Erik Hite Foundation launches new program, teaching law enforcement martial arts and de-escalation tactics
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – The Erik Hite Foundation is launching its new program, No Belt Required, providing a venue for law enforcement officers to learn and practice martial arts and de-escalation tactics.
Organizers believe the program could be a way to reduce use-of-force incidents in Tucson.
Mike Pelton, a Tucson police officer, said his martial arts training saved his life in 2016 when he was ambushed in a parking lot.
“He took off his shoes and walked through a gravel parking lot, and hit me in the back of the head with the end of a knife,” Pelton said. “Without my training, I don’t think I would have reacted the way I did.”
Pelton said he threw the man to the ground, disarming him with the help of other officers.
“With the training I received at the academy, it’s highly likely that I would have been seriously injured or killed or would have had to use lethal force,” Pelton said.
Nohemy Hite, founder and executive director of the Erik Hite Foundation and wife of Erik Hite, who was shot in the line of duty in 2008, said that upon hearing Pelton’s story, she knew that this form of training should be made accessible to all law enforcement officers.
“One phone call in December 2020 and we’re there,” Hite said.
Now, the No Belt Required program aims for law enforcement officers to build their confidence in self-defense, so they don’t have to use force in the field.
“American police culture is really based on frontal education. That means you have an academy, you go for 8 weeks, 10 weeks, 12 weeks, it doesn’t matter how long the academy is, so that’s everything,” said Josh Beren, co-founder of No Belt Required.
Without repetitive training, Beren said some officers tend to lose that muscle memory over the course of their careers.
“Seven, ten, 20 years later, are you going to find out and are you going to do it effectively, and if your life is at stake or someone else’s, it’s just not enough,” Bern said.
That’s why No Belt Required said it wanted to be a platform for officers to mentally decompress.
“Instead of taking all this, which they see day after day, bring it home. They can take him to the mat,” Hite said.
Not only will officers be able to decompress mentally, but they won’t need to rely on a weapon to defend themselves.
“The name, No Belt Required, means you don’t have to be a black belt or a UFC fighter to learn anything. As an officer, you also don’t have to go to your belt all the time where your gun or taser is,” Beren said. “With training and ongoing education in self-defense, awareness, and skills, you can build your confidence and have the ability to have a long career and positively impact your community.”
The foundation is working with Mako Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to launch the program.
The gym dropped prices to $30 per month to ensure the training pays off for all interested agents.
Organizers are actively working to partner with more gyms in the area.
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