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PizDoff
6/17/2007 11:17pm,
Grappling added to Police and Fire Games

By LATISHA R. GRAY

[email protected]
SARASOTA -- Police officer Sean Gleason calls his garage the thunderdome and the house of pain.

It is hot and smells like sweat in the two-car garage. Gleason has a space cleared on the floor for his orange and red grappling mats.

Every day around 3 p.m., he unrolls the mats and several police officers and deputies spend a few hours on their backs in leg locks and arm bars. With the right amount of pressure, one of the moves could snap a limb in two places. The goal is to make the other guy tap out.

"It's chess with the human body," said Gleason, who is with the Sarasota Police Department. "You react to what the other person does, and they react to what you do."

The officers have been training for about a year. They do not plan on using the moves on criminals, but on other cops.

For the first time, submission grappling will be one of several tests of strength or endurance to be an event in the annual Florida Police and Fire Games. Officials from the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office chose to add grappling because of its popularity.

More than 60 people have signed up for the Olympic-style tournament; about a dozen are from this region. The tournament will be 2 p.m. Tuesday at Robarts Arena in Sarasota.

"It's going to be one of the most-anticipated events," said Chief Deputy Larry Dunklee of the Sheriff's Office. "The state expected about 20 to 25 entries, but we have about 60 people signed up."

Mixed martial arts has been around for centuries, but became popular as a sport in the early 1990s with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. It includes grappling, ju-jitsu, boxing and wrestling. Unlike Ultimate Fighting, the Police Games does not allow hitting.

Gleason, who previously played volleyball during the annual games, has studied ju-jitsu for more than a decade. He is not sure what to expect at the tournament.

"It's up in the air," Gleason said. "Orlando and Miami has some good guys, so we'll have to see what happens."

Sarasota police officer Dwayne Shellhammer was one of the first to start working out with Gleason. He will compete for the first time in the games Tuesday. Shellhammer recently won third place in a North American Grappling Association tournament.

"I grapple with a suspect at least a couple times a week," Shellhammer said. "It's good for your endurance, and when you study ju-jitsu you are more comfortable handling yourself on the ground."

Gleason said he hopes more officers become interested in ju-jitsu because it is useful when dealing with unruly suspects. Gleason said women could learn moves to get out of dangerous situations because ju-jitsu is more about technique than strength.

Gleason occasionally teaches beginner's techniques at the police department.

"This is not for everybody," Gleason said. "You are going to get hurt, and you are going to lose when you first start out. Some people cannot deal with that."

http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20070617/NEWS/706170302/1417/RSS02

These guys probably use it because it works on the street.