Gold-medal project: Judo seeks solutions in police training

No one attending the conference would deny that the profession failed the day Floyd died with Chauvin’s knee on his neck.

Because the sport, known by insiders as “the gentle way” of martial arts, has little emphasis on striking and is considered less violent than some of its brethren, some leaders in judo, and in policing, saw an opportunity to use the discipline to rethink officer training.

The goal is to avoid situations the likes of which led to Floyd’s death and, just last week, to the death of Daunte Wright, whose funeral was Thursday.

judo team who now serves as a police officer in Lafayette, Colorado, says the most damning police-on-suspect encounters — many now caught on police body cameras or by onlookers holding iPhones — have this in common: “The cop resorts to higher levels of force than should’ve been used.

The workshop also offered a window into the different role an Olympic organization, and maybe the Olympics themselves, can play in society at large.

In an exercise that cut to the core of the judo training, conference planners Taybren Lee and Mike Verdugo played suspects who were impaired, or mentally unstable, and challenged the officers to use judo to deescalate the situations.

The officers for the initial workshop came from Fort Worth, Texas; Billings, Montana; Meridian, Idaho; and other small towns scattered around the West.

Spearheading this sort of endeavour is hardly the traditional role for leaders at an organization such as USA Judo, whose most high-profile mission is to help Americans bring home Olympic medals.

It currently has one Olympic medal contender, Angelica Delgado, in a sport that fans will have to scour the listings to find among the 7,000 of hours of NBC coverage this summer.

With no sanctioned events to offer — the NGB will hold its first national competition in 17 months this weekend in Salt Lake City — its membership has dropped by half, to about 5,000.

“People have always said, as soon as we get a gold medallist , then judo will grow” Bryant said.

The unheralded and unglamorous art of police training might not, either.

USA Judo is offering free memberships to officers who participate in the training, and has hopes the police initiative could spark new interest in the sport.

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