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The School of Hard Knocks

The close quarter battle course at the Police Combative Academy teaches officers not just to survive but to win.

February 01, 2004  |  by - Also by this author

Police Combative Academy principles Louis Marquez, left, and Hans Marrero, right, demonstrate an open-hand technique designed to knock a knife out of a suspect’s hand.

It's 0800 on a sure-to-be-hot Phoenix morning and the diverse group of police defensive tactics trainers arriving at the Police Combative Academy have looks of apprehension and enthusiasm in their eyes.

It's their first day of the Academy's Close Quarter Battle-Level 1 Instructor Course, and they know that before the day is over they will be really tired and really sore, and they will have learned a lot of painful lessons on how to teach their fellow officers how to win when it gets nasty on the street.

CQB is not a classroom program, so the trainers don't spare any time immersing their students in physical combat. The first thing the students learn is how to wrap their hands properly in preparation for their introduction to the program.

The introduction comes in the form of a three-minute round of body sparring in a 6X6-foot ring against the trainers, all noted martial artists and police DT instructors in their own right. Both the students and the instructors wear 16-ounce boxing gloves and headgear, but they still get hit and it still hurts.

Police Combative Academy trainer and principle Louis Marquez says the point of this first exercise is not to convince the students that the instructors are better fighters, nor is it to inflict pain. Its purpose, according to Marquez, is to change the students' mindsets and teach them some vivid lessons about street combat.

"The three-minute round is critical to the success of the program," explains Marquez, a retired Austin (Texas) Police Department SWAT officer. "It dispels many defensive tactics myths, including myths about the length of the usual officer-subject confrontation. It also alerts the students to their own strengths and weaknesses.  And it sets the tone for the rest of the week."

Ambitious and Demanding

That tone is hard work, lots of sweat, and a crash course on numerous techniques for defeating armed and unarmed adversaries in street combat. Topics covered include but are not limited to: ground fighting, weapons retention, weapons disarming, edged weapons, fighting stances, multiple attackers, joint manipulations, effective pressure point tactics, weapons of opportunity, offensive mindset, target selection, and how to override an attacker's central nervous system.

"Our curriculum is ambitious and demanding," says Police Combative Academy principle Hans Marrero. "I don't know of anything else like it in the field of police defensive tactics. It's an intensive five days with over 50 hours of hands-on instruction. And all of the attacks, counters, and defensive techniques that we teach are performed at real-time and real-speed."

However, just because the Academy's CQB instructor program is intensely physical that doesn't mean that it should be reserved for SWAT officers or elite athletes. "Anybody in good shape can take our program," says Marrero, a retired Marine Corp gunnery sergeant and martial arts expert. "And it's not gender-restrictive. So you don't have to be some big hulking guy to successfully complete the course. We've had both male and female graduates, and they've ranged in size and weight from five-two, 100 pounds, to six-four, 240 pounds."

The CQB instructor course is also about more than just fighting. Marquez says the program was designed to not only teach instructors how to teach their students to win street confrontations, it also helps attendees cultivate the physical, philosophical, and leadership qualities necessary to train officers effectively. The program incorporates learning modules on the concepts of leadership, honor, duty, responsibility, and police ethics, and it was recently added to the College of William and Mary's MBA curriculum.

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