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Approaches in Teaching Taiho-Jutsu

by Steven J. Kaplan

The focus of this brief article will be on the Taiho-Jutsu course, i.e., the short course for law enforcement officers, as opposed to the complete art of Taiho-Jutsu incorporating the traditional Kyu/Dan ranking system.

There are, in essence, two ways one may approach the teaching of the Taiho-Jutsu course. While both approaches have the safety of the officer as a prime objective, the difference seems to be in the degree of emphasis placed on the “safety” of the assailant. To elaborate, it's obvious that a distinction is made between an officer needing to escort an intoxicated civilian out of a bar or into a patrol car, and someone, intoxicated or not, who is threatening the safety of that officer. In the first example, a restraint may not even be necessary. In the second scenario, the officer has to decide what the appropriate defensive maneuver should be, and implement the technique. This is certainly an area that is both subjective and objective. A punch is threatening. Does the officer respond in the same manner as if the civilian threatened him/her with a bat? This question seems to be representative of the dividing line in the two different approaches. Before proceeding, it needs to be remembered that we are speaking of unarmed responses to attacks, both armed and unarmed. Responses with weapons are discussed in other articles.

It is this writer's contention that officer safety overrides all other normal concerns. If an officer is threatened with a punch or a kick, there is justification to employ hand and/or foot weapons to nullify the attack. Takedowns and restraints may be used as necessary follow-up techniques, but not as the first response. The argument may be made that if the officer is properly trained, a more forceful response may not be necessary.


To take the position that an officer achieves the level of skill where takedowns and restraints are a safe first response is an unrealistic expectation. There are far too many life obligations that the majority of officers have that would not allow them the time to train to achieve that level of competency. If a punch is coming at you, a block, strike, takedown/restraint scenario is valid. If you attempt a restraint initially and “goof”, the punch can be devastating, and could incapacitate you while the attack continues.

Taiho-Jutsu, to be most effective, has to utilize techniques which will work whether the perpetrator is tall or short, weak or strong, clothed or naked, hairy or bald, on sand or snow. For example, a defense against a front choke should work regardless of the above factors, whether an officer is on his/her back, against a wall, or across a table. Learning ten defenses against a front choke which involves attempting to maneuver and restrain the attacker is not only unrealistic, but the 5'9" officer will be hard pressed to effectively use them against the 6'4", street wise assailant. While the examples thus far involved an unarmed assailant, the argument is stronger against a perpetrator who is armed. An officer does not morally have to justify the use of hand and foot strikes against an armed attacker, whether with knife, club, pistol, or any variation of these.

In conclusion, it would seem that the safest approach for the law enforcement officer is one which provides the most effective techniques while minimizing the amount of training time required. This seems to be the first approach discussed above. Developing greater skill in techniques, restraints, and come-alongs may be learned and practiced, which will prove to be an asset enhancing an officer's response options. These techniques, however, need to be viewed as the icing on the cake, not the cake itself

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