By Airman 1st Class Kevin Sommer Giron
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
“Imagine running around in a storm, not knowing what to do or what’s going on,” said Staff Sgt. Peter Beyer, 19th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter. “For some people, that’s what starting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training might feel like, but if you trust in your instructors and your peers, you’ll soon learn how to take cover from the storm.”
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or BJJ, is a submission-based martial art focused on groundwork and grappling. While it can be challenging, it can also lead to an overwhelming sense of confidence and physical ability.
Beyer and his wife Letia Eclavea, University of Maryland University College student, share a passion for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and host free training classes Monday through Thursday at the Fitness Center on Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.
Beyer has trained in BJJ for seven years, acquiring a purple belt in the martial art. His technique is methodic and his instruction is as calm as his persona.
However growing up in Hawaii, he often found himself grappling with unwanted confrontation.
“I fought a lot when I was younger,” Beyer said. “I was bullied, and I always stepped in for others who were too. I won and lost fights until I got to a point where I needed to learn how to defend myself properly.”
Beyer eventually joined the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Yokota Air Base, Japan. While living in the dormitories, he attended a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class where he not only fell in love with the craft, but also with a charismatic girl from Guam.
Eclavea, a vibrant Guamanian gold medalist, began her passion for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as a bucket list item. Initially thinking she would try it once or twice, the humbling experience captivated her from the start.
“It gave me a sense of humility,” Eclavea said. “I walked in my first day thinking I was better than people who had been doing it for way longer. But every single time someone beat me, I was humbled.”
Now a 16-time gold medalist who has competed in various tournaments and world trials, Enclavea dedicates her time to train others with her equally committed husband.
“Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teaches technique over strength and power,” Beyer said. “It teaches that even if you are a small guy, you can beat a bigger opponent. It’s almost like a maze. Sometimes you’ll run into a dead end, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck. There is always another way around.”
They also teach life skills their students can apply both on and off the mat. The due teaches others how to control their anger, not to take things personally and to let life take its course while having a positive attitude.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu stimulates the mind, body and spirit while creating social bonds which strengthen the four pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness. CAF is a program built to sustain a thriving and resilient Air Force community through mental, physical, social and spiritual fitness.
“It definitely helps you become more resilient,” Beyer said. “You get beat up sometimes, but you just have to keep coming back. A lot of people develop a drive, especially service members who are always striving to get to the next rank or complete training. It’s a really good challenge for those who are driven in their military career.”
Beyer and Eclavea instruct and train as a team, providing an uplifting atmosphere filled with music and hands on instruction.
“Our main purpose for the class is to create a family environment and to open up a program where people can have an outlet to relieve stress, have fun and get them out of their dorms,” Eclavea said.
Classes are free and available to everyone from 6—7:30 p.m., Monday—Thursday in the Fitness Center racquetball room.