Jeff Johnson, right, watches as Travis Millar instructs Casey Dichter and Byron Spini in some ground exercises. The Pilot/Jef Hatch
The art of jujitsu has been around since the times of feudal Japan, but the methods used by Brookings residents are a far cry from those set forth by Takenouchi Hisamori in 1532 as a structured form of movements formally called jujitsu, according to the United States Jujitsu Foundation website.
The art has seen a number of changes but rests in current incarnation as a martial art that utilizes holds, chokes and limb locks to subdue or cause an opponent to “tap out.”
Jujitsu, literally translated, means tender art and is intended for unarmed combat. Brought to Brazil in 1914 by Mitsuyo Maeda, jujitsu underwent a transformation by members of the Gracie family from its original forms to what is used widely in the United States, Brazilian jujitsu.
While Brazilian jujitsu is heavily used in mixed martial arts competitions such as the Ultimate Fighting Championships, and tough-man competitions including So You Wanna Fight Cuz You Think You’re Tuff, there are a number of practitioners who compete in jujitsu tournaments and use the art for personal exercise.
“I like it for the exercise it gives me,” Brookings resident Byron Spini explained. “I’ve done some tournaments too, but I just really enjoy it.”
Spini meets twice a week, and sometimes more, to roll with a local group of jujitsu practitioners for the health benefits and to train for upcoming competitions.
“A friend in Gold Beach introduced me to it about two years ago,” he explained, “and then I found out about this group here and started coming.”
The group Spini is referring to has gone by a number of names since its incarnation in 2005, but began as Brookings Jujitsu when formed by Travis Millar and Hue Greathead.
“I wanted to get in shape and got into martial arts,” Millar said. “I went to a class in Crescent City but it wasn’t the same as Gracie Jujitsu so I started researching and meeting with Hue to practice and that’s what it’s been since.”
Millar left Brookings for the Portland area in 2007, but returned recently to visit friends and roll with some of his old students.
Harbor resident Jeff Johnson is one of those old students who was present for some training with Millar.
“He took me under his wing,” Johnson said of Millar. “I was fighting already, but after I started with Travis, I didn’t lose.”
According to Millar, jujitsu is a great sport to use to get in shape because it utilizes the majority of the muscles in the body and it also emphasizes stetching in order to be successful.
Johnson attested to how the art can strengthen the body.
“I thought I was strong,” he said, but Millar “put me in an arm bar, and I couldn’t move.”
“It’s physical,” he said. “And it is a useful martial art.”
The informal group averages five to 10 people each week, and is currently run by Casey Dichter. They meet regularly at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays above The Rink, located at 745 Railroad St. in Brookings.
More information about the group and training times can be obtained by calling Dichter at 541-661-3482.