Alliance offers free Jiu Jitsu training for combat veterans with post traumatic stress disorder

Posted at 5:39 PM, Jun 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-27 20:43:41-04

Monday was PTSD Awareness Day.

According to the VA San Diego Healthcare System, 11,563 local veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD.

Alliance Jiu Jitsu Eastlake is on a mission to fight it. 

"I was diagnosed with PTSD about a year and a half ago," said a former Navy SEAL in the training. He even hated the label, which is why he did not want to be identified.

When he stopped fighting as a Navy SEAL, he started fighting an internal battle.

"It's not a 9 to 5 job where you can just turn it off… so when it is time, it's hard to find the switch sometimes," he added.

He said it took a toll on his family.

"I was having a lot of problems sleeping and I was often convinced there were people in my home," he explained.

On the mat, he is just a regular guy, fine-tuning his fighting skills.

Elias Gallegos, who is the owner of Alliance Jiu Jitsu and a 3rd degree black belt, said most of his students are military or law enforcement.

"We do muy thai, kickboxing, self defense, judo, wrestling..." Gallegos explained.

He realized there was more to the training when a student returned with a war-torn mind.

"He came back a completely different person," Gallegos said. "He showed up at my academy just super high and drunk."

That student nearly became one of the 22 vets a day who kill themselves.

"He said he wanted to go home and blow his brains out," Gallegos said.

Gallegos has a counseling degree, so they talked for hours.

"It rips my heart in half," he said. "It rips my heart in half."

He noticed the impact training had on that student and many others.

Now, he is on a mission to fight it by offering free training to combat vets with PTSD like the former SEAL.

It acts as an outlet for him and a way to bond with others.

"It's a way that I can be ultra aggressive in an environment that that's socially acceptable," he explained. "It's helped me re-connect with my family and my friends.

"It's a life-changer."

In some cases, it could be a lifesaver.

The cost to train, including gear, is about $2,000 a year. Gallegos is offering his training free for life for combat vets with PTSD.

Vets do not need to worry about documentation, he said. Simply call Gallegos and tell him you would like to join the vets program.

Students are required to attend a Christian-based group meeting Saturday mornings. Gallegos said it is open to vets of all religions and those without religious beliefs.