MY JIU-JITSU JOURNEY
"DUCTUS EXEMPLO, Etiam in PugnA"
LEAD BY EXAMPLE, StILL in the FighT.
This page will document my Jiu-Jitsu journey, encourage fellow Veterans to join the Jiu-Jitsu community, and function as a fundraising platform for my nonprofit work at Warrior Wellness Solutions as I compete in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Submission Grappling tournaments.
I am a US Marine Corps Veteran and Founder & Executive Director of Warrior Wellness Solutions, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Durham, North Carolina. We deliver rehabilitative exercise, Functional Medicine interventions, and Functional Medicine Health Coaching to wounded and injured military service members and service-disabled veterans. I am an Ambassador and Team Member of Veterans Jiu-Jitsu , a Combat Base Affiliate led by Chris Haueter Blackbelt Joey Zente. We are a community of like minded individual Veterans who support each other on and off the mats with one simple goal in mind: To bring Veterans together through Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I have witnessed first hand the power of Jiu-Jitsu as it relates to "Sports as Medicine" within the genre of building community and confidence, battling addictions, and preventing suicidal ideations with veterans I have personally introduced to the art. I am also a member of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Globetrotters a worldwide community consisting of epic training camps, rebel gi designers and travelers against BJJ politics.
Our nonprofit is partnered with We Defy Foundation, a nonprofit organization providing combat veterans coping with military connected disabilities a long term means to overcome their challenges through Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Joey Bozik, one of their founding members is a triple amputee combat veteran who gets after it in competition and trains daily by implementing adaptive strategies. Read more here . As they say, your excuse is invalid. In full disclosure, if you are a service-disabled veteran you wouldn't want to start training Jiu-Jitsu if you have an acute injury and haven't been cleared by your Doctor for participating in adaptive sports. Click here to access some intel if you are on the fence in regards to injuries. Here is a great blog post from my friend and BJJ Purple Belt Samantha "Wolf Queen" Seff where she interviewed several veterans to share their experience with Jiu-Jitsu.
Jiu-Jitsu promotes holistic growth and achievement by addressing several factors, including:
Being part of a team promotes a sense of belonging and peer support, of knowing you’re not alone in your struggle.
The opportunity to renew the power of service to your community and strong desire to pursue a higher purpose that have always inspired service members in combat and life.
Competition rekindles the sense of passion and determination of the warrior spirit that is part of a service member’s DNA, the courage to move forward despite barriers and obstacles.
The chance to be celebrated and recognized, supported by family, friends and people from around the world, boosts self-worth and self-efficacy.
Jiu-Jitsu engages veterans mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically and socially – finding hope and strength through their common experiences.
I started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at 43 years old in 2016 with Royce Gracie Black Belt Professor Seth Shamp at Triangle Jiu-Jitsu Academy (TJJ) a Royce Gracie Network Affiliate in Durham, North Carolina. It began and continues as a family affair with my partner Clarissa Kussin and my twin step children Grace and Gabe who were 15 at the time we started. Previous to starting Jiu-Jitsu I spent my early years exploring various Martial Arts and while serving in the US Marine Corps I studied Orthodox Okinawan Karate under the Supreme Grand Master Fusei Kise in Okinawa Japan from 1994-1995. During my time in the Corps, I sustained a cervical spine fracture, injuries to my back and shoulder, toxic exposures, digestive health issues, and a head injury, which resulted in a 20 year lay off from martial arts and severe chronic pain. Over the years, I slowly repaired my body and established my career as an Exercise Physiologist and Functional Medicine Health Coach.
My first exposure to Jiu-Jitsu came from my brother Aaron Sacra, a Purple Belt at American Top Team and fellow service disabled veteran who served in the 82nd Airborne and I have been hooked ever since after he submitted me 5 times in under 5 minutes. I attended a private session in 2009 in Baltimore, MD at Lloyd Irvin's Crazy 88 MMA, but couldn't continue at that time as my body was still in a state of rehabilitation. Even after starting at TJJ, I had a slow start due to my body not being able to handle very much in the beginning and have slowly progressed to training at least 5 days a week as my body has adapted. Crawl, Walk, Run...with that said, I have to be my own advocate and make good judgment calls in regards to how much I train, intensity of training, and making sure I not only work hard, but also recover hard.
Implementing tools for Self Preservation and Longevity is paramount to success and longterm sustainability. I am extremely diligent about managing my diet and fuel intake to maintain mental clarity, energy, nutrient density, and keep inflammation at bay. I work hard to maintain good sleep hygiene, a solid strength and conditioning regimen, and use the restorative tools of red light therapy, infrared sauna, massage therapy, chiropractic, myofascial release, and acupuncture. I see a Functional Medicine MD at Carolina Total Wellness in Raleigh, NC on a regular basis and undergo yearly testing to make sure my digestive health, brain health, and overall physical health is working towards homeostasis. I consistently train with world renown Jiu Jitsu teachers and world class competitors and do copious amounts of reading as it relates to Stoicism, mental conditioning, and maintaining a Positive Mental Attitude. I have been told to "Keep showing up and get a little better one day at a time."
I always strive to build my local community at Triangle Jiu-Jitsu Academy by bringing in new students and recently started Assistant Coaching for the Academy's robust Kid's program as my work schedule permits. Clarissa and I are corporate sponsors of the TORO Cup BJJ Super Fight events that support local charities and members of the JiuJitsu Community in need via our company Functional Wellness Solutions. I currently support numerous Veteran Adaptive Athletes and First Responders in the Jiu-Jitsu community with pro bono strength and conditioning and health coaching. I currently train with a US Army Veteran and 3rd degree BJJ Black Belt Dave Rosenmarkle of Veneration BJJ, with 5th degree Black Belt Chris Haueter's of Combat Base, and with Combatives / No Gi instructor Stewart Edmiston at Triangle Self Defense.
I have been competing regularly in tournaments since day one, and lost to an Arm Bar in 23 seconds in my first match. Competition keeps me accountable, and keeps my sword sharp. Iron sharpens Iron. I lose more than I win, and had a 13 match loosing streak in tournaments at one time. GOOD! Situations like this offer up a great opportunity to learn where I needed to improve. My future goals are to win an IBJJF Masters World Championship, get my Black Belt, and compete as long as I can. I don't care if it takes me till I am 80 years old. Either way, I am enjoying the ride and grateful to have found Jiu-Jitsu. Fall in love with the process, and the results will come. In 2018 I had the honor of being promoted to Blue Belt by Royce Gracie who I had watched fight in UFC 1 from my barracks room at Camp Lejeune in 1993 while on active duty more than 20 years prior.
Jiu-Jitsu is a holistic approach to recovery, rehabilitation and community reintegration. For many years, individuals with disabilities have been using sports as a therapeutic tool to overcome serious injury or illness and as a means of recovery. They fight their personal battles on the track, in the pool and on the court to send a very powerful message to themselves, to their families and to the public that serious injury or illness does not have to interrupt the pursuit of a meaningful and productive life. Many athletes say that participating in adaptive sports boosts their self-esteem, improves their mental and physical health, and makes them stronger and more resilient, generally. But not until recently have scientists begun to specifically and purposefully measure the effects of adaptive sports programs to determine their role in rehabilitation. Adaptive sports and other reconditioning activities help service members come to terms with traumatic injuries or illness by inspiring them to realize what is still achievable by focusing on ability.
IMPROVE + CONTRIBUTE
"The purpose of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not to achieve rank or win medals. It's true purpose lies in its ability to improve on the individual by strengthening body and mind. By bettering ourselves, we contribute modestly into bettering those around us. In this lies the true strength of the art we practice." Robert Drysdale
Join me in getting a little better one day at a time.
Find Your Jiu-Jitsu Journey.
Never Quit. Stay in the Fight.
I hope to see you on the mats.
US Marine Corps Veteran
Exercise Physiologist | Functional Medicine Health Coach
Founder & Executive Director - Warrior Wellness Solutions