Martial arts strengthen physical, mental fitness

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio -- Martial arts classes , such as Brazilian jiu jitsu, show how to defend oneself against a larger adversary by using leverage and proper technique. Classes have been taking place since June 2016 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and are led by an instructor with an unexpected nickname – Fluffy.

David Reeves leads Brazilian jiu jitsu classes Mondays and Fridays from 6 to 7:30 a.m. at Wright Field Fitness Center, Bldg. 571, Area B. The classes can be part of service members’ official physical training and also are available to anyone with base access. No experience or background in martial arts is necessary. Each class costs $9.

“You are constantly moving and learning to defend yourself while being part of a team,” Reeves said. “It’s a team environment.”

He hopes more people in the Wright-Patterson AFB community will join the classes. He said military members are welcome to wear their BDUs as they start learning the combat sport system that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting.

“We’re not ninjas. You don’t have to be athletic to come in and learn jiu jitsu or self-defense,” Reeves said. “If you want to come in, get a curriculum, learn and move forward with the sport, get in shape, come and see us.”

Once established in taking BJJ, a practitioner wears the traditional gi, a wraparound belted top, with the belt’s color reflecting his or her level of skill and knowledge. Most students use mouth guards.

People of all shapes and sizes are welcome, Reeves emphasized. He said when he began training, he weighed 260 pounds. His Brazilian coach, who spoke Portuguese, didn’t want to call Reeves fat, so he called him fluffy. Reeves has been using it as a nickname ever since.

He has lost almost 100 pounds doing BJJ and by modifying his consumption of food, cigarettes and alcohol.

“It forced me to start living a healthy lifestyle,” Reeves said.

Lt. Col. James Finlayson, National Air and Space Intelligence Center, has been with the program since September.

“Coach Fluffy is a world-renowned jiu jitsu coach; he has a lot of professional fighters and he is known throughout the martial arts community as someone who really knows his techniques,” Finlayson said. “His fighters – pro and amateur – have a lot of success.”

Finlayson said BJJ lets him do things he loves and lead his squadron as he remains physically fit.

“I stretch my mental capacity and am doing something I love,” he said.

Finlayson also appreciates how kaizen — an Asian word that means improvement — is an underlying tenet of BJJ.

“You are never going to be 100 percent with your techniques, but you can strive to improve 1 percent each day,” he said. “I carry that mentality into my personal and professional life, too.

“I highly recommend this to anyone on base – do something a little bit different and come learn something about yourself,” Finlayson said.

Chelsea Rorer, an emergency room nurse at Miami Valley Hospital and whose wife is a physician at Wright-Patterson Medical Center, has been taking the BJJ classes for three months.

“It’s really fun; it’s a really great workout and you don’t have to think about working out,” she said. “It’s really great for self-defense, too. I’m a smaller human, and it makes me feel like I have an advantage. ... It’s like chess.”

Adam Brown, combustion research engineer, Propulsion Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, said he enjoys practicing BJJ because he likes the challenge of tournaments.

“It’s physical discipline, but it’s also mental discipline,” Brown said. “I have young kids, and it’s a good example for them on how you compete, work hard and sometimes win and sometimes lose. ... It’s also good for smaller people.”

He said people new to BJJ would be surprised at how much they can do.

“Jiu jitsu is a good equalizer. It teaches weaker people that they’re more powerful than they realize,” Brown said. “It also teaches stronger people that they may not be as strong as they think they are if they run into someone who has more technique.

“The mental discipline, for me, affects all areas of my life,” he continued. “It makes me better at my job; it makes me a better husband and father.”

For more information, email Reeves at or call Wright Field Fitness Center at 937-255-1961.