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From Mats To Mercy Ships: The Story Of Dean Huffsteadler

bjj life bjj lifestyle inspiration motivation texoma jiu jitsu Feb 12, 2024

Today we're bringing you a truly inspirational story, about Dean Huffsteadler; a BJJ blue belt under Professor Griffin Phillips, at Texoma Brazilian Jiu Jitsu - member of the Lovato Jiu-Jitsu Association.

It's not "just" a story about BJJ.
But, more than that, it's a story about the far-reaching impact just one person can have - through their passion for training.


For over a decade, Dean and his wife have dedicated months of their lives to serving with Mercy Ships, an organization committed to providing free surgical care to the most impoverished communities in West Africa.

Dean has done powerlifting and Crossfit for many years...
But he had to stop due to a Parkinson's disease diagnosis.

Despite this challenge, however, Dean found solace in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu - starting his training journey at 64, under the guidance of Professor Griffin Phillips.

Here's what Dean had to share with us, that took place later on:

After training for about three months, it was time for us to go to Senegal in west Africa for three months.
I was fortunate to find an experienced BJJ practitioner on the ship, so I was able to continue the training and learning while away from home.

One year later, we returned to the ship and I had gained enough confidence and competence to offer Jiu Jitsu to others on the ship.


Utilizing the curriculum developed by Rafael Lovato Jr., Dean has been leading adult and children's classes alike:

For the children, I concentrated on fundamentals, but the adults are particularly switched on and progressing rapidly.

I taught from my strengths, closed guard and mount, but also challenged us with other things.


Currently stationed in Sierra Leone on the Global Mercy, Dean's classes have become a melting pot of cultures:

The two guys that I had in class before are still serving on the ship and started back up with me.
There are several other adults that have attended as well from Australia, Spain, Canada, and Benin.

Presently I have six children ages 6 to 9 in class from New Zealand and the US.

Dean has also been focused on helping Coach Bryan Brivens teach kids at Texoma BJJ.
To conclude, he adds a final word about his coaching at Mercy Ships:

We are currently doing one kids class on Saturdays and twice-a-week sessions with the adults.
We don’t have enough Gis to go around, so we are doing mostly no-Gi.

BJJ has been life-changing and life-saving for me personally and I desire greatly to share its benefits with others.