Martial arts guru keeps Ukiah Police officers prepared, confident’
Ukiah Police Capt. Justin Wyatt and Community Service Officer Marcus Freeman spar at the Maldonado Martial Arts and Fitness Center.
On Thursday morning, a group of Ukiah police officers gathered downtown and pretended to attack each other.
“The goal is to stay alive,” said Ukiah Police Department Sgt. Dave McQueary, who was sparring with Louis Maldonado, the owner of Crazy Monkey martial arts and fitness studio on East Church Street, where the officers were training.
“Officer safety is our first priority,” said Maldonado, explaining that the techniques the officers practice with him not only help them defend themselves, but, more importantly, give them confidence.
“It’s all about command presence,” he said, adding that female officers in particular, such as Maldonado’s daughter Michelle and her co-worker Isabel Madrigal, need to exude confidence. “It’s more mental than physical.”
Maldonado has been training law enforcement officers for 20 years, but UPD Chief Chris Dewey said it wasn’t until 2007 that his department really encouraged its officers to work with Maldonado.
“That year, a third of our department shot their weapons,” Dewey said, adding that the idea behind the sessions at the studio is to “give the officers the skills to protect themselves, and to prevent injuries.
“Police officers are occupational athletes,” Dewey continued, adding that officers don’t just drive a car and fill out paperwork. “They are expected to jump out of their car at a moment’s notice and chase someone, or fight the biggest, strongest guy on the street.”
Dewey said officers train with Maldonado on their days off, as a way of “encouraging themselves to get off the couch and take care of themselves, which is really, really important.
“Also, being in shape gives them a greater sense of confidence,” he continued. “You’re less likely to be assaulted when you’re prepared and ready.”
“Core work is the most important for a cop,” said Capt. Justin Wyatt, referring to exercises that keep your abdominals and other spine-supporting muscles strong. “It helps you carry all your gear and prevents back injuries.”
Emotional health is key, as well
“I always tell them, You don’t need to see a doctor, see me,'” Maldonado said of the officers, adding that while they cannot banish stress from their lives, they can learn how to manage their body’s response to it.
“The workouts are designed for them to de-stress,” he said, “and make them feel better both mentally and emotionally when they’re off-duty.”
Maldonado said his goal is to tire out the officers, which helps them to decompress, but also get them used to the adrenaline rush that comes with all high-stress jobs.
Finally, he said, the self-defense techniques are designed to help officers “get out of tense and dangerous situations as fast as they can.”