Why is BJJ Training so Important for Cops?

When I sat down to write this article I wanted to just say Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is important for cops because it just is. Period. Then I reflected on the time I have spent in law enforcement and what I have learned in over a decade in the profession. Understandably, it is hard to get someone who has no interest in training to get off their ass or justify why the expense is worth it, but hear me out.

The reality is, in law enforcement, you are going to be tested. Whether in the academy, as a rookie, a line officer, a supervisor, a field training officer (FTO) or as a manager. In most of these positions there are ways to prepare yourself to pass the tests you know about but what about the ones you don't?

Being prepared to be a cop is more than just learning the law, tactics or being a good shot. Don't take that to mean those skills are not important but the tactical part of the job plays a much smaller role than most think. In reality the job is about learning how to apply the law, write coherent sentences, have acute observation skills and be an exceptional listener. The truth is there are very few officers who ever fire their weapon in the line of duty. For those that do, it is a life changing experience and one most do not wish on their worst enemy. What is also undeniably true, if you do your job, is you will have to use force at some point in your career and for many it will be more times than you want to count.

Another reality is that most officers are grossly under trained in use of force. This is not to say that some departments focus on the right training but most in service is not geared toward aspects of the day to day job. On average, departments spend 4 - 8 hours a year on defensive tactics which would be relevant in use of force situations. This is because officers have to be recertified in many other aspects of the job and have to take mandatory trainings to keep their departments compliant and certified.

One of this biggest reasons I think BJJ is so important for cops is actually pretty simple, confidence. When you train BJJ you learn very quickly that there are many days when you will be the nail and very few days where you get to be the hammer. If you continue to show up, this starts to change and you begin to see little victories but you also get humbled and learn your limitations. As you put the time in your confidence increases and your ability to identify weakness decreases allowing you to improve. You still know where your limitations lie but you can mitigate them with technique and stress inoculation.

How does this translate to the job you ask? Because officers receive so little training in defensive tactics, when they are confronted with a use of force scenario, they have a false sense of security in that they will be able to handle it simply because they wear a badge or because of their duty belt with lots of tools on it. Knowing when and how to handle yourself allows you to be confident in your abilities and can allow situations to de-escalate without ever having to use intermediate/lethal weapons. It also provides the ability to know when you need to step it up because you are our matched. This is a distinction only an officer would understand but it is important in terms of the optic displayed for the public. Trying everything you can before going to intermediate or lethal weapons gives the public confidence you tried all that you could. I am not saying to not follow case law or that any of this applies in situations where there are weapons involved. My utmost concern is for the safety of my brothers and sisters out there.

I'll leave you with this:

A long time ago when I first entered law enforcement, a buddy of mine was in the academy with me. We had actually played against each other in football in high school and never knew each other before we were hired. He had been training in multiple martial arts disciplines and I think at the time was a blue belt in BJJ. He could easily handle anyone in the class without even breaking a sweat. This was surprising to me as I was a college athlete and a dedicated power lifter. I was no slacker and thought my strength would mitigate any training he may have had. Oh how wrong I was. I asked him how he could so easily diffuse everyone and he said it was in fact largely due to his training in BJJ. Then came the question that put my Jiu-Jitsu journey on hold before it ever started, how much does it cost? When I heard his answer I almost choked and thought to myself, how am I supposed to swing that? The department we worked for did not pay very well and I had bills to pay and could not fathom adding that expense. All he said to me after he saw my reaction was, "It is worth every penny."

It took me years to finally understand what he meant. When I finally did decide to join I think the hardest part was stepping on the mat in those oversized pajamas and realizing even with all the training I had received over the years I was drastically outmatched. BJJ is a very humbling art. You need to leave your ego and pride at the door and be open to the fact that someone who is half your size or twice your age can manhandle you with ease. Once you accept how BJJ can mold you through battle tested, proven methods I can guarantee you will not only be a better cop but a better human.

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