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Departments : The Winning Edge

Balance Manipulation in Arrest and Control

By compromising a subject's balance, you can make a quicker and safer arrest.

February 29, 2016  |  by Thomas Holmes and Sam Eggleston

Photo: Jinsei Institute
Photo: Jinsei Institute

Balance manipulation can be defined as the act of increasing or decreasing a person's physical stability. This gives law enforcement officers an advantage in a physical confrontation because if you minimize the balance of subjects, you reduce their ability to apply useful speed or strength, both of which are necessary for creating resistance or escalation during an arrest.

Jinsei Law Enforcement Tactics is striving to increase effectiveness and safety in arrest-control situations by using advanced balance manipulation and biomechanics to enable officers to gain faster, more effective control. The system, called "JET," is a product of the Jinsei Institute of Durango, CO, which maintains that the use of balance manipulation can decrease a subject's ability to move, resist, or escalate and give trained officers significant advantages during approach and contact.

Opening Moves

The JET system uses balance manipulation in two primary ways. One is to optimize the officer's physical and psychological condition, and the other is to reduce the subject's non-compliant capabilities.

Officers are first trained to use an internal "optimization trigger" before they enter a situation. An internal optimization trigger is a way to lower stress reactions and enhance officers' response capabilities. The trigger takes effect within 2 to 3 seconds by using a focused tactical breathing technique that quickly moderates heart rate and adrenaline flow to improve mental clarity, awareness, physical stability, and motor functions. The technique is brief and simple to enable effective use during high-stress moments.

The next step is to use a combination of verbal commands to compel the subject to give away as much balance as possible in order to minimize the subject's capabilities and advantages before tactical distance is closed and physical contact is initiated.

One method is to use a destabilized "T" position that spreads the subject's arms out and feet far apart with the toes pointed away from each other. This shifts as much weight as possible onto the back outside edges of the feet, which shrinks the subject's foundation footprint, sways/weakens his posture, and shifts his center of gravity outside of his base of support. The accumulated effect places the subject in a position of compromised stability and reduced abilities. Use of the T position in this manner is applied to subjects when standing, kneeling, or prone on the ground.

This particular use of balance manipulation can also interrupt subjects' abilities to observe, orient, decide, and act (OODA) by compelling them to focus on their own diminished stability. In addition, JET trains officers to use subject responses to their commands as a deliberate test to gauge the subjects' level of compliance and possible intentions.

The entire process to this point is designed to subtly, yet powerfully, create tactical advantages that will enable officers to proceed more effectively and safely. Only after officers have shifted as many of these critical "advantages" as possible into their favor do they close tactical distance and initiate physical contact with the subject.

Initial Contact

Approaching subjects to initiate physical contact generally represents one of the most dangerous moments in arrest situations. If officers can first reduce subjects' capabilities for resistance or escalation before closing the gap, then they significantly improve the likelihood of gaining rapid and effective control.

To initiate contact, approach from behind, whenever possible, and take more of the subject's balance at the moment of physical contact to further minimize the subject's ability to move, resist, or escalate. A sweeping initial contact movement is used to sway the subject's back a bit more and further shift his or her weight onto the back-outside edges of the feet. This fluid, subtle action makes it more challenging for the subject to move or resist. While it doesn't completely eliminate the possibility of resistance or escalation, the method causes any subject movement to be widely telegraphed to the officer and slower. It's important to note here that the method is not violent, threatening, or painful in any way; in fact, subjects are usually "swept" into the position before they realize it's happening.

Instant Response

Jinsei refers to this method as moving into an "IRC position" (instant response and control). One critical attribute of the position is that it provides constant tactile feedback, which is faster and more accurate than visual feedback. With tactile communication, officers can feel the slightest twitch and respond more rapidly. Since the method continuously maintains compromised subject balance, it safely discourages and compromises resistance and escalation while making it far easier for the officer to move the subject in any direction.

The IRC approach naturally places the officer behind the subject in a highly stable, responsive position from which increased control can be applied more swiftly, more securely, and with far less effort when needed. This is crucial when officers are dealing with potentially bigger, stronger, and faster subjects.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the IRC position is that it supports the officer in maintaining the subject's balance at reduced level throughout the remainder of the arrest process until the subject is safely secured. And if the subject does attempt to resist or escalate, then the combination of optimized officer positioning and compromised subject balance enables the officer to exert a lightning fast, effective response. Nearly all JET methods can move from initial moment of resistance/escalation to complete immobilization on the ground or standing within 1 second.

The end result is that compliant arrests can occur more smoothly and safely for both officer and subject, as the officer can securely and appropriately maintain the subject's balance until handcuffs are secured and the subject is escorted into a vehicle, etc. If the subject resists or attempts to escalate, then additional control responses can be rapidly and easily applied due to the subject's destabilized posture and the officer's superior positioning. This also creates more options for clear egress and for immediate transition into self-defense.

These conditions also allow JET to use direct, simple movements consisting of gross motor skills, which means that techniques are relatively easy to learn and highly consistent in the field where it counts the most.

JET's goal is to use balance manipulation to make officer actions during arrest-control more responsive and effective, and to enable the safe and appropriate securing of subjects so that officers can consistently end a potentially dangerous confrontation before it becomes a fight.

Putting It Together

During a JET arrest-control training in Durango, an officer approached a male subject in a practice situation. Once the arrest decision was made, the officer used multiple verbal commands to compel the subject to give away balance and provide indicators of compliance. The officer had the subject turn around slowly with arms extended out to the sides until he was facing away in a balance-compromised T position. The officer quickly moved in an arc to disguise his angle of approach as he closed the gap behind the subject, and then in one fluid motion, swept his hands down the subject's collar bone and opposite arm to instantly sway the subject's back and shift his balance further back onto his heels. From this position, the officer continuously controlled the subject's balance as he swept the subject's other arm back into an arrest position and applied handcuffs.

After the exercise, the "subject" described how his compromised balance deterred him from trying to fight the arrest. "I didn't have an opportunity to pull away or turn on him. It's weird… any movement on my part felt really slow and awkward. I basically felt that I couldn't do much other than comply and focus on keeping what was left of my balance."

Later during the training, a trainee said, "Man, this is fast. I'm getting him on the ground in less than a second in a fully locked pin. There's no fighting here, just take more balance, immobilize, and it's over."

Thomas Holmes is a martial arts instructor, JET defense trainer, and founder of the Jinsei Institute.

Sam Eggleston is a law enforcement officer and defense trainer.


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