Sweep the Leg, Johnny Law…

A piece was recently published on Policeone, addressing why law enforcement trainers should rethink  teaching leg sweeps to officers…

This seemingly reasonable and well thought-out article could in fact serve as Exhibit One in exactly what is wrong with police defensive tactics training today, and with how many defensive tactics trainers think. Or re-think as it were.

The upshot is that most officers are poorly trained. Leg Sweeps are a technical skill. Those poorly trained in leg sweeps could cause injury when using the technique. And then they could be sued. One example of a lawsuit is provided. In that suit it was not even the technique that caused injury, but the fact that the officer fell onto the subject after performing it.

So, we should stop teaching leg sweeps…

This is an institutionalized, overly liability-averse approach to defensive tactics all too common with the subject matter experts teaching defensive and arrest and control tactics to the majority of police officers. It smacks of the similar issue surrounding the use of carotid restraints – many years ago some poorly trained officers hurt or killed individuals using “choke holds,” leading them to eventually be labeled as “deadly force” and banned from the curriculum of many agencies. Never mind that when trained and applied properly it was a highly effective technique, causing no injury and that in the ensuing years several programs of instruction developed and certified officers in carotid techniques that, not surprisingly, did not end up as deadly force.

In the end, more concentrated training and certification led to more effective and less injurious technique…


This is not to say that good sense arrived and saved the day, I work for an agency that routinely uses it with no injuries caused, and we share a county – and several combined units – with an agency that bans it and calls it deadly force. Does that make any sense?

So the message is: train your cops more and they will have more options, and greater levels of skill at lower levels of force that will help prevent either improper applications or escalation to deadly force.

Instead of taking away yet another effective tactic because a few officers perform it poorly enough to injure someone, how about we just give more relevant training?

 Fear of liability should be the last thing on the officer’s mind when using force. They should trust that they have been given professional training, with sufficient time and repetitions in effective techniques that are tested and applied in context using reasonable decision making. No officer should be thinking  “if I screw this up – because I only practiced an hour last year – I could inadvertently kill or seriously injure someone.”

The author’s alternative is the good ol’ fashioned arm bar. Okay. At least there we have a technique that does not require practice, can’t inadvertently injure someone, can’t…

You see where I am going with this….

If we chase the liability dragon to that extent, the police will end up unable to use force of any kind…..at one time lawsuits related to handcuffing were the rage – shall we no longer handcuff people?  Almost every single time an officer discharges a firearm they and their agency are sued….the vast majority of which are reasonable and necessary uses of force, and agencies still pay out – should we cease using firearms because their use leads to lawsuits?

Police training is broken. This is rapidly becoming common knowledge with the increased scrutiny of recent years. The way to fix it is not pare away more and more because officers have not been trained well enough. It is to confront the reality that things are where they are, and admit that the remedy is easily implemented with a political will to spend more money and better account for training time. The alternative has been increasingly shown to be unworkable when it matters most.





Stress Training for Cops

 …saying that cops should receive MORE combative firearms and defensive tactics training under increasing stress and with decision making included.
The reality of modern police training is that the most concentrated technical skills training officers receive is in the academy. This training does tend to be weighted toward the skills of shooting (because we have a culture where most people that become officers were not raised around guns and are not proficient with them coming in to the profession; and since qualifying with the firearm is a requirement of the job, academies must spend an appreciable amount of time – inordinate in individual cases – training people to be functional enough to simply qualify with their firearms in the first place.)
Next is defensive tactics. Most officers do NOT practice a martial discipline. Let alone a martial discipline in which countervailing physical effort is present. Wrestlers, judoka, jiujitsuka, boxers, etc.are relatively rare in the ranks of police officers.
However, physical control skills are a much more routine requirement of the job, and so academies must train officers to have some functional level of skill here as well. Unfortunately, there is a strong tendency toward martial arts and skills practiced entirely cooperatively, due to the wide disparity in physical health, agility, strength, and the like found in police recruits in the main.
So, while training is heavily weighted in these two areas, it is geared toward the lowest common denominator merely passing the academy, not excelling at skills critically important at the most crucial times in a law enforcement officer’s career.
What level of confidence, do we think, does this state of training provide officers having to use these skills?  What level of competence?
Post academy, officers receive far less concentrated training in the same firearms and defensive tactics skills, and much less often. Some not at all.
That’s right,not at all…other than a single yearly qualification with their service pistol.
What will that do to that already low level of competence and confidence?
 Then we take already low levels of competence and confidence and add a focus on survival mindset – that is, recognizing threats to officer’s lives that are very real from a small percentage of suspects who will either try to hurt the officer, will not care if the officer get’s hurt when they are trying to escape, or if the officer is hurt when the subject is trying to suicide…
And add:
A renewed emphasis on de-escalation for varied reasons, some very sound, and some based in political correctness and in a lack of commitment to train officers in crucial areas: because of cost and the amount of time it takes to properly train them in an ongoing, career long program.
How capable are officers going to be at effective de-escalation if they lack basic confidence in their ability to defend themselves, or to control a subject appropriately if the person attacks or fights back? Instead they will often act pre-emptively to prevent a potentially violent, or potentially murderous, situation from becoming so. And this is entirely appropriate given the level of skill that most officers are trained to; they simply cannot afford to be behind the curve in an engagement.
The chickens are coming home to roost. This trend will – should – represent a sea change in our society’s approach to law enforcement that has yet to be realized, I think, by some of the people spearheading the charge.
I had an opportunity to peruse briefly some of Police Executive Research Forum’s Use of Force recommendations, and found the bit I saw reasonable, yet demanding of a much higher level of training and coordination for patrol officers, as well as equipment much more commonly associated with SWAT teams. Indeed an example they cite is the NYPDs ESU.
And this on the heels of the NTOA’s SWAT study showing that SWAT is eight times more likely to use less lethal force than lethal.
But why is that?
Well, what do most SWAT teams have that most patrol officers do not?
1: A physical fitness standard, usually ongoing, with one or two fitness tests a year that have to be passed to remain operational.
2. A much higher level of concentrated time practicing firearms.
3. A much higher level of concentrated time practicing with less lethal options, including impact projectiles, that allow greater distance and more reaction time than Tasers.
4. A far greater amount of scenario based, decision-oriented training dealing with a variety of tactical situations.
Been saying it all along….

Neitzsche and Plato on the Warrior Class

The Guardians “versus” Warriors dialogue has changed in modern American policing, now with an openly stated recognition that at times police officers need to be “fierce warriors.”

We still await the recognition that this means a commitment to career long development and standards in “the arts of war” and physical training, as well as in character and philosophy far greater than what the profession currently provides to rank and file officers.

That is if we want our officers to be successful guardians.

An interesting comparison of views of the warrior class, based in the views of Plato and Neitzsche. We can see that this is an age old and cyclical discussion continually revisited during certain political times. Though scholarly this is an accessible read:


A Bit of Old School..


Photo above from an photocopied article in my archives, from NY World, 4/9/05 (that’s 1905), p.10.

The article, clear evidence that the Kodokan altered oral history to serve it’s own ends in the very same way BJJ does now, also points to a very different approach to Judo than we see today. We can clearly see already some common practices in jiu itsu today – not only in technical approach but note the use of the term “professor,” for example, and comparing the art to chess….the more things change…



Japanese Have Developed Gentle Art of Bone-Breaking and Maiming for Self-Defense.


Spirit of Japan is Chief Thing Inculcated in Judo – To Be Truly Courageous and Courteous.

“Jiu-jitsu is a thing of the past in Japan,” said Prof. Tsunejiro Tomita to The World reporter yesterday, in his office at No.1947 Broadway. “The system that has taken its place is called Judo – literally, the gentle art, or soft, yielding art.”

“And with the gentle Judo you break bones, dislocate joints and knock the enemy unconscious?”

“Oh yes,” replied Prof. Tomita softly; “but that is only when attacked. There has been so much talking in America, so much wrong printed about jiu jitsu and judo that I want to explain, to tell the actual truth about these arts.”

Prof. Tomita is well fitted to do this, for he has been for years the principal of the Kodokwan, or training school for Judo at Tokio, which is a part of the Gakushu-in, or Peer’s College, which sons of noblemen attend.

“Jiu jitsu,” Prof. Tomita continued, “was developed 350 years ago among the Tamurai (sic, this is actually what is printed in the original…) – the two-sworded men. Primarily, it was a system by which an unarmed man could defend himself when attacked by an enemy with weapons.”

“But since the Japanese Empire was foundd, in 1868, we fight with guns, not swords. Prof. Kano Jigoro, one of the leading educators of Japan, began twenty years ago a careful study of the best features of  jiu jitsu, working them out by analysis and comparison and experiment into the present complete system, which he named judo. I have helped him teach it for many years.”

“The chief thing impressed by judo is the spirit of Japan.  I do not know enough English to describe the spirit of Japan.”

“Perhaps the Russians could describe it,” suggested the interviewer.

“Oh yes,” replied Prof. Tomita with a polite smile. “Oh yes, they know now. They did not know at first. Many of our victorious generals and other officers and private soldiers in the field were among our 8,000 pupils in the Kodokwan. The training in Judo helped to win our nation’s victories.”

“Judo teaches a man not to think of himself, but of his nation; to be patient and enduring and practise self control; never to show boastfulness or cowardice to the enemy, but always to meet him with politeness and calm courage.”

“To be polite to the enemy while destroying him?” asked the reporter.

“Certainly,” replied Prof. Tomita. “To fight best a man must be polite and calm. It is a part of the system of Judo to smile while we are at practice – always to be pleasant.”

“The practice of Judo is excellent mental training as well as physical. The first thing we teach is how to fall. Not only does the pupil learn how to let himself fall loosely to the ground, so as to avoid being injured by the shock, but the experience is useful to him in any shock of adversity.”

“But the chief mental training obtained through Judo is in learning to read the intention of the adversary. An expert in Judo will anticipate what the antagonist intends to do, not only in the first movement of an attack but in the move after that. He is like  a master in chess, who sees far ahead in the game and shapes his course to meet and destroy the enemy before the enemy himself quite knows what he is going to do.”

“The chief aim in Judo is to go with the enemy. For example if he rushes at you to knock you down, you seize him and fall down as intended, but while falling  you drag him down above you and send him flying over your head. You have fallen softly because Judo has taught you how, but you whirl the enemy flat on the ground, and before he knows where he is you jump up and get him by the throat with a strangle hold or pin down his arms so that he cannot move without breaking it.  Then it is an easy matter to kill him (if necessary) or to hold him a prisoner.”

“Do you adopt any special diet in training?” was asked.

“No; we merely live temperately.”said Prof. Tomita. “That means an alcoholic drink or very, very, little – just temperance in everything.”

Prof. Tomita, aided by Prof. Eisei Maeda, gave an exhibition of Judo on a broad spread of bamboo mats.At each fall the building trembled, yet the players bounded up as if they were not in the least jarred. The best defensive plan was the Sukui-nage, or “scoop.” Eisei rushed at Tomita as if to exterminate him.  The wiry little man stooped under the rushing big man’s arms, picked him up by the legs with the motion of one who uses a scoop or shovel and pitched him adroitly over his hips.

Thirty styles of falls were  shown – all good. Just how effective judo is was demonstrated at Grand Central Palace Thursday evening, when little Prof. Higashi, although twenty pounds lighter than George Bothner champion lightweight wrestler of the world, kept the American on the defensive all the time and scored several flying falls which, unfortunately, were not seen by the referee.


A Note:


It should be noted that there is some question as to whether Higashi was a Kodokan man at all, and may have done a different style of jiu jitsu.