Blocking Weapon Strikes
If you're up against a person who is stabbing forward in a piston-like motion with an edged weapon, it is similar to an opponent who throws straight punches. Lateral movement to the outside of your opponent is an effective tactic for both situations.
Gun disarms are a whole discipline in and of themselves and require enormous practice. Getting into position to employ them can be performed with the same techniques you find in the ring or on the mat.
An issue frequently overlooked in gun disarm techniques is the focus and strength of grip on the weapon. Disarming techniques targeting the grip may have difficulty succeeding because both you and the subject put all your focus on one target. There is an alternate path borrowing from sport fighting that can help.
In muay thai kickboxing it is called "low, low, high" or attacking the leg with two kicks to bring down your opponent's guard and throwing the third kick high at your opponent's head. In boxing, we say "kill the body and the head must die," meaning a body attack will open up the other fighter's head for blows. In a situation where there is a fight for a gun, multiple foot stomps, head butts, or knees to the leg may draw focus away from the weapon grip for that one second that allows the disarm to be completed.
Up Close and Personal
Close range is closely tied in with proper control of your opponent. To some degree, at close range you are in the eye (the calm area) of the storm. It is hard for your opponent to get off punches, kicks, gunshots, slashes, or bat blows. In MMA, grabbing the head with both hands and using knees or throwing elbow strikes to the face are often the techniques of choice at this range.
For law enforcement officers, the two-handed Thai clinch has a huge drawback. It allows the assailant access to your weapon. It is critical in close range to maintain control of your opponent to avoid being disarmed, taking unnecessary damage, and/or allowing him or her to escape.
The three points of control in upper body grappling are the head, elbow, and hip. Control of two out of three of these points on your opponent means he is going where you want him. But there is a major adjustment that you have to make as a sidearm carrying cop when facing an opponent.
When engaging at close range, a strong strategy is for you to have wrist control of your opponent's weapon side arm. Put your arm inside your opponent's arm, then wrap it around your opponent's torso with the elbow flared high underneath the opponent's elbow to prevent him or her from reaching your weapon. Keeping your forehead pressed tightly underneath or against the side of your opponent's jaw in this position allows you even greater control of her movement and reduces the chance of random biting. There are a number of takedowns that can be pulled off from this position. It will allow you to control the opponent relatively safely until you advance your position or help arrives.
Weapons, multiple opponents, and the lethal nature of street confrontations separate them greatly from sport fights.
But just like Musashi's samurai who learned music to understand swordsmanship, rigorous training in the techniques of combat sports can greatly enhance your ability to survive and prevail in the real-life conflicts that you face as part of our work.
Joe Fiorentino is a deputy with the Cook County (Ill.) Sheriff's Office and a certified defensive tactics instructor who lives in Chicago. He's also a Shidokan Black Belt who's been inducted into the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame.