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Empty-Hand Deadly Force Techniques


Officers are prepared to respond to all levels of threat, from heckling to deadly force. That's why we have a variety of force options on our belts and why we spend so much time in the academy learning the force continuum and what our legal options are in various situations.

In theory, we respond with a level of force necessary to achieve compliance or to prevail over an attacker. It's never supposed to be a fair fight; we re supposed to win. Thus, we're usually allowed to use one level of force higher than our adversary (the so-called 1-plus rule ).

For example, if we're assaulted with empty hands by an assailant of equal size and strength, we're not only allowed to use a higher level of force to subdue him, we're expected to use a higher level of force. If we're being shot at, attacked with a knife or attacked by a suspect's hands or feet in a way that threatens our life, we're allowed and expected to use our gun.

That s the theory, anyway, and that's the way it's usually taught in the academy: The bad guy does A, and we respond with B. But this academic view of the world doesn't take into account distances and timeframes in real life. In real life, deadly force attacks often occur at close distances, leaving no time to access our firearm. A close-range attack also makes it almost physically impossible to access the gun: We may be off-balance, fending off the attack, etc.

So, in real life we may have to respond to deadly force attacks (the highest level of force) with empty-hand skills (the lowest level of force).

Using our lowest level of force to combat the highest level of force may not be fair, but you knew this was a dangerous job when you applied for it. You may be unable to get to the right tool (your gun) to properly respond to an attack, and you may be at an additional disadvantage in a deadly fight with a younger, chemically amped or stronger assailant.

Deadly force, empty-hand skills aren't the control holds, arm bars or come-alongs you learned in the academy. These are techniques designed to immediately shut down your attacker and may severely injure or even kill them.

Now, I've heard some administrators say, We can't teach this stuff to cops, and I fail to see the issue you're already trusted with a deadly force tool (your gun). You already know when deadly force is justified and when it's not. By training you in deadly force, empty-hand techniques, we aren't giving you any more force options, and we aren't requiring any more training in judicious use of force. We're simply helping to save your life. You only use the when deadly force techniques shown here when justified when you're in danger of being killed, crippled, raped or maimed.

Yelena Pawela, a former lieutenant in the Moscow, Russia, police force and an empty-hand survivor of a vicious deadly force attack by several men, points out that techniques to use in these situations are eye, throat, groin and joint attacks like those shown here.

You can practice these alone against a heavy bag, slowly and with control with a partner, or ideally at near full-force and full speed with a FIST-suit clad training partner. But I strongly recommend learning them from a competent instructor.

In any case, go slowly and be safe.


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