Train to Win the Fight

Physical attacks on police officers are at an all-time high. These assaults happen unexpectedly and are extremely violent. In many situations suspects are larger and in better physical condition than the officers they encounter. The bad guy always has the advantage: he doesn’t play by the rules and he will not be asked to answer to the media. Most of these attackers are experienced street fighters and violence is inherent in their nature. So how do you prevail in a struggle against a bigger, faster, determined, more experienced adversary; one that doesn’t play by the rules and has no respect for the law? The answer is combatives training.

Combatives vs. Defensive Tactics
Defensive tactics are the skills utilized to reasonably and safely apprehend suspects; both resistive and passive (i.e.: custody and control). Combatives goes beyond custody and control and focuses on the tools needed to win the fight. Most officers are trained well in the area of defensive tactics, which is designed to help you handcuff and arrest suspects, but few are given the adequate training needed to win and prevail in a fight. This is where combatives training can prepare you.

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Think back to your last use of force. Chances are you used the reasonable amount of force necessary to subdue a subject who was resisting arrest. These skills are learned in traditional defensive tactics. As cops, we have a tendency to build these incidents up in our minds. We may even tell our buddies at booking about how this subject “fought” us while we were taking them into custody. In reality, this encounter was not a fight, it was a struggle to get the suspect into custody.

Now, imagine a street fight. This isn’t the UFC. Your ring is a dark alley and your mat is a concrete sidewalk. Your opponent is twice your size and half your age. There is no protective gear, gloves or mouthpiece; and no rules in place to keep you safe. There is no time limit, no off-limit strike zones and there is no referee to pull this Neanderthal off of you when you’ve had enough. This is a real fight: a struggle against a determined adversary hell-bent on inflicting serious bodily harm on your person.

Combatives training is real-world fight training that integrates mixed martial arts and police tactics to give officers the confidence and ability to win a street fight against a capable and determined adversary.

Are you Prepared?
After an honest self-assessment, most officers would answer “no.” When was the last time you were offered defensive tactics training, let alone combatives training? If your department is like most, maybe you received a handcuffing PowerPoint presentation or video during in-service training. I’ve known some agencies that placed defensive tactics online for officers to learn. This is unacceptable. Like shooting, fighting is a perishable skill. If it is not frequently revisited, your ability to be successful under stress will diminish greatly over time. We need effective training to prepare ourselves for the inevitable.

Mixed martial arts is the hottest thing in self-defense training. It combines striking and grappling systems, utilizing what works and throwing away what doesn’t. It does not rely on the “if A, then B” type of selfdefense, but rather, focuses on applying concepts within the greater context of a fluid fight. Any system of self-defense that focuses on a rigid set of techniques for particular attacks is prone to failure. Any system that has not, and cannot, be pressure tested at full speed with a noncompliant training partner cannot be trusted to be successful. Officers must partake in combatives training to be prepared for duty.

You may go your entire career without being involved in a shooting or without being in a real fight, but we must train with a “not if, but when” mentality. We must be prepared because our lives depend on it. If your department does not provide effective combatives training, ask for it. If your department cannot provide that training, go out and get it. Train to win the fight.


Brian Wilson is a veteran officer and trainer. He currently serves as a patrol officer, field training officer, defensive tactics instructor, and Special Operations Team member. Brian is the creator of Sheepdog Combatives ( a real world fight training program for law enforcement integrating mixed martial arts and police tactics. Through his program, instructors can be developed and agencies certified in Sheepdog Combatives. Brian has a B.A. from the University of Oklahoma and has extensive experience in martial arts. Brian teaches on various topics, including: combatives, defensive tactics, use of force reporting, and SWAT tactics.



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