Maplewood Criminal Justice Students Train in Jiu-Jitsu Record-Courier

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By KRISTA S. KANO / Reporter
Posted Jan 31, 2020

Maplewood Career Center senior Kevin Hays hopes he never has to use force when he becomes a game warden, but if that does happen, he knows exactly how to subdue a suspect using the minimal amount of force.

For the past few weeks, Hays and his classmates in Maplewood’s criminal justice program have been learning Gracie Survival Tactics, an adapted form of jiu-jitsu that focuses on restraining, rather than striking, an opponent, using leverage over strength, quickly gaining compliance and fighting on the floor, all of which is ideal for law enforcement.

The fighting style has been adopted by law enforcement around the country, including by the Marietta Police Department in Georgia, the Monroe Police Department in Michigan, officers and firefighters in Polk County Florida, and even the Portage County Sheriff’s Office just down the road from Maplewood.

“For the last few years, police use of force has been huge. Jiu-jitsu is the most effective self-defense technique for our purposes. It’s about how to safely use force and take someone into custody without injuring them, and it gives somebody more choices on how to do that. It’s also an easier way to escalate and deescalate a situation.” said Bruce Lawver, the former chief of police for the Canton Police Department and the new criminal justice instructor at Maplewood.

“It gives them knowledge of what they’re doing too, so when it comes to write a report about what they did, they have the language for it.” Lawver said.

Starting this school year, Lawver arranged for 16 weeks worth of training with Martial Arts Ohio owner Jack Edwards and one of his instructors, Joshua Lorton. Edwards has also been training the Portage Sheriff’s Office in how to detain someone while minimizing injury to both the officer and the suspect, Sheriff David Doak said. Additionally, Edwards will soon be training the Garrettsville Police Department.

On Wednesday, Lorton worked with students on a series of moves that focused on maneuvering from a submissive position to a dominant position that could be used if a suspect overpowers an officer during a scuffle.

“This is the art that a smaller person can beat a bigger person because of the leverage that’s involved as opposed to strength of force. Especially in the criminal justice field, that’s important when detaining a suspect who’s bigger than you because not everyone is going to be the biggest person in the room always. It’s about using the maximum amount of leverage with the minimal amount of effort,” Lorton said.

“We’re going to let the guy tire himself out through position and control.”

He also demonstrated how to perform and escape a vascular restraint, which can appear to be what many consider to be a chokehold, but is actually applying pressure to the veins on either side of the neck rather than the trachea, Lorton said.

″[Chokeholds are] considered deadly force, but you have to be aware of it because you have to know if you’re in it,” Lawver said. “And if they find themselves in that position, they have to know how to get out.”

On top of teaching how to use the techniques and how to describe the movements, Lawver says he also places a heavy emphasis on the legality and ethics of use of force.

“Just because it’s legal [to use force], doesn’t mean it’s right. As officers, we’re trained to make legal decisions, so when you get in a critical situation, however you were trained is how you react,” Lawver said.

Hays, who had no martial arts or combat training prior to this class, said that he’s enjoyed the new training not only because of the confidence he’s gained in hand-to-hand combat, but also because of the bond its created with his classmates.

“I’ve learned so much more than I thought I would. It’s always been my dream to move out west to Wyoming and be a game warden and this is really helping my career. I was just accepted to Hocking College for natural resources and law. This school is making my dream come true,” Hays said.

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