastian Capola, 460th Space Communications Squadron client systems technician. “It’s a huge stress reliever and a great way to stay in shape.”

Capola has been training for over five months and has already made an appearance in a local jiu-jitsu tournament in Denver. Though Capola didn’t walk away with a medal, his courage to compete with minimal experience revealed his devotion to the sport.

“No one competes after five months of training,” said Master Sgt. Raymond Cruz, 460th SCS network operations and communication focal point section chief, and a three-stripe purple belt in jiu-jitsu. “Capola’s ability to learn and adapt is pretty unique. He has progressed more in five months than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

The double elimination tournament sent Capola home early, but that didn’t stop him from keeping a positive attitude.

“I got smoked, but having my teammates there to cheer me on and support me was a great experience,” said Capola.

Cruz, a seasoned jiu-jitsu fighter, has been practicing the art for over 10 years. He also competed in the tournament and walked away with a gold medal in the No Gi category and a silver medal in the submission-only category.

“I’m 42 years old, so age has a factor,” said Cruz. “But I still keep up. I have enough durability to train and compete with the younger guys.”

After work, the fighters spend countless hours in the gym, not including their squadron physical training.

“Jiu-jitsu is probably the hardest thing I’ve done in my life,” said Cruz. “So no matter what is expected of me to complete the mission, I feel like I can do it because I can do jiu-jitsu.

Maintaining their weight, their bodies and their mind is crucial to preventing injuries during training and competitions.

“It teaches resiliency to Airmen,” Cruz added. “You must have a strong mind to do jiu-jitsu.”

For these Airmen, jiu-jitsu is not just a hobby; it has become a lifestyle.

“Off-duty, I only hang out with people that do jiu-jitsu,” said Cruz. “I associate myself with that crowd because just like how the Air Force has morals, jiu-jitsu is the same way.”

Cruz is an advocate for the martial art and sees it as something that can benefit most Airmen.

“You have to pay attention to the little details,” said Cruz. “You must have will power, the no-quit attitude, and perseverance. Those are all things every Airman could use.”
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