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Contributing to the Solution

How Easton Brown Belt Robert Chavez is heeding the public call for better training for law enforcement officers

“People are mad at the police…”

Everyone is mad at everyone. Have you been online? It’s a hard place to have a good time.

One of the many divisive conversations going on across the country right now, and for the past several years, is the quality of policing. Without question, the police have become more militarized over the last decade-and-a-half. And there is no doubt that we have seen more and more footage of poorly-trained officers in situations out of their depth or being overly aggressive.

It raises the question: has it always been this way? Are there just more cameras out there to catch the misbehavior? Or are criminals more aggressive? Are police overworked and over-stressed? Is this a harder job than many of us knew or were willing to believe?

Even the reasonable voices on social media and in news outlet comment threads are saying that we need better police training. And maybe they’re right.

“Quick! Somebody call a…dentist?”

Enter a 52 year-old endodontist. The Denver Health Webb Dental Clinic Team Lead, as a matter of fact, is helping to make that a reality-to help police officers become better trained and more capable of safely containing a potentially dangerous situation. By hosting a police training session every Sunday at Easton Training Center Denver, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Brown Belt and Japanese Jiu Jitsu Black Belt Dr. Robert Chavez is helping to make better-trained law enforcement officers a reality instead of a vague talking point on a Twitter feed.

Robert began his martial arts career in 1996 by studying Jiu Jitsu in Japan where he lived for 3 years. He returns every year to train with his now 87-year-old master–a man considered a national treasure and “the last living Ninja” by the Japanese government. When he returns this April, he will be endowed with the title Dai Shihan or “Senior Instructor.”

Bujinkan differs from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in that it focuses on nine types of combatives, including standing, grappling, weapons, etc.

Enter Easton BJJ

Robert began training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at the old Easton Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at 3rd and Broadway in 2009 and then followed the caravan to the Training Center on Santa Fe.

Robert’s classes for law enforcement, which he has been teaching for about fifteen years, are focused on what he calls “advanced arrest control.” When I asked what that meant, he told me that it’s the process that begins when you have to put your hands on someone all the way to the time that you cuff them.” This is ideally done without the use of strikes, kicks, or chokes. Using leverage, control, and transitions–Robert’s group drill ways of subduing a bad guy without injury or worse. They also focus on improvised weapon use, weapon retention, vehicle extraction, and more.

“As a matter of fact, we don’t even drill submissions,” Robert told me. This seemed like a strange way to conduct a jiu jitsu class to me-all of mine include submissions. But Robert’s long-time student and 18-year police veteran, Mickey chimed in that you don’t want to become “YouTube famous for the wrong reasons.” And he’s right.

What are his students saying?

Mickey told me that for the last decade, he has been in hundreds of escalated situations, struggles, fights, etc. Without the training from Robert, he says, many of those altercations could have gone much worse for him or for them. He also says that what the officers involved have really learned is how to be efficient during an instance in which they have to subdue a violent or resisting suspect.

“You can’t account for the fitness level of officers,” he told me. “This training provides that. But also, it’s easier to execute.” So officers aren’t emptying the tank and then becoming desperate during challenging interactions. According to Mickey, it’s about subduing an unruly criminal or bad guy without the use of strikes and kicks–which looks terrible on the internet, in a court of law, in society, to administration, etc. Having tools that give you that ability (sans striking, choking, weapons), keeps everyone safe.

Robert recently received a gift from his students–an award of sorts. He hung it in his office under his Citizen’s Commendation from the Grand Junction Sheriff’s office-received for his work with Grand Junction SWAT and other personnel. This one was a custom-made antique-style police baton mounted to a presentation plaque emblazoned with Robert’s name and a Denver Police badge.

“For all everything that he does for us,” says Mickey. “He teaches us to dominate a situation without hurting them or them hurting me.” Because of Robert, Mickey says, “I’m not YouTube famous for the wrong reasons.”

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