Human Interest
Throughout life, a lot of people had to deal with a bully or two. A man in the Verde Valley can help teach a person how to bring that bully down to size.

Eric Kee teaches Brazilian Jiujitsu at his Warriors of Christ Jiujitsu Club in Cottonwood. He was introduced to the sport by the Haskell Indian Nations University Jiujitsu Club in Kansas. Brazilian Jiujitsu, or Gracie Jiujitsu, is a martial art, combat sport and a form of self-defense that focuses on grappling and ground fighting.

It promotes the principle that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend him or herself against a bigger, stronger assailant using leverage and proper technique. It is also a discipline of physical well-being and strength.

jiu-jitsu-2-3Kee, who holds a purple belt, opened his studio six months ago and invites anyone of any age or fitness level to visit and see if jiujitsu is right for them.

In a way jiujitsu was the answer to a lifelong problem Kee had growing up near Tuba City with two brothers, Michael and Steven, who liked to bully him every chance they got, which was every day.

“When I went to college and learned jiujitsu I gained a lot of fighting skills. When I went home I turned the tables on them,” Kee said and grinned slightly. “They didn’t know what happened the first time I took them down.”

Kee does not promote fighting. He is a man of faith and a man of peace. Learning how to fight, like Mr. Miyagi in the “Karate Kid” movies, Kee said he believes jiujitsu is for defense.

After college, Kee moved around the country with his job, and worked out at nearby jiujitsu schools. When he moved to Italy for a while he trained with Luciano Barro in Scandicci for 3½ years. Kee has studied jiujitsu since 1995, and teaching the martial art nearly the same amount of time.

He started a school at the Tuba City Church of Christ. There was no other place to train on the Navajo Reservation. He started with a few high school students then the class grew with teens who needed more from life than hanging out at home in front of the television or playing video games.

“I wanted to start a martial arts class in connection with the church and wanted to teach kids about Jesus and what he did for us, using a talent that most people didn’t even know about,” Kee said, citing an example from the Bible about Jacob who wrestled with a man until daybreak in Genesis 32:24-31. “I teach not to go looking for trouble or starting it, but how to handle it if it comes.”

He first teaches his students to walk away if possible, stay calm and think clearly. If trouble still comes, then OK, fight.

Jiujitsu was brought to Brazil in the early 1900s. Julio Gracie simplified the martial art to make it so a smaller person can control a larger person, if necessary, by hip movements and leverage.

“Gracie did to jiujitsu what Bruce lee did to kung fu. It teaches fundamentals about your body and to use your center of gravity to your advantage. It also shows you how to offset your opponent’s center of gravity to gain an advantage,” Kee said.

Using his hands to demonstrate, Kee showed how jiujitsu uses movements of the joints to disable an opponent by applying joint locks and choke holds. He also teaches his students how to fall to the ground.

“The reason is, heaven forbid, you get into a fight. About 90 percent of fights are to the ground. A bigger person wants to get you down. If you know how to fight from the ground you can turn the advantage,” Kee said. “It is one of the most practical martial arts out there.”

Jiujitsu, according to Kee, is all about grappling and pinning, similar to Greco-Roman wrestling. Anyone can learn and progress with the skills, depending on a person’s physical ability.

“Someone new we start out easy. We don’t want people to injure themselves or hurt the next day. We want them to build up at their own pace,” he said.

Jiujitsu is also a competitive sport with several opportunities to enter tournaments across the state and the country.



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