By Jordy McElroy | 27 August 2020
Judging from a distance is a commonality in human beings.
There’s a hint of convenience in feigning understanding of a book without reading the contents on the pages. Royce Gracie, a Brazilian MMA legend and UFC pioneer, comes from a world where everything is a blank canvas. It’s a world where a man is judged for the words on his pages, rather than simply the hardback covers binding them together.
That’s the place Gracie is hoping to open eyes to as the newest reserve officer for the Pocatello Police Department.
The UFC Hall of Famer was recently sworn in as an officer to help in an outreach program aimed at bringing the art of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu training to fellow officers. But he is also using this newfound gig as an opportunity to train in law enforcement and see things through the eyes of those behind the badge.
It’s an opportunity to read the contents on the pages.
A Walk in Their Shoes
The fallout from the George Floyd incident in Minneapolis back in May propelled Gracie to take a deep dive in this newest endeavor.
Floyd, a black man, was murdered in broad daylight when an officer from the Minneapolis Police Department knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. The viral video footage from that incident rocked the world to its core, sparking protests across the globe—some peaceful and others not so much.
A Minneapolis precinct was burned to the ground, and police officers everywhere were caught up in a maelstrom of outrage and discontent. To simply say tensions had boiled over would be an understatement at a rudimentary level. No, the floodgates had opened in a reckoning unlike anything ever seen before.
Gracie was disturbed by the incident involving Floyd. Most human beings, let alone martial artists, would attest to the lethality of such a prolonged choke being unconscionable. Floyd’s murder lasted nearly as long as it takes the average person to run a mile.
Take a moment and let that thought sink in.
But Gracie also wasn’t ready to close the book on every police officer in existence. He wanted to bring the gift of martial arts to those sworn in to serve and protect communities, while also taking an opportunity to walk in their shoes and see what they deal with on a daily basis.
Is anyone really surprised one of the greatest martial artists that ever lived is blessed with an inquiring mind?
“I want to give to the officers and encourage them,” Gracie told ABC’s Local News 8 in an interview. “One person did wrong. It shouldn’t be generalized for everybody that all police officers are bad.”
A Gift that Keeps on Giving
Eradicating generalizations and judging a man by his heart is one of the core principles in martial arts training.
There are real life lessons that go beyond the act of inflicting damage on another human being. It’s about growing together, passing on new ideas, holding people accountable and actively listening—four key elements obviously missing in today’s world. Gracie’s willingness to bring those lessons to the police is a win for everyone. And so is his willingness to listen.
Being a police officer is one of the hardest jobs in the world. It’s nearly impossible for an outsider to grasp the mindset of death potentially being a wrong radio call away. A mindset where a simple traffic stop or routine investigation could escalate into tragedy at the mere snap of a finger.
It’s a job where even an inkling of hesitation can mean the difference between coming home or not.
Gracie is willing to take part in the training necessary to get a person in line with that sort of mentality. Not everyone is cut out for a job with those sorts of consequences, and he is making an effort to learn from those brave enough to take on that responsibility. He is also offering invaluable martial arts training in return to ultimately save more lives across the board.
It’s vital for police officers to have the necessary training in grappling situations. More importantly, they’ll gain a better insight and understanding of what actually happens when certain chokes and holds are applied—a thorough anatomy lesson of the human body by a man with a PhD in breaking it apart.
Gracie could have simply chosen to stay home and voiced his opinions behind a keyboard. That hint of convenience is always ready and waiting at the fingertips. It would have been much easier to formulate assumptions without reading the contents between the hardback covers.
Real Change Starts on the Frontlines
Even for one of the most decorated martial artists on the planet, Gracie is throwing on a pair of police boots in an effort to formulate deeper conversations. There are no guarantees that sort of dialogue serves up an immediate solution, but maybe, just maybe, the rest of the world sees them as conversations that finally help bridge an ocean-sized gap.