As a 27-year veteran of law enforcement and as a police trainer with the Police Combative Training Academy in Austin, Texas, I've seen a lot of training fads come and go. I know from experience that simple is better. If you can't execute a technique automatically under stress, it won't do you any good. In fact, it could get you killed. That's why the techniques I teach are simple and effective, and they work for persons of all body types.
As for naming these techniques, just call them counters. You don't need fancy names that sound like military assaults or martial arts attacks. That way if you have to testify in court and explain how you reacted to a threat, you're not going to come across as having a combative type of nomenclature. So I'll just call the first move a counter to a gun grab.
Counter to Gun Grab #1
In this first scenario the officer is interviewing an individual, so he's in an interview stance. His hands are up, elbows tight. Then the individual makes a snatch for the officer's gun.
A key point here is that the officer doesn't panic. He just takes his weapon hand and hangs onto the aggressor's hand. Then he uses his reaction hand (opposite hand of his weapon side) and delivers a strike to the subject's trachea. This blow to the windpipe will most likely end the attack.
You could just as easily hit the jugular notch-the hollow on the neck between the collarbones-if you wanted to. It depends on the aggressiveness of the individual. If the guy is super aggressive, go straight for the trachea. If he's not super aggressive and is just making a half-hearted attempt for the gun, then you might be able to fend him off with a jugular notch strike. They're both very simple and effective.
Because most duty holsters now provide great security, chances of gun grab success are almost nil, but you need to have an effective counter to such an attack just in case.
I don't suggest countering by putting two hands on your gun because that leaves you vulnerable. That leaves the aggressor with one hand free while both of your hands are tied up. Especially if the aggressor is fired up on drugs or alcohol, there's a probability the two-handed defense may not work. You don't want to use any method that doesn't work.
The technique in these photos does work. If you strike anybody's neck, I don't care what they're on, they're going to react; there's no way around it. That's the reason we chose this technique as a counter, versus strikes to the radial nerves or the median nerves of the arms. A lot of people teach that, but it's not 100-percent effective. If your technique's not 100 percent, you don't want to utilize it, because you don't want to take a chance. You want to have a counter that's clean, that's quick, that's fluid, and that works for you.
And again, these techniques work for persons of all body types. [PAGEBREAK]
Counter to Gun Grab #2
This sequence is another counter to a gun grab attempt. But this time a different tactic is used to bring the attacker under control. In photo 1, the subject initially does a gun grab. Then he attempts a haymaker, which is that right hand he's throwing at the officer. The officer counters that first with a rotation of his hips. Then, as shown in photo 2, he uses his reaction hand and his reaction side and throws an elbow to the aggressor's jaw.
From there, in photo 3, the officer puts a reverse wrist lock on the individual, and puts him down into a cuffing position. When the officer turns the subject's wrist over, he has the whole arm locked out.
In photo 5, at this point the officer could break the wrist, he could break the elbow, and he could even dislocate the shoulder just by applying different types of pressure on that individual.
But instead of doing that, the officer just drives the individual to the ground and places him in the cuffing position. The key is that any time during this sequence, if the guy ups his aggression against the officer, then the officer can do what he thinks is justifiable.
If you've driven the guy down to the ground, as demonstrated in the last photo, and he knows something about ground fighting and tries something, you would be well within your scope to break the wrist.
Because once he puts you on the ground, he's going to have access to your weapons. And that is another key: Protect your weapons and yourself.
These sequences are designed to all end up in handcuffing position. A lot of times administrators worry that if you teach a raw technique, an officer will use it to snap a guy's arm or wrist and that's all they're going to do. But I drum it into officers' heads when I train them that everything goes to a handcuffing position, and every move you make has to later be articulated in your report.
We're showing defensive tactics moves, but you also must be able to articulate what you did from the very beginning of an encounter.
By that I mean, if this guy was in an aggressive posture or a fighting stance and then he refused to listen to verbal commands, write that in your report. Explain how the aggressor acts. You can't become too action oriented and only describe the punches or kicks after a physical battle starts because it doesn't tell the whole story of what happened. Find that happy medium.[PAGEBREAK]
Counter to Edged Weapon
I really want to emphasize a few points about countering knife attacks. Someone doesn't have to be a trained knife fighter to use a knife against you. This is one of the most prevalent weapons of opportunity. If you go into a domestic disturbance there are plenty of kitchen knives and other sharp objects throughout a house, such as in a garage workshop. In countries where officers don't routinely carry guns, such as England, many attacks against officers are with edged weapons of some type.
You might think the only guy you have to be concerned about is the one that really knows what to do with a blade. That's not true. Anybody who puts that knife in their hand can harm you. You need to be aware of this fact.
The first photo in this sequence demonstrates what I call a psycho tackle, with the knife held overhand above the head. Trained knife fighters would probably never use this move, but we're not talking about them.
Photo 2 looks like a standard block, but it's actually a strike. The officer is using the bony part of his arm and striking against the soft surface of the individual's forearm. Seven out of 10 times, depending on the individual, he might drop the blade right there, because you are striking nerves.
That's the point of this counter. To do so effectively, the strike must be aggressive and it must be as strong as you can possibly make it.
After that, as the officer strikes the assailant with his reaction hand, which is his left hand here, he's going to wrap his arm underneath the subject's arm that's holding the blade.
As you can see in photos 3 and 4, the officer has a lock on the arm with the knife, and he's got a choke on the subject. Depending on the guy's aggression at this point, the officer could continue to strike the trachea, which would definitely be lethal force. Or if he feels the subject is complying with him or he has him under control, he can let go of that hold or he can strike the subject's jugular.
Then the officer drops the subject to the ground. From there, he goes into handcuffing position.
A lot of this depends on the aggressor. People have this misconception that you can totally control somebody with no problem. But you have to remember that these attacks are usually instantaneous, tend to be very aggressive, and the aggressors could be under a multitude of influences.
So at this point the officer's only option is to use more of a level of aggression than is coming his way to control the subject. He can't go 50/50, because that's a tie. If a guy's got a blade that close to me, 99.9 percent of the time he's going to get his trachea hurt or damaged.
If the subject drops his knife on the initial move, then it's easy. Just wrap up the arm, put your hand into the jugular notch, and put him on the ground and handcuff him. But this is only if the weapon is no longer in the picture.
If the assailant doesn't drop the weapon, react forcefully. Boom, strike, wrap that arm. You're locking that arm when you have it wrapped. That's how the officer is keeping the subject under control in photo 5. His left hand should be under the assailant's arm, and then his hand should match up on his forearm. That gives you a positive lock so the limb is immobilized. Now, whether you want to break it or not is up to you.
Can he still touch you? He might still be able to cut you based on the length of the blade. If you are cut, chances are you're not going to feel it at first because the adrenaline will mask so much. But if he does cut you, you obviously can escalate from there as needed.[PAGEBREAK]
This move is really simple. There are no weapons involved. But in photo 1 on the next page, the guy throws up his hands in a fighting stance.
The key is the officer should be aware of this threatening signal. He could have his hands palms open, where he's posing no threat to the individual. But once the individual gets into his fighting stance with his right hand forward, the officer creates a mirror image, with his reaction hand forward.
The reason I say reaction hand is because I don't believe in "weak" or "strong." It's either your weapon side or your reaction side. Once you start putting the word "weak" into someone's head, that's what they're going to think. You shouldn't have "a weak side."
In photo 2, the officer is "cupping" the individual's hand, using it as a hook. If the guy throws a punch, all you've got to do is a basic cup to get his arm out of the line of attack. Don't leave your fingers extended because you could damage one of the joints.
Then the officer controls the assailant's wrist. He uses the bony part of his forearm to attack nerve points. If you use the fleshy part, that's not going to do anything.
Use one of the bones on either side of your arm as your lever, which is what the officer is doing in photo 4. In photos 3 and 4, because he's using the bony part of his arm, the officer can find and target pressure points.
Again, the officer has the assailant's arm extended. One of my cardinal rules: An extended limb is a broken limb. Any point in there, if the individual turns out to be more than you reckoned (such as a well-versed martial artist), if he has a counter to what you're doing, then you need to react. Do what you need to do. [PAGEBREAK]
Ground Fighting Maneuver
There's a wide sentiment out there that because of the popularity of ground fighting, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and mixed martial arts that 90 percent of all fights go to the ground. Well, that might be in sport, but that's not true for us.
The only way I can even rationalize how they'd come close to that number is the easiest way to handcuff someone, obviously, is in the prone position.
For an officer to throw himself to the ground because he thinks that's going to give him the upper hand, that's just foolish and reckless. But if you find yourself unexpectedly on the ground, you can effectively gain control. Anything you can do standing up, you can do on the ground, with very few exceptions.
If you do find yourself on the ground, here's what to do. First of all, put the assailant in a guard. By that I mean take your own legs and wrap them around the individual's back.
That's done for several reasons. One, you limit his movement. As you can tell by the punch in the first photo on page 14, the assailant can't rotate his hips or elevate himself off the ground, which would be the only way to get power behind his punch. And that's why the officer has wrapped his legs around the individual's back: to immobilize him in that position.
You'll see the officer's hands are up, protecting his face and his neck-particularly his neck, which is a very vital area.
Once the guy throws the punch, the officer uses a cupping motion on him in photo 2, deflecting the attack, and controls the assailant's wrist in photo 3. The officer then tries to wiggle his butt out from under him a little bit so he can free his left leg. Once he gets his leg free he tries to wrap his ankle around the individual's neck.
Once he wraps his leg around him, the individual is immobilized. The officer has control because he has the individual's arm and he has him "locked out."
If you see the last picture there at the end, at that point the officer can break the assailant's arm if he wants to. The guy's not going anywhere because he's in a lot of pain.
You can actually rotate from the position in photo 5 to put the subject into a handcuffing position. It just takes a rotation of the body and putting the suspect face down, his arm up, and he can be handcuffed.
Even though the officer was on the ground in this scenario, he managed to deter the strike, put the assailant into a lock/arm bar, and immobilize him, and the officer suffered no injury.
Hone Your Skills
You can work with partners or within the scope of your agency's own DT program to practice these techniques and sharpen your skills. There's no tactic here that requires spending a lifetime training up in the mountains. What's important is that these techniques become ingrained in your subconscious mind.
If you get attacked and you have to search for an option to counter that aggression, you're going to get your ass kicked. You don't have time for that.
So when you train you have to train hard. You can't just go through the motions. You have to go in there and be aggressive toward your partner. And make sure your partner's doing it correctly. That way when something happens on the street, you'll react accordingly.
Louis Marquez is a 27-year veteran of law enforcement. He spent three years as a U.S. Army MP and 24 years with Austin (Texas) PD, where he had assignments in SWAT and narcotics. Marquez has trained for 36 years in martial arts, and has four black belts. He is also the cofounder of Austin, Texas-based Police Combative Training Academy, of which Hans Marrero is chief trainer. For more information visit www.policecqb.com.