With seconds left on the clock, Army veteran Joey Bozik landed a wrist lock and secured his first competitive win at the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Austin Open on July 22 in Texas. And he did it with just one arm.
A triple-amputee, Bozik lost his legs and his right arm below the elbow in October 2004 when his Humvee rolled over a roadside bomb in Iraq. As part of his recovery process, Bozik turned to jiu-jitsu and began training five to six days a week.
“It started off as just something to do physically, to keep myself active, something to do with my kids,” Bozik said in an interview with WFAA, an ABC News affiliate in McKinney, Texas. “But in the end, it became a personal focus as well, getting better both physically and mentally.”
The cofounder and president of the We Defy Foundation, which uses martial-arts training to rehab vets with PTSD or other war wounds, Bozik has been training and competing for the last three years.
But last Saturday’s match marked his first competitive win — against an able-bodied opponent, no less.
“This single experience has been years in the making,” Bozik wrote in a July 24 Instagram post. “One loss after another. One disappointment after another. Although showing up and competing is a victory in itself; showing everyone (including myself) that all the hours of sweat, blood, and yes sometimes tears have a purpose, is something not many get to taste in their time.”
This weekend was a first in my Jiujitsu career. I won my first match at the IBJJF Austin Open. I came in both mentally and physically strong. I pushed the pace and left it all on the line. In the end I got the tap with literally half a second left on the clock. This single experience has been years in the making. One loss after another. One disappointment after another. Although showing up and competing is a victory in itself; showing everyone (including myself) that all the hours of sweat, blood, and yes sometimes tears have a purpose, is something not many get to taste in their time. I was overwhelmed with joy and simultaneously ignited with a fire to want to win again. And again. And again. Not bc victory is the measure of a man. But bc of all those who may look at what I am trying to do and see me as a triple amputee who does Jiujitsu. Instead of as a man who should never be underestimated or treated differently. Thank you to all those who have supported me. Thank you to my fellow competitors who never gave an inch and brought the fight to me. To my coach Professor Alan Shebaro who has always seen the man underneath the war torn body. Thank you. Although we walk this path together your guidance, patience, and friendship mean more to me than you may ever know. This victory was yours as much as it was mine. Thank you to my teammates who have always supported me through training, coaching, and being there at every match. And finally thank you to My Jessy. Having you there to share this with me means the world to me. I cherish it and you ❤️. #wedefyfoundation #provethemwromg #tier1trainingfacility #tier1tf #shebarojiujitsu
The We Defy Foundation offers courses and training in jiu-jitsu for combat veterans suffering from disabling injuries and post-traumatic stress, according to the group’s website. There are now 70 veterans across the country learning the martial art through We Defy, with another 40 waiting for an opening, according to WFAA.
“Jiu-jitsu has literally saved my life,” Bozik wrote in a testimonial on We Defy’s website. “After a good night of rolling, when I go home at night I am a better father, husband, and person. Through my experience, I have seen this type of therapy change lives for the better.”