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A case for hands-on training
By Paul Markel
Paul Markel is a police officer in Ohio and a member of the POSA Board of Advisors. His book, Have Passport, Will Travel, a "real-world" guide to dignitary protection, is available at amazon.com.
"They're fighting!" a woman's voice screamed. I was only a few yards away and turned to see that the typical "fight ring" had formed in the crowd. Running to the scene all I could make out was two piles of people struggling on the ground. It was dark and a distant security light provided the only illumination. What did I have? Drunks? A domestic? Who were the aggressors and who were the victims?
All that I knew for certain was that the fight needed to be broken up. I piled in and soon had both groups separated using the vascular neck restraint. All but one participant calmed quickly. The last one lunged but was rapidly taken down again with a properly applied neck restraint.
Other officers quickly arrived and the situation was soon in hand. As the adrenaline rush faded two things were apparent. First, I scraped up my right hand pretty well on the concrete. Secondly, my eyeglasses were crushed thoroughly whether by intent or accident.
While sitting down to fill out my incident report I ran over the scene time and again. My department has approved the carrying of the Taser X26, pepper spray, and friction lock batons, however, none of those tools seemed appropriate. I could not Taser the two tangled piles. I could have pepper sprayed both piles but there were at least fifty spectators in the immediate vicinity (I was doing crowd control at a football game). Pepper spraying fifty football fans would have proved a nightmare far worse that couple of fist fights. As for the baton option, I have used them previously as control tools but you can't just start beating on the pile. The guy on top just might have been the victim of the assault. The primary conclusion that I came to was, despite the wonderful advances in cop tools, some times you have just got to get in and mix it up.
We should all have an appreciation that the new Taser and pepper spray have spared many officers from bumps, bruises, strains, and sprains. Conversely, a lot of bad guys, though they probably don't realize it, have been spared a good deal of physical trauma thanks to these tools. Nonetheless, the fact remains that you may very well find yourself in a situation where these tools aren't the best choice.
My point? Don't allow yourself to rely solely on technology. Some times you may have to get in there and get your hands dirty. What kind of empty handed training is worth your time? There are numerous martial disciplines that have much to offer. Even basic Western Boxing has its attributes. Although boxing the ears off of a suspect should not be your first option, boxing stresses good footwork, heightens agility and reflexes as well as emphasizing strength training.
Grappling sports, such as Jujitsu, have a wide variety of techniques that are applicable to the street cop. Of course, each technique or skill needs to be considered with the question, "Would I want to do that on the asphalt in a dark parking lot?" Many techniques that work great on a padded gym mat would leave you scraped, bruised, and injured when done on concrete.
Is it s "-do" or a "-jitsu"? Is their a difference? In some cases yes, there is a big difference. The "-do" arts are normally sanctioned sports with very strict rules as to what kind of techniques you may and may not use. The "-jitsu" arts in the pure sense are combat arts design with actual fighting in mind. Of course this may vary depending of the school and instructor. For instance, a technique that may be perfectly legal in Jujitsu may be forbidden in the sport of Judo.
From my own experience, as a teenager I studied Tae Kwon Do. During our sparring we were admonished that punches to the face were not allowed. Even in my youth I recognized this folly. During a genuine attack were you supposed to tell your opponent that "punches to the face are not allowed"? Yes, that particular TKD school proclaimed that they were teaching "self-defense", though apparently not face defense. I don't want to get off on a tangent, just realize that there is a difference in the martial training you choose. They are not all the same. If you pick a Karate school and they have you sparring with eight year olds, I would start looking somewhere else.
The bottom line is that despite the tremendous advances in less-than-lethal technology over the last twenty or so years, you are still going to run into handson jobs. How well you handle those hands on situations will depend on you and how prepared you are. Train today, survive tomorrow.