BJJ Force for Change
Some thoughts on the recent Real Sports Feature on HBO
HBO recently aired an episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, with a segment called, “Force for Change.” The focus of it was on Brazilian Jiu-jitsu being taught to law enforcement officers, and how it has helped them do their jobs in Marietta, Georgia. Rener Gracie was heavily featured in the piece as well as police officers from the region that has already put their training to the test.
Martial arts, and most recently, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ) have been a part of my life now nearing 30 years. When I write “recently”, I mean since 2005 for BJJ. Before that, it was a lot of traditional, karate-based styles and “American kickboxing”, the one with long pants and no leg kicks.
When I saw this episode was airing, I knew that it was prompted by what happened to George Floyd and a lot of other people of color over the years. When everything happened, I saw a lot of people advocate for the use of BJJ since it is a martial art that is applicable to a lot of situations that call for force, when no other option is necessary. At least in a self-defense scenario.
I train with a lot of law enforcement, many of them are some of my closest friends, friends for life. They too were appalled by what happened to Mr. Floyd, but no one really cared because, after that, the news didn’t help the reputation of their jobs get any better, because it kept happening. It still happens.
So, this episode of Real Sports showed what some officers are doing about it. I wanted people to watch it. I even wrote about it before it aired over at MyMMANews, if you missed the segment, check it out here:
In the segment Gracie makes some great points, ones I agree with 100%, especially when it comes to “on the job” training. Firearms training is seemingly more required than any hand-to-hand training and with BJJ’s focus on grappling and controlling opponents, I can’t help but agree that it would help the majority of law enforcement. But, to be fair, there are issues that I worry about too.
Learning a martial art is not easy, most people are humbled by the experience. If the martial art is legit, the ego will get checked and an art like BJJ can produce a great human being, capable of empathy and using the skills that come with it the right way. Most of the time, but like in every group of people, not everyone gets that result and unfortunately, if the ego doesn’t get checked you get someone that likes to hurt people, and they just got taught skills in how to do it.
I assume Real Sports has to present pros and cons for every piece they do and this segment had a law professor that was against BJJ becoming part of regular training for law enforcement. His argument was, “The idea that one tool, or one technique, or one martial arts system would significantly address some of the problems in use of force. I don't know which version of that movie we're on, but we're definitely into reruns.”
He is hinting that other tools and methods were tried before and the problem is still there. While he may have a point, my opinion is that BJJ implemented properly would weed out the personalities that would use any technique to satisfy their own ego. If anything, it would probably expose any malicious minded person that wants to apply the technique to flex their own ego.
The humbling part of BJJ is not in the technique being taught, it comes in the live rolling which is the sparring we do that will have someone win or lose since both parties are actively resisting technique. Nothing makes you have more empathy than knowing what it feels like to be put in a submission you’re trying your best to get out of. The examples in the Real Sports segment show that, even with the one arresting officer patting the person on the back saying, “You’re going to be okay,” after he got control of him.
Of course my view is biased. I’m a student of the art, I teach it, and as I said my closest friends and training partners are law enforcement. They’re good people and I think BJJ has helped make them good people. Don’t you want good people enforcing the law?