Police brutality is one of the most talked about issues in the United States today. Thanks to social media and groups like Black Lives Matter, more attention has been given to the ways police officers treat suspects…especially suspects of color.
Paul Park is a retired police officer who served as a defense tactics instructor while on the force. He also has an extensive martial arts resume. Paul is not only a BJJ brown belt, but he has trained in Taekwondo, Aikido, Krav Maga, and Savate.
Paul also recognizes the problem with excessive force among police officers, and he thinks this is primarily due to a lack of training.
“The training provided by police officers is never enough,” Park told the Jiu-Jitsu Times via Facebook message. “It’s incumbent upon police officers to seek out training on their own and for police agencies to give officers some sort of incentive to do so as well.”
So, what training does Officer Park suggest police officers practice in order to lower rates of excessive force?
I believe BJJ or similar grappling arts are most applicable to police work. It’s highly effective and it minimizes potential injury to the suspect and the officer. It also “looks good” to the public. I’ve effortlessly taken down and controlled much younger and bigger suspects using BJJ. This is not a testament to my athleticism nor is it machismo. It’s science.
There is good reason to believe Brazilian jiu-jitsu is an excellent art for police officers. BJJ is often jokingly referred to as a good martial art to control your drunken uncle. In other words, it’s a way to control people without hurting them. Police officers have a moral and legal obligation to not only enforce the law, but do so in a way that respects the rights and well-being of the suspect. This can be a complicated juggling act, but Brazilian jiu-jitsu can make it easier.
Officer Paul Park is not the only one who believes a lack of training can have deadly consequences for police officers and suspects alike. Gracie Academy has offered a police training program for years now, and like Officer Park, they believe a lack of training can lead to excessive force:
It’s not only safely controlling suspects, either. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a great stress reliever, and that can certainly help curb police brutality. A calm police officer is far less likely to use excessive force than one who is stressed out.
“…another huge part of BJJ is the stress relief and community,” Paul said. “BJJ tends to attract positive people who live healthy lifestyles. It’s also “moving meditation”. I do sitting meditation but BJJ has always been more effective for me. The Buddhist principle of being in the moment is much easier to achieve when you’re grappling. You have no choice but to focus on the moment or you’ll get choked out!”
Stress relief is also important for the officers themselves. Much like soldiers in a war zone, some police officers see the worst acts of human violence on a daily or near daily basis. Murder, rape, assault, child abuse, animal abuse — the men and women who enforce the law have seen it all, and it can have a terrible impact on their mental health.
“Police work is obviously very stressful,” Officer Park told us. “We are faced with trauma constantly. Too many officers are victims of PTSD. BJJ helps you cope.”
Are you a police officer? Do you practice Brazilian jiu-jitsu. If so, has it helped you do your job better? How so?