Blue Line Article: Police Judo - Part 2

Police Judo - Part 2  
"The Art of Ownership"  
by Al Arsenault

(this article was published on Blue Line Magazine in April 2016)

Some of the techniques in police Judo have been altered to give the officer maximal advantage while enhancing the safety of the suspect being apprehended. Some techniques are great for sport use but horribly useless and even dangerous for the realities faced on the street. 

Police officers are duty-bound to follow a moral code of conduct — criminals are not. Our Canadian Criminal Code offers guidelines on reasonable use of force. It must be articulated as being both reasonable in the totality of the circumstances at hand and proportionate in its application. 

The courts take note of the relative interpersonal and environmental factors between officer and offender. Simply put, police officers have a duty to care, even for those who are trying to hurt them. Their assailants are not bound by any ethical or moral constraints in trying to harm an officer or the public. 

Predators are mainly accountable, if apprehended, to the criminal courts for their actions; it is the job of police to capture them in a humane way, without being punitive, and see that they face the requisite justice. 

A primary goal of Police Judo is to strive for immediate, continuous and effective control over an arrestee. This process is commonly referred to as ‘taking ownership’ over a person — to handcuff a resistive person, for example, you first must ‘own’ them. This is easier said than done. 

It has been said that an officer cannot handcuff someone who refuses to be shackled — but suspects who fight the handcuffing process are not set free, of course. Multiple officers can work together to achieve this difficult task. 

Owning a person is the initial but critical step in making a physical arrest. Officers who unwittingly give up a controlling hand by brandishing the handcuffs before making physical contact make the process much more difficult. They hope the cuffs will somehow find their way to the suspects’ wrists, and that the mere placement of a handcuff on one wrist will take away their fight. It seldom works this way. 

After the altercation is over, the handcuffs are usually not where they should be for easy access –— on the belt — but rather inadvertently cast aside when both hands were needed to take control over the violently struggling (if not attacking) arrestee. It is very difficult to close the gap and own someone with only a single hand. 

Unlike drawing in preparation for an anticipated shooting some officers erroneously conclude they are actually one step ahead if they pull out their handcuffs prior to taking ownership of a violent party. In reality, they have only handicapped themselves. 

It is not enough to use Police Judo just to defend yourself. Violent people must still be taken into custody using a reasonable amount of force after an assault has been initiated, thwarted or repelled. Nor do the rules of sport apply, as the crook doesn’t have to follow any rules. 

Still, the officer must adhere to a code of conduct on the criminal, civil and agency levels of accountability. Even the media holds some sway, as many officers have been unfairly vilified in the press by anyone with a mouth big enough to capture the attention of sensation-seeking media during the predictable, but often necessary, pre-trial period of ‘no comment’ silence. 

Handcuffing 

 There is no perfect martial art for policing and no one good way of taking custody over a person. How this delicate dance is done depends on the actions and skills of your arrestee and your own physical traits, skills and street experience. 

 All we can do as trainers is to strip martial arts styles, such as Judo, of their sport-driven, less-effective, non-street-worthy techniques and blend them together with solid arrest and control tactics for full effect. It is important to have a functionally effective box of tools. 

 The goal of the arrest process should be to take control over non-compliant arrestees in an ethical manner to safely handcuff them. 

 Many police tactics books show some neat-looking arrest techniques but simply gloss over the part where the suspect has to be handcuffed. This is because the transition to cuffing is awkward, inefficient or just plain difficult (and even unsafe) to attempt. Police Judo meets this challenge by dealing with the ‘most likely’ of street arrest scenarios while leading officers directly into safe handcuffing practices. The training is very practical and directly relevant to policing. 

 Few practicing Judo players will ever make the Olympic team; fewer still will be in a high-violence vocation which requires them to refine their techniques on the street, and only a handful of these martial artists will ever join a police department. Police Judo has made those refinements for police. It is ripe for further development and wide dissemination. 

 We can change the police training culture or climate by focusing on younger people who want to, or recently have, entered law enforcement. Judo as a base martial art provides a strong foundation for the more complex arrest and control skills that will be layered in and practiced recreationally as a safe training program with little to no risk of injury. 

 The throws and trips that we practice are not to acquire tournament points or to be used for punitive purposes. Rather, they are executed to put resistive or combative arrestees into the prone handcuffing position or otherwise control them by placing them into the standing compliant handcuffing position. Punching and kicking too are part of the Police Judo arsenal. Other techniques are used to initially capture disorderly parties and escort them to a safe environment for handcuffing. 

 Holding vs Controlling 

 There is an important distinction between ‘holding’ and ‘controlling’ a person. Holding is just that — grabbing without any regards to immobilizing them, as with a painful joint lock. It does not effectively reduce escapes or attacks on you or others nearby. 

 In the most basic untrained police sense, ‘making a collar’ (grabbing offenders by the scruff of the neck) is merely attempting to keep them from running away. If they choose to punch or kick you, you could affect their balance and possibly push them to the ground (or even disengage) but it is a relatively ineffective, riskier and more inefficient means to lay hands on someone. 

 The best place to grab, if you have only one hand free and want to have a good chance of avoiding an assault, is the sleeve just above the back of the elbow. You may actually grab the arm at this same place with one or both hands (especially if the suspect is shirtless). 

 You may also grab using the well-known side-by-side escort grip, using your nearhand at the elbow and other hand at the wrist. Whatever the perp does to attack you, you ‘punch’ (strongly push) their elbow in the direction against their launching attack to nullify its power. 

 Sweeping suspects off their feet, taking them down, launching your own striking attack, placing them in an arm lock or disengaging are all available options while you occupy the pugilistic ‘blind spot’ (beside and slightly behind the front plane of the body). 

 Continuous control is stressed because perps will sense a lapse of control, even if it’s momentarily, realize they’re about to lose their liberty and act in their own best interests. Once the pain train has begun, it must be maintained through a seamless series of techniques applied as to give a perp no opportunity to gain the upper hand. Easing up on joint pressure could give them room to escape or attack you, leading to more violence on both sides of the arrest process. 

 Poor techniques and tactics lead to what is essentially police-precipitated violence — the parent causes of many unnecessary and excessive use-of-force complaints. Certainly the loss of control over a suspect will lengthen a physical altercation; the longer it takes to own someone, the greater the chance of an injury occurring on both sides of the fence. 

 Arrestees will more readily listen to your commands to co-operate, not with their ears, but rather through the application of a pain-inducing joint lock or pressure point. Indeed, for those capable of feeling, the strategic and controlled application of pain is universally understood. 


Al Arsenault is a former Vancouver police officer and a co-founded Odd Squad Productions. He currently specializes in teaching police combatives through his co-founding of Police Judo in 2010, is writing a book on Police Judo and teaching the essentials of this new martial art to police across North America.
Al Arsenault will be leading a session during the Blue Line Conference in April. Visit www.blueline.ca for more details or to register.


 Coming up in next issues:

 PART THREE — Where Realism Meets the Road

• Accountability
• Street Smarts
• Realism vs Idealism
• No Ref, No Rules

PART FOUR — Training For Effect

• Going to the Ground
• Keeping it Savagely Simple
• The Adrenaline Rush