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Defensive tactics training: Roll-over to leg-lock to control

I found this technique very effective during one-on-one physical struggles to handcuff

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Dan Marcou

Having been an active street cop for the entire 33 years of my police career, as well as an active police trainer for 43 years, in this series I share some of the defensive tactics techniques that helped me prevail on the street. The series presents a variety of defensive tactics in a format that allows you to follow the instructions and practice the technique. Remember practice makes prepared.

The roll-over to leg-lock is a technique that I used often on the street, but I have been hesitant to show folks because it is a bit difficult to learn. It also is a hold that while tying up the suspect, to a certain extent you are tied up as well. It takes quite a bit of practice to acquire the skill. However, since I found it very effective during one-on-one physical struggles to handcuff, as well as for taking handcuffs off in a jail setting when the suspect has been resistant, I would like to share it with you now.

The time I used it most often was when I took a resistant suspect down with a double-leg takedown. If the resistant suspect landed on their back, I would roll them over leg-lock, gain compliance and handcuff. When they landed on their stomachs, I would leg-lock, gain compliance and handcuff.

Here it will be demonstrated when the suspect has landed on his back, using the suspect’s right leg for control, but it can be performed from either side.

Step one: Slide down to the foot

Slide down and take control of the right foot of the suspect and extend the leg fully with a pull to prevent a kick. Position your right hand on the pinky-toe side of the foot and with your left hand, cup the heel.

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Straighten the leg to avoid a kick with the right hand on the pinky-toe side of the foot and left hand cupping the heel.

Dan Marcou

Rotate the toes toward the suspect’s left leg at the same time you rotate the heel clockwise. This will naturally cause the suspect to roll onto his stomach. This movement is mechanical and not a compliance movement, however, you can say, “On your stomach.”

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Rotate the foot clockwise as you say “on your stomach.”

Dan Marcou

Caution: No other officers should be holding him in place at the time, or the movement may cause an injury.

Step two: Placement of your ankle

Once the suspect is on his stomach, place your left ankle right in the bend of his right knee by dropping it in that crook in the leg. Your ankle bone will serve later as an irritant to nerves in the calf and/or hamstring if you choose.

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Place your ankle bone right in the reverse bend of his knee.

Dan Marcou

Step three: Lower yourself to control

Once your ankle is in place in the bend of the right leg, lower yourself down and post your left knee for balance across and on his left leg, while posting your left hand in the small of his back. You can also consciously check this area for a weapon as well as you post the hand. Your right knee should be lowered to the ground as a third post for balance. Turn his right foot outward to toes to your right and position his foot in the natural groove between your upper leg and hip.

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Come straight down posting your knee across his other leg, and your hand in the small of his back (search for weapons) and position his foot toes outward. Call for his hands in the small of his back.

Dan Marcou

Step four: Gain compliance

If you come straight down and have your body at a 90-degree angle to the ground, the control you have on the suspect will be mechanical with no pain as long as he has no pre-existing condition with his hips or knees. Call for him to bring his hands behind his back with the back of his hands together and you can speed cuff him when he does. By controlling him in this manner, it allows your hands to be free to handcuff.

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If he does not comply, shift your hips forward gradually as you call for his hands. When he gives them up, speed cuff.

Dan Marcou

If the suspect refuses to comply, you can shift your hips very gradually forward, repeating the command and he will be at some point compelled to comply because the irritation caused by your ankle bone of either the calf or the thigh. In my experience in using this on the street where non-compliance existed, suddenly the suspects have shot their hands back very quickly.

It is important, anytime you achieve compliance through pain with any hold designed for that purpose that after you achieve that compliance you relieve the pressure and reward the compliance. You do not have to release the mechanical hold to do this with any compliance technique that I teach. Therefore, with compliance achieved I would shift my hips back to let up on the pressure and speed-cuff.

Use of their own leg

You can use this leg lock also, by placing their own ankle in the bend of the knee.


As mentioned, I have found this technique to be very useful not only for one-on-one control to handcuff but also for removing the handcuffs in a jail setting when the suspect has been resisting. I would like to emphasize that for handcuff removal, lie them down carefully on the bunk to avoid injury and place the suspect’s own ankle in the bend of his opposite leg. This allows you to back out of the cell once the handcuffs are off.

The danger

If a third party jumps on you from behind while you have a suspect leg-locked, you and the suspect could be injured. This never happened to me, but because of this concern, I would tend not to use this technique when policing in a crowd or riot setting, unless officers were protecting the area around me. Primarily I used it with great success for those lonely one-on-one struggles where back-up wasn’t close or not coming.


I found there was a time and place for this very effective control hold once I mastered its use first in the mat-room. It allowed me to control one-on-one resistant suspects during the handcuff application process, as well as during the handcuff removal process.

Now that you have seen this technique, you need to do only three things to prepare to use it on the street: Practice, practice, practice!

Photos by Anya Marcou. Techniques demonstrated by Lt. Dan Marcou and Aidan Marcou.

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Lt. Dan Marcou is an internationally-recognized police trainer who was a highly-decorated police officer with 33 years of full-time law enforcement experience. Marcou’s awards include Police Officer of the Year, SWAT Officer of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year and Domestic Violence Officer of the Year. Additional awards Lt. Marcou received were 15 departmental citations (his department’s highest award), two Chief’s Superior Achievement Awards and the Distinguished Service Medal for his response to an active shooter.

Upon retiring, Lt. Marcou began writing. He is the co-author of “Street Survival II, Tactics for Deadly Encounters.” His novels, “The Calling, the Making of a Veteran Cop,” “SWAT, Blue Knights in Black Armor,” “Nobody’s Heroes” and “Destiny of Heroes,” as well as two non-fiction books, “Law Dogs, Great Cops in American History” and “If I Knew Then: Life Lessons From Cops on the Street.” All of Lt. Marcou’s books are all available at Amazon. Dan is a member of the Police1 Editorial Advisory Board.