Andy is head jiu-jitsu coach for the British Army and teaches martial arts to police and elite UK Armed Forces
I have always been a big supporter of both the military and emergency services and if I hadn’t ended up doing martial arts full time, my life could well have gone down a different path. But then one day I saw how I could use my training to help the guys who are tasked with keeping us all safe.
I was on a night out and I witnessed an altercation where five policemen were struggling to hold one man down. I realised then that they were lacking the basic training on how you can control a person’s body and subdue them safely, particularly if you have superior numbers on your side.
My jiu-jitsu academy is in Farnborough, Hampshire, which is just down the road from Aldershot, the home of the British Army, and for years we had loads of guys from the barracks come down and train. And before long I started getting invited along to teach courses to the guys at the bases.
A similar thing happened with the police, it started off with individuals coming along to my classes, and then I started putting on special training days and inviting police staff to come along. I run them through all the basics, from distance control to how to take someone down quickly and effectively.
In the military the type of unarmed combat training you get varies greatly according to the unit. But the one thing you can say about the military, as well as the police, is that in most cases the training has not been anything like adequate.
The benefits of training jiu-jitsu may seem obvious if you already know a little bit about it, but for someone operating on the front line, whether military or emergency services, it has two very important benefits.
Most obviously as a martial art it can actually save your life. But the secondary benefit is for dealing with the stress of a front-facing role. Everyone in the police and emergency services faces potentially traumatic situations, and having a way to decompress properly is incredibly important. This can be a life saver too.
Jiu-jitsu is now an official sport across the UK Armed Forces, meaning that there is funding for training and competing. And increasing numbers of police authorities are realising that the police need to be fully trained before they go out on the street.
My goal is to get a fully recognised combatives system right across the UK Armed Forces and the police. We have brilliant military and police, we just need to make sure they get the right training before they put their lives on the line for us.