Defensive Tactics and the True Needs of Police Officers
Let me introduce myself: my name is BK Blankchtein. I am originally from Israel where I served in the Israeli Defense Forces, and among the various positions I held I was also a hand-to-hand combat instructor. I own a training company in MD, and spend most of my time as the Lead DT Instructor for the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commission (MPCTC). I have been teaching DT since 1994, but more importantly, I have been researching and developing programs that enable police officers to differentiate between “bogus” skills to those that will truly keep them alive on the street. From tactics to skills. I will also gladly answer any questions you may have, so feel free to comment and/or send me specific question.
Let me use this first post to ask you this: Do you have faith in the DT skills you have? Do you think the skills are appropriate to your mission? Are you versed enough to perform them? And more importantly, do you think the skills you were taught are realistic and will do the job in a true violent encounter?
During the past two decades I have worked with many military and law-enforcement personnel around the world, and saw different combat and defensive tactics systems. Take, for example, handgun disarming: I must have seen more than fifty different ways to accomplish the task of dealing with a handgun threat and gaining control of a suspect. Every single technique I have seen had some merit, some application, some innovation, but the question that must be asked is: will this technique work when the ultimate test arrives and it must be used in real time?
As a defensive tactics instructor I teach techniques to address various threats — from bare hands to weapon defenses (firearms and edged weapons) and even defenses against suicide bombers. Theories and preferences aside, one rule and one rule alone must apply: The technique I teach must keep the officer safe.
Let us take the handgun threat again as an example. I saw techniques that included pushing the handgun into the opponent’s chest or hip, arm bars, wrist manipulation; some techniques did not even address the immediate threat (the handgun). I always have the students go through the same drill to evaluate how applicable the specific method is to real life: I have the “assailant” put soap on his arm to make it slippery, simulating sweat, blood, or other substances that may affect grabbing his hand or arm under real life conditions. I also have the defender sprint prior to addressing the handgun threat. The sprint does not simulate the mental or psychological stress to the same extent as a gun threat would, but it does create similar physiological response by increasing heart rate, causing the hands to shake, creating tunnel vision,and other effects. If the defense can still be performed under these conditions — it does not have to look pretty, but rather keep the officer safe — then it is an acceptable technique.
The steps that one should take in addressing any kind of threat, from a hand strike to explosives, are:
- Address the most immediate threat first
- Gain control while remaining acutely aware of secondary threats
- Strike and strike hard to take control of the situation
- Depending on the specific situation, disarming the assailant may or may not be a good idea.
Let us stay with the handgun threat example. If the muzzle of a firearm is your most immediate threat, then addressing this threat should be your top priority. There are multiple ways of addressing the muzzle of a gun, but ultimately your goal would be to get yourself out of the line of fire and stay out of it. Often, especially under extreme stress, defenders will perform a proper redirection but then lose sight of the threat while attempting to counter attack or disarm, resulting in the muzzle turned back on them. Once the muzzle is redirected the defender must immediately gain control over the assailant and maneuver himself in such a manner that if the assailant had a secondary weapon (it may be a tucked-away knife, but could also be nothing more than the attacker’s fist) a defense against that secondary attack will be possible while still remaining out of the line of fire.
There is no doubt that the best defense is offense. Once control is gained, the defender should strike and aim to gain control of the fight as fast as possible. You must be swift, aggressive, and effective. I have yet to find one agency that will condemn an officer for using force when being threatened with a handgun.
Last but not least, is disarming the assailant always the best approach? There are two reason why this becomes an issue: first, taken in context, seldom will a person take multiple strikes and still retain control of what is in his hand. Chances are that the firearm has been dropped by the time disarming is attempted. Secondly, many people I have trained became so focused on the takeaway that they forgot to maintain control of the attacker, at which point they often found themselves being stabbed or struck. Remember, you are fighting the person not the weapon, losing track of that may cost dearly. You should judge whether you would be better off attempting to disarm the assailant — or creating space, drawing your own weapon and engaging from a safer position with your own trusted sidearm.
These are only a few of the various points that should be considered when developing a defensive tactics system or when seeking qualified instructors. There are many good systems and able teachers out there. Be smart, evaluate, and make educated decisions based on your specific needs.
I look forward to posting many more defensive tactics related “articles” here. And if you have a question, email me at:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written and Submitted by BK Blankchtein.