Last August, a video of a police officer subduing a fleeing criminal with classic BJJ techniques went viral on YouTube. BJJ black belt and Florida police officer Ruben Alvarez left his weapon holstered as he swiftly performed a double leg takedown followed by side control to mount on the perpetrator. He then controlled the person safely until backup arrived. In today’s culture of police brutality and accusations of excessive force during arrests, this represents a positive example of restraint in the line of duty. Now, another police officer is seeking to make this type of training a standard in law enforcement.
The Invictus Law Enforcement Jiu-Jitsu Collective is an officer oriented and operated bjj seminar created in part by black belt and Canadian police officer Ari Knazan. Knazan, 45, worked with several other instructors to create the seminar as well as the entire #bjjmakeitmandatory campaign after seeing the lack of situational training officers receive. The seminar will be open to officers and normal citizens of all skill levels in grappling, and host a roster of six black belt officer instructors.
“Too often, an officer’s first response to a physical situation is to rely on their duty belt, and if your only tool is a hammer, then every problem is going to be seen as a nail,” Knazan said. A member of the Victoria BC Police Department for the past five years, Knazan wants to create a seminar for all officers to learn specialized BJJ for their line of work. His own history with BJJ has, in his own words, increased his reliance on his own skills and not solely his tool belt. “Jiu-jitsu has helped keep me calm in very stressful situations,” Knazan said, “We are constantly put into uncomfortable positions and expected to keep calm and stay focused.” In addition to the mindset BJJ builds, Knazan has made use of the techniques to safely diffuse life-threatening situations even before his law enforcement career.
With how combative police work can be, it’s a wonder that bjj isn’t more commonly utilized in the force. According to a survey conducted by Knazan among police officers, a major factor keeping them away from the mats is lack of time. “One of the big things I’ve consistently heard from cops that don’t want to start training is that it would take to long to get good at it,” Knazan said. Not unique to officers, this is an issue keeping many regular citizens off the mats.
“It doesn’t take ten years to get proficient in jiu-jitsu,” Knazan said. “We’re talking about imparting these basic movements that you learn on day one, and it makes an immediate difference.” Knazan maintains that a simple grasp of basic BJJ along with more experience in grappling situations would have a large impact on safety.
The first event is set to be held in Houston TX at Renzo Gracie Houston on June 8. Price is set between $80-$100 with all proceeds going to police charities. Knazan expressed hope that this event will lead to more throughout the country in the future. More information on the event as well as event sponsors can be found at their website here.