Do Police Use Jiu-Jitsu

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In most places, it is legal for an officer to hit a person if the situation justifies it. For example, if civilian tries to hit a cop then it is okay for the cop to hit back. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s the best way to go about things. That’s where Jiu-Jitsu comes into play.

The average police agency will use joint locks which are used in Jiu-Jitsu; however, agencies focus on defensive and arrest-and-control tactics. The primary goal is to arrest someone as quickly as possible with as little damage to both parties.

The majority of officers will use tasers, stun guns or pepper spray before attempting to get into hand-to-hand combat. Hand-to-hand combat runs the risk of the perpetrator taking one of the officer’s weapons. Beyond less-lethal weapons, they are still trained in defensive combat techniques.

Although police agencies use a variety of training programs, they tend to follow a few heuristics. They are allowed to use force in proportion to the threat. For example, if there is a life-threatening situation, they can use a gun. If there is a danger to the public they will also use a gun. Agencies try to limit the legal risks. They try to perform the most effective techniques that allow for the safest outcome. Anything that can easily break a bone, tear ligaments, or knock a person out, they will try to avoid.

Joint Locks

Joint locks are a grappling technique that strives to manipulate an opponent’s joints to the maximum degree or to the point of over-extension. The different types of joint locks include hyperextension, hyperflexion, and hyper rotation.


To initiate, one leg will be over the opponent’s chest and the other of the face. The arm will be held between the thighs with the elbow pointing towards the hip. Hold the wrist to the chest at approximately the sternum. The arm can then be rotated or hyperextended. Other variations include flying armbar, helicopter armbar, and sankaku-gatame.

Shoulder Lock

The shoulder lock is known as the Americana in Jiu-Jitsu. It forces an opponent’s shoulder and elbows to over-rotate and over-extend. Take the opponents matching hand(right hand to right hand), pin their wrist to the ground while the elbow is in a right angle and the wrist is facing up. With the right wrist held down using the right arm, move the left arm under the elbow and grab your own wrist. Then slide the opponent’s wrist down while twisting the elbow up.


A leglock is a joint lock that focuses on the ankle, knee and hip. You can attack the large joints and muscle groups or you can attack the ligaments. Kneebars are similar to armbars where they hyperextend the knee. Other leg locks include ankle locks, toe holds and calf crushes. 

Small joint manipulation

Small joint manipulation involves twisting, pulling, or bending fingers, toes, wrists or ankles. Hyperextension is the most common method used. It can be fairly easy to break these bones and tear the tendons. Because of this, most martial arts like Jiu-Jitsu have removed this from training and competitions. This also makes it easier for smaller opponents to gain leverage over larger opponents.

Spinal Locks

This is a joint lock that typically involves twisting the head or the upper body. In the case of neck cranks/locks, this can cause severe damage to the cervical spine(the spine in the neck area). Upper body spinal locks need much more leverage to achieve. Most martial arts do not allow this in training or competition; however, some Jiu-Jitsu gyms and professional MMA teach and allow it. 


This can be applied by taking the opponent’s hand and bending or twisting it. This is a good control technique for officers to get a person to comply when handcuffing them. This is allowed in Jiu-Jitsu; however, it is rarely used because the gloves and wrist wrap tend to make it too difficult. They also make the attacker open to punches. 

Take Downs

Takedowns involve taking an opponent off-balance causing them to fall to the ground. This is not to be mixed up with a throw. When performing takedowns it’s important to keep a few things in mind. This includes providing too much exposure to high-risk positions. For example, if you take your opponent down but expose your back 100% then there is a high risk that they can just place you in a headlock. 


Blocks are simply stopping or deflecting your opponent’s attacks so you don’t get injured. This is not used in Jiu-Jitsu since it’s more for striking styles of fighting. Types of blocking include Inside blocks(deflects away from defender and attacker), outside blocks(deflects away from the defender and across attacker), high blocks(deflects a downward strike), low blocks(deflects strikes directed at the torso region), and parries(deflect to left or right then counter-attack). 


Chokeholds restrict a person’s breathing by applying pressure around the throat with an arm or leg. These are allowed under life-threatening situations but have become very controversial due to George Floyd’s death.

Lethal vs Non-lethal vs Less-Lethal

None of these options is entirely non-lethal. The term non-lethal is used more because it is more legally gray than trying to draw the line with non-lethal. The National Institute of Justice includes a few different types of less-lethal devices.

  • Conducted energy devices — Tasers, stun guns, stun belts
  • Directed Energy devices — pepper spray, tear gas, stink bombs, laser dazzlers, bright lights, noise, nets, foams, crowd-control projectiles.

In conclusion, law enforcement agencies typically receive a one-time basic training course which is useful but tends not to be enough. Regular training would increase the efficacy levels of officers to apply force properly under pressure. Some officers take it upon themselves to train in other types of fighting. Jiu-Jitsu tends to be the best choice because most fights end up on the ground. Jiu-Jitsu also allows for minimal damage to both parties involved. 

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