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Face of Defense: Marine Bonds With Son Through Martial Arts


By Marine Corps Cpl. Bruno J. Begg
2nd Marine Logistics Group

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., June 27, 2012 – Finding the time to bond with your kids can be challenging in the highly demanding life of a Marine.

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Marine Corps Sgt. James W. Bridger gives advice to his son, Christian, before a North American Grappling Association tournament in Hampton, Va., June 23, 2012. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Bruno J. Bego

But Marine Corps Sgt. James W. Bridger, a combat engineer with 2nd Marine Logistics Group’s 8th Engineer Support Battalion and a member of the Lejeune Grappling Team since September 2011, bonds with his eldest son, Christian, through martial arts.

“It started by just coming home and watching [Ultimate Fighting Championship] fights on TV with my son,” Bridger said. “Eventually it came around to where I would come back home and he would be in the room at 3 years old watching the fights by himself.”

Bridger realized his son’s desire to do martial arts was the perfect opportunity to improve their relationship.

“I started to introduce him to martial arts with the [Marine Corps Martial Arts Program],” Bridger explained. “He would watch as I would bring friends over to the house to teach them and train them. … He always wanted to participate.

“He loved training with the pugil sticks and batons,” he added. “I taught him the stuff I knew, and I trained him myself for a while.”

Due to family issues and the needs of the Marine Corps, however, Bridger and his son have been away from each other for more than a year.

“I entered him in a [martial arts academy] up in Virginia, where he lives,” he added. “I knew I couldn’t spend time with him every day, and I did not want him to lose his interest for the sport, so I signed him up.”

Although Christian has been attending the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy for nearly a year, he had never competed until June 23. A North American Grappling Association tournament not only gave him his first opportunity to compete, but also gave him the chance to see his father participate during the same event.

“Seeing my son fight and winning was priceless,” Bridger said. “To see him grow into the sport from the beginning, to be able to be there for his first official competition, was great.” Christian competed in two categories, and he finished first in one and third in the other.

While supporting his son in learning a martial art for three years, Bridger said, he also has taught him the self-discipline involved.

“This sport is very humbling,” he said. “You might be with your best friend and he could make you tap out, so this martial art really teaches you how to be modest.”

Bridger said he will continue to support his son in anything he wants to do.

“Ultimately, what I want for my son is to be happy doing whatever sport he wants to do,” he said. “I am just very lucky that he likes the same thing as me, but I will support him and teach him to be the best he can be.”

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