Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Don't Throw the Baby Out with the Bath Water

In your pursuit of paring down your defensive tactics catalog to "just the realistic" techniques, don't be too quick to toss out concepts and techniques that have worked just fine for others in the past -- including "sport" techniques.

When Gracie Jiu-Jitsu burst onto the H2H scene in the 1990s, it seemed like everyone was flocking to it. I was busy teaching a number of courses to officers, agencies and corporate security departments. We ran regular morning classes for LEOs. However, in the past couple of years, it now seems fashionable in some circles to brand Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as too "sporty" and not realistic enough to be used outside of the octagon.

Take a look at the video here of Officer Bob Hindi subduing an armed suspect during a robbery attempt at a convenience store. If the video will not open, try this link:

Or, let me describe it to you:

Surprisingly high-quality surveillance camera footage shows a suspect thrusting a handgun across the counter at a female store clerk. At the very bottom edge of the video, a man appears to be at the next register, presumably another customer. The clerk looks to be getting some money out of the safe and placing it on the counter when the suspect snatches it and makes a beeline for the front door. When you first watch the video, it almost looks like the clerk and the criminal are doing a bit of a tug-of-war over the gun, but when you watch it again, you see the suspect's sudden move to grab something off the counter.

The man at the bottom of the screen (Officer Hindi in street clothes) now leaps into action, closing with the suspect and going for a side clinch as the man runs for the door. As the suspect runs for the door, Officer Hindi stays committed to the side clinch and goes for a take down, which pretty much ends up as a semi sacrifice throw on the slippery tile floor. However, Hindi has a plan and it is classic Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. As he and the suspect tumble to the floor the suspect (naturally) orients himself on his knees. Hindi scrambles to the side and smoothly takes the bad guy's back, starting with one leg hooked around the guy's waist and calmly working to get his second leg hooked in as well. Then Hindi flattens out the suspect onto his stomach by stretching out his own legs.

With Hindi mounted on the man's back, it appears that a handgun skitters across the floor away from the suspect. It's not clear if Hindi has cleared the gun or if it came out during the struggle. The fact that it slides out away from the suspect a good six feet would lead me to think that the officer cleared the gun out. Hindi is completely in control at this point looking relaxed and taking his time. The clerk is shown closing and locking the store doors as Hindi keeps the back mount with the suspect putting up a mild amount of resistance. Clearly, the suspect has no idea of what to do and Hindi might as well have a sandwich at this point. After another 20 seconds of Hindi controlling the bad guy's body and arms, another object slides out on the floor, this time it's possibly a cell phone since neither Hindi or the clerk seem too concerned with it. The video fades out after about a minute and a half with Hindi still in the back mount position. Presumably, the boys in blue arrive a short time later and take the the suspect into custody.

Nice job, Officer Hindi.

But, that's too much of a sport technique to be useful on the street, right? So you shouldn't use it or teach it.

Okay, another example. This time a personal experience. If you've been around me or been on the Defend University site for any amount of time, you'll know that I'm pretty forthcoming with self-disclosure. It's valuable for us to debrief with accurate information -- including the semi-embarrassing things that haven't worked out in real confrontations.

I was contracted as a pointman for a takedown team tasked with securing the head of an internal theft ring for arrest. We had two teams of two and I was to lead one team and make the contact to take the suspect down to cuff.

There are some pretty funny aspects of the initial approach which I could tell some other time, but the main gist is that the suspect was sitting on a pickup truck tailgate. I couldn't approach from the side or the rear, I had to approach him from the front. With the help of an impromptu distraction from my teammate, I had to bound across the last 5 yards and grab the guy and pull him off of the tailgate.

He reacted by figuratively slamming on the brakes, digging in his heels and pulling back. I responded by stepping in with him and using an inner thigh throw (uchi-mata) taking him forward onto his chest. I took the back mount and used the bottom of my feet to push down on his thighs to keep him from getting to his knees. He struggled briefly but chose to stop resisting relatively quickly.* (see below for a tangent on this). He was secured, a knife was taken from his person, and he was transferred to the local cops for processing.

At the debrief I asked everyone what the takedown looked like. Most of the answers were along the lines of "smooth", "good", "went fast and put him in a position to cuff". The interesting thing to me is that I hate that throw! I tell students never to use uchi-mata in the street; it turns your gun side into him, you give up your back, it's too sporty, blah, blah, blah. Yet it worked perfectly for this situation.

The lesson for me was that I had the technique buried in my catalog somewhere. Even though I had not drilled that takedown for years, it still jumped to the front of my options when I needed it. Simply, it was the best technique to use for that situation at that point in time.

Don't flush a technique just because it comes from a sport environment. It may still have validity in a hand-to-hand environment. And, it would also behoove you to get exposed to, and train with, as many solutions to different problems as you can. Then drill them until you can perform them against a resisting opponent.

I've used the example plenty of times about the judo champions who -- while they "know" about 250 different techniques -- rely on about 5 techniques for the bulk of their points. So they use just a handful of their strongest techniques the majority of the time. But they still have a deep well of knowledge to pull from when those handful of techniques don't work.

Dont' throw out the techniques that work, just because you think you'll never use them.

*Interesting side tangent from the takedown noted above. The suspect initially began struggling violently. But he didn't have much to struggle against with a well-executed inner thigh throw which literally took him off his feet. As I completed the throw, I twisted his shoulder around so he landed mostly face down. I followed him to the ground with my chest against his back. When we hit, I saw his mouth bounce off the pavement. He began to struggle and I forced his legs straight with soles of my shoes on top of his thighs. He continued to resist as the other team members worked to control his arms. Since my face was just behind his head and I saw his mouth impact the pavement I said to him, "Oh man, are you alright?" And the weirdest thing happened. He grimaced, licked his bloody lips, and I could almost see his mind shift from "fight" to "I'm hurt" modes. He mentally gave up and I immediately could feel his body relax. I put the thought into his head that he was hurt. No doubt he knew he face planted, but during the fight you can go a long time and not know you are hurt. I think my question triggered a process that he had to investigate whether or not he was hurt. The blood confirmed it so his mental answer was "yes, I'm hurt". The fight, for him, was over.

Hock Hockheim tells an similar story about trying to evacuate a man from a burning building. The man was resistant and would not leave until Hock yelled at him that his hair was on fire. The guy looked in the mirror, confirmed that his hair was on fire and ran out of the building screaming like a little girl.

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