By Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker, 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 11, 2015
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- "You don't have to be the biggest person in the room," said the athletically built man in a slow, thoughtful way, "you just have to be the one who's willing to keep going."
The man has spent a lot of time learning to endure, both physical and mental restraints, and that is what he teaches his students. A first degree black belt, Master Sgt. Bob Williams is the instruc-tor of Endure, a jiu-jitsu class at the Samurai Fitness Center. He has been practicing the sport since 2009.
Jiu-jitsu originated in Japan as a samurai martial art, according to Williams. In order to overcome the obstacle of their opponent's armor, the samurai developed joint manipulation, resulting in an art that differs from other forms which focus on striking and throws. Williams adopted jiu-jitsu over other martial arts because it is more applicable for self-defense.
Williams, who is the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron cargo movements section chief, said that the biggest hurdle in practicing jiu-jitsu is persisting through the first few months. The initial two or three weeks can be challenging as the body adapts to the fatigue of an all-encompassing workout. However, his students who stick with the sport at least three or four months usually fall in love with it, according to Williams.
"Jiu-jitsu really teaches you how to keep going," said Williams, which is what gives the class its name.
Jiu-jitsu is an effective cardio builder, according to Williams, who maintains a 90 percent on his physical fitness tests with jiu-jitsu being his only cardio training. Though Williams does additional strength training for his routine, jiu-jitsu is also a full-body workout which forces all the muscle groups to train.
Endure students participated in the Yamanote Walkathon last summer, an annual charity walk spanning the entire 21.4-mile Yamanote railway. Many of the participants drop out along the way, but the Endure students walked the entire route. Williams said, it is not just physical endurance that students are learning, but the mental fortitude that convinces them to keep training
In addition to the physical advantages, Williams said that the biggest benefit of practicing jiu-jitsu is the confidence he has gained.
"It's not just fighting confidence, but peer confidence," said Williams. "That comes from training under intense conditions like this. Even when you think you have nothing left, you're still able to find something extra to keep going."
This confidence has been helpful to Williams in various settings in his life, including business, leisure, and deployments.
His students agree.
"When I first started this I didn't have any confidence," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Underwood, 374th Communications Squadron systems control supervisor and jiu-jitsu student.
The confidence Underwood says he has gained is the same general sense of self-assurance which Williams spoke of, both in combat and in life. Underwood was introduced to jiu-jitsu at Endure, and after 1.5 years as a student he has earned a blue belt. He also said what keeps him coming back, despite challenging days, is the fun and the camaraderie.
"Every single one of these people here is my friend," said Underwood.
Williams teaches a form called Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, which is a more functional adaptation that blends in the ground-fighting aspects of judo. This makes it more useful for self-defense. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu originated when a jiu-jitsu master from Japan traveled to Brazil and taught the Gracie family, which the Gracies then adapted to its modern form.
"Renzo Gracie taught Ricardo Almeda, and Ricardo Almeda taught me," said Williams.
Endure classes are geared towards self-defense training, but also incorporates competitive fighting, which Williams says is why his students do so well in competitions. It typically takes a student eight to 10 years to earn a black belt, but Williams said his students only need about three months of practice before he takes them to tournaments. Endure attends tournaments about once a month, and Williams says they compete well against the Japanese. One of his students, Dustin Stanley, who is undefeated at 3-0, said that he is currently cleared for an upcoming semi-pro fight at Camp Zama.
Williams said that his biggest victory has been "watching my guys become champions." One of his best memories of the sport has been taking his students up to Nagoya and returning home with medals after they showed their avid determination and ability to perform under pressure.
Adults wanting to learn jiu-jitsu can attend Endure classes weekly, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, at the Samurai Fitness center at 6:30-8:00 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays students are asked to wear a gi, which is not required on Thursdays.