Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) 2nd Class Sonie Lasker, assigned to Navy Information Operations Command Georgia, leads combatives training for sailors and other joint-service personnel. (CTI1 Nicole Frederick / Navy)
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Sonie Lasker, an 18-time world champion, has changed her focus from competing to training. (Courtesy of Sonie Lasker)
In mid-November, a petty officer third class won the gold medal at an Army Combatives tournament in Fort Gordon, Ga. — defeating every opponent he faced in the cruiserweight class.
But the Navy’s show of force wasn’t a surprise: It was the hallmark of the team’s fearsome coach.
Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) 2nd Class Sonie Lasker, who led her five-man team to three medals at the base tournament, is one of the world’s most accomplished martial artists. She holds the world record for the most wins in events featuring different martial-arts disciplines at one international competition (eight), is a black belt in judo, karate and jiujitsu and is in the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame.
Lasker, an EP-3 aircrew man who checked into Navy Information Operations Command Georgia in October, set up a martial arts center later that month and has started teaching self-defense moves to about two dozen service members of all stripes, from E-2s to petty officers to an O-5 physician.
Lasker joined the Navy two years ago and sees her expertise as a opportunity to mentor fellow sailors in a set of teachings that has sharpened warriors for centuries.
“I definitely am for introducing combatives into the Navy because the way that we serve is changing,” Lasker said in a Dec. 10 phone interview. “Our need for people who are mission-ready is ever growing, and I feel that combatives isn’t just for walking around and being infantry. Martial arts gives you the ability to handle yourself in stressful situations.”
At 42 and an 18-time world champion, Lasker is shifting focus from setting records to teaching. She’s an instructor in self-defense tactics and has developed a system that combines lessons from grappling, boxing, karate and street fighting into a combatives program aimed at helping sailors defend themselves and quickly subdue adversaries. It also gets them in shape.
“I’ve finally found a sport that not only wears me out physically but also mentally because you’re constantly having to think and move and defend and be on the offense as well,” said CTI1 (IDW/SG) James Collins, 31, a fellow NIOC sailor who’s been training in Lasker’s dojo for a month. “It teaches you a lot about yourself. Being able to move in ways that you thought you’d never been able to move before.”
Collins, who hopes to compete one day, said all this training has another advantage: “Doing this, I’m already starting to lose weight, which is great.”
Lasker hopes that her instruction and students at the Joint Service Martial Arts Academy on Fort Gordon inspire a bigger martial arts following in the Navy.
“There’s so much to learn from each other that I really feel this community is important,” she said. “It’s giving sailors something constructive to do. It’s giving them more goals to achieve. It’s giving them more types of leadership to experience. And I feel that anything that goes within that framework can only make the Navy a greater force.”