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Hendon Publishing

Stances for the Full Contact Officer

The manner in which law enforcement offi cers move during an attack is critical to their survival.

However, before they can begin learning the proper movement to use during a physical confrontation, they must first understand, and get comfortable with, two basic stances: the Ready Stance and the Fighting Stance.

The Ready Stance

Whether writing citations, interviewing witnesses, or confronting suspects, law enforcement offi cers should never stand flatfooted and squared-up to anyone, especially when they are wearing their firearms. Standing flatfooted and squaredup will make them susceptible to being pushed backward or taken to the ground, and it will position their firearms in easy reach of the subjects with whom they are dealing. To avoid these pitfalls, officers must maintain a balanced Ready Stance at all times when they are on duty.

To assume a proper Ready Stance, right-handed officers would begin standing with their feet parallel and shoulderwidth apart, and then perform the following steps (left-handed officers would merely reverse the hand/foot/body positions).

Take half a step directly forward with the left foot while maintaining the shoulder-width distance between both feet. This step turns the body at a slight angle, putting the left side closest to the suspect and the right side, which contains the offi cer’s firearm, farthest from the suspect. The toes of the left foot should be pointed directly forward, while the toes of the right foot should point slightly outward.

Raise both hands above the waist, at about chest-level, and keep them out in front of the body. This will enable offi cers to more readily defend against a sudden and unexpected attack. It is also a natural position for the hands to be in while taking notes, writing citations, or merely motioning while talking.

Keep the knees “soft” and loose while distributing the body’s weight evenly on both feet. Officers should not bear their weight on their heels, as this will greatly limit mobility. They should also remain relaxed with their head centered above their midsection.

The Fighting Stance

Upon recognizing that a physical confrontation is imminent, offi cers should immediately move into their Fighting Stance and prepare to defend themselves. The Fighting Stance is wider and more balanced than the Ready Stance, and it provides optimum mobility. To assume a proper Fighting Stance, right-handed offi cers should begin in the Ready Stance and perform the following steps.

Take half a step forward (6–12 inches) with the left foot and spread the legs a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Bend the knees slightly and distribute the body’s weight evenly on the balls of both feet. Raise the right heel slightly, with the left heel making light contact with the fl oor. This is an important step, because all strikes and movements begin by pushing off with the balls of the feet.

Tuck the chin by tilting the head forward (downward) in a bowed-head position, lifting only the eyes to look directly forward. To assume the correct head position, officers should imagine they are looking down at a ticket book while writing a citation, with the exception of having the eyes trained directly forward.

Form a fist with the right hand and bring it up to the right side of the face, with the right elbow pressed against the torso and the right fi st against the right side of the face. Next, form a fist with the left hand and bring it up near cheek level, with the left elbow slightly in front of the torso and the left fist positioned near the left side of the face. Roll the shoulders slightly forward, while keeping the muscles in the arms and shoulders relaxed. Officers should be aware that tense muscles hamper speed and accelerate fatigue.


In addition to the aforementioned technical steps, there are a number of key principles officers should consider when operating from the Fighting Stance. First, officers should consider the Fighting Stance their launching pad. Every technique, whether it is a footwork technique, a strike or a block, should begin from the Fighting Stance and it should also end there. Thus, after executing a technique, offi cers should immediately return to the proper Fighting Stance position.

The base of this stance, which consists of the legs and hips, should remain centered at all times. This is accomplished by keeping the groin area centered between both feet. Even when moving, the groin area must remain centered. The only exception would be when executing certain kicks.

To shift the body’s weight properly while maintaining the centered base, offi cers simply move their head slightly in the direction they want their weight to shift, while simultaneously bending or twisting at the waist. This shifting of the body’s weight is important for striking with power and for executing defensive techniques. Once the technique has been completed, return the weight to centerline by simply moving the head back to its original position over the groin area.

Always maintain proper balance while in the Fighting Stance. This is accomplished by focusing on proper foot position, keeping the knees slightly bent, and supporting the body’s weight evenly on the balls of both feet. Officers should remember to never turn their fi rearm side toward the suspect. The chin should remain tucked, the hands up, and the elbows pressed against the officer’s torso. This simple principle is crucial to an offi cer’s safety and survival during an attack.

Eight Essential Footwork Techniques

Footwork should be viewed as an officer’s first line of self-defense and should be a regular part of defensive tactics training. Proper footwork can be beneficial in a number of different ways, including to create distance between the officer and the suspect if the officer believes an assault is imminent; to move out of the suspect’s striking range if the officer is actively under attack; and to move into a position of advantage from which the officer can launch his own strikes or execute control techniques to subdue the suspect. (We will pick up here 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, Jul 2011

Rating : 9.9

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