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103rd SFS builds resilience through jiu-jitsu

Master Sgt. Ian McMahon (second from right), 103rd Security Forces Squadron flight chief and combatives instructor, teaches a maneuver during an informal jiu-jitsu session at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. Jan. 23, 2020. The group of Security Forces members meets throughout the month during their physical training time to practice jiu-jitsu, building 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)

Master Sgt. Ian McMahon (second from right), 103rd Security Forces Squadron flight chief and combatives instructor, teaches a maneuver during an informal jiu-jitsu session at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. Jan. 23, 2020. The group of Security Forces members meets throughout the month during their physical training time to practice jiu-jitsu, building 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)

Staff Sgt. Chad Jarvis (right), 103rd Security Forces Squadron defender, 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 of Security Forces members that meets throughout the month during their physical training time to practice jiu-jitsu, building 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)

Staff Sgt. Chad Jarvis (right), 103rd Security Forces Squadron defender, 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 of Security Forces members that meets throughout the month during their physical training time to practice jiu-jitsu, building 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)

Master Sgt. Ian McMahon (top), 103rd Security Forces Squadron flight chief and combatives instructor, grapples with Tech. Sgt. Brian Davies, 103rd Security Forces Squadron, during an informal jiu-jitsu session at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. Jan. 23, 2020. The two are part of a group of Security Forces members that meets throughout the month during their physical training time to practice jiu-jitsu, building 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)

Master Sgt. Ian McMahon (top), 103rd Security Forces Squadron flight chief and combatives instructor, grapples with Tech. Sgt. Brian Davies, 103rd Security Forces Squadron, during an informal jiu-jitsu session at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. Jan. 23, 2020. The two are part of a group of Security Forces members that meets throughout the month during their physical training time to practice jiu-jitsu, building 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)

Master Sgt. Ian McMahon (front-center), 103rd Security Forces Squadron flight chief and combatives instructor, 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 of Security Forces members meets throughout the month during their physical training time to practice jiu-jitsu, building 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)

Master Sgt. Ian McMahon (front-center), 103rd Security Forces Squadron flight chief and combatives instructor, 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 of Security Forces members meets throughout the month during their physical training time to practice jiu-jitsu, building 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 month during their physical training time to practice jiu-jitsu. 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 jiu-jitsu 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 in additional experience as a U.S. Army Combatives Level 1 and Level 2 instructor, jiu-jitsu 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 jiu-jitsu, so it’s a great way for us to have fun and leave any stress we have on the mat.”

In McMahon’s experience in the martial art, he has seen it 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 jiu-jitsu 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 hopes to bring about resilience benefits for his group similar to those he’s seen in his outside experience.

“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 jiu-jitsu and you don’t think about whatever else you have going on, just the training. There are so many benefits beyond the physical aspects.”