As a lead defensive tactics instructor, I’ve always recommended going outside the circle of what was taught in the academy in order to find new skills that may better fit the student and their tool bag. I’ve consequently been asked by recruits and officers alike to recommend a style or system of defensive tactics for them to explore.
Often, students come to the academy with their own skillsets that they learned from studying other combative systems. Some have a wrestling or a martial arts background, while others come to us with skills taught in military service.
Although these are all good skillsets to bring to the academy, for the most part, they do not teach what we strive for. When we teach defensive tactics to recruits and in-service officers, we must be constantly aware that we are teaching toward the law enforcement solution.
Some of the differences that we need to address are:
1.) We are not trying to submit the suspect into a tap while being monitored by a referee. The fighting surface we will be on will not be a mat. It will most likely be a hard surface with plenty of obstacles, creating potential for injury.
2.) We do not have to “play fair” and fight by rules that might be in place in a tournament. We are allowed to use a greater amount of reasonable force in order to overcome the level of resistance presented by the suspect. In deadly-force situations, there is only one rule: you must win.
3.) We always have to be aware that if we are close enough to touch the suspect, the suspect is close enough to touch our weapons. Any school or studio that fails to address this point should not be considered.
4.) We must realize that when we teach ground techniques to law enforcement personnel that they will be fighting a.) in a uniform that is most likely tailored, and b.) wearing a duty belt. Clearly, those will be more restrictive and less free-flowing than a karategi.
My primary concern with recommending a school/studio is whether or not it has some knowledge of law enforcement training. If you’re looking to expand your skillset than here are some very basic recommendations of what to look for:
1.) Gross motor skills: Does the studio teach skills that use gross motor skills? Stay away from places that emphasize fine motor skills in their teaching. They may look pretty, but we know they will not be effective under stress.
2.) Simple to learn and high retention level: Does the studio teach skills that are simple and easy to remember? Do they adhere to the principle of “one stimulus: one response,” or do they teach several intricate variations for the same stimulus?
For example, if your holstered weapon is attacked, does the response depend on which hand the suspect uses? The stimulus here is your weapon is being attacked. It should have one response based in simple principles that will work regardless of which hand the suspect is using to attack it with.
3.) Based in principles: Does the system use a principle based approach? Every fight I was ever in was different from all the others. Suspects will react and move differently than your training partner. If the studio is teaching a strict series of predicated moves for a specific type of attack, it will not transfer easily to the situation when the suspect does something that was unexpected or different than how your willing training partner responded.
These are just some suggestions to get recruits and officers started in checking out a school/studio. Another important question for the student to ask themselves is, “Am I comfortable with the organization and the instructors?”
If you find that the answer to this question is “No,” then leave.
There is no perfect defensive tactics system for everyone. Go out and explore the different types of training being offered, find the system that works for you and keeps you safe. Mix and match what you like and discard what you dislike.
Whatever it is that you ultimately choose, stay fit and practice your skills!