NORFOLK - The police department has taken a new approach to protect its officers during combat, as well as in training by bringing in a world renown expert in mixed martial arts to run the annual week-long course.
The man in charge of the training is Ryron Gracie whose father, Rorion Gracie, founded the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993.
"I hear all week it's such a mellow way of training and that's created so the officer doesn't get beat up," Ryron Gracie said. "We don't want you to get beat up when you're learning training to defend yourself. In real life we want you to train in a very mellow way."
This is a major change of pace for the Norfolk Police Department that has taken place since the loss of Cadet John Kohn who sustained a fatal blow to the head while training back in January of 2011.
"We don't train the way we did during that incident," said Norfolk police officer Chris Amos in reference to the death of Cadet Kahn.
The department paid to bring Gracie in for a week of intensive GST so officers can broaden their skill sets.
"One of the things we have to cover is ground escapes, so this course is tailor made to meet that objective," said Police Training Instructor Thomas Sasso.
Officer Chris Sprague says that using these same techniques has already saved his life seven times in the past five years.
Sprague, who has trained in the Gracie method independently says, "I wasn't injured in any of the altercations that I've been in and that's not always the case. I wouldn't change a thing."
According to Officer Sasso, the Gracie Survival Tactics (GST) Military/Law Enforcement Instructor Certification Course is a highly specialized program for Military and Law Enforcement professionals.
The techniques featured in the GST program have been adopted by virtually every federal and state law enforcement agency in the U.S. as well as all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and the include the special operations community, Sasso said.
The Norfolk Police Department plans to bring Gracie back again next year for further training.