How martial arts training can improve officer safety

There are many situations in which the application of skills learned in the martial arts can help to ensure that a police officer on the street makes it home at the end of the shift

“The martial arts don’t work on the streets.” I’ve heard this statement by many nationally-recognized defensive tactics trainers throughout my career. I have always found two things quite ironic each time the statement has been made. First, many trainers making such a statement had never worked the streets, and second, every empty-hand technique they taught could be found somewhere in the martial arts.

I have never been one to attack an instructor in any class — I’ve found that I always learn more by keeping my mouth closed and my mind open. I’ve remained the silent, dutiful student because in every case I found the instructors always had valuable skills to share. I also discovered the broadside fired at the martial arts was not only untrue, but it never served to enhance the instructors’ presentations.

I don’t understand why every police officer in the world is not actively training in the martial arts. There are many situations in a police officer’s career where application of skills learned in the martial arts could be utilized to ensure that they make it home at the end of the shift.

Master Pak
Years ago I attended an defensive tactics program at the Iowa State Police Academy and Master Yong Chin Pak, spent two days of the seminar teaching those in attendance how to use the martial arts to take down, control and when necessary destroy an opponent’s ability to do harm. Because I was one of the only students present who admitted to knowing how to fall I became the person Grand Master Pak demonstrated on.

Something he did made a lasting impression on me. I will always remember the effortless way this man tossed me and the crispness of each technique. I vowed to train so that I could achieve such efficiency in the use of my technique not only in the gym, but also on the street.

Master Pak said something during the presentation that I will never forget. Since the master was in a room filled with instructors he asked how many hours a year officers on their agencies trained in defensive tactics. The responses he received proved officers, who depended on their agencies to provide defensive tactics training were sadly underprepared in this area. In most places this would still be true today.

Master Pak wondered out loud since officers are so often required to use empty hand tactics in the line of duty, why martial arts studios have more secretaries, librarians, and bank tellers taking martial arts classes than police officers? He did not understand this at all. The Grand Master pondered, “How can you protect me, protect my family, protect others, if you can’t protect yourself?”

Good question?

The martial arts allow a safe environment for officers to practice for many repetitions, not only traditional martial arts techniques, but also police techniques. In every martial arts studio there are many fellow students who are willing to take falls and spar with a police officer who is preparing for survival. The training can be done in a very forgiving environment at a speed and intensity that allows for learning but prevents injury.

If You’re Lucky
You may be lucky enough to have a studio near you like I did, whose resident masters are law enforcement. Three Rivers Martial Arts in my home town of La Crosse was and still is operated by part time deputy Master Larry Klahn. The studio’s co-founder Master Ferdinand Roth was a long time member of the La Crosse Police Department. Trainers like these masters are available to officers all over the country. They breathe practicality into the martial arts that they teach to their police officer-students. That is, if these student-officers are willing to invest some time, sweat and money into their own survival.

What is also great about the martial arts is you can attend classes with your family.

Discover the Martial Arts
I would like to conclude this piece by pointing out the fact that I survived 33 years in Law Enforcement thanks to having exceptional back-up as well as exceptional trainers. I can also say that there were more than a few moments, when the contest was undecided and the back-up was not yet on scene, when I was able to personally discover that the Martial Arts work on the street!

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