JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Pfc. Jason Hayden, a paratrooper with Bravo Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, took the top spot on the podium at this year’s Alaska State Jiu-Jitsu Championship tournament Nov. 2, 2013 held at the Lumen Christie High School in Anchorage, Alaska.
Hayden won two titles at the tournament by besting out the competition in his weight class and by beating out a much heavier fighter in the overall “absolute” category.
Jiu-jitsu is a grappling style of fighting, which emphasizes submission through holds like arm and leg-locks. Jiu-jitsu has been a passion for Hayden since he began training in the sport during his sophomore year in high school at the age of 17.
A native of Owensboro, Ky., Hayden knew he had a knack for it jiu-jitsu immediately. After just two months he was competing in tournaments, winning gold medals in local tournaments along the way.
Hayden competes in the advanced category in the weight class 149 pounds and under. Advanced fighters are purple belt holders and they have four or more years of experience in jiu-jitsu.
Hayden beat out an experienced opponent, who is also undefeated in the Alaska Fighting Championship organization, to win his weight class at the Alaska State Jiu-Jitsu Championships. He then beat out a heavy weight fighter on his way to winning the overall “Absolute” category, which includes any advanced fighter in any weight class.
“I was the smallest guy, and I won,” said Hayden.
But, for Hayden, it’s not all about winning tournaments.
“Jiu-jitsu is not a sport to me. It’s a way of life.”
“Jiu-jitsu has helped me so much in my life. It has given me the confidence and the discipline to fight through adversity. It has given me something to work for.”
Hayden is also successful in Army Combatives. He has earned qualifications in levels 1 and 2, and has used his skills in jiu-jitsu and Army Combatives to win two tournaments held at JBER recently.
“Combatives is my passion. I love teaching it. I love competing. It’s my passion!”
Hayden is one of three siblings in his family who are competitive fighters.
His oldest brother, Army Spc. Troy Hayden, who is also Combatives level 1 and 2 certified and stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, regularly competes in Army Combatives tournaments at his home station.
Another brother, Josh Hayden, is one of America’s best jiu-jitsu competitors. He recently won the North American Trials to go on to Beijing, China to compete in the largest grappling tournament in the world hosted by the Abu Dhambi Combat Club (ADCC).
Hayden’s dad is very supportive of his sons’ efforts and proud of their accomplishments.
“My dad is pretty pumped about it. He always has pushed us to do sports, play football, run track, and baseball. So, he really likes it that we fight.”
Leaders at the Centurion Battalion are also proud of Hayden’s drive and accomplishments.
“I don’t know anyone who is as determined as he is, and with his skill set and his natural ability, I think he could be top in the world,” said 1st Lt. Mark Vryhof a platoon leader with Bravo Co.
Determined, confident, and focused are words used to describe Hayden’s talent and love for jiu-jitsu.
“I like jiu-jitsu most because it is the rawest type of competition,” said Hayden. “It’s like real combat. Man versus man, and I feel like it’s something that human beings have been doing since we’ve been here on earth.”
“I honestly feel like my body was built to just fight and do jiu-jitsu.”
“Whenever I’m training or I’m fighting, or I’m going into a match, it’s a life or death struggle. That’s the way I look at it.”
Yet, with all of his confidence, Hayden finds a way to stay humble and grounded.
“The best way to learn is to get tapped, and know your faults. Be true to yourself, I don’t want to get complacent, and feel like, okay I’m the best. I’m not. There is always someone out there better, and I will be training for that good fight.”
Hayden will continue to train and look for new opportunities along the way. He plans to do more regional competitions and hopes to join the All Army Team in the future. He also wants to attain level 3 and 4 Army Combatives and become a Modern Army Combatives Program (MACP) instructor.
Another dream of Hayden’s is to compete in the tournament his brother competed in at Beijing, the ADCC world championships. The championships are scheduled to be held this time in Brazil in 2015.
“Go to Brazil and compete! That would be the best. That would be a dream,” said Hayden.”It would be tough, but I feel like I have just as much potential to win as anybody else.”
“I look at my opponent as another man. He wakes up in the morning like I wake up. He puts his pants on like I do. He eats like I eat. I breathe like he breathes, we’re the same. I have the same capabilities of being a world champion as anybody else, so that’s how I look at it.”
“2015, I’m going to worlds, definitely! I’m going to make it happen!”