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Doing ‘Whatever it Takes’ To Survive Confrontations

‘Reality-based training’ is essential in a street fight to the finish, according to the author.

August 01, 2000  |  by Capts. Larkin Fourkiller and Michael Holsapple

Rapid Assault Tactics

The Rapid Assault Tactics program teaches students about the four ranges of fighting: kicking, punching, trapping, and grappling. To end a fight quickly one must get into the hand-on or trapping range.  From this position, opponents can be struck in the face or groin with knees, elbows, and headbutts.  These are the most devastating personal "empty hand" techniques, and dramatically demonstrate the ability to immediately eliminate a threat.

In order to get into trapping range, students are taught two methods.  One method is a hand flick to the eye or a snap kick to the groin.  Each is a quick and unexpected move that causes pain and distraction, and is immediately followed-up with the "straight-blast."

The "straight-blast" was considered by Bruce Lee as the pivotal maneuver in his street fighting strategy.  It is the rapid succession of punches placed down the center line (face area0 of a person while simultaneously applying pressure by moving abruptly toward your opponent.  This technique drives the suspect backwards rendering him off balance, confused, and in a defensive posture.  This advancement allows you to get into the trapping range, where you can grasp the back of a suspect's neck and utilize a combination of knees, elbows, and headbutts. 

The second method is used when the opponent displays some skill in fighting and may already have his hands up offensively or is attempting to punch or kick you.  By positioning an elbow or knee in the path of an incoming strike you are able to cause immense pain to the subject's leg or fist.  This facilitates a transition into trapping range and the application of knees, elbows, and headbutts.  Such use of your elbows and knees is referred to as a "destruction" tactic and is often associated with the Filipino Martial Art of Kali.

Despite one's best intentions, sometimes fights go to the ground.  The Rapid Assault Tactics program teaches officers basic Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu moves in combination with the use of knees, elbows, and headbutts (K/E/H).  Again, the goal is to get to a stand-up position, where the best hand-to-hand combat techniques (K/E/H) can be utilized, and where you can defend against multiple attackers.  Most officers have neither the time nor desire to become a skilled grappler, however by learning basic groundfighting moves, coupled with the little known art of Kina Mutai (eye gouging and biting), officers now have the ability to survive violent ground engagements.

This specific martial arts technique, when done properly, can be devastating to an opponent.  Remember these are street fights, and the difference between life and death for an officer can hedge on his knowledge and ability to end a confrontation quickly before becoming injured, rendered defenseless, and or killed.

Kina Mutai not only is a tactic but also speaks to the psychology of fighting, as illustrated by the infamous Holyfield-Tyson fight.  Holyfield a strong, well-trained professional fighter, despite taking punches from arguably the world's hardest hitter, continued to fight and remain a threat to Tyson.  Then came the bite.  Holyfield immediately quit fighting, placed his hands (once used to punch) over his injured ear, screamed and jumped around the ring, and went from aggressor to victim, just like that.

To many viewers it was a cheap shot, and in a sport no doubt; but in the realm of street fighting, consider its effects.  The biting technique not only stopped the physical assaults but psychologically took Holyfield out of his element of boxing-wherein he was himself capably defending against attack, while at once a calculating menace to Tyson-to street fighting, wherein he was unsuspecting and momentarily defenseless.

It is important to remember that the police officers are not participants in a sporting event, but law enforcers who must prevail in violent physical altercations.

Besides the appreciation of over-reliance on any one discipline, Vunak's program also emphasizes the importance of confident transition from one fight forum to the next.  This "ability to flow" concept is a key aspect in understanding the anatomy of a street fight.  What is the world's best knife fighter without a knife, a ground fighter outnumbered, a boxer with a bitten ear?  Each is out of his element.

Their "way" (discipline) works against them, strength becomes weakness, confidence collapses into panic, and dependence on a preferred venue is revealed and then abruptly and involuntarily changed.  Real fights go from standup to the ground and perhaps back again, to sticks, to knives, to guns, and so on.

The Rapid Assault Tactics program addresses this venue-to-venue concept giving the officers the confidence to survive such transitions.

Stick-fighting, knife-fighting, and multiple-subject fighting are integral components of the program instruction.  This multi-disciplinary approach gives officers a fighting chance in those situations when what you do know (your weakness) can cost you everything.  The principles and techniques can be valuable to officers of all physical sizes and combat skill levels.


By the very nature of their responsibilities, law enforcement officers find themselves in violent situations where training, or lack thereof, can be the difference between life or death.  Police are called upon to intervene in volatile situations that are unpredictable, engaging suspects who are intent on resisting, escaping, assaulting, and even killing an officer.

Defensive tactics designed to quell minor resistance is very important and in most cases will suffice, but past violent and tragic lessons have demonstrated a need for proficiency in street fighting tactics.  Preparing officers to physically and psychologically respond in such altercations can increase their chances of survival.

There are many reasons why police may have to use empty-hand techniques designed to end a confrontation quickly.  Besides empowering the officer with a means for survival, the techniques of the Rapid Assault Tactics program may also be a means to resolve an incident prior to it escalating into a lethal resolution against a citizen-aggressor.

Without this type of reality-based training, officers will have few, if any viable options to adequately defend themselves in those "Do Whatever It Takes" street fights to the finish.

Capt. Fourkiller is a special enforcement team commander and a certified instructor of defensive tactics, less-lethal weaponry and civil disturbance control.  He is also an adjunct faculty instructor at Indiana University in Kokomo.

Capt. Holsapple, is a drug task force commander, a state and nationally certified instructor and is on the adjunct for Indiana University at Kokomo.

This is their first contribution to POLICE.

Paul Vunak, Progressive Fighting Systems founder and an instructor for Navy SEAL Teams, the FBI, DEA, and CIA, contributed to this report.  He lives in Capistrano Beach, Calif.

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