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Making a difference on and off the mat

Australian combat veteran Scott Steer is the driving force behind Veteran Grappling, a program which combines judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), wrestling, yoga and mindfulness.

A big idea

Veteran Grappling was founded by Scott, a Director of the Unsung Heroes Foundation, at the beginning of 2019.

The program started out with a group of four going to a local PCYC in South East Queensland to try a few techniques. It was a simple, relaxed session and concentrated on working within everyone’s limits.

“I came across a couple of articles of veterans in the United States who found really good benefits in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo,” says Scott. Based on his research, career and personal experiences, Scott recognised that a grappling program for veterans in Australia would be hugely valuable and looked into getting something up and running. 

“We initially called it BJJ and Burgers,” says Scott. “We would have a roll around on the mats before going to grab some burgers and having a chat over lunch.”

Interest spread quickly and roughly six months on from the first session Scott and the team had their own venue where they were offering weekly sessions.

The program is a world-first, providing a unique way of improving mental and physical health under the watch of a committed team of allied health professionals and qualified instructors.

The Veteran Grappling team that supports participants includes judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt instructors, yoga instructors, physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and psychologists. They work together as a multi-disciplinary team and are dedicated to making things as easy as possible, with participants able to come to one place for health and wellbeing support as part of the program.

Starting early

Scott first developed an interest in martial arts at the age of six after watching The Karate Kid on the big screen.

“The Karate Kid had just come out. As a young six year old I started kicking the walls in the hallway!” says Scott. “I hassled my parents a bit to start karate. There was nothing in town but at the end of our street there was a judo club that was run by a Vietnam Veteran. It was fate really in the end.”

Scott has continued to practice judo ever since, winning national titles and placing in tournaments around the world. He was also in the mix to be selected for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

A proud veteran

Scott joined the defence force in January 2005. He joined the Army through the Special Forces Direct Recruiting Scheme (SFDRS) and was later deployed to Afghanistan and then to Iraq as part of 6 RAR.

“The military was always in the back of my mind,” says Scott. “Like most people in Australia, we’ve got a bit of a family history. I was up for a challenge and definitely got that.”

In January 2010 Scott transitioned out of the defence force, and soon met his now wife. They moved to Western Australia where Scott was offered a job in the mines and his wife was swiftly offered a job as a nurse. During this period, he also founded the Sang-Rok Hedland Judo Club, teaching both children and adults the art of judo. “It ended up becoming one of the top five clubs in the country,” says Scott. “We went from nothing to having about 200 members pretty quick.”

Scott and his wife stayed in Western Australia for about four years before moving back to his home state of Queensland to be closer to family.

After moving back to the Gold Coast, Scott worked as a sports trainer for local AFL teams, and was appointed as NEAFL Head Trainer and as a Grappling coach for the Gold Coast Suns in 2016.

Throughout this time, Scott worked with many health professionals who solidified his view that the mental side of sports activity is a key component of success and overall wellbeing.

Taking the next step

For Scott and the team, seeing the growth of the Veteran Grappling program and the level of interest from the veteran community has been overwhelming.

Veteran Grappling is currently looking at additional locations to expand their program. After putting out an expression of interest, they’ve been inundated with responses from veterans and clubs from around Australia asking to be involved.

The team are now visiting, educating and working with clubs that have applied to be part of the program.

Veteran Grappling’s long term goal is to have these sports added to the Invictus Games and Warrior Games.

Veteran Sport Australia is looking forward to helping share Scott’s vision and message that movement combined with mindfulness is beneficial for all veterans.

All photos supplied by Scott Steer

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