Keeping Up with the Joneses

  • Published
  • By Airman Greg Nash
  • 23d WG/PA
All across the world, families break the monotony of their busy schedules to get away from the stressors of life by strengthening family relationships through activities like going to movies, watching mixed martial arts or play wrestling.

However, one family has transformed their joy of wrestling into something more serious. Now dojo mats at a local Valdosta gym is where this father and son bond through jiu-jitsu.

Recently finishing second place in the Georgia State Championship of the Copa America Grappling Championships, both U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Chris Jones, 23d Mission Support Group deputy commander, and his nine-year-old son, Tony, want to continue dominating the mats as jiu-jitsu fighters.

"I always wanted to be confident in the ability to defend myself," said Jones, who took an American-styled karate course in college. "I loved Royce Gracie's fighting style and grappling techniques when UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship] was first getting popular around 1994. Watching him made me want to pursue getting involved in jiu-jitsu. My wife, Dennisse, bought me some instructional videos and I was hooked."

Jones added, he's appreciative for his love of jiu-jitsu because it's given him the opportunity to further bond with his son as he assists coaching Tony's kid's program class.

"I saw jiu-jitsu as a great hobby but I started to get more serious about it until PCSing to Moody in 2012," said Jones, who is currently a blue belt. "I wanted to involve my son in mixed martial arts being that we wrestled all the time and still do. We can't even hug without getting in position to grapple. I found a dojo with a kids program and brought him along. He was 'bit by the bug' at the age of six and has been training since."

Since being introduced to jiu-jitsu, Tony, a yellow belt, has excelled in his fighting skills as he's gone on to win two tournaments in the novice category in both Gi and No-Gi divisions.

"I like that my Dad takes time to coach me during class and we get to be in tournaments together, which is cool," said Tony. "My dad inspires me."

One of the most challenging things Jones endures is keeping himself prepared while at the same time, worrying about Tony.

"Sometimes I'm so wrapped up into how Tony is performing during a tournament that it occupies my mind during my own match," said Jones. "My wife helps keep time and points for me and Tony, so that puts my worries to rest a bit."

Another challenge for Jones is dealing with the demands of the military lifestyle and training in mixed martial arts.

"There are a lot of demands with both the military and my involvement in jiu-jitsu," said Jones. "With the military, you have to be disciplined and focused, and ensure everyone on the team does well. Same goes for training at the dojo, it's stressed to do your best and look to make others better. This is why I love jiu-jitsu because of the comradery you get to build is just like the military."

One thing about jiu-jitsu that Jones doesn't love and isn't fond of is losing which is why he trains hard to gain a winning edge.

"I, of course, remember all of my losses in great detail," said Jones. "It's frustrating, especially when we feel like we're well prepared. It was hard for Tony to be gracious to a winning opponent and control his anger after a loss. He's had his growing pains but he's still a work in progress and is a good sportsman now, but I understand hating to lose. So much time and energy goes into training. Also, if you add that with the demands of being in the military, it can be overwhelming."

In preparation for tournaments, the Joneses engage in several activities that are best suitable to be physically and mentally prepared to give them an edge over the opponent.

"We will get involved in a lot of sprints, long distance runs and marathon rolls in which we engage in physical contact with various people in two-minute time spans," said Jones. "Other than that, we do whatever Kamrin [Neville, a local dojo owner,] feels is best for us to succeed."

Neville takes pride in the success attained by both Jones and Tony and appreciates the improvement shown.

"My job is to make great men," said Neville. "Chris is already a great man. What he does for not only Tony, but the other kids in the program, is amazing. I have a saying, 'don't look at the price, just start paying,' and Chris has definitely paid his dues. What he's doing at his age is a true testament to his dedication. You're never too old to chase the dream."

With a looming PCS  for Jones, who will be headed to West Virginia, pursuing any jiu-jitsu tournament dreams might be just that; a dream.

"With me being older, I really don't know how many more competitions I'll participate in," said Jones. "I love jiu-jitsu. It's a great hobby, but I'm going to slow down soon and steer away from fighting competition wise but still train as I mentor and support Tony, even though I don't want him to whoop his father one day. I want him to take every opportunity to grow and learn. I believe he can win world championships and I hope he stays motivated."

Jones stated, he's appreciative of what Moody has offered for his family but he's looking forward to new opportunities.

One day, a young boy may be watching UFC and aspire to be the next Royce Gracie, Vito Belfort, Brock Lesnar or even Tony Jones. Like Tony, this boy perhaps convinced his father to sign him up for jiu-jitsu classes to follow in his footsteps. Or better yet, maybe this child just wants that extra comfort and loves from his father just like Tony yearned for Jones and just wanted to bond. The simplicities of bonding may have different levels of impacts and sprout from different sources for some, but seeking the fulfillment of a growing adoration and love is a feeling most sons want to experience with their fathers. It was on the dojo mats through the blood, sweat, tears, and stripes on a belt that Jones and Tony found their comradery.