Hey Police, You Need to Learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because there must be safer ways to use force.
By Joshua Eferighe
Andrew Yang isn’t your average politico. He doesn’t wear a tie, and he offers common-sense ideas like automatically filed tax forms, post-office banking and a universal basic income of $1,000 a month for every adult. Of all his positions, however, the one that sounds the craziest might just be the most practical: Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ) training for all police officers.
The topic came up a year ago when asked if it should be mandatory for all police officers to be BJJ purple belts. Yang said “definitely” and that “it would make us all safer,” adding that it could help cops be healthier too.
Yang, who trains BJJ with his young son, never made this an official part of his platform.
In the United States, police officers fatally shoot about three people a day — a number that’s close to the yearly totals for other wealthy nations. This year has been rocked by racial justice protests and increased backlash over police brutality in America, so it’s worth asking whether police officers and the communities they serve might be better off if cops had something other than guns as weapons.
It puts officers in the best position to be able to make good decisions.
Charles Fernandez of Gracie Survival Tactics
According to Charles Fernandez of Gracie Survival Tactics (GST), these grim statistics could be greatly reduced if cops had more options at their disposal. “It puts officers in the best position to be able to make good decisions, under duress, in use-of-force situations,” he says.
The benefits don’t just go one way. While BJJ helps users de-escalate situations and neutralize threats, it also helps lower their own risk of injury while boosting fitness levels.
Following the success of the legendary Gracie family, who dominated the UFC with Brazilian jiu jitsu back in the ’90s, the U.S. Army contacted them to help create a program that would prepare a soldier for hand-to-hand combat in roughly a week. The Gracies condensed their fighting style down to 36 key techniques, which now serve as the foundation for the U.S. Army’s Modern Army Combatives Program. This program lives on today through GST, a subsidiary of Gracie University, a training academy started by the Gracies that emphasizes the defense aspect of BJJ by building its practices around leverage, timing, and natural body movements instead of strength, speed and coordination.
The Army had already been using a hand-to-hand combat style called combatives, which made incorporating BJJ seamless and on-brand for their training. Soon the U.S. Army wasn’t the only one interested in the fighting style. Everyday people became intrigued as well, and it spread.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) — which encompasses BJJ, boxing, muay thai, etc. — is the fastest-growing activity in the world thanks to event organizations like One Championship, Bellator and the UFC, which was founded by Rorion Gracie, the son of Hélio Gracie, who created MMA. It was purchased for $2 million in 2002, sold for over $4 billion in 2016 and reported $7 billion total revenue in 2018. The TV deals and popularity exposed millions to the sacred art form, which fostered a proliferation of gyms, competitions and organizational bodies.
You can find jiu jitsu training centers all over the country with participants practicing for self-defense and fitness. They’ve also grown popular among police officers. In fact, there are more than 170 Certified Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Training Centers across the country teaching individual officers and police departments with the necessary funding.
So why hasn’t it been universally adopted by law enforcement? “One factor is a finite amount of funds, another factor is a lot of people don’t know about it yet,” Fernandez says. A Level 1 online certification from Gracie’s law enforcement program costs $995 per person. Also, the classes would most likely come into conflict with officers’ standard training regimens. The average police academy program lasts 21 weeks, according to a 2013 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Of those, about four are devoted to combat training, which including firearms safety and nonlethal weapon training. So it’s a matter of cost as well as time.
But with protests against police brutality, including some calling to defund forces, finding nonlethal means for navigating dangerous situations should be a priority for officers nationwide.