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Park City police department looks to jiu jitsu to defuse confrontations

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Posted at 10:54 AM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 13:04:06-04

Park City is joining the list of police departments around the country finding ways to defuse confrontations between officers and the public, but with a novel way to do so, according to a report from the Park City Record.

Officers are encouraged to take free jui jitsu training sessions designed especially for the dangerous situations they may encounter on their shifts. The weekly sessions are held at Gracie Barra Jiu Jitsu, which emphasizes a holistic approach to martial arts.

“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,” says Lt. Vaifoa Lealaitafea of the Park City Police Department, who encourages his officers to take the training.

“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,” he added, mindful of the videos taken by onlookers and posted on social media.

Jiu jitsu is more cerebral than physical, says Randi Strong, Gracie Barra chief marketing officer and coach, likening it to "human chess."

Part of the philosophy of jiu jitsu is that every action has a reaction, and every problem has a solution. This helps police officers not to panic and find ways to solve problems in the heat of a confrontation without excessive force, according to Gracie Barra Park City executive officer and coach Ignacio Rosenberg.

Reaching out to police officers was the brainchild of Gracie Barra Park City head professor Anselmo Sobrinho, a first-degree black belt practitioner, who along with Strong and Rosenberg designed the training meant to address the officers' particular needs.

These training sessions proved to be so successful, now members of the Utah Highway Patrol and the U.S. Forest Service are attending classes, according to Rosenberg.

“To be eligible for the law enforcement class, participants have to be active members of the forces,” he said.

Gracie Barra Park City will also host 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.”