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Defense Against Hair Pulls

During confrontations with violent assailants, officers may find themselves defending against different types of assault actions. Combative suspects may try to wrestle the officer to the ground while others may attack with kicks. During an attack, an officer may have to fend off chokes or headlocks.

Sometimes due to the speed of the encounter, officers may not be able to get to a weapon or control device in time, and they will have to rely on their hands and minds to sustain the initial offensive strikes directed against them. Defensive tactics programs should have a broad approach to learning and should try to teach officers basic defenses against different types of strikes or techniques that may be used against them.

One of those training blocks should include defenses against hair pulls. If an assailant gets a good grip of some of your hair, he can use it to control your head and body. It could result in the suspect violently shaking the officer’s head or smashing his face or head into the ground. Also, the suspect could knee the officer in the face.

Although many male officers keep their hair very short, which doesn’t provide much to grab, others have plenty to pull from both the front and back. Of course, many female police officers tend to maintain fuller heads of hair. In fact, women police officers’ hair may be a primary target.

During a struggle, the suspect may use the hair as a point of attack or just grab or pull at it when presented. It is important to prevent the suspect from using your hair to gain control during the attack. Trainers should provide instruction on defending against one- and two-handed hair pulls from standing and ground fighting assaults.

A variety of techniques exist. Effort should be made to keep these techniques simple. The focus should be on quickly controlling the hands of the suspect and separating them from the officer’s hair and head. “Getting them out of your hair,” so to speak, allows you to counter attack or get to a weapon.

Two-Handed Rear Attack

If a suspect attacks you from behind by using both hands to grab your hair, you should grab both of the suspect’s hands. This should be followed immediately with a scoop kick to the suspect with the hope that the pain will cause the suspect to loosen his grip.

From here you will drop your body slightly while turning the suspect’s wrists up (suspect’s palms facing up) and bringing the suspect’s arm upward. Then you will reverse direction and lift up while simultaneously bringing the suspect’s arms back down. The suspect’s elbows will be brought into your shoulders, which work as a fulcrum. The suspect’s arms should be injured from this action. You can then follow up with an elbow to the suspect’s stomach.

One-Handed Front Attack

A suspect may make a sudden one-handed grab of the hair at the front part of your head. Depending on the circumstances (i.e., the size, age or sex of the attacker), you may decide not to opt for the deadly force response of a handgun. A simple technique to consider is to take both your hands and tightly place them over the hand of the suspect, actually pinning his hand to your head. This allows immediate control and a two-to-one advantage of hands regarding grip.

You will then drop back onto one knee while controlling the suspect’s hand. By dropping your body weight against the wrist of the suspect, you may be able to loosen his grip and possibly crack his wrist as it bends at an extreme right angle. From here, you can remove the suspect’s hand from your head with a wrist peel technique which may allow for continued control of the suspect through pain compliance.

If the suspect doesn’t let go, you can use a hand to strike him in the face, as his body should have been brought forward to follow the wrist and its accompanying pain. This type of action puts the suspect’s arm and wrist in a compromised position and hopefully allows you to quickly take advantage.

Ground Fighting

Because many fights go to the ground, you may find your hair getting pulled while grappling with a suspect. You should try to use one hand to grab the suspect’s wrist or the forearm of the hand that is gripping your hair to limit the suspect’s control of your head. An effective grip by the suspect could allow him to shake your head and disorient you, or could push your head into the ground.

By at least controlling that hand to some extent, you may limit its harm to your head. While getting some leverage, or once it is gained, on that attacking hand gripping your hair, you can start delivering strikes or restraint holds against the suspect. These techniques may loosen the suspect’s grip and allow you to gain the advantage. Getting your head free from the suspect’s control is vital.

Add to DT Training

The physical components of an assault against an officer can take a variety of forms, and the dynamics of these attacks can change quickly. Situations escalate and de-escalate without warning, causing officers to make adjustments in their defensive and offensive actions.
Defensive tactics training by departments should try to expose officers to different types of attacks they may encounter, including defenses against hair pulls. Under stress, tactics against hair pulls will come in handy and help protect officers from harm during a tour of duty.

Tom Wetzel is a northeast Ohio suburban police lieutenant, SWAT officer, trainer and certified law enforcement executive. He holds a black belt in Goshin Jujitsu. He can be reached at

Published in Law and Order, May 2011

Rating : 8.1

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