Why Law Enforcement Should Train in Martial Arts

Posted on July 18 2021

Why Law Enforcement Should Train in Martial Arts

 The argument for additional self-defense training for law enforcement officers (LEOs) has been a hot topic of late. The average police academy in the US lasts 13 to 19 weeks, with a maximum of 6 months. During this time, recruits typically receive 168 hours of training for weapons, defense tactics, and use of force. However, 70 hours of that is reserved for firearms, leaving 60 roughly hours for self-defense. Once graduated, officers are required to maintain standards and training by attending approximately 8 hours of defensive training every two years.

The US policing structure is decentralized, meaning the US government has devolved power to sub-national entities. This brings a lot of diversity to the police force compared to other countries, causing many variations in allotted training requirements and tactics. For this reason, it has been challenging to create a more in-depth self-defense program, allowing officers to regularly learn and practice the techniques needed for safety on the job. More importantly, without consistent training, it is impossible to improve on any skills learned in the academy. This can have implications for both the police and the perpetrators.

Martial arts and combat sports offer the perfect solution for LEOs looking to advance their self-defense arsenal.

 Increased Awareness and Safety 

Situational awareness is integral to martial arts. A skill in itself, it helps students to be more aware of their surroundings and potential threats, and an increased ability to make assessments in a quick, but level-headed manner. As a result, officers feel more confident, and are less likely to be unnecessarily aggressive or resort to lethal force prematurely.

A study found that reflex-based self-defense training helped police officers in pressured situations compared to those that were not doing martial arts. Results showed an improved performance in communication, situational awareness, assertiveness, and resolution, to name a few. It’s clear that martial arts training improves the safety of all those involved.

Ability to Remain Calm and Focused 

Martial arts teaches us how to remain calm, even, and especially in high-pressure situations. In class, students can learn slowly in a safe and low-pressure environment and build their way up to increasing amounts of pressure. In this way, they learn how to keep calm and focused on the task at hand despite the chaos that may be surrounding them.

Although it is to be expected that there would be some decrease in performance under high anxiety scenarios, another study determined that officers with additional martial arts training performed better in arrest and self-defense scenarios. Researchers concluded that training even once per week in martial arts could lead to better performance under anxiety-inducing circumstances.

Well Rounded in Combat

There are a few martial arts and combat sports that would adequately supplement police training. Taking classes in stand-up striking, wrestling, and ground grappling could all be beneficial to combat proficiency. Martial arts training has been proven to result in more confident ‘hands-on’ policing and arrest. And the more well-rounded the officer, the more self-assured they can be in any situation they find themselves in.

While some units do offer annual martial arts workshops, such as in a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gym, it is far more beneficial if LEOs can train in a consistent manner which will make them more skilled than those who do not. Many on the force suggest training in more  than one martial art to make them well-rounded fighters. Although it can take years to be advanced in any one art, there are plenty of techniques that can be learned, practiced and refined in a short period of time.

Mental and Physical Strength

An often overlooked aspect of martial arts is the development of mental strength and resilience that comes with regular training. The very nature of training is to challenge what you deem your limits to be: physically, mentally, and emotionally. By constantly pushing past your comfort zones and doing things you previously thought you could not do, you develop resilience. This can help officers both on the job and with the aftermath of what they have to deal with.  

It’s always helpful to be physically strong and fit if you are a law enforcement officer. Having a strong cardiovascular system as well as muscular strength can go a long way in both self-defense and restraining offenders. Aside from this, regular exercise conditions the body and goes a long way to help prevent injuries.


Leadership qualities are important for LEOs not only for promotion purposes, but because in any given situation, you may need to lead colleagues or a team through a sticky situation. One of the most important underlying factors of leadership is respect. Respect is woven into the fabric of all martial arts. Students learn to respect their teacher and their teammates in every interaction they have, even if it involves fighting.  

Humility, discipline, integrity, and clear communication are also important tenets of martial arts. Any and all of these skills aid in creating value based leadership, which is sure to come in handy on the force. 

Krav Maga, Danzan Ryu Jiu Jitsu, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), and Koga (a LEO adapted version of Aikido) are all heavily recommended by and for other law enforcement officers. Being a police officer is a dangerous and potentially deadly job. It’s in everyone’s best interest to equip LEOs with as many hand-to-hand combat skills as possible. It makes them safer, and more secure and confident in their dealings with the public. In addition, it may help to reduce the deadly use of force actions. Martial arts prepares the body and the mind for the rigors of life on the force and will continue to serve them long beyond their employment.

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