Brian Marvin served in the United States Army for 20 years with multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan while attached to the 160th SOAR(A). In his off-time, Brian coached high school wrestling and decided it was time to get himself back into competition. Jiu-jitsu and submission grappling was the natural next step for a wrestler. After years of training and honing his skillset, Brian became a Brazilian jui-jitsu coach for the 5th SFG(A). He received his black belt from Carlos Gracie Jr. in 2011, retired from the Army in 2014 and opened Renzo Gracie Jui-Jitsu in Houston, Texas. His accomplishments while serving his country are honorable, but his support of fellow veterans with the We Defy Foundation make him a man you should know.
The We Defy Foundation
SS: Tell us about competition and the brotherhood among fighters in your schoolhouse, Renzo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Is it similar to the bonds you made in the Army?
BM: We are a great team and family. We support each other’s success, and together we work to increase everyone’s level of jiu-jitsu.
SS: What is it about Brazilian jui-jitsu that makes it stand out among other martial arts?
BM: It’s the most realistic discipline as far as what actually happens in a self-defense situation.
SS: What is the We Defy Foundation?
BM: The We Defy Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation that raises funds to pay the tuition of disabled combat veterans to train in jiu-jitsu as a form of therapy and fitness.
SS: Who are the founders of the We Defy Foundation, and what’s their story?
BM: Joey Bozik, a triple amputee, and Alan Shebaro, who was of the 3rd SFG(A), are our founders. Joey had served for six years with the 82nd Airborne and was severely injured by an IED while operating in Iraq. He lost both his legs and his right arm below the elbow. Alan was the first Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt in a special forces regiment, and he had trained a broad spectrum of operators during his deployments to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
At one point after his return, Joey had gone to sign up his daughter for a jiu-jitsu class, and Alan asked him, “Why don’t you train?” Joey thought that he wouldn’t be able to because of his “limitations” as a triple amputee. Alan, however, kept asking Joey, and finally Joey agreed to private lessons. They worked to adapt jiu-jitsu for Joey’s capabilities. Not long afterward, Joey joined group classes.
They thought that if Joey was able to do this, others could too. The positives that come from jiu-jitsu are tremendous. Soon after, they worked to create a foundation that would help disabled combat veterans to train in jiu-jitsu for therapy and fitness. Joey and Alan wanted to get these veterans into a group setting where they could socially interact. At the same time, they wanted to help these veterans to adapt to minimize their limitations. So far, the foundation has helped numerous veterans, and it looks forward to helping many more.
SS: Is the coaching staff all prior military?
BM: The We Defy Foundation has both military and non-military personnel.
SS: Do you have to be a combat veteran to get involved?
BM: No, anyone can be involved to support the foundation and its veterans. To be on scholarship, however, you must be a disabled combat veteran.
SS: Explain the scholarship opportunities.
BM: The foundation releases approximately five veteran athletes per month for training at a certified training facility in the United States. Initially, the veteran is provided with one gi (uniform) and a six-month scholarship. After a successful completion of that six-month period, the veteran has the scholarship extended for six more months and is provided with another gi.
SS: Why is the We Defy Foundation important to you?
BM: It is a program that gets veterans involved in their own recovery through jiu-jitsu. It’s a team environment where everyone is working toward team growth and support.