Jiu jitsu sessions give law enforcement officers options on how to approach dangerous situations in non-confrontational ways
Weekly classes held at Gracie Barra Park City
Police brutality has been the focus of scrutiny over the past few years with how quick and easy it is for bystanders to film and post videos of incidents on social media.
This is one of the reasons why Park City Police Department Lt. Vaifoa Lealaitafea encourages his officers to take advantage of free jiu jitsu training sessions that are especially designed for law enforcement officers and held weekly at Gracie Barra Jiu Jitsu Park City.
Jiu jitsu training gives officers an array of non-confrontational options of getting out of dangerous situations, which is important in a time when there is such a big call for law-enforcement reform, Lealaitafea said.
“While I don’t agree with everything people are calling for, I can agree that police officers need more effective training when it comes to use of force, and using more hands-on techniques that require minimal, if any, injuries to a suspect,” he said. “Jiu jitsu helps us to be able to comfortably control people safely and diffuse a confrontational situation, with minimal or no injury to them or the officer, and it also looks better than seeing a cop punching someone out on the side of the road.”
Jiu jitsu, contrary to some misconceptions of it being an aggressive form of martial arts, is more cerebral than physical, said Randi Strong, Gracie Barra chief marketing officer and coach.
Gracie Barra is an international Brazillian jiu jitsu association, founded in 1986 by Carlos Gracie Jr., that includes more than 800 schools on six different continents, and the association’s philosophy promotes a holistic perspective to the martial art, including physical and mental wellness, she said.
Gracie Barra Park City chief executive officer and coach Ignacio Rosenberg agreed with Strong and called jiu jitsu “human chess.”
“It’s because it recognizes that every action has a reaction and every problem has a solution,” he said. “The training we offer helps police regain space and a better defense position without resorting to drastic measures. It’s important for police to not panic, so they can find other ways to solve problems in the heat of the moment.”
The idea for Gracie Barra to reach out to local law enforcement agencies started with Gracie Barra Park City head professor Anselmo Sobrinho, a first-degree black belt.
“A few months before we opened our studio, Anselmo approached the Park City Police Department and offered to teach them jiu jitsu free of cost,” Rosenberg said. “He trained at their place for a while, and when we opened the school, we told them we would continue the free training on a full-sized mat.”
Sobrinho, Rosenberg and Strong created a curriculum meant to uniquely address the officers’ needs.
“The whole beauty of jiu jitsu is you can adapt it to any situation for your advantage,” Rosenberg said. “What we’re hoping to do is to bring knowledge to these officers so they can do their jobs in a safe manner that is agreeable with the community.”
Word spread about the sessions, and soon members of the Utah Highway Patrol and the U.S. Forest Service began attending classes, according to Rosenberg.
“To be eligible for the law enforcement class, participants have to be active members of the forces,” he said.
These law enforcement training sessions fall into Gracie Barra Park City’s idea and goal of giving back to the community, Strong said.
“One of our main goals of opening in Park City was to be a constructive part of the community, and we wanted to be of service and add value to the people who live here,” she said. “We have gotten to know these officers and they are really neat, good people. They are put under a lot of pressure, especially with what’s socially happening right now. So we feel it’s good for them to know that we support them and want to help them, and I think it’s a neat thing to witness to see jiu jitsu change the officers’ lives and Park City community members.”
Gracie Barra Park City will take its relationship with local law enforcement agencies to the next level when it hosts free women’s self-defense classes on June 11 and 12, Rosenberg said.
“In addition to the classes, we’ll have police officers in attendance who will answer questions and give additional advice about how these women can protect themselves. We’re at a great place to have this type of relationship with local law enforcement agencies.”
For information, visit gbparkcity.com.
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