When All Else Fails
by John Perkins
Most “defensive tactics” training given to
law enforcement today has three

1.       It is focused on non-harmful
arrest/control/ restraint techniques
2.       It is fairly effective against a non-
resistant subject, not so much against
one offering even mild resistance, nor
against multiple subjects
3.       It fails to adequately prepare
officers to fight for their lives when

A street cop, in order to be maximally
effective at preventing harm to himself,
his fellow officers and the citizens he is
sworn to protect and serve, must be well
trained to FIGHT all-out, unarmed and
with all available tools. This fact is not
often understood, as it seems to fly
against the politically correct ideal of a
kinder, gentler law enforcement officer
who uses technology rather than get
down and dirty with suspects. Ironically,
the lack of moral will to teach cops
effective unarmed close quarters combat
leads to GREATER potential for badly
injured and killed suspects and citizens.

A cop who is not confident in his ability
to handle himself physically against
determined attackers is MORE likely to try
to resort to higher levels of force (i.e.
firearms) in questionable circumstances
than is one who knows he can protect
himself physically should a situation
suddenly go wrong. Cops who are
undertrained and lack confidence in their
abilities often revert to verbal abuse and
disrespect (usually driven by fear). This
leads to civilian complaints, lawsuits and
mandatory programs that teach
emotional sensitivity and cultural
awareness. This results in an even more
frustrated, rather than more confident
and capable, officer--a vicious cycle!

A cop trained only in benign arrest and
control techniques and the use of tools
(taser, pepper spray, firearm) cannot
confidently go to contact with a suspect
to effect an arrest or modify behavior
because he instinctively knows that in
close quarters, the suspect could turn
the tables on him in a flash and his only
possible response would be to somehow
create enough distance and time to
access a tool. This lack of confidence in
physical self-preservation ability leads to
premature and/or unnecessary
deployment of tools, and even worse,
desperate (as opposed to appropriate
and well trained) attempts to deploy such
tools mid-fight, which create ideal
conditions for wild shots and disarmed

The solution is to train cops in the
relatively simple skills and tactics of all-
out unarmed combat, as exemplified by
the training programs formulated during
World War II by such men as William
Fairbairn and Rex Applegate, with some
enhancements based on a street cop’s
specific needs and the greater amount of
training time available to him. A street
cop who has been trained to, when
necessary, apply the principles of
combative balance, fright reaction, weight
dropping, efficient striking to the most
effective anatomical targets in chaotic
circumstances, disengagement- and
destruction-based ground fighting and a
general “Attack The Attacker” mindset (to
quote Brad Steiner), is a cop who can
dominate a close quarters situation
instantly should a suspect suddenly
become aggressive. The confidence such
a cop exudes will often deter a suspect
from trying anything funny. And should a
suspect still decide to take it there, even
with a concealed weapon, the well trained
officer will be able to immediately escalate
to the appropriate level of force without
the potentially lethal delay of deploying
tools. This officer will also be far better
able to create the time and space
necessary to safely deploy a firearm or
other tool should it become necessary,
with far less risk of being disarmed or

We should also consider how all-out
unarmed combat training would prepare a
cop to deal with worst case scenarios,
such as planned, sudden close quarters
ambushes by multiple attackers. Contrary
to what one might conclude after
witnessing typical “weapon retention”
training, where it seems the major threat
to an officer’s weapon would be from a
rather stupid assailant reaching
awkwardly directly for his exposed
sidearm, the fact is that most officers
who are disarmed are first beaten into
submission, sometimes by multiple
attackers (and, notably, often while in
plainclothes). A cop cannot effectively
deal with a premeditated assault by a
cohesive team of criminals via arrest and
control methods, nor via any method
that requires prolonged engagement with
a single adversary. Nor can he count on
being able to draw his sidearm or any
other tool under such dire circumstances
without first fighting to create the time
and space to do so. Again we see the
need for effective, hard hitting,
continuously mobile unarmed combat
skills, both standing and on the ground.
If we compare Fairbairn’s “Mad Minute”
drill (which forced a trainee to fight his
way through an attacking crew of six or
so heavy suspended man-shaped
dummies) and its modern variants to the
much more sedate, single-suspect-
focused training seen in most police
academies today, which would we say
better prepares the trainee for the
nightmare ambush scenario?

Speaking of sidearms, we should note
here (though this could be a topic for
another article entirely) that the firearms
training given to most cops today should
be radically overhauled or at least
expanded to prepare cops for the true
dynamics of close quarters gunfights.
(Note that the FBI recently began to
move in this direction after an extensive
analysis of agent-involved shootings.)
Just as most police unarmed training
today focuses on controlled, compliant
situations rather than more threatening
scenarios, most police firearms training
focuses on proactive/intellectual rather
than reactive/intuitive shooting. Proactive
shooting training assumes the officer will
control the initiative, timing and distance
of the situation. The unfortunate fact is
that MANY of the situations that force
cops to draw their weapons, and notably
the most dangerous, are REACTIVE
situations, in which the psychological and
physical dynamics more strongly
resemble those of all-out unarmed or
contact weapon combat than they do
those of any shooting match or range
qualification. In a fight for his life against
criminal assault, a cop needs
instantaneous, intuitive spine-shot/head-
shot accuracy from contact to seven
yards against wildly moving multiple
targets while focusing on the threats,
dodging, moving, drawing, hitting,
pushing, evading and protecting his
weapon at reflex speed, on his feet and
on the ground.

So we see that training a cop for the full
spectrum of unarmed combat, up to and
including lethal force self-defense,
actually makes him and all those around
him safer—even the suspect! The cop
who is confident in his ability to
immediately dominate a close quarters
situation unarmed, at any given level of
force, is not a cop who will introduce
lethal weapons prematurely or in
uncontrolled circumstances, nor is he one
who will shrink from his duty to protect
and serve due to lack of knowledge of
how to handle any given situation.
Training cops in all-out combat methods
yields more confident, calm, polite
officers, fewer complaints of excessive
force and rudeness, and fewer taxpayer
dollars lost to perps with lawyers.

Police history in America’s toughest cities
bears this out. Let’s not handicap cops
and in turn endanger cops, suspects and
the public with misguided attempts at
kinder, gentler, politically correct police
Former forensic crime scene expert
and Yonkers NY detective John
Perkins has been called “America’s
foremost self-protection expert” by the
Trends Research Institute. In 1978 he
created Guided Chaos, a totally free-
form, adaptive self defense system for
both professionals and civilians.
Police Author
John Perkins

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