Providing for Veterans and First Responders with PTSD

Our History

“And then I found jiu-jitsu.” This is a plot twist that every BJJ person knows. We hear it almost every time we gather to roll to the point that it is like the chorus of a song you can’t get out of your head. We might have more jiu-jitsu stories than there are fishing stories. From a wide-eyed white belt to a seasoned black belt, they all can tell you about people who have transformed through jiu-jitsu. You might be reading this right now because your life, or the life of someone you know, has changed for the better because of jiu-jitsu – or maybe you are actively seeking out that positive change.

That’s how the Resilient Warrior Foundation came to be because of “and then I found jiu-jitsu” stories. Shortly after the birth of his first child, Matt Davidson, RWF’s founder, found himself looking for a new exercise routine. Jiu-jitsu seemed like a good fit for a new dad, and so Matt’s journey began. It didn’t take long for Matt to start hearing “and then I found jiu-jitsu.” A surprising number of people telling the stories were veterans and first responders. Being a veteran himself, Matt began thinking about people he served with who had transformed and people who were struggling.

The further Matt got on his jiu-jitsu journey, the more the “and then I found jiu-jitsu” stories began to deepen and grow (and, naturally, Matt has his own story). Around the time Matt became a purple belt, “and then I found jiu-jitsu” became a chorus that he just couldn’t get out of his head, and he kept thinking about people he served with who were struggling. He started to research jiu-jitsu as a therapeutic tool to see if maybe there was some data out there to back up all the “and then I found jiu-jitsu” stories, and he found the work of Dr. Allison Willing (read here). Dr. Willing and Matt met, and the rest is history.

Jiu-jitsu is amazing, but it isn’t magic. Jiu-jitsu doesn’t replace traditional therapy for post-traumatic stress, it compliments it. Jiu-jitsu doesn’t make post-traumatic stress disappear or guarantee healing. Jiu-jitsu is a tool that works for some people, but not all people. The Resilient Warrior Foundation is here to offer that tool to veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress.

Ask someone who practices jiu-jitsu why it works for them and you will get a variety of answers. You will hear: It’s discipline. It’s structure. It’s community. It’s hard work. It’s showing up. It’s facing challenges. It’s being accountable. It’s making mistakes. It’s learning from mistakes. It’s sweat (and laundry). It’s learning to be in a difficult position and work your way out of it. It’s achieving goals. It’s people coming together. It’s growth. It’s learning to tap. It’s solving problems you can’t talk your way out of. It’s confIdence. It’s literally earning your stripes. It’s transformation. It’s telling someone, “and then I found jiu-jitsu.” It’s being heard and supported when you say, “and then I found jiu-jitsu.” It’s helping other people write their own “and then I found jiu-jitsu” stories.

What Drives Us

Our Mission

Our mission is to serve U.S. Veterans and first responders who suffer from PTSD acquired during their time in the service. We provide scholarships for them to study Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the academy of their choice.

Meet Our

Board Members

Jason Redman, Advisory Board

Retired Lieutenant Jason Redman spent 11 years as an enlisted Navy SEAL and ten years as a SEAL Officer leading SEAL teams in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. On September 13, 2007, outside of Fallujah, Iraq, Lieutenant Redman’s Assault Team came under heavy machine gun and small arms fire and he was severely wounded in the ensuing firefight. While recovering at Bethesda Naval Medical Center, Redman authored and hung a bright orange sign on his door, which became known as the Sign on the Door and became a statement and symbol for wounded warriors everywhere.
After 21 years, Redman retired from the Navy in 2013 and founded SOF Spoken, a speaking and consulting company which provides inspirational presentations on leadership, teamwork and overcoming adversity for businesses, first responders, sports teams, and government organizations.

Today, Jason has expanded his programs with his focus on helping individuals, companies and teams to “GET OFF THE X” ™ from “Life Ambushes”. He provides, speaking, workshops, online programs, executive coaching and business consulting to businesses around the world and group coaching through his “Get off the X Training and Pointman for Life™ individual and group coaching programs.
Jason is the New York Times bestselling author of The Trident, The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader, Overcome an Amazon Bestseller and his newest Amazing Best Seller – Pointman Planner. He has appeared on multiple national news networks including Fox News, CBS, CNN, ONN, Newsmax and CBN. Jason has been featured in multiple documentaries including History Channel’s, Navy SEALs, America’s Secret Warriors.

Alison Willing, Governing Board

Alison Willing received her doctoral degree from University of Calgary in Canada in medical physiology and behavioral neuroscience in 1993. After a brief stint at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University, she joined the Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair, Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair at the University of South Florida in 1996. Doctor Willing’s research focuses on brain injury and neurodegeneration.  Recently, her research has focused on the effectiveness of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as a complementary medicine treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress.

Matt Davidson, Governing Board

Matt Davidson was a computer operator in the US Air Force before transitioning to the defense contracting industry.

Having always wanted to learn martial arts, he one day stumbled into Zingano Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Colorado and fell in love with everything BJJ provided.

After moving to the Chicago area and conversations with Veteran friends who were in need of support, he was able to talk them into staring BJJ based off of the positive impacts it had on himself.  Shortly after those conversations he started the RWF to help others in need.

Matt is a purple belt who has been training since May 2011, loves BJJ, his family, and helping others.  He is the Founder and serves as the RWF Board President.

Brent Magnussen, Governing Board

Brent Magnussen is a best selling American author, professional speaker, and a former U.S Army Combat Engineer. In 2020 Brent released his much-anticipated book, ROGER UP.

Brent is an avid practitioner of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, an accomplished cook, a voracious reader, and a Freemason. In his spare time, he enjoys rucking, hot yoga, traveling, hunting, fishing, learning languages, and enjoying different cultures and their food.

Brent acts as the point man for RWF talking with Veterans and the potential BJJ academy of their choice. Having a passion for the Veteran community, First Responders, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Brent is a vital member of the RWF board.

Cassandra O'Connor, Governing Board

Cassandra O’Connor is a board member of the Resilient Warrior Foundation.  She has worked in the nonprofit sector and as a public school teacher.  She is currently a pandemic stay-at-home mom.   She studies BJJ for self-defense purposes.

Ann Reinhart, Governing Board

Ann Reinhart is a licensed CPA in the State of Indiana.  She has over 10 years’ experience in “Big 4” public accounting firms, over 2 years’ experience in the financial industry, and over 6 years’ experience in the manufacturing industry.

Ann began studying BJJ in June 2019 after an incident that brought home the importance of being able to defend yourself.  After the first class, Ann was hooked on the sport, not only for the self defense provided, but also due to the warm and welcoming community. 

Ann is the Treasurer for Resilient Warrior Foundation.

Amanda Williams, Governing Board

Amanda holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish and a Juris Doctorate degree. She spent a decade practicing law as a hearing officer for the state of Missouri.  Now she practices immigration law, her true passion, for a legal aid association.

Amanda is involved in local and national bar associations dedicated to her practice in the states of Illinois and Missouri.  She fills her time with involvement in local and professional groups that work to end poverty, close the wage gap, and advance the rights of marginalized people.  She can also be found singing and dancing by herself to the Grateful Dead and Pearl Jam with a little Rage Against the Machine on the side.

She lives with her husband (a college professor) and her teenage son (who never thinks about college) in the Metro East area of St. Louis (Go Cards!).

She is excited to be a member of this board as she believes mental health awareness and treatment are a top priority of an enlightened society.

Ron Gembarosky

Ron Gembarosky is a 14 year veteran of the United States Air Force where he served in a variety of roles and special duty assignments.

He has been a practitioner of Bujinkan Ninjutsu for the past 30 years and has studied a variety of martial arts to include Krav Maga, JKD, TKD, Muay Thai and Aikido.

Currently Ron is an Executive Vice President and Chief Security Officer for a National Defense contracting firm.

He spends most of his time in the outdoors with his wife and 3 dogs, hiking and kayaking.