From Mat to Mission: 3 Ways Jiu-Jitsu Can Prepare You for SWAT

Jun 6 / Ryan Romig
I have been a member of the SWAT team at my agency for over a decade.  I’ve been training Jiu-Jitsu almost as long.  A few years into my Martial Arts journey I realized that there were many parallels between Jiu-Jitsu, combatives, and SWAT and that there were many ways to predict SWAT aptitude and performance by running regular Jiu-Jitsu based combatives training. So, whether you are already on SWAT or aspire to be someday, here are 3 reasons to start training now!

Quiet Confidence

My team’s maxim is “Confident in your abilities, yet humble in your interactions with others.” The expectation is that you will be top notch in every facet of your job and execute your duties flawlessly. However, you will never brag or boast and ALWAYS treat others with humility and respect.

My first time at Jiu-Jitsu I was a 180 pound, 27-year-old SWAT cop. NOTHING I had done or encountered in my 27 years of life had ever humbled me faster than the 130 pound, 16-year-old kid that strangled me with his legs mere seconds into the match.

As you progress in your Jiu-Jitsu journey you will acquire incredible skill and seemingly near superhuman ability to control others. No matter how good you become however, you will always remember that first experience and you know that no matter how good you become, there is always someone better.

“Never Quit” Attitude

Much of the first week of our month-long SWAT selection school is spent trying to see who has the ability and drive to overcome adversity. It is physically and mentally grueling and only the most unrelenting and determined candidates will move on to the next phase.

It has been said that only 10% of people who start training in Jiu-Jitsu will move from white belt to blue belt, an accomplishment that typically takes two years of consistent training. Of that 10%, only 1% will then go on to receive a coveted black belt, something that takes longer to earn than a doctorate degree.

Jiu-Jitsu is a constant uphill battle, with the summit always just beyond your reach. People do not seek it out for glory or recognition or fame, the glory is in the daily grind.

Strength, natural talent and athleticism will only take you so far. Perseverance and grit are the characteristics that will push you through all of the challenges and difficulties you will face. One of the first Americans to receive his black belt Chris Haueter once said “it is not who is good, it’s who is left.”

SWAT seeks out men and women with an indomitable spirit. Cops who will never quit, never surrender and who push themselves not for accolades and recognition, but because hard work is its own reward.

Comfortable being Uncomfortable

Law enforcement ranks among the most high-stress professions, where anxiety can hinder our ability to recall training in critical moments.

Members of SWAT are expected to remember the tactics, techniques and procedures of close quarters battle and a variety of other special missions and tasks while under immense strain.

Jiu-Jitsu excels at preparing individuals for uncomfortably stressful Use of Force situations. The art teaches you to find comfort in the midst of physical exhaustion and while fending off attacks. This makes Jiu-Jitsu an excellent predictor of how you will respond to the stress of SWAT missions.

Regular Jiu-Jitsu and Combatives training equips law enforcement officers, including SWAT members, with a remarkable skill set for the job. It empowers smaller officers to overcome stronger opponents, reducing reliance on brute strength and pain compliance. The control gained through Jiu-Jitsu and combatives techniques enhances officer safety and minimizes civil liability for the department.

Beyond physical benefits, Jiu-Jitsu nurtures mental fortitude and resilience—a true asset for both police officers and SWAT personnel. So, what other benefits did I miss?

Check out our Free Resource Guide on Handcuffing & Searching for Law Enforcement