In 1964, on a drill field, one of retired USMC Sgt. Maj. E.L. Mayfield’s fellow Marines asked him if he’d like to participate in the All-Marine judo tournament. It was a fortunate turn for Mayfield, who would go on to compete in and teach the sport for most of his life as well as earn a bronze medal at the 2009 world Master’s Judo Championship. For him, the sport would become as much an outlet for post-traumatic stress as it was a physical competition.
“I never gravitated to the pills or drinking,” Mayfield said. “I liked doing something physical.”
Mayfield served as a hand to hand combat instructor during the Vietnam War. In 1970, injuries sustained led him to deactivate from military service. He “walked” for nine, going to school at San Diego City College where he also taught the sport. Still, service called him back and in 1979 Mayfield was back in the Corps. In the meantime, however, he managed to make another chance encounter that would remain lifelong.
“He walked so he could meet me,” said Mayfield’s wife, Maisha.
Mayfield officially retired from military service in 1999 and has now made it his mission to help other service members struggling with PTS find a healthy outlet through the US Military Outreach Judo and Ju Jitsu Organization (MOJJJO).
“I’ve gone about the business of producing champions,” Mayfield said. “We want to make other teachers more effective. I’ve seen people go to foreign countries and miss competitions from signing their name wrong. We’re not here to criticize. We don’t classify.”
The benefits of judo, according to Mayfield, comes from being physically active while letting the mind focus on specific maneuvers and techniques. Mayfield is, according to his wife, a perfect example of how much the sport helps veterans.
“He’s a poster boy for (the benefits of judo),” Maisha Mayfield said. “His Purple Hearts, the hip replacements (and) PTS. Service members get a chance to get out of their heads and still be active. During a round he’ll stop them and ask ‘where’s your PTS now?’ So many of them (veterans) suffer in silence, but I have seen judo help (my husband) and scores of others.”
Mayfield sees programs like adaptive judo as a step in the right direction. He also asks that veterans looking for an outlet and who want to compete speak to him about it.
“We want to help veterans looking for that outlet,” Mayfield said. “We want top level competitors. If they walk up and identify themselves we’ll throw them in a gi and give them a what for. Then I’ll talk to some people at USA Judo and tell them I have my eyes on someone.”
For Mayfield, there shouldn’t be an alternative.
“22 veterans a day take their lives,” Mayfield said. “That is unacceptable.”
For more information about MOJJJO visit mojjjovets.org.