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Ferriter: "Life is a fight"

Group offers novel seminar on JBLM

As instructor and Sgt. Tresa Marchi, 14th Brigade Engineer Battalion, looks on, Spc. Tony Escobar and Spc. Rachel Riel practice a Jiu-Jitsu move. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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The fight started and ended with a set of hands on a pair of shoulders.

"Life is a fight, and in this fight you have to close the distance between yourself and your opponent," said Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Michael Ferriter, as he put his hands on the shoulders of his attacker.

"The hands calm the person and begin to control the situation."  

Ferriter, who has earned a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is no stranger to wanting soldiers to control the fight.  

The founder of The Ferriter Group, the retired general led a Hands-On Inspired Leadership seminar last Thursday and Friday for Madigan Army Medical Center soldiers at Soldiers Field House.

"This is all about building awareness, respect and confidence," continued Ferriter, "in both life in and out of the Army."

Begun several years ago, The Ferriter Group began work to build tomorrow's leaders by using Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a metaphor for the challenges in life.

Ferriter first became acquainted with Jiu-Jitsu while serving as a battalion commander in the 75th Ranger Regiment.  It soon became part of the unit's training regimen.

When he moved from the regiment to a brigade-level command in Training and Doctrine Command, he was tasked to develop a combatives program.  

In short order, Ferriter and two noncommissioned officers, Matt Larsen and Troy Thomas, wrote the combatives manual and began the combatives schoolhouse at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Since retiring two-and-a-half years ago, Ferriter's group has worked with corporate management teams, high school students, wounded warriors and adaptive athletes, families of fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and various women's organizations in developing leadership skills.

The 40 soldiers from Madigan last Friday morning liked what they heard and did.

"It's very good training," commented Spc. Liyah Stewart as she picked herself up off the mat.

"My granddad taught me how to fight; this is a great refresher; and I like the fact that it focuses on respect and confidence."

As Ferriter paced back and forth across the gray mats, he emphasized that leadership, character, integrity and respect for self and others allows an individual to dominate the current problems of suicide, sexual harassment and assault, depression and bullying.

Once he finished talking, the soldiers and the instructors broke up into small groups to practice the techniques Ferriter and his instructors had demonstrated.

"I am enjoying this very much," said Pfc. Adolfo Mendez as he faced an opponent in an exercise designed to teach one how to break free from someone's grip.  

"I can see the value in having my space respected while also extending respect to those I work with."

Under the watchful eyes of instructor Sgt. Tresa Marchi, 14th Brigade Engineer Battalion, Spc. Tony Escobar and Spc. Rachel Riel successfully practiced a technique designed to allow a person to control an aggressive individual.

"You have to be able to take control of any situation in life," commented Marchi.  

"In both the physical and metaphysical senses, what these soldiers are learning today about taking hold of and controlling a challenge is useful in their lives."

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