Military News

Friday, February 28, 2014

Kicking off self-defense on Malmstrom

by Senior Airman Cortney Paxton
341st Missile Wing Public Affairs

2/28/2014 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Nearly 30 Team Malmstrom members gathered at the base fitness center Feb. 22 to attend a Gracie Defense Systems kickoff seminar aimed to promote self-defense among the base population.

Taught by on-base GDS pink-belt certified instructors, the two-hour class was a way for anyone interested to get a taste of the 15-technique course curriculum.

"We're having a two-hour kickoff seminar to introduce the base to Gracie Academy's Gracie Defense System," said Tina Steffen, Malmstrom dependent and GDS instructor. "It's a program they designed specifically for the Air Force to teach people how to combat sexual assault... They realized a couple of years ago that the incidents of sexual assault within the Air Force were high and they felt they could do something, and that's what we're doing today. We're sharing six of the 15 techniques that the Gracie Academy has determined through working with law-enforcement officials that are the most likely scenarios that could happen."

During the seminar, participants were taught combat base, base get up, push base, pull base, wrist releases, one front-choke defense and a trap-and-roll technique. Combat base is a stance, or posture, developed to make an individual more sturdy and stable, and base get up is the technique used to get up off of the ground into a combat base stance. Push and pull base are techniques used to prevent being pushed or pulled into a secluded space and wrist releases are used to release an attacker's grip from a wrist. The front-choke defense taught participants how to get out of a choking scenario, and the trap-and-roll defense taught them what to do if an attacker is on top of them.

The kickoff event was an introduction to a self-defense class that will be taught on Malmstrom Air Force Base every Saturday at 10 a.m. and Tuesday at 6 p.m. starting March 1. One cycle, which teaches all 15 techniques, consists of 10 classes. Successful completion of the GDS program, which would include a video test sent into the Gracie Academy for review, will be awarded with a pink belt for the testing individual. Anyone interested in obtaining their pink belts are encouraged to take the 10-class cycle at least four times to be efficient enough to test.

"You don't have to take the seminar to start taking the classes, and you don't have to take the classes after you've taken the seminar," Steffen said. "[Self-defense] makes a stronger person, not only physically, but mentally. I think everybody should know what to do if somebody grabs you, what to do if somebody is approaching you so that they don't get close enough to grab you, what to do if somebody is sitting on you and they're bigger than you and want to get away."

The GDS self-defense course is taught based on the methods and techniques used in Gracie, or Brazilian, Jiu-Jitsu created by the Gracie family.

"The Grand Master Hélio Gracie, who created Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, was smaller than most of his opponents so Gracie Jiu-Jitsu... was created to allow a smaller opponent to overcome his adversary," said 1st Lt. Jason Sawyers, 341st Missile Security Forces Squadron flight commander. "I think that these specific techniques in the GDS course are potentially lifesaving, so it's invaluable... Brazilian Jui-Jitsu is a very useful tool as far as self-defense goes, but it also teaches you discipline and a lot of these folks here get great workouts. It doesn't just teach you self-defense in the physical aspect, it also teaches the mental preparedness and the confidence to go out and make sure that you feel secure. For a lot of potential victims and also victims out there, it's very important to be able to leave their house and feel confident that they can handle certain situations that can come up."

According to Sawyers, the on-base instructors are trying to expand the GDS course into the surrounding communities. They've contacted Montana State University in hopes of starting a class for the college students.

"We just want to promote a community of people who accept that it's a problem and that there are definitely prevention techniques out there," Sawyers said. "It's absolutely free - we're not interested in any money, we just want to help people to defend themselves if a situation arises and to be confident that they can go out there and handle the situation."

The kickoff event ended up being a tremendous success with individuals learning specific techniques that could help defend themselves in an adverse situation.

"It's been a great experience," said Maj. Marianne Nassef, Air Force Reserve Command chaplain. "I've actually enjoyed learning all of the different techniques, and it's really a lot easier than I thought it would be. I thought it was going to be a lot more complicated, but what they've been teaching us are really easy things that you can practice at home. I really appreciate them offering it."

For more information on Malmstrom's Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, visit their official facebook page at, their blog at or via email at

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