SBG Launching Support Network to Connect with Veterans


SBG launched it’s veteran’s support network by becoming an approved training facility for the We Defy Foundation and opening it’s Veteran’s BJJ class.

The Veteran’s BJJ class brings together students who have been or are currently active in military service. The students on the roster number at 24 and rising, representing several different branches of the military.

Through the Veteran’s BJJ, SBG will be able to connect members joining with We Defy to the gym community and accommodate their needs.

The We Defy Foundation provides combat veterans suffering from life-disabling injuries and/or PTSD a long-term means to overcome their challenges.

Coach Leah Taylor, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, identified a need to provide additional support to the veterans, who train in the gym.

The therapeutic benefits of jiu jitsu – such as rigorous physical activity, improved strength, and balanced mental health – are particularly attractive to students with a military background.

Taylor coaches several of the veterans who train BJJ and noted the physical and mental challenges particular to vets.

The goal of the Veteran’s BJJ is to provide a support group for members of the gym with a military background that will result in lasting friendships, strong physical health, and balanced mental health.

Taylor’s Women’s BJJ class has been successful in fostering community among the female students, and she believed that a similar class for veterans would strengthen those bonds within the gym.

This is true for combat veterans in particular, who find it difficult adjusting to civilian life after deployment and remain ever watchful of potential threats.

Aaron Cross, former Sergeant First Class of the U.S. Army, shared, “Sometimes I feel unattached and unable to assimilate to my environment. In your mind, time back home has stopped while you were deployed. You expect things to stay the same, family, friends, and even places you used to frequent. When things are different than what you’re used to, your heightened fight or flight response kicks in and you look for people who are initial threats as well as entry and exit points.”

But what many veterans struggle with the most is the loss of camaraderie and brotherhood they had in combat. An environment where a veteran can trust and be trusted by the people around them is not replicated in civilian life.

Don Wieczorek, former Lance Corporal for the U.S. Marine Corps, shared:

“In the military, you develop a bond and you become brothers, especially when tried in combat situations. You’re a part of something bigger than yourself.”

BJJ training has become an invaluable mechanism for veterans at SBG and provides a relief from those stresses.

Wieczorek said,“When your mind is constantly reflecting on events, jiu jitsu tires the mind and blocks out the thoughts. Jits keeps you in the present or else you get choked.”

Paul Downing, active Sergeant First Class in the U.S. Army Reserve, shared how the SBG community made him feel part of a team.

“It’s like the brotherhood I felt when I was deployed. It gives me the challenges, knowledge, and strength that makes me want to keep coming back.”

By alleviating the isolation that veterans experience through rigorous physical activity and strong community bonds, SBG’s jiu jitsu training offers a remedy to veterans struggling with adjusting to civilian life.

“‘Failure’ is still progress,” Cross says, “You will always take away something to put in your tool bag.”

For more information about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Yoga, Fitness, and Kids Programs or call 406-752-7244, email at