martial arts and defensive tactics


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This was a discussion I opened over at the Convocation of Combat Arts regarding the difference between Martial Arts and LE Devensive Tactics:

I was going to post something original to open up this group, but I find that I cannot do better than what Bernard Lau defines as Defensive tactics:

Police defensive tactics are NOT the same as self-defense. The role of defensive tactics in law enforcement and corrections is to assist the officer in performance of arrest and restraint, and to increase the margin of safety for both the officer and the suspect. Defensive tactics charge the officer with protecting others as well as themselves. The definition of “defend” as used here is neither punitive nor passive, but instead “to repel danger or harm while serving and protecting.” Meanwhile, self-defense encompasses any and all means of protecting oneself. Self-defense techniques are not meant to apprehend an assailant. Indeed, there is no regard for the safety of the attacker whatsoever. So obviously self-defense and defensive tactics are not synonymous.

Defensive tactics are not martial arts, either. While martial arts provide a technical basis for defensive tactics, they are generally not suitable for use on the street. That said, martial arts training offers many benefits to officers, including fitness, strength and agility, balance and flexibility, stress reduction, recreation, etc. Indeed, the benefits for self-perfection inherent in long-term practice are enormous. Therefore, without denying that martial arts training can benefit officers, it is not necessary.

On the other hand, training in defensive tactics is more than simply issuing officers a nightstick and saying, “Don’t hit anybody in the head.” It only takes a few seconds to be issued a tool, but learning to use it is a never-ending process.

Furthermore, you don’t always have the right tool in your hand. It may be on your belt or in your car, and while it just takes a few seconds to get it, that may be more than you have. Therefore another purpose of defensive tactics training is to give you a few seconds. You can use those seconds to get a tool or to plan a better response or simply to breathe and therefore regain mind control.

Finally, once you learn the techniques, you can’t forget to bring them with you, either. Sure, you can lose the skills if you panic, or if you refuse to practice them, but there is no way anyone can take them away from you short of rendering you unconscious.

The only way I depart from Mr. Lau is in a slight redefinition of the role of Martial Arts in defensive tactics. I have found that in many departments that there is little motivation to maintain any sort of regular DT training. As a matter of fact, the issues of on-duty injury, mandating DT training, unions and workmans-comp tend to make departments lean away from forming a regular DT program. That being said, officers concerned with maintaining their skills may be better advised to find training on the civillian side. However, the officer needs to be careful in what he is being taught. Not all arts teach techniques that can be directly translated to the various levels of force one finds necessary in performing the LE mission.

Join the conversation there.


One thought on “martial arts and defensive tactics”

  1. I will argue in regards to the Marital Arts being practical for street purposes, that although a majority of Martial Art systems are grounded in sport, there are a number of systems which work on the street. Furthermore, I would argue that Defensive Tactics is under the ‘Umbrella’ of Martial Arts and therefore goes hand in hand.

    I would disagree with Mr. Lau and Mr. ? on two things. First, Martial Arts can be used via LE Defensive Tactics as a means of protecting and controlling not only the suspect, but also protecting others involved. Since DT uses component techniques from various Martial Art systems. Second, I would argue that any technique from Martial Arts can be found in one of the several levels of the Use of Force. While I agree that some Arts do not directly teach techniques to within the UOF guidelines, pretty much any technique taught can be interpreted into the UOF levels. Lastly, I disagree with trying to entirely differ Marital Arts and DT and SD. While all three concepts are different, techniques are pretty much the same. Martial Arts being an ‘umbrella’ compasses both DT and SD. So I would disagree with trying to fully and entirely differ the three. Although concepts are different, techniques are the same. And the concepts were borrowed from different Marital Arts

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