Monday, April 30, 2012

Ground Skills

On Saturday I taught a ground skills seminar to the United States Police Canine Association (Region 12)
The class went very well and the feedback was fantastic.  Some interesting points were brought up so I thought I would share some of them with the good folks that read this blog.

When I was first approached about this the organizer told me that the USPCA is putting on a weekend training seminar for its members at Camp Ripley.  He said the training will consist of some long and intense tracks with their dogs on Friday.  Saturday they handlers will be tired and their dogs will need to rest.  He asked me if on Saturday I could provide some training above and beyond what they receive in their basic defensive tactics class, as an incentive for more K9 handlers to attend the training seminar.  He also said that he spoke to several of the handlers and they requested some type of Jui Jitsu training.  He implied that the interest in Jui Jitsu was to deal with mixed martial artists.

I was happy to accept the opportunity / challenge

As I prepared the lesson plan the first goal I set out to achieve was to change a mind set.

A particular pet peeve of mine is the (insert sport here) for Law Enforcement phenomenon.
(Volley Ball) for Law Enforcement seems silly
(Table Tennis) for Law Enforcement seems silly
But somehow (Jui Jitsu) for Law Enforcement is legit
Not only is it legit, its a million dollar industry.  In fact I wasn’t even the USPCA’s first choice.  First they went to a local competition Jui Jitsu gym.  He was going to charge them $7000 for four hours of training.  Luckily one of the handlers had trained with me before in Special Operations Control Tactics and suggested the USPCA contact me.

Wait a second Kasey, don’t you teach Taiho Jutsu?  Isn’t that just another way of saying Ju Jutsu for Law Enforcement?  Aren’t you being a hypocritical dick right now?

Ok, yes I teach Ju Jutsu for Law Enforcement, but to best explain why I’m not being a hypocritical dick I'll use a phrase I have stolen from Steve Anderson who taught my first Use of Force Instructor Course (and is also a highly trained martial artist).  It goes something like this;
“I don’t care what your rank is, I don’t care how many titles you have won, I don’t care how elite your gym is, If you haven’t spilled coffee down the front of your shirt trying to cuff (I’ll throw in physically control for the security / bouncer types reading this) someone bigger and stronger than you (outside of your weight class) fighting you as hard as they can, then shut the fuck up.”

Here are some things that Operators have to deal with that “combat” athletes never will deal with that make adding the words for Law Enforcement seem silly:
  • Being kicked while on the ground
  • Multiple attackers
  • Snow / Ice
  • Gravel
  • Pavement / Concrete
  • Broken glass

All of those things make leisurely staying on your back going for an arm bar until time runs out and you win on points fairly ridiculous.

Add to that the DDDD’s or (4D’s)
  • Drunk
  • Drugged
  • Deranged (EDP)
  • Determined

These are the type of people that Operators have to control.  Even if you do get the arm bar these guys won’t feel the pain for a day or two.  Do you think they are going to tap out and give up?

I’ve encountered 4D’s that have had their calf ripped off by a K9, and the next day waged a use of force complaint against the officer that was pinching their leg like a sissy.  This dude had his calf muscle ripped off!!!  He didn’t even know a dog was there, and the next day it only felt like he was being pinched by some weirdo cop!

Do you think they are going to tap out and give up?

OK so let me get off my soap box and back to my point

There is no type of training that can be provided in 4 hours once a year that can outweigh 4 hours of training every day for multiple years.  You can’t out martial art a professional martial artist.

So don’t try.  That’s the mindset I set out to change.

This is how I went about it



How many of you were raised by Air Borne Rangers and trained in Jujutsu Aikido and Krav Maga since before you could walk?

4 hours of training is not going to make you Jujutsu experts.  If you wanted to be, you would already be one.  You would have found a school and trained on a regular basis for years.


Luckily for us you don’t need to be a Jujutsu expert.  You are cops not cage fighters.  You don’t need to be a Jujutsu expert, but you do need to be proficient in certain skills on the ground that allow you to accomplish your job as a Police Officer.  One of those skills is accessing your tools during a physical confrontation.  Which, for you K9 handlers includes the door release that will allow Stanly to come to the rescue with aggressive rapid dick biting.


I’m not here to sell you on a style.  In fact most of what we will be doing today is geared on fundamental motions and principles.  The training is designed to help you find what works best for you, so you can apply it under pressure against a resisting subject under ever changing circumstances that Officers face.  I’m not going to show you complicated techniques, then insist you come to my school for the next 3 years to be able to do them.  Or invite you back to ground skills 1-a where you learn the good stuff.  My job as Instructor is to make sure that when you walk out of this class you will be able to prevail in a close quarters confrontation that goes to the ground.


A little back ground on what we will be working today -

Today’s training stems back to the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command Combative Measures Program implemented just after WWII.  That program was further developed for Law Enforcement by Alaska State Trooper Steven Jimerfield.


Jimerfield’s partner Bruce A. Heck was killed January 10th, 1997 by a four-time felon who had been out of jail for only 12 hours after serving a 10-year sentence.  Bruce ended up on the ground and was suffocated in the snow.


Since then strong emphasis has been placed on ground control, an area where most Law Enforcement Officers need serious additional training.  This program is not meant to replace what you have, but will enhance and supplement your program. These techniques will increase your competence in hand to hand confrontations both standing and on the ground.


With the courts looking at every contact police officers have with the public, this system has been found to be non-obtrusive to the public, while at the same time maintaining officer safety and giving the officer maximum control without causing injury to the suspect or to the officer. This system has been both court and street proven!

It is our hope that by teaching and sharing the One-On-One Control Tactics system other officers will not die in the manner that Bruce did in a hand-to-hand confrontation with a criminal


There are three ways encounters go to the ground

·         Law Enforcement purposefully takes subject to ground. 

·         Law Enforcement and Subject inadvertently fall over each other as they struggle

·         Subject purposefully takes Law Enforcement Officer down

It is important to make the distinction because it will dictate the level of force you use on the ground.

Law Enforcement purposefully taking a subject to ground is not “ground fighting”.  That is establishing control from the beginning and maintaining it through cuffing.  That is the goal of any good defensive tactics system.

Many ground based martial art school advertise that 90% of all fights go to the ground.
The actual study from the LAPD concluded: “Nearly two thirds of the 1988 altercations (62%) ended with the officer and subject on the ground with the officer applying a joint lock and handcuffing the subject.” Given this, it is better put that the LAPD data says when officers physically fought with suspects (versus simply encountering minor resistance or non-compliance which required a minor use of force, but did not escalate into an altercation), 95% of the time those fights took one of five patterns, and 62% of those five types of altercations ended up with the officer and subject on the ground with the officer locking and handcuffing the suspect.
After this report was published, LAPD instituted a program that included training in ground control skills, which in turn were based on modern judo and jujutsu grappling skills specially adapted for law enforcement.

Cops adapting fundamental skills to their trade, not the other way around.  62% ended on the ground not 90% and of that 62% the overwhelming majority of the time the confrontation ended on the ground was because the Officer chose to take the subject to the ground.

Why do cops take subjects to the ground?

·         The Earth provides a stable base to control a body and is always there

·         For control

·         For cuffing

Law Enforcement and Subject inadvertently fall over each other as they struggle creates a ground fighting situation.     The level of force needs to be increased quickly so the subject doesn’t have time to take advantage of a bad situation

Why do criminals take cops to the ground

·         They are trained fighters stuck in a social dominance mind set – trying to win

·         To kill them!

A subject purposefully taking a Law Enforcement Officer down is dangerous!  This can range from the roided up, MMA tough guy who doesn't realize the danger he poses, to a determined criminal that took you to the ground to kill you


How do you escape arrest by taking a cop down?

·         Disable or kill them, then run.  There is no other explanation why a subject would purposefully takes Law Enforcement Officer down


No matter how you got there, when things go to the ground you need to raise your level of force.

Officers have to make a mental shift away from competition mindset / social dominance games to…

This ends right NOW!


Flip the switch from arrest and control to survival


Even if you ended up on the ground by accident, the longer the confrontation goes on the more time the subject has to:

·         Get bad ideas

·         Do bad things

·         Go for your gun


You need to raise your level of force and end the confrontation quickly because going to the ground has increased the level of danger.  Even if  the subject has not increased his intent to injure you.


If you “wrestle”, if you get caught up in social dominance games you may actually be accidently encouraging the subject to wrestle back. 


Rams butt heads with other rams.  Social dominance games designed not to injure.

Humans have social dominance games designed not to injure hard wired into us too. 

Everyone in this room has been involved in or witnessed some variation of this:

“What you lookin’ at?” barks a young man, about your size, about your age.


You don’t think you were looking at anything in particular. You also know the smart thing to do is to give a little apology and go back to your beer.  But you’re a young man yourself. Before you even realize it, you are looking dead in his eyes and saying, “Who wants to know?”


“You trying to be smart?”


“What if I am?”


You aren’t sure who stood up first, but both of you are standing now. His skin is getting red. He’s flexing his shoulders, looking bigger. You can’t see yourself and you don’t even think about it, but you are doing the same thing.


More words are exchanged, some pretty colorful profanities. Both of you step closer and closer. The veins in his neck and forehead are bulging and his jaw muscles are clenching whenever he isn’t insulting you.


You throw a quick glance at the other patrons. Everyone is watching, but no one is doing a thing.

He gets closer—too close—and you push him away, hard.


He responds with a looping overhand punch. In a moment you are both a tangle, rolling on the floor and throwing wild punches until somebody pulls you apart.


No matter how bad ass the style, all sport applications of martial art are based on these social rules. (Designed to win status not to injure / maim / kill)


There’s a saying in the martial arts: “When two tigers fight, one is killed and the other is maimed.”

Actually in nature when two tigers fight, there’s a dominance display and, if one doesn’t back down, there is something like a scuffle. Neither is injured. One leaves, the other keeps the territory.


When a tiger kills prey, that’s a whole different story. That right there is the difference between a dominance contest within a species (social violence) and killing for resources (usually food) outside your species (asocial violence).


When we end up on the ground we need to stop wrestling and start hunting.  Not a fair fight, not a competition, but getting the job done.


Officers need to switch into a predator mindset (focused on accomplishing a task) fast.  Before the subject has time to get scared and start doing things that will force you to use even higher levels of force


When we go to the ground we need to get the job done.  Rise to a high level of force and ease up as control is gained. 


Getting the job done is going to have different definitions depending on the circumstances. 

The definition of what “ends” means is dependent on the level of resistance.

It could mean:

·         Getting up safely and calling fro back up or your dog to chase him down

·         Transitioning to a taser

·         Burying your muzzle in his arm pit and pulling the trigger until the threat stops


A win = you and your partners go home safe, the bad guys go to jail and no one gets sued…successfully

Physical Skills

I’m not going to go over the techniques we practiced.  That would be of little benefit in this format.  If you’re interested contact me and we can set up some hands on training.

But I will give you the premises I operated under.  That way you can use these premises to adapt your own training for practical application.

You can’t out martial art them, but you can out operate them.

What do Operators have that a MMA guy doesn’t
Fire arms
Edged Weapons

So ground skills have to incorporate using these advantages

Ground skills must use simple motions that Officers already know or that are instinctive to all human beings.
These motions must utilize gross motor skills that are available to Officers when the are adrenalized or under extreme weather conditions

Grounds skills must be principle based so that Officers can improvise under the ever changing conditions of actual confrontation.

Ground skills must end the confrontation is three motions or less.

So, as I mentioned earlier the class went very well and the feedback was fantastic.  All the Officers worked very hard and I think a lot of progress was made.

I was very happy with the class and look foreward to training with this group again.

Train hard, Train smart, Be safe


  1. An Airborne (with an E) Ranger, kindly informed how to spell Airborne.

    Problem solved, problem staying solved

  2. "[you]have to make a mental shift away from competition mindset / social dominance games to…this ends now!"

    Sums it up right there.

  3. Nice work. I can't tell you how challenging and frustrating it's been over the last several years trying to shift the mindset of law enforcement away from thinking ground grappling is the be all and end all of training. I've always said if you've ended up on the ground fighting, several things have already gone wrong. The influx of MMA has many LE and Security training almost exclusively in BJJ. While I have a great deal of respect for this art, it's not realistic for the real violence and situations facing police and security.

    The goal is to get up and get back in control. Don't try to lock up an opponent in and arm bar or choke while your use of force options are unprotected. I'm happy to hear your material was well received. I've also always said, don't grapple a grappler, don't knife fight a knife fighter etc. Simple, effective techniques combined with a 'never-say-die' attitude are the true skills a modern warrior needs to learn to prevail. And so important is to escalate faster than your opponent, until you are back in control. Top notch post.