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Hendon Publishing

Getting Down and Dirty with Combatives

In an officer’s entire career, the chances of firing the duty weapon hovers at around 2 percent—even for officers on a SWAT team. However, during a “routine” tour of duty, an officer’s chance of dealing with erratic people and having to put hands-on may run as high as 80 percent.

Officers typically train regularly with firearms but less so for the arena they find themselves in more often. Tasers, batons and OC spray are typically on an officer’s duty belt, but these may not always be viable options. There are times when getting down and dirty with some good ole fashioned hand-to-hand combatives is unavoidable. And when that time comes, it is important to have the skills that will end any violence as quickly and efficiently as possible.

There are numerous good hand-to-hand combative systems in practice. For two reasons, the focus here is on Wing Chun Kung Fu (WCKF). First, its overall effectiveness especially for female practitioners. Second, its ease of being learned. 

WCKF is a principle-based (meaning there are fundamental truths that serve as the foundation for the system) combat system that has nothing to do with “bigger, faster, stronger” or gender for that matter. The system is actually named after a woman, Yim Wing Chun, whose father taught her the combatives system to fight off forceful martial advances centuries ago in China.

The system consists of 25 principles; the most important are relaxation; when fighting you will get hit; attack the attack; face the form (face what you are trying to strike, this is critical both physically for the fight and strategically); sensory overload; sub-hydro shock; and “killing spirit” (also known as mindset).

The system also emphasizes confidence, timing, intercepting, capturing the centerline, shocking the opponent, setting up for consecutive strikes, and trapping. Timing has to do with being where the practitioner, or their strikes, needs to be the second they need them. Intercepting is what the practitioner does with incoming force while at the same time striking their opponent. Capturing the centerline of the opponent allows manipulation without typical “strength” even when an opponent is much bigger or stronger than the practitioner.

Shocking the opponent refers to striking the opponent with strikes that cause sub-hydro shock and allows practitioners to damage soft body tissue and internal organs quickly with very little exertion and with devastating effect. Trapping allows the practitioner to control their opponent’s hands and arms while simultaneously striking them. The great thing about WCKF is that it provides a skill that always has the practitioner in a position to strike with one hand while the other hand is controlling the opponent.

It is not uncommon for very athletic, strong and large-stature athletes to be quickly humbled by much small stature and often female practitioners. Since the system is based on principles, the WCKF strategies and physical skills can be learned and retained very quickly, especially compared to other “legacy arts” that can take several years or more to “master.”

The system has continually been “validated” in real-world law enforcement and combat situations and has resulted in positive outcomes for the officers/practitioners nearly every time.  The system has been used by practitioners in patrol, SWAT and even military. WCKF is extremely effective in situations that are extremely close-quarter, for instance, while removing agitators out of crowds, during take-downs on undercover buy bust arrests, after flash bang deployment during close quarter battle (CQB) entries with multiple people in rooms who needed to be handled immediately, and by undercover narcotics officers in extremely small spaces such as cars or hotel rooms during physical confrontations.

Rather than requiring endless amounts of time learning habitually repetitive, intricate technical movements, WCKF teaches the student to apply proven fighting principles to each situation. This type of learning allows the student to adapt quickly and powerfully to each encounter without having to memorize a catalog of techniques. Due to this training methodology, the student can become very proficient in a short amount of time.
WCKF is a combat art, and therefore has no sporting application. It is meant to prepare the student to meet real-world conditions. Instruction goes far beyond simple techniques of punching and kicking. Here, the student is immersed in the strategy, tactics and psychology required to gain complete control of any high-intensity situation. Practitioners become extremely comfortable being very, very close to their opponents which is great because law enforcement officers are usually very close to people even when it isn’t preferred tactically. 

Sometimes in large group situations, bars, or your domestic violence calls, officers have to be close to people. WCKF makes a practitioner so comfortable and skilled in extremely confined spaces that many prefer their battlefield to be the size of a phone booth because most people are extremely uncomfortable and unskilled in that kind of environment.

The system’s fighting principles can be applied to searching, escorting and/or handcuffing suspects. The WCKF principles use skeletal control versus muscle control or pain compliance. On the street, many of the subjects officers are dealing with don’t respond to pain compliance techniques. This could be because they are not sober or because they simply have “that” body type that simply does not respond. But, everyone has a skeleton, and by manipulating it while searching and handcuffing subjects, officers can have complete control regardless of their size, or the suspect’s size.  

Another benefit of the system is that by learning principles vs. simple rote techniques of “if A, then B,” it provides us with the basis to move past unarmed combatives and using non-firearm weapons extremely effectively. In other words, the system and the way it is taught allows the practitioner to quickly learn to use knives or any improvised hand-held weapon while fighting. The system has already taught the end-user about body positioning and more importantly “target points” on the human body.  
Realize the crucial need for combatives training whether it is WCKF or a different system. Research different systems, try many of them, and then choose to master one that fits your individual objectives and physical capabilities. WCKF has been found to be a perfect fit for those who aren’t Olympic-caliber professional athletes, who don’t have considerable time (or even patience) to learn repetitive movements that can take years to learn, but those who want the ability to quickly and decisively end violence when other force options just are not viable.

Karen Bartuch has been in law enforcement since 2002, working a variety of assignments including patrol, gang patrol, gang team, undercover, narcotics, policy advisor and intelligence. She is the founder and current president of the Women’s Tactical Association. She can be reached at

Published in Law and Order, Aug 2013

Rating : 9.0

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