Why Judo is good for Law Enforcement

Car Extraction

Grappling has been historically an integral part of police training that focuses on control and compliance of a subject. I would argue that grappling is one of the most efficient martial arts for law enforcement agency. No better example can be seen in Japan and its close association between Judo and Japanese policing that still remains to this day. In 1886, the Tokyo Police department held its famous tournament that showcased the effectiveness and efficiency of Kano’s established training regime and fighting style. Kano’s disciples defeated the rival schools with a decisive thirteen out of fifteen matches and establish Judo as the premier Tokyo Police’s training system. That is to say that Kano produced a superior training regime product for self-defense and control. Kano eliminated the destructive jiu-jitsu techniques that would permanently maim training partners. The association remains such an integral part of police training in Japan that all new recruits must have a black belt in Judo. Every Japanese police department has a dojo to train and perfect techniques.

Kano’s core tenants and philosophy is also integral to training and law enforcement. Kano made jiu-jitsu a safe sport to continuously practice. Children around the world practice judo safely and yet still emphasis effective technique during sparring sessions. Kano espoused mutual welfare and maximum efficiency that includes looking after your partner and ensure that the techniques are efficient, but more importantly – safe. The tenants ensure techniques are performed correctly and when done so, a viable degree of control is conducted with minimal harm to the partner. Thus, breakfalls are constantly refined and performed before each practice.

The main goal of policing, whether it is lethal or non-lethal force, is compliance from the subject. This is done through a series of wrist locks, shoulder locks, arm locks, and pins. Pain compliance is used on resisting subject that is temporary and safe to the subject. These techniques used by policing are quite clearly evolved from judo techniques. Also, high risk and combative arrests are done when the subject is on the ground. It is harder for a subject to move on the ground and strike at law enforcement officials. The goal is to remove mobility from the subject and exert maximum control for handcuffing. That is to say, grappling is used to ensure compliance and control over a subject (while maintaining tools and equipment). What better sport to quickly take a subject to the ground as safe and as quickly as possible?

Moreover, Judo emphasizes balance and staying on your feet. Judo can teach concepts of time and distance to establish point of control over the subject, ie. breaking away from an opponent’s grips or to stop an opponent’s momentum for a throw. Maintaining balance is essential to creating time and distance away from a subject. Judo can also quickly transition between standing and groundwork to tactically reposition or to go hands on when the opportunity presents itself to gain control/compliance.

I would recommend reading A. Arsenault and T. Hinton’s article on “Police use-of-force issues in Canada.”

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