Friday, August 27, 2021

Empty Mats and No Shows: How to Get Cops To Show Up to Jiu Jitsu

Empty Mats and No Shows:

How to Get Cops to Show Up to Jiu Jitsu Class

by Ari Knazan-Invictus Leo Jiu Jitsu Collective

Aug 27 2021


Disclaimer: This article details the steps in avoiding the “empty mats and no shows” that many instructors face when offering classes for Law Enforcement. While you may have differing opinions, this is what has worked for me and continues to be a resounding success. This article focuses on both the cop who has yet to step on the mats and the ones who seem to fade away after just a few sessions.


You can’t really browse social media today without finding some post about use of force training for police. There are more police officers training Jiu Jitsu than ever before and there are police departments that have actually implemented mandatory Jiu Jitsu training for their officers (Marietta GA PD for example). We are moving in the right direction for sure but we have a long way to go. 


Statistically, less than 3% of police officers are training use of force (like Jiu Jitsu) outside of their departmental mandated training. Some officers literally get ZERO use of force training once they leave the academy. Others may get less than 10 hours a year for recertification (which is typically antiquated use of force techniques that are ineffective). Less training equals higher injury rates (for officers and suspects) and an over reliance of tools such as tazers, batons, OC spray and firearms. This article isn’t to address these stats (we have several others already written). This article is how to ACTUALLY get cops to show up to the mats.




If you are running a class (or classes) for Law Enforcement and you offering it for FREE, you are doing something noble. I believe there is a time a place for free training for sure! We've given numerous seminars and classes at no charge to literally thousands of police officers. However, I would suggest offering free ongoing classes for cops is de-valuing your "product".  Giving away your time and skills for free may appear to be a good strategy but it is only short term solution. Free can absolutely kill the value of what you are offering on many different levels: 

a)    If you decide to charge down the road (or have to because of rental space etc), the people who got teaching for free will be less inclined to pay as they were used to getting training for nothing. 

b)    But FREE is great PR and good for your marketing strategy, no? Yep-in the short term. Once you’ve exhausted the people who are taking advantage of your free teaching, you’ve come to the end of the line. When the FREE PR train runs out and you are simply devaluing your product further with no gain in membership. 

c)     The research into free products and services has been conducted thousands of times. Customers are actually less likely to engage with what you are offering in the long term if there is no investment on their part. How often have you seen a person join your “Free Open Mat” only to disappear a few sessions later? Yep-thought so.

d)    You don’t have to over charge your police clients. I would suggest making it really reasonable in fact. Because we are all cops, I would make it much cheaper that normal gym prices if you can. Example, I charge a 75% less that the local gyms in my area (this will depend on a ton of factors such as rent, home gym, full time gym with other clients etc). My tuition is by far the best value in my city and the students recognize that.




One of the stipulations I have at my dojo is that I absolutely require commitment to remain a member. My students must attend a minimum number of classes per week to remain in good standing. I audit the attendance every month and send messages to the students telling them where they are at with their minimum commitment. As an instructor, you need to invest yourself in this ‘administrative’ area in order to let your students know that you ARE WATCHING their commitment. Some places have a limited amount of space so students who sign up but don’t show (more on this below) are taking up valuable space for those who want to learn.  Some tips to get commitment:

a)     Application Process: I literally have an application that I require prospective students to fill out and send back to me. I use this application for 3 reasons. One, I get all the information that I need about their history and why they are wanting to learn Jiu Jitsu. Two, I place applications in my waiting list pool so I can see who is next on the list. Three, the application has the rules of the dojo including my expectations on attendance. In no uncertain terms, every student knows what they must do to remain active.

b)    As mentioned, you need to require your students to attend classes a minimum amount. For example, lets say you teach police only classes 2 times a week. You should require ALL students to attend at least ONE class a week to maintain their membership (extenuating circumstances not included in this: Ie: Sick)

c)     Skill: as my buddy Chad Lyman says, you need to train a little a lot. If students do not regularly train, they won’t retain what they learned and their body won’t remember the moves. It is a proven fact that showing up consistently in whatever you do, will build muscle memory. 

d)    Avoid the “I just want to be part of something cool but never show up” person. These people exist. They want to be part of a Jiu Jitsu gym because it ‘seems cool”. We aren’t in this for the cool factor. We are doing this to stay safe, keep in shape, manage PTSD and learn skills that will save your life. The last thing you need is the person who just wants a participation trophy. 




You may be an officer who teaches Jiu Jitsu but you are working shift work. That means the days/nights you teach will change weekly. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a schedule that is set months in advance. As part of getting students to show, take away the whimsical “I’ll show up if I feel like it” attitude. That may work for the majority of people out there but when you work shift work (even if you don’t), you need a long-term SET plan in place.

a)   Set your schedule in advance. I post my schedule for classes a couple months in advance so students can see when classes are. This allows them to plan ahead and  write down their classes.

b)    Require your students to sign up for all classes 1 month ahead-no exceptions. This allows you to see who will be in your classes and not wonder if anyone will show up. “Forcing” someone to commit actually is beneficial for both you and them. This isn’t a “last minute thing”- this is a commitment and they student needs to me on board with that. 

c)   The booking system I use reminds the students 24 hrs ahead of time via email and 3 hours ahead via text. These little reminders show that they matter and that the instructor is expecting them to show.

c)     Cancelling classes: My current booking program and system does not allow the student to cancel their own classes. They have to contact me directly to do so. This lets me know who can’t come to class and I can keep track how often I am getting these from particular students.




Implement a three-month semester system to your program. Require the students to make a commitment for three months in order to train with you-no exceptions. This is particularly good as it isn’t a crazy long time but it its long enough to get people snagged on the art. At the end of that semester, start a new one and those who want to continue will let you know. They will simply carry on to the next cycle. Do not worry or waste energy on people who don’t want to commit to training (come on- 3 months is not long at all). If a student isn’t showing up, they are not actually wanting to train. Concentrate your energy on those who WANT to be there and let goes those who don't.



Avoid using the terms like “Open Mat for Cops”. This gives the perception that it’s a free for all with no structure or just rolling. I absolutely without hesitation would say that schools that don’t have a curriculum for cops are doing a massive disservice to them. You need a plan. You need a structure technique list that cops can SEE and DO so they know what to tackle. I’ve done Jiu Jitsu for many decades now an I’ve seen both sides of the coin when it comes to curriculum. Cops, by their very nature, are use to OPS planning, structure and details. When your students know what they will be learning in your classes, that will help them set goals.


While there is absolutely nothing wrong with open mats, rolling or getting a belt from your professor when you win competitions etc, don’t have the student show up to class without them knowing what the expectations are for progression. Which leads to the next topic…




I would say belts and promotions  (testing) are super important for law enforcement. If we are going to be completely honest, belts are a general indication of skill but not the end all be all. Yes, a person can train submission grappling for 10 years and be a black belt level but not actually have a belt. Belts (or pins or levels or whatever you use) is very important for beginners. It helps them with goal setting. As you get further along the Jiu Jitsu road, your understanding and care about belts changes but it doesn’t make it any less important for newer students. 


Many cops do competitions. I would suggest everyone needs to do at least one in their career but it isn’t the stick that you should be measuring the noobie cop by. Students should need three things to show progression under your care: a formalized test so they can demonstrate the moves, attendance (otherwise known as MAT HOURS), and their ability to apply the techniques (live rolling) against resisting opponents).  Honestly, It doesn’t matter what you do for your stuents but they need goal posts and you need to set those for them.




You don’t need a massive marketing machine to attract students but I would encourage on having a website that tells what you do (mine is . I have a members only side to my site where students can access belt curriculum, videos and read details and specifics about the dojo. Create business cards and give them out to your students if they ask. Make sure your website or contact is on there so new prospective students have a way to contact you or read what you offer.


Also, create a chat group (Signal for example) that ALL the students are part of. This serves a few purposes. 

a)     It allows communication to everyone in your group at one time

b)    It promotes discussion and ways to share news and information 

c)     Its literally the fastest and easiest “real time” way to keep everyone in the loop


     While the goal is to get all offices to train Jiu Jitsu, you have to practical in expectations. While moving toward the make it mandatory initiative is the goal, we are a LONG way off from making this a reality. That means you focus needs to be on those who have expressed interest and are open minded enough to recognize that as officers, they have huge deficiencies in their training. The last thing you want is a room full of people who don't want to be there or consider it a chore. 

     While we know the benefits of Jiu Jitsu, your teaching time needs to be spent 100% focused on the students who want to be there. Advocating and campaigning can happen outside the mats but when you are on deck, its all about the positive interactions and teaching environment. So, if you have students that don't show, you need. to cut them loose and welcome those who appreciate why training is important. Shift your focus from quantity or quality and you'll see a massive change in your student's progression.



I ran my commercial academy for 18 years and implemented some of these during that time. I loved running my school but it was a struggle in many ways. I literally spent months after its closure going through the reasons some areas failed. When I closed up shop and opened my “private law enforcement” dojo, I used all the steps above. The results were in all honesty, immediate. I maxed our my student base with a very large wait list. The word of mouth alone has blown me away. Things are ‘better now” than they have been in the previous 2 decades. 


Why the change? 


a)     I identified my clientele and have small classes (max 6 per class).

b)    I use a curriculum

c) I created a mandate for the people who train with me (basically the BJJMAKEITMANDATORY movement that we use for Invictus).

d)    I require commitment, minimum attendance, and advanced sign-ups for all students

e)    I have investment and value attached to my program 

f)    My dojo is a safe environment where cops can freely talk and share experiences and ideas.

g)     There are no politics in my dojo. It doesn’t matter where you trained before. The goal is to learn Jiu Jitsu and get better.




There you go. These are real world solutions to help you retain and get committed LEOs on your mats. If you are taking the time to teach cops Jiu Jitsu, you need to have cops actually show up so you can do it. I’ve outlined a step-by-step system that has worked and worked well me. Please reach out if you need any more specifics or have questions.


Be Safe

Ari Knazan


Invictus Leo Jiu Jitsu Collective


IG: @invictusleo_official

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Expectations on Training: The Real Reason Cops Stop Training Jiu Jitsu

Expectations on Training:
The Real Reason Cops Stop Training Jiu Jitsu
by Ari Knazan-Co-Founder, Invictus Leo 


"Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do."


In 2019, the Invictus Leo Jiu Jitsu Collective released a study highlighting some of the reasons police officers avoided use of force training, specifically Jiu Jitsu. I wanted to touch upon one area in particular, as I think it’s one of the most prominent reasons cops stop doing Jiu Jitsu. Many people would say that the most difficult part of starting training is ‘walking through the door.’ Walking through the door is a huge barrier and most think, if a person could get past this one, everything would just flow from there.


This is categorically untrue when I really examine it. Once a person gets enough nerve to walk through an academy door (yes that's tough), things don’t get easier by any stretch of the imagination. The first year of Jiu Jitsu is extremely difficult. This first year is crucial for cops. It is what will make the difference if they continue doing the art or not. We try to sugarcoat the experience in order to appeal to the masses. While I find Jiu Jitsu one of the most enjoyable things on the planet, it isn't like that in the beginning.


Let’s break this down further. After signing up at a Jiu Jitsu gym, you are exposed to a brand-new culture and way of thinking. All you probably know is that Jiu Jitsu is going to help you on the job but you don’t know how. You simply don’t know what you don’t know. The first month on the mat is daunting.  You are being smothered and your limbs are being pulled and manipulated in ways you’ve never thought of. You don’t understand how you are being dominated so easily by smaller, older and weaker opponents. You came to the mat in shape and with a ton of heart. That is until all those years of cross fit and weight training seem to NOT be helping you (these are great supplements to Jiu Jitsu training but don’t rely on them if you really want to protect yourself).


Imagine the frustration of getting to a position and then not knowing what to do. I hear this all the time - “I have no idea what to do now!” The frustration of not knowing absolutely exposes you to your ego. You have to realize that like anything in life, you need to build a foundation in order to get better. Too many cops start Jiu Jitsu only to walk away a couple of months later because they feel they aren’t getting better. Their expectations don’t align with what is happening in reality.


Why aren’t you getting better?

1)    Consistency. As my good friend Chad Lyman quips, “do a little a lot.” How often are you training? Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do. One of the biggest reasons cops walk away from Jiu Jitsu is because they EXPECT results quickly even though they are not attending regularly. Jiu Jitsu is no different than any other skill out there-it takes time to get better.  We all suck at everything when we first start. When you put in consistent time, results follow. Consistency is directly tied to work ethic. 

2)    Ego. You will be crushed. Most people don’t get their first submission until well after a year of training. No one wants to admit this but it’s true. You are just learning how to survive let alone actively getting a submission on an actively resisting partner. Most new people see submissions as a win. What they don’t understand is that surviving can also be seen as a win. Changing the definition of what you consider a win is a big step in staying in the game. Stop looking at submissions as the gold standard of progression. Start counting your wins on how long can you last against a better opponent or if you can break a guard or get a sweep.

3)    Limited knowledge: ready for another downer? There are thousands of moves in Jiu Jitsu. Every position you encounter will have counters and submissions. Since the art is dynamic, that means the variations are practically limitless. Your initial limited knowledge (small toolbox if you will) can be very frustrating. Imagine grappling with an opponent and getting to the mount only to realize you have ZERO idea what to do from there. You literally will start wondering the use of Jiu Jitsu because you don’t have the tools from that particular position. At least not yet. 

4)    Effort does not equal success. Many new cops who try Jiu Jitsu come to mats in great shape. Police culture, on the whole, revolves around “working out”. When I say effort, I mean putting more energy and exertion into fighting someone on the mats. This effort often is futile as your strength and conditioning are quickly squashed by those who understand leverage and true fighting. Slowing down and being cerebral is VERY foreign to many who start Jiu Jitsu. They simply can’t understand why their physicality isn’t giving them the edge over everyone.

5)    The Remote Control. My Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor Keith Owen spoke at a seminar in 2013 where he identified the “tv remote” as a huge barrier to training. The “tv remote” analogy was expanded to any other activity that got in the way of hitting the mats. It’s easy for people who don’t have the Jiu Jitsu bug to place other activities in front of training. Excuses are easy. Dedication is hard. There are a 1000 reasons not to feel like training. Put down the remote. Show up. Get better.

6)    It will take too long to get better. This is a complicated one. While I said that Jiu Jitsu has almost an infinite amount of techniques, doing if for just 6 months will give you skills that will give you an upper hand in fighting. I liken training to a hurricane. You are the at the center and don’t see the changes that are happening to you. The edges of the hurricane are creating massive upheaval but you are not privy to that experience-yet. Instant gratification in Jiu Jitsu is NOT something that is common place. It’s a marathon and not a sprint. People often scream “show me the results or I am done!” The results are won inch by inch on the mats, not by  feet. Therefore, if you don’t have the patience to see it through-you’ll never see the results.

7)    It’s not Fun. The reality is that 50% of people who start Jiu Jitsu don’t see it as fun. They see it as a chore and don’t understand why anyone in their right mind would enjoy getting their ass kicked and looking foolish while it is happening. There is a correlation of people who enjoy doing an activity and their willingness to stick with it. Once a student starts having fun, everything changes. And if its still not fun, think about it this way: you are learning how to defend yourself, you are getting in shape and using Jiu Jitsu as a great stress reliever.

 ) Who will hold my hand? As an instructor, I will absolutely guide and help students on the mat. I will listen to their problems and help them resolve issues. Teachers are guides but the student has to put in the work to get better. Jiu Jitsu is a solo art that requires partners. It's not a traditional team sport. Jiu Jitsu will expose you to yourself and you'll really see what is inside your heart.

There are more police training jiu jitsu in 2021 than ever before but that percentage is still hovering at about 3%. That’s far too low. We have touched upon in other studies WHY Jiu Jitsu is important for cops (read those); what this article is pointing out is why cops stop doing Jiu Jitsu after only a short time.

A warrior's profession requires a warrior's mindset which means you need a warrior's work ethic. Are you willing to shelve the excuses, buckle down and train consistently? 

Ari Knazan 


Invictus Leo Jiu Jitsu Collective


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

What Approach Works Best in Order to Get Cops to Train?


I’ve been around the Jiu Jitsu and policing world for a while now and if you are a cop that trains, you know how difficult it is to get other cops to do the same. So what strategies should we employ to get non-trained officers to start doing Jiu Jitsu? There are three ways we can do it. 


Technique 1: Hard Approach


Police officers come in all shapes and sizes. They also come with different life experiences and sensitivity levels. You would think, based on what we see on a daily basis, that the “hard approach” wouldn’t bother cops (using the ‘cold hard facts’ to point out weaknesses and shortcomings).  How do cops respond to this type of prompting? 


Usually not very well.




When you point out someone’s weakness, they usually get their back up and try to defend themselves. This is why most cops who do train cry “ego” and the inability for our untrained colleagues to take criticism.  We could present all the benefits of Jiu Jitsu training but if a person has no interest or doesn’t think its applicable to them, they simply will not listen. 


What do we know about law enforcement duties? We know that the profession is a dangerous one and that any day could be ‘the one.’ You do not choose the day, the day chooses you (read our study: Why Jiu Jitsu is Saving Cops Lives) . Why wouldn’t you want to have an insurance policy like Jiu Jitsu in your back pocket when that day comes? Because most don’t believe it will. The over reliance of tools and cops confirmation bias has led us to this place.

I follow a ton of police and Jiu Jitsu related sites on social media. When I see them preach the benefits of the art, it is usually just preaching to the choir. There are very few non Jiu Jitsu cops looking at those posts who say “wow, that’s me they are talking about.” I've also had MANY conversations with colleagues on why they don't train and in all honesty, I've never seen so many people get so uncomfortable so fast at a simple question. I attribute this to them knowing what I do, where I stand and how important I think this topic is. I never berate them for their answers but there is a cold hard realization when I confront them with the truth.


I am certainly ‘guilty’ of using the hard approach via social media at times. There is a level of frustration that leads many of us to ‘tell it like it is.” This can lead to ostracizing the very people we want to enroll in training.


If you want to get better, you must do better. I know there are only so many hours in the day but when fellow officers are willing to teach something, I fucking listen. I want to get better. I want to be humbled. I want to learn. The only way to do this is to accept you have a deficit and move forward. It is called the white belt mentality. If you refuse to learn, you are telling me that you are an 'expert' in a particular area and see no benefit to learning.


Technique 2: Soft Approach


I would venture to say that most cops, despite their tough exteriors, would appreciate the softer approach to training. This means not highlighting weaknesses in them that make them feel bad about NOT doing anything.  It’s the “praise, correct, praise” approach.

There are many departments that have great training. They offer great courses for investigation, great firearms days, great tactic days (active shooter etc) but absolutely fail at providing HANDS ON training. They provide the bare minimum control tactics which leads to officers and suspects getting hurt or killed. This is fact and statistics back this up.


Let's pause for a moment and set the control tactic benefits to the side. Let talk about the other benefits. Are you a cop dealing with PTSD? Maybe you WILL be a cop dealing with PTSD. Jiu Jitsu is proven to offer stress relief for one of the toughest jobs in the world. How about those 25 lbs you've gained since the academy? Yep, active exercise while also learning a skill will help you lose those pounds. I've made life long friendships through Jiu Jitsu and can travel anywhere in the world and I will have a place to stay. There is a unique family within the Jiu Jitsu community.

But, back to the topic at hand.


I literally offer FREE training to cops.  There are other cops there who train. But why aren't the classes full of officers? Why aren't a ton of other academies across the nation full with cops? I'll let you sit with your excuses and you can let me know.

Technique 3: Ask those COPS who are training WHY they STARTED training!


There is a tipping point for all of us that get us to train. Some cops feel pushed into it and others feel PULLED into it. I personally like the law of attraction principle here where Jiu Jitsu calls us (Pulls). It doesn’t feel forced and therefore makes the experience more enjoyable.


Every story is different. I had 25 years of martial arts experience prior to becoming a cop. Some have 25 years experience being cops before starting Jiu Jitsu. What is important is to ask every cop who does train, WHY they are. These reasons are giving you insights to everyone who does not. We all share the same barriers to training. There is absolutely nothing new you can say when it comes to not training. Time. Money. Family. Injury. Ego. This list is long. 


We have highlighted in our previous study (Why Cops Don’t Train) to reasons police officers avoid training.  


Let me be clear- Jiu Jitsu is not easy. It will push you in ways you cannot imagine. I've tapped 10 000 times over the years. I've incurred injuries and difficult situations. But these have all made be a better person. I am not going to sugar coat the experience but if you are a cop, you've already accepted a ton of challenges and I'll bet you'd be up to this one. You just need to let go of those excuses.


If I am investigating an arson and I am with a member who has major crime (detective) experience, it gives me a great deal of confidence knowing that they have to tools for an extensive and detailed investigation. If shit goes south during an arrest, knowing that my partner has the confidence and skill to deal with that situation does the same. How many times have one of us been tasered or OC sprayed in the course of an arrest because one of the officers had no knowledge or confidence in how to control another human being?  

 Yes, you can all put your hands down now.


What's the Solution?


Our hashtag is #BJJMAKEITMANDATORY. Do we think that departments everywhere will make it so? No. But we are trying to highlight that individual officers need to have their own personal sense of agency to provide themselves with tools to make their job easier. Jiu Jitsu DOES make the job easier.  It provides confidence in ones ability. It lowers injury rates. It makes arrests easier. It is scalable. Its exercise. It combats PTSD. Its fun. 


The biggest hurdle is getting cops to see that they have a hole in their game.  There is a common quote that floats around the Law Enforcement community that reads:


Invictus Leo Co Founder