Todd Meighen is the C0-Owner and Head Instructor at GT Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Akron, Ohio. Todd was born and raised in Mogadore, Ohio. Todd graduated from Mogadore High School in 1989, where he was a talented multi-sport athlete. After High School, Todd attended the University of Akron, graduating with a degree in Political Science/Criminal Justice. After College, Todd began his Law Enforcement career at the City of Tallmadge Police Department. Todd was a highly decorated Police Officer for 12 years, serving as a Defensive Tactics Instructor, Field Training Officer, Background Investigator, and a Member of the U.S. Marshal's Violent Fugitive Task Force. Unfortunately this career path was cut short, and he was forced to retire due to a severe ankle injury suffered in Police training. During his Law Enforcement Career, Todd had numerous opportunities to test his Martial Art skills in real life situations. His main goal today is to protect and serve the community in a different way, by passing on his Martial Arts knowledge to future generations.
Todd has more than 30 years experience training and teaching in the Martial Arts. He began his Martial Arts journey in the early 1990's at the Ho Chun School of Chinese Martial Arts under Grandmaster Gene Chicoine. Todd trained extensively in the Chinese Martial Arts, including Shuai Chiao, Tai Chi, Hsing-I, and other styles, eventually achieving a 7th Degree Black Belt. Todd made several trips to Taiwan with Grandmaster Chicoine to perform Martial Arts demonstrations, and to further his knowledge in the Arts. After watching the first UFC, and seeing the effectiveness of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Todd set out to learn the art. Unfortunately there were no Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools or Teachers nearby. Todd finally began his Brazilian jiu-jitsu training in the late 1990's. His first teacher was Craig Cramer, who ran Royce Gracie's First Affiliate School (Cleveland, Ohio) in the Unites States. Todd achieved the rank of Blue Belt from Craig Cramer in 2003. Ironically, Todd met his eventual Professor Eduardo "Dudu" Barros several years prior to his training in Cleveland, but he didn't start training with Eduardo until 2004. Eduardo was living in Tallmadge when he first moved to the United States in the late 90's, attending Tallmadge High School. While Todd was working as a Police Officer, Eduardo locked his keys inside his car, and requested an Officer to help open the car. After the vehicle was opened, Eduardo handed Todd a flyer (pictured below), and stated that he taught Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu out of his parents' basement. Todd did not take this chance meeting seriously at the time, and he had no idea about the unbelievable opportunity that he had been given. This meeting would eventually change his life forever a few years later. Several students from the school in Cleveland mentioned that they had trained with Eduardo a few times, and raved about how good he was. They also questioned Todd as to why he would travel such a far distance to train, when Eduardo was practically in his backyard. Todd eventually contacted Eduardo, started to train with him, and became a full-time student from that day forward. Todd rose up through the ranks, and eventually received his Black Belt from Eduardo on May 6, 2013. Later in November of 2013, Todd was able to travel to Brazil with Eduardo. Todd had the honor of training several times in Brazil at Nova Uniao Headquarters, and also at The Carlson Gracie Academy. Todd received the First Degree on his Black Belt from Eduardo on October 26, 2016. Todd received the 2nd Degree on his Black Belt from Eduardo on August 2nd, 2019. Todd received the 3rd Degree on his Black Belt on May 2nd, 2022. Todd continues to teach at his school, GT Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
During his Law Enforcement Career, Todd also had the opportunity to train and learn from Royce Gracie on numerous occasions. Royce Gracie is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Legend, and the reason that Todd started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Training with Royce is similar to a basketball player getting the opportunity to learn directly from Michael Jordan! Royce taught a Law Enforcement Only class called G.R.A.C.I.E. (Gracie Retention And Control for Immediate Enforcement). Todd successfully completed the G.R.A.C.I.E. Instructor Certification Course from January 5-9, 2004 in St. Cloud, Florida. The 40 Hour class showed how Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can be used to enable Law Enforcement Officers to control combative suspects effectively. After completing the class, Todd was mentioned in a newspaper article in The Orlando Sentinel on January 4th, 2004 (*a copy of the article is below).
Officers Learn Martial Art To Grapple With Suspects
Brazilian Jujitsu Focuses On Bringing Opponents To Ground
January 12, 2004|By Susan Jacobson, Sentinel Staff Writer
ST. CLOUD -- "I didn't do it," the suspect complained to the officer trying to arrest him. "Get your hands off me. I'm going to sue."
"Stop resisting," St. Cloud police Lt. Bret Dunn, 34, ordered as the two men struggled, falling to the ground.
"I'm not resisting," the suspect replied. "Help! Police brutality!"
Soon, however, the man was on his belly with Dunn's arm around his neck.
The "suspect" was really famed Brazilian jujitsu expert Royce (pronounced Hoyce) Gracie, who spent last week teaching about 20 law-enforcement officers from Central Florida and as far away as Mississippi and Ohio how to subdue a suspect without hurting anyone, including themselves.
The sweaty all-day sessions at the St. Cloud Civic Center gave the officers, many of whom are trainers planning to teach the techniques to their departments, some hands-on experience in grappling.
Brazilian jujitsu, popularized a decade ago with the pay-per-view "no-holds-barred" Ultimate Fighting Championship, emphasizes forcing opponents to submit by using leverage and a variety of holds that virtually immobilize them or cause enough pain to make them stop fighting.
Gracie, 37, who has trained FBI, CIA, Drug Enforcement Administration and Secret Service agents and members of the military, designed the course specifically for law officers. It emphasizes keeping a suspect away from a cop's gun.
Nearly half of officers hurt or killed in the line of duty had lost control of their firearms, according to Gracie.
`YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE BIG'
Brazilian jujitsu focuses on bringing opponents to the ground, where size and strength are less important than when standing.
"You don't have to be big," the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Gracie said. "You don't have to be strong. You don't have to be fast. You just gotta know what you're doing."
Internal Revenue Service Special Agent Lee Stockwell, 38, who is 5 feet 9 inches and 170 pounds, found that out when he tussled with taller officers, some of whom outweighed him by nearly 100 pounds.
"It's all leverage," said Stockwell, who is based in St. Petersburg and works on large money-laundering cases in conjunction with other federal agents.
Although it's best for officers not to get close enough for a suspect to take a swing at them, everyday encounters that require arm's-length contact, such as traffic stops, put police in harm's way, they said.
"There comes a time when you've just got to go hands on," Seminole sheriff's Lt. Bill Morris said. "Some people you just can't reason with."
The Seminole County Sheriff's Office last year trained its deputies in ground combat using an instructor affiliated with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia.
"Technically, you are stronger on the ground because you can't lose your balance," said Seminole sheriff's Sgt. Chad McDaniel, who is in charge of defensive-tactics training.
McDaniel compared teaching ground combat to inoculating people against the flu: The body learns how to ward off an attack by becoming familiar with what might happen.
That familiarity would have come in handy a few years ago when McDaniel and another deputy were watching a drug buy near Altamonte Springs. All of a sudden, McDaniel said, the crack seller knocked the other deputy off his feet, choked him and broke his holster trying to grab his gun. A sergeant pepper-sprayed the drug dealer into submission.
Officers said there's no way to predict who might become physical during an encounter with police. High-risk situations include ticketing drivers with suspended licenses, dealing with the mentally ill or those on drugs, domestic fights or fugitives who will do anything not to go back to jail.
Nowadays, as more people have less respect for law officers, an assailant could be anyone from a 10-year-old boy to a 75-year-old woman, police said.
"We've had people wanted for murder who offered no resistance," said Volusia County sheriff's Deputy Jeff Wiles, 39. "You really don't know what motivates people."
Gracie's class covered how to escape and gain control when a suspect is on top of an officer, the best way for two officers to take down a suspect and how to defend against knife attacks and punches.
Orange County sheriff's Lt. Dave Ogden, a black belt in karate who also studies Brazilian jujitsu, said he has been teaching deputies how to fight on the ground since 1994.
"You need to know how to control yourself and get up quickly and get into a position that's advantageous to you," Ogden said.
Although many of the students didn't know one another beforehand, they established a quick camaraderie, cheered one another on, applauded and offered advice during practice.
"Turn over. Get that foot up," one officer called out as Kissimmee police Detective Jaime Alberti went one-on-one with Gracie. "There you go. Push. Use your foot to push his arm off. Good job, Jaime!"
`DISTANCE IS SAFETY'
St. Cloud police Chief Patrick Kelly, long a martial-arts and fitness aficionado, invited Gracie because of his reputation. Most departments paid the $600-per-student fee, but Patrolman Todd Meighen of the Tallmadge, Ohio, police wanted to go so badly that he used vacation time and picked up his own airfare and hotel costs.
"I've followed Royce's fighting since he started," said Meighen, 33, a defensive-tactics instructor.
Gracie, who lives in Southern California and travels the world teaching and competing, said his philosophy is simple.
"You want to keep your distance because distance is safety," Gracie said. "But in the event it does happen, you want to make sure you have the skills to come out of it alive."