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Defense for the Full-Contact Officer, Part 1

Written by BJ Bourg

When unarmed suspects attack law enforcement officers, they usually do so suddenly and without warning, executing numerous strikes in rapid succession. If officers are ill-prepared due to a lack of training or if they have wasted valuable training time practicing inferior defensive techniques, they risk being injured or killed during these types of brutal attacks.

Full-contact defensive techniques, considerations and drills will better prepare officers to defend themselves against the wild combinations of strikes that are indicative of real-world attacks on law enforcement officers. These techniques are designed to flow seamlessly from one to the next, they are extremely effective and they are simple to execute. However, merely reading the material will do little to keep officers safe. To realize their number one goal of getting home safely at the end of their shift, officers must actually study the techniques and practice them as though their lives depend upon it.

Moving the Head

When suspects attack the head/face of an officer, the officer can utilize head movement to slip or duck the strikes. When performed properly, these techniques are extremely effective because they move the officer’s head out of the line of attack without “tying up” the officer’s hands, leaving him free to execute counterstrikes, takedowns or control holds.
 
Head movement techniques, which consist of “slipping” and “ducking,” are easy to learn and quick to execute, but officers must practice them religiously so they will be able to react instinctively and appropriately to a suspect’s unscripted attack.

Slipping is utilized against straight punches and “chopping” strikes to the face/head. When slipping strikes, officers can slip to the inside or outside of the strike. Slipping to the inside (to the right of a suspect’s right-handed strike and to the left of a suspect’s left-handed strike) can be effective, but it places officers in danger of being struck by the suspect’s opposite hand. Slipping to the outside of a suspect’s strike will move the officer’s head away from the suspect’s opposite hand and out of danger.

When slipping strikes, it is imperative that officers keep their hands in the proper defensive position beside their face, because this will enable them to block and counterstrike more effectively. Officers must also be certain not to move their head too far to either side, because it could compromise their balance and move them out of position to effectively launch counterstrikes.

Ducking can be utilized against straight punches or “looping” strikes to the head. When ducking, officers should not bend forward at the waist, because they will be susceptible to upward strikes and their balance could be compromised. Officers must also recognize that ducking lowers their head slightly and could leave them more vulnerable to head kicks, so it is vital that they keep their hands in the proper position throughout the ducking technique.

Whether ducking or slipping, officers should always return to the proper position immediately upon executing the defensive technique and they should be prepared for follow-up action.

Slipping Right & Left

As a suspect executes a straight or downward strike with his left hand, quickly and explosively lean the upper torso slightly to the right by bending at the waist and dipping the right knee. This lean will move the head approximately six to eight inches to the right, allowing the strike to slip harmlessly by the head.

As a suspect executes a straight or downward strike with his right hand, quickly and explosively lean the upper torso slightly to the left by bending at the waist and dipping the left knee. This lean will move the head approximately six to eight inches to the left, allowing the strike to slip harmlessly by the head.

As a suspect executes a straight or looping strike, quickly and explosively bend at the knees to lower the head beneath the attack (this motion is similar to squatting). Note: Make certain to squat only low enough to avoid the strike, because squatting too far could leave officers more susceptible to kicks.

Blocking

Blocking is an officer’s last line of defense. As such, it is important that officers only utilize blocks that are realistically effective in full-contact fights. Additionally, there are a finite number of angles from which suspects can attack, and it is important for officers to incorporate blocks that will protect them against all of these different angles of attack. Before learning the individual blocking techniques, there are a number of key points that officers should understand and consider.

Strikes to the head can knock officers unconscious and this can prove deadly during a confrontation with a suspect. Thus, it is imperative that officers concentrate their blocking efforts first and foremost on the head. They must also understand that blocking their head can sometimes leave small portions of their body unprotected for short periods of time, so they must condition their body to absorb some punishment in the event a strike slips through their blocks.

Officers should exercise economy of motion when executing blocking techniques, because blocks that utilize the least amount of moves are quicker to execute and more successful than blocks that utilize a number of steps. To help accomplish this, officer should utilize a “zone” style defense, which involves using the left hand/arm to block the left side of the head/body, the right hand/arm to block the right side of the head/body, and the legs to block low strikes.

Officers should not cross their hands when they block, because doing so will leave larger portions of their body open to counterstrikes for longer periods of time. For instance, they should not use their left hand to block an attack to the right side of their head or body. They should also not move their hands away from their head/body to “meet” a strike—as is common with martial arts blocks—because it violates economy of motion. Additionally, if they reach out with an arm to block a kick, they are pitting the smaller bones of their arm against the larger bones of the suspect’s leg and they risk breaking their arm.

As officers block with one hand, the opposite hand should remain in the proper position beside their head/body to protect against other strikes, and their chin should remain tucked. When blocking body shots with the forearms/elbows, officers must be certain to keep their hands pressed against the sides of their face, because body strikes are sometimes used to set-up strikes to the head. This hand positioning is also extremely important to the effective execution of counterstrikes.

Officers should avoid closing their eyes during an attack, because doing so would prevent them from seeing other strikes that might be launched at them, and it would also prevent them from recognizing any opportunities for counterattacks. After executing a block, officers should immediately return their blocking hand/arm to the proper defensive position, and they should be prepared to block additional strikes and execute counterstrikes, takedowns or control holds.

(Ed.Note: More on blocking in the next issue.)

BJ Bourg is the chief investigator for the Lafourche Parish District Attorney’s Office. He has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience and has served in various capacities, including patrol, investigations, training and special operations.

Published in Law and Order, Sep 2011

Rating : 9.7


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