How do you continue your Sheepdog training once the course is over?
“When you ask police officers what’s most important to them, nearly all will answer that they want to go home to their families at the end of the shift,” said Jack K., a New Jersey police officer. “But I don’t see many training to make sure that actually happens.” If you’re Jack, you train with Sheepdog Response and bring those lessons back to your community. Jack is an example of the Sheepdog mindset through and through.
Not your regular grappling class
Even though he was mentored in jiu-jitsu by his field training officer and later studied with a Gracie school, he knew he needed more after he took his first Sheepdog Response course in 2017. “There is grappling, and then there is grappling with weapons retention,” said Jack who also teaches his department’s defensive tactics curriculum. “Fighting to control a gun or a knife completely changes everything. What I was taught at that first Sheepdog course completely blew my mind.”
Since many law enforcement academies only have time to teach the basics when it comes to proficiency in firearms, let alone hand-to-hand skills, many first responders like Jack are forced to pursue additional training outside of their agencies — on their own time and out of their own pockets. “Most courses I’ve been to before were mostly bragging sessions for the instructors,” Jack said. “Sheepdog was the opposite. The instructors were student-focused and they thoroughly taught the fundamentals based on their real-world experiences.” “Having these defensive tactics in our toolbox is critical to our success in law enforcement. There are tons of cops training in jiu-jitsu now — which is awesome — but how many are rolling with a knife? Not enough.”
Building a training community
After Sheepdog Response course concluded, Jack wanted to continue his training as well as share his new knowledge with his fellow officers. Since most MMA or jiu-jitsu schools don’t offer the type of training where you can incorporate guns and knives into your grappling toolbox, Jack was at a loss as to what to do after his course was over. His solution? Start his own Sheepdog community. Jack started a weekly law enforcement grappling class at his local jiu-jitsu gym where he trains with other officers in the art of being hard to kill.
Following one of Sheepdog’s maxims of taking blood out of the bad guys and keeping blood in the good guys, Jack’s group works on a variety of weapons retention and control skills as well as tactical medical care. Tourniquet application is integrated into all of the grappling sessions. “Ultimately, we encourage all of our students to continue to develop their skills outside of Sheepdog Response,” said Dennis Jones, director of training. “Jack’s motivation to create his own training community is a testament to the Sheepdog lifestyle. We want to be assets to our team, our families, and the communities we serve. It’s a path we travel for life.”
Controlling the escalation of force
As Jack is clear to point out, learning to fight is not the same as learning to hurt someone. In his patrol area, Jack often encounters people with severe mental disabilities. One such person is a teenager who has frequent violent outbursts and usually requires three-to-four adults to restrain him — often resulting in injuries to all involved. “Thanks to the skills I developed from the instructors at Sheepdog Response, I was able to control the student with less force, by myself, for 45 minutes,” Jack said. “And most important, no one was hurt.” With the multitude of use-of-force and liability issues facing law enforcement today, it’s vital that officers maintain a high level of training in all aspects of the force continuum. “If officers have the skills to do something early on to de-escalate or control the suspect, that gives us more time and more options before we may have to use lethal force,” Jack said. “I didn’t make law enforcement my career to hurt people. I wear the uniform to protect and serve.”
Being a Sheepdog
Wanting to be a better officer and member of his community is what drives Jack in his training. “If going home to your family at the end of your shift is really the most important thing to you, why are you going to the gym and doing curls or running on the treadmill?” Jack said. “The more I continue to train the skills I learned from Sheepdog Response the less likely I am to get hurt and the less likely I am to hurt someone else.”
“What Sheepdog Response teaches is really simple. It’s really basic. But it really works.” Keeping your skills honed at a peak level takes time, commitment and energy. The return on that investment, however, is priceless. Continually striving to make yourself better and sharing that knowledge to make your community healthier, more balanced, and harder to kill is what being a Sheepdog is all about.