The average police officer in America receives less than four (4) hours of hands-on defensive tactics training per year, and it’s not enough. We have long hypothesized that regular off-duty jiu-jitsu training (at least 1 hour per week) for law enforcement officers would increase officer safety, lower department liability, and reduce the likelihood of injuries to subjects, but the evidence supporting this hypothesis has been mostly anecdotal, until now!
After nearly 30 years of advocating for more jiu-jitsu in law enforcement, it feels like we're finally turning the corner on defensive tactics training in America. Share the information contained herein with your colleagues and command staff, and when the agency is ready to take the next step, we’re here to help!
Mandatory BJJ Training for Police (Case Study)
Marietta Police Department (MPD), has been sending officers to the Gracie Survival Tactics (GST) train-the-trainer course since 2009. After a UOF video went viral for all the wrong reasons, they knew it was time for change. On April 1, 2019, MPD instituted a training program that made weekly Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) training mandatory for all new hires during the five months they were in the police academy. The training took place at a carefully vetted civilian owned/operated BJJ academy within the community. The program was so successful that on July 1, 2020, Marietta PD extended the department-sponsored BJJ training opportunity to all in-service officers.
Marietta Police Department BJJ Program Data
To date, 95 of the 145 sworn MPD officers have opted in to the BJJ program and 50 officers have not. The officers who averaged at least (1) BJJ class per week, are referred to as “BJJ officers.” Here is a summary of the data collected thus far:
- MPD has had 95 officers attend over 2,600 civilian-operated BJJ classes with one (1) reported training injury.
- Since the inception of the program, non-BJJ officers used their Taser in 77% of Use of Force (UOF) incidents.
- BJJ officers used their Taser in 54% of UOF incidents (85% of which were used to stop a foot pursuit – not to end the physical altercation)
- 23% reduction in Taser deployments in the BJJ officer group.
UOF Injuries to Officers
- In the 18 months prior to instituting mandatory BJJ training, 29 officers were injured while carrying out arrests.
- In the 18 months after instituting mandatory BJJ training for new hires, 15 officers were injured while carrying out arrests.
- 48% reduction in officer injuries department wide.
- None of the injured officers were BJJ officers.
UOF Injuries to Suspects
- In 2020, there were 33 UOF incidents involving Marietta PD officers: 20 incidents involving non-BJJ officers, and 13 incidents involving BJJ officers.
- In the 20 incidents involving non-BJJ officers, the suspect sustained injuries requiring hospitalization 65% of the time (13 incidents of suspect hospitalization).
- In the 13 incidents involving BJJ officers, the suspect sustained injuries requiring hospitalization 31% of the time (4 incidents of suspect hospitalization).
- Serious injuries to a suspect are 53% less likely when interacting with BJJ officers.
- BJJ officers are 59% less likely to engage in UOF than non-BJJ officers.
- Based on an average workers’ comp claim of $4,768, the total estimated savings from the reduction in officers’ injuries is estimated at $66,752.
- Training Investment: $26,000 (2600 department-sponsored classes charged at $10 per class).
- Net Savings for MPD: $40,752
Officer Wellness and Resiliency
In addition to increasing officer and civilian safety through the use of non-violent and de-escalatory control tactics, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has proven to significant contributor to enhanced officer wellness and resiliency at law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Here are some of the most notable benefits experienced by any officer who engages in the regular practice of BJJ:
Resilience is the capacity to prepare for, recover from, and adapt to stress and adversity. The art of BJJ is one of the most beneficial activities any officer can engage in since it explores every imaginable problem that one could encounter in an altercation requires officers to calmly apply precise techniques to solve them. Initially, every officer questions their capacity to solve the problems presented on the mat, but over time, they become more and more confident in their abilities and eventually they realize one of the core tenants of BJJ - every problem is a technique waiting to be discovered.
Most officers derive their confidence solely from the authority they have as a police officer (some call it "uniform confidence"). In BJJ, an officer greatly enhances their ability to solve problems, overcome adversity and deal with high-stress situations without relying on their duty weapon, and this is when "true confidence" begins to flourish. For many officers, achieving this level of true confidence not only allows them to be more patient, compassionate, and de-escalatory with the civilians whom they interact with on duty, but also with their friends/family. By synergistically improving their quality of life across the board, the benefits of this profound increase in true confidence cannot be overstated.
The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the part of the brain that controls rational decision making, amongst other things. When an officer experiences an actual or perceived loss of control in a physical altercation, the brain is taken over by the amygdala - the part of the brain responsible for fear responses that causes an officer to fight, flight or freeze. When this "amygdala highjack" takes place, an officer is much more likely to rapidly escalate their level of force, even in situations for which escalation wasn't necessary. By giving officers highly-effective strategies and techniques to maintain control during an altercation, BJJ enables an officer to maintain PFC activation and avoid the amygdala highjack thereby avoiding any unnecessary escalation of force and all of the negative consequences to the officer and the community that may result from escalating force when it may have been avoidable.
The dangerous effects of PTSD on law enforcement officers are well documented. The extreme stress and traumatizing events experienced by officers on a daily basis can be too much for the average person to bear. One of the top reported benefits of BJJ for police officers is that of reducing stress by demanding full physical and mental focus during practice. When engaging in BJJ practice, the mind of the officer must remain centered on the task at hand and this forces them to engage in a form of “kinetic meditation.” Therapeutic benefits are enhanced by the fact that this process is always conducted with a friend or colleague in a safe and collaborative learning environment. This practice of regularly "letting go" has proven to be highly effective at reducing stress and mitigating the effects of PTSD for law enforcement
professionals throughout the country.
The physical demands of law enforcement are undeniable, yet many officers have trouble finding the motivation to go to the gym. What is so unique about BJJ is that even though the officers show up for the techniques and the mental growth, they invariably get the benefit of a highly-engaging full-body workout. If it's true that the best workouts are the ones that you're excited to do, then it no surprise that officers everywhere are falling in love with BJJ.
For many officers, regularly engaging in negative interactions with members of the community is a source of anxiety and depression. Through BJJ, officers are given the opportunity to engage in healthy interactions with members of the community on a regular basis. They work together, they solve problems together and they sweat together. Real friendships are built on the mat and the benefits of these relationships, for both officers and civilians, have a positive impact beyond measure.
For any agency interested in instituting a department-backed BJJ program comparable to that in Marietta, we recommend the following three steps:
Step 1: Get GST Certified (Optional)
Marietta Police Department has been sending its in-house defensive tactics instructors to the Gracie Survival Tactics (GST) Instructor Certification Courses
since 2009. If you are interested in transforming your department with jiu-jitsu, there are benefits to doing it from the inside out. By sending your agency’s defensive tactics instructors to get GST certified, not only will you ensure that they learn the most important non-violent control tactics in jiu-jitsu, but you will also ensure that they understand the unique adaptations that are necessary to make Brazilian Jiu-jitsu effective in law enforcement applications. Keep in mind, however, that as long as the in-service officers at your agency are limited to the typical four (4) hours of state-mandated annual defensive tactics training, your agency will never see the results that Marietta PD and other progressive agencies are experiencing due to their partnerships with carefully-vetted civilian owned BJJ schools.
An additional benefit is that the GST Instructor Certification Course is POST Certified throughout the country, making Gracie University the first civilian-owned BJJ organization to earn this distinct honor. In almost every state, officers who successfully complete the GST program get credit towards their annual in-service training requirements.
GST Instructor Certification can be achieved by attending one of many live 5-day GST Live Instructor Certification Courses throughout the year, or remotely by using our 60-day GST Online Instructor Certification Program.
Once your department has incorporated the fundamentals of jiu-jitsu into its existing defensive tactics program, then you’ll be ready to partner with a civilian-operated BJJ school in your community so that every officer can get the benefit of regular BJJ practice.
Step 2: Find the Right BJJ School
If you want real results, you need real change. Partnering with the right BJJ school to grant your officers weekly supplementary jiu-jitsu training is one of the most important decisions your agency will ever make. Although the BJJ industry as a whole remains totally unregulated, Gracie University (GU) is a standalone global jiu-jitsu organization with hundreds of Certified Training Centers (CTCs) located throughout the world. In addition to criminal background checks,
each Gracie University instructor completes a rigorous certification process to ensure the highest quality standard, making CTCs the optimal partner schools for law enforcement agencies.
Here are the some of the most important considerations when partnering with a civilian operated BJJ school as well as some of the benefits offered exclusively at Gracie University Certified Training Centers:
- Structure: Most Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) schools have no curriculum, making the learning experience confusing and overwhelming – particularly for beginners. Conversely, GU CTCs are required to adhere to specific curricula and teaching methodologies prescribed by GU Headquarters to ensure each officer is provided the optimal learning experience regardless of gender, age, or athletic ability.
- Safety: Avoiding training injuries is a top priority at Gracie University CTCs. Unlike regular BJJ schools where beginners are sparring from day one, all Gracie University instructors are required to adhere to specific safety protocols (such as no sparring for beginners), that will ensure a safe and encouraging learning experience for every officer, including those with no prior BJJ experience.
- Self-Defense: Law Enforcement Officers put themselves at risk every single day. Most BJJ schools only teach the sportive aspect of jiu-jitsu, much of which has limited applicability in law enforcement scenarios. Gracie University CTCs, on the other hand, are 100% focused on street self-defense. As a result, most of the techniques each officer will learn can be immediately applied in the field to enhance officer and civilian safety (subject to department UOF policy).
- Full Schedule: With a full schedule of weekly jiu-jitsu classes for students of all skill levels, officers will have maximum flexibility to attend classes at times that are convenient for them.
- Offiicial Belt Promotions: Officers who maintain a consistent training schedule will have the opportunity to earn official belt promotions in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. With officer morale at an all-time low, the opportunity to invest in a personal skillset while interacting with members of the community in a fun, collaborative training environment will provide benefits far beyond self-defense.
- GST Advantage: Gracie University’s GST course is the leading jiu-jitsu based defensive tactics instructor course in America. In addition to a full schedule of regular jiu-jitsu classes, law enforcement students at CTCs are periodically given special "law enforcement only" classes in which the GST techniques are the primary focus. This will provide all the officers the necessary LEO adaptations that will make their newly acquired jiu-jitsu skills useful under stressful circumstances they face in the field.
- POST Certified: The GST Instructor Certification Course is POST Certified in almost every state. As the first civilian-owned BJJ organization to earn this distinct honor, it goes without saying that Gracie University has been thoroughly vetted to meet the highest quality standards in the country when it comes to tactical effectiveness, officers safety, and de-escalation.
- UOF Policy Considerations: Since CTC instructors are well-versed in the GST program, they can ensure that extra consideration is given to your agency’s UOF policy each time a new technique is taught.
- GST Online Video Access: When your agency partners with a Gracie University CTC, every officer gets online video access to the industry-leading Gracie Survival Tactics (GST) law enforcement curriculum (retail value $795). With 24/7 access to this invaluable curriculum, officers can log on from any computer or mobile device to sharpen their skills at any time, even when they can’t physically get to a live class.
- Satellite Training Privileges: Every officer who joins a CTC is authorized to train at every CTC on the planet for free. With hundreds of locations worldwide, any time an officer is traveling for business or pleasure, they can drop in at any CTC for no charge, and any classes taken at the destination CTC will count towards their official belt promotion at their home base CTC.
Step 3: Formalize the Partnership & Get Started
In addition to the unmatched safety protocols, quality control, and unique benefits, one of the main advantages of partnering with Gracie University to offer supplementary jiu-jitsu training to officers at your agency is that all Certified Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Training Centers (CTCs) in the United States utilize the same discounted pricing model for law enforcement partnerships.
- $15-$20 Drop-in Fee Per Class
Most BJJ schools will require a long-term contract commitment for each officer in the department. For our agency-backed law enforcement partnerships, we utilize a highly-discounted drop-in fee per class with no long-term contract requirement. This ensures that the agency only pays for officers who actually take advantage of this unique training opportunity so that the benefits/savings to the agency will always outweigh the cost.
- $60 Annual Fee Per Active Student
Every officer from your agency who joins the department-backed training program at the CTC will get Gracie University online video access to the Gracie Survival Tactics (GST) law enforcement curriculum (retail value $795) so they can log on and study their course material at any time. Additionally, every officer will be authorized to drop-in at any other CTC in the world (170+ locations) and train for free for up to one month when traveling for work or pleasure.
- Discounted Wholesale Uniform Pricing
On average, jiu-jitsu uniforms (gis) cost anywhere from $90-$150. Upon partnering with Gracie University, the agency will be authorized to purchase official Gracie Jiu-Jitsu uniforms at a steeply discounted wholesale price ($70+tax per uniform), so the agency saves money on every uniform.
- CANCEL ANY TIMEWe require no long-term commitment. Our top priority is to ensure that this partnership is the most significant step your agency has ever taken towards: 1) reducing injuries to officers and civilians during use of force encounters, 2) improving the relationship with the community, and 3) enhancing officer wellness and resiliency. If at any point we don't meet or exceed the agency’s expectations in any of these three categories, the partnership can be cancelled, no questions asked.
Once the details and benefits above have received preliminary approval from all members of the command staff at your agency, click here to set up a meeting with the Gracie University leadership team to discuss next steps in formalizing the partnership.
If there is an existing CTC in the region, we can establish the partnership with your agency immediately. If there is not a CTC in the region, we will work expeditiously to identify the most qualified school in the region, conduct background checks on all the instructors, and then put them through the Gracie University Instructor Certification Program which will equip them to serve your agency with all the benefits listed above while adhering to the highest quality standards established and maintained by Gracie University.
Connect With Major Jake King
Having orchestrated the incredibly successful BJJ program for Marietta Police Department, Major Jake King is eager to help other agencies achieve the same success. Whether there is a CTC in your community or not, click on the button below to connect with Major King so that he can answer any questions you might have and help walk you through the next steps.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Marietta Police Department uses federal asset forfeiture money. In cases, where asset forfeiture money isn’t available, agencies have relied on funds in their Training Budget to pay for the supplementary BJJ training. We've also seen cases where agencies are utilizing funds earmarked for Officer Wellness & Resiliency and in some instances the local Police Foundation has sponsored the program. Regardless of where the money comes from, the workers’ comp savings alone are expected to exceed any investment made into the program. In Marietta PD’s case, the 48% reduction in officer injuries (department wide) resulted in an estimated $66,752 in workers’ comp savings. Even after you deduct the full cost of training (approximately $26,000), the net savings for the agency in the first 18 months exceeds $40,000!
Not likely. In Marietta PD's case, all 95 officers have completed just over 2,600 civilian operated jiu-jitsu classes in nearly two years. The total investment made by the department was approximately $26,000 ($10 per class), and this gave the officers access to a full schedule or daytime/evening/weekend classes every week. In order for the department to maintain an equally robust weekly schedule of jiu-jitsu classes to accommodate every officer’s work schedule and off-duty availability, they would need to have at least two full-time jiu-jitsu instructors on staff. It's fair to say that the annual salary to support even a one full-time in-department instructor would be more than double the total dollar amount that Marietta PD has invested into their BJJ program to date. In additional to the substantial cost savings, there are several additional benefits to having officers attend civilian operated jiu-jitsu classes: 1) Officers get to interact with public in a fun, collaborative training environment, 2) Officers get the physical benefit of regular full-body exercise and the mental benefit of taking a break from the high-stress aspects of police work, and 3) Officers get to learn in an environment that isn't affected by the "cop culture" that so often plagues law enforcement training.
Yes, it can be. In Marietta PD’s case, they were successful in getting the civilian BJJ instructor certified as a subject matter expert under Georgia POST. As a result, every class a Marietta PD officer attends at the BJJ school counts as an hour of POST credited defensive tactics training for the officer.
No. Although we strongly recommend you get your in-house defensive tactics instructors certified in GST prior to instituting a supplementary off-duty BJJ program for your officers, it is not required.
Once an agency begins to see the financial benefits of this supplementary jiu-jitsu training program (reduction in: workers’ comp claims, reduction in suspect injuries and results lawsuits, etc), it will become clear that its most important task will be to incentivize all its sworn officers. Obviously, a major factor in this will be to make sure that the jiu-jitsu school is extremely well run (professional, safe, proven law enforcement friendly curriculum, etc), but even at the most qualified jiu-jitsu school, some officers will be reluctant to try something new. To ensure the most enthusiastic participation from all sworn officers in the agency, when you partner with a Certified Training Center, Gracie University will work directly with your command staff to create a customized incentive program tied to each officer's individual jiu-jitsu progress utilizing any, or all, of the following: bonus pay, uniform pins, PTO, career path promotion points, etc.
CTCs are the ideal partners for law enforcement agencies for all the reasons we outlined. But if there is not a Gracie University CTC in your community, we can assist you in vetting the local BJJ schools, and then select the best candidate to undergo the Gracie University Instructor Certification Program (ICP). Once the head instructors at the school successfully complete the process, the school will be recognized as a Certified Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Training Center and will be equipped to serve your agency according to the quality standards, safety protocols, and law enforcement curriculums established and maintained by Gracie University.
When your agency partners with a CTC, your officers will be attending regular beginner jiu-jitsu classes, along with civilian students, in a program called Gracie Combatives® where they will learn the 36 fundamental techniques of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. The classes are specifically designed to minimize the possibility of injury while providing each student with a solid foundation. Once a student graduates from the Gracie Combatives program, they will transition into the Master Cycle® advanced jiu-jitsu program. In addition to the regular BJJ classes, the CTC will host periodic GST seminars exclusively for the officers from the partnered agency. These special seminars will give each officer the invaluable technical modifications that are needed for successful application of BJJ in law enforcement such as weapon retention strategies, handcuffing transitions, and multiple-officer arrest strategies.