Ask any grunt who’s ever served, and they’ll tell you there’s not too many occupations more demanding than being a United States Marine. Between the physical and mental rigors of the job, it’s hard to argue that it takes a special type of individual to serve in the USMC.
One such Marine, Paul Woo, doubles down as a martial artist as well. Originally starting in Muay Thai, and subsequently MMA, Paul found himself studying Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after a taking a fight thinking he was prepared but then getting beat by BJJ. Since then he’s made it his mission to study the Gentle Art, and he’s been hooked since. Nowadays he splits his time between family, training and leading 400 active duty Marines.
With many of them to be in attendance when he takes on Atos’ Rolando Samson at Fight 2 Win 95, Paul hopes to put on a great show and show the rest of his fellow soldiers what his work ethic is all about.
Fight 2 Win 95 – Paul Woo
Tell us a little bit of your personal story.
I was born in Texas. I started martial arts because my cousin introduced me to Take Kwon Do. At age 14 I began training Muay Thai at what is now VongPhet Muay Thai Academy. In 2005 I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. My first duty station was Okinawa, Japan. I trained Muay Thai initially before dabbling in MMA, Judo and BJJ. 2009 I reenlisted and was reassigned to San Diego, CA. I lived in southern California training JiuJitsu until I volunteered to be a Marine Recruiter in 2015. I recruited in the Austin, TX area until recently. I completed a successful tour and was tasked to be an Instructor at the Marine Corps Communications Electronics School in Twenty-Nine Palms, CA where I currently live and train.
What led you to BJJ?
Initially I only trained Muay Thai. Like every traditional Martial Artist, I believed it was enough. While I lived in Okinawa, I took part in some sanctioned K1 rule set fights at Tenkaichi Stadium, they also had MMA fights. At the time I weighed about 170 and I had fought a much heavier opponent. The weight division for the fight was 160 and above. I won the fight, but after the fight I had a huge headache and couldn’t eat from being punched. After some thought, I figured I’d try MMA. I figured at the time that with my Muay Thai and my grappling from the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program that’d be enough formal training. I WAS WRONG. I fought a tough Japanese wrestler with good boxing skills. After a small exchange on the feet he took me down. I feebly summoned all my grappling knowledge which led me to have my back taken and then pummeled, causing the referee to stop the fight. I felt defeated and couldn’t believe I could be beaten that easily. Then began my obsession with BJJ. I formally began training in 2009 with Andrew Eidson. It has completely taken over everything I do. Everything I do is in hopes that when I retire from the Marine Corps, I can open an Academy.
What’s training like for you nowadays?
First you have to get used to the elevation. It’s not incredibly high but we sit at around 2000ft above sea level. Everyone always pushes each other. Being on a Marine Base we get a lot of young wrestlers who always like to roll hard. There’s a lot of turn over as far as students go because Marines are constantly moving. Once in a while I’ll head down to 4SBJJ to train with my home gym. I think my biggest influences for my JiuJitsu Andrew Eidson and Adriano Silva. I don’t think without their guidance my JiuJitsu would be what it is today.
What do you when you’re not training?
When I’m not training, I’m leading Marines. I’m responsible for the lives of about 400 under my charge. And spending time with my wife and kids.
What are some of the greatest obstacles you’ve had to overcome as a martial artist?
My biggest obstacle thus far has always been the time to train. Most recently on recruiting duty. I worked 12-16 hour days sometimes with no days off for weeks, for 3 years. I had to find training partners that were willing to wake up early and train. Usually around 5am in the morning. As a Marine, I spent a lot of time in the field doing training exercises.
That’s an intense lifestyle, to say the least. What drives you to keep pushing?
My biggest motivation is myself. I find happiness in being able to set goals and accomplishing them. I have to be the one to motivate myself to get up at 0430 to train and do what needs to get done. And in life, my family. My wife has pushed me and encouraged me to do everything. She’s a really positive individual. Without her I don’t think I would have successfully completed Recruiting Duty.
What accomplishment are you proudest of so far?
In life, completing my time as a recruiter. In JiuJitsu, I think just being able to train every day and teach is what I’m proud of. I love JiuJitsu.
How would you describe your jiujitsu to somebody that’s never seen you compete before?
I believe I have simple JiuJitsu. Old School with a dash of new.
What are you expecting out of Rolando Samson at F2W95?
I expect him to be fast and super tough. He’s young and on the rise. I’ve been training to compete most the year. Not too much extra other than some specific training to get ready but I’ll be ready.
What’s next for you after this?
Nogi Worlds is my next competition.
Any last words before Saturday night?
I’m just happy to be able to get out and do what I love. I expect a lot of my Marines to be present so to the OORAH!! And Semper Fidelis.