Jiu jitsu on the job

Growing number of those in law enforcement joining private gyms to become better and safer in the field





SIERRA VISTA - Anytime a law enforcement officer draws his or her gun, any number of things can happen. And every outcome but a suspect’s immediate surrender is a bad one.

It’s no wonder then that officers from every law enforcement agency nationwide are taking to mixed martial arts, and particularly the Brazilian grappling art of jiu jitsu.

“It’s going to save their lives with this skill, that’s the way I feel about it,” said Javier Diaz, a Border Patrol agent of 17 years, who also teaches intermediate force training at the Naco Station. “We’ve still got a lot of people in my field who think, ‘well, I’ve got a gun, and everything will be solved by that.’ Well, no, it doesn’t…. 98 percent of the time, any confrontation we encounter will be on the ground, so it’s important to be comfortable on the ground.”

Diaz said he’s seeing increasing numbers of his fellow Border Patrol agents supplementing their training by joining private mixed martial arts gyms. There, they’re running into law enforcement officers of all sorts, as well as members of the military, looking to become as adept as possible in ways to apply effective non-lethal force.

Lt. Col. Adam Boyd, commander of the 305th signal batallion on Fort Huachuca, is a big proponent of jiu jitsu for military - particularly counterinsurgency - and law enforcement, alike.

“From the standpoint of law enforcement, we live in a litigious society, and if I use more force than is necessary, I open myself and my department to a lawsuit,” Boyd said. “So I need to learn those non-lethal techniques… You learn immobilizing techniques that are not going to hurt someone, and if you can do that, we all win.”

Border Patrol agent Christopher Gonzalez has found his training most useful in the field.

“This is bread and butter for self-defense when we get into the scuffles in the field,” said the Miami native, who’s been working the Douglas station for a year-and-a-half. “A lot of our apprehensions end up on the ground. This gives you good control of the individual, and teaches you about pain compliance.”

The high density of public safety officials, from the military to Border Patrol, city police and Sheriff’s Department and Forest Service make Sierra Vista fertile soil for a booming law-enforcement based MMA scene.

Buoying this movement is the arrival two years ago of Andres Quiles, a champion jiu jitsu fighter in his native Brazil, whose day job in his home country was working with law enforcement agencies.

“It’s starting to catch on, now that we’ve got good instructors in the area,”

said Border Patrol agent Erichson Cordts. “Border Patrol is usually away from big cities where most of the big-name instructors go, so it’s good having a good gym down by the border.”

Quiles works out of the Blackout MMA Studio on Fry Blvd., where he teaches competitive jiu jitsu classes, as well as those tailored for officers.

“Competition and the real world are totally different,” said Border Patrol agent Erichson Cordts. “In the real world, you’ve got your belt, with gun, radio, baton, pepper spray. The competitive side is fighting by the rules, the other training is, ‘hey, you have a gun, make sure you protect that gun… Some people in certain situations, if they received further training would realize, ‘hey, I can’t draw my gun. He’s too close, he could take the gun from me. Or, this is a situation I could resolve without having to go to more violent means.”

In Brazil, Quiles was used to working with law enforcement officers on a daily basis, as required by their employers. Here, he’s come to work with them through seminars, and with those who voluntarily enter his tutelage.

“We have the sports side style, and when we do straight self-defense, we make sure they take care because they carry a gun, because the guys can reach their gun,” Quiles said. “It’s growing a lot. A lot of these guys are feeling they can’t count on their gun. The thing that can save themselves is knowing how to defend themselves because things can get bad really fast; they need to know what to do.”

Many of the law enforcement officers either have, or are planning to enter competitions, as well.

Among those ahead of the curve is BLM Forest Service officer Barry Sullins, who was among the first clients of Blackout MMA owner Jose Perez when he opened the studio three years ago.

Sullins learned the value of MMA training when he walked the beat as a St. Louis cop six years ago, and as soon as he arrived in the Sierra Vista area with the Forest Service, he enrolled as one of the first clients of Blackout MMA owner Jose Perez upon the studio’s opening three years ago. He wasted little time spreading the gospel of jiu jitsu to his fellow peace officers.

“There were only a few of us training from the get-go, but there got to be a lot more as we’d see each other in the field,” Sullins said. “Most of it is defense. If we get put in a bad position, we know we have jiu jitsu and MMA, where, without training we’re prone to get injured or beat up really bad.”

On the competitive side, Sullins has more than 40 jiu jitsu bouts under his belt, and plans to compete at the World Championships in Long Beach, Calif. next month.

“They kind of come in on their time and do their training,” Perez said. “At the end of the day, it’s about them protecting themselves and enhancing their training. “Barry Sullins has been with us since Day 1, and he was real instrumental in reaching out to those guys. It was a slow process at first, then we brought Andres in from Brazil. It’s a very authentic program and the word starts spreading and it gets going.”

Quiles is currently expanding his jiu jitsu training curriculum.

“Right now, we’re working on some videos for (Navy) Seals to do jiu jitsu underwater,” he said. “That’s really close, tight combat, and we’re also trying to develop a program for flight attendants and (sky) marshals for close combat on airplanes - fighting in a 2-foot by 2-foot space - basically against terrorists and those thin