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A Perspective on Competency

by Steven J. Kaplan

I recall an incident in the dojo when I was a fairly new Black Belt, where one of the senior students asked the following of our sensei: "Sensei, we’re you’re senior students, we've studied with you for years, but how do we know that we are really good, that we can really handle ourselves in the streets?" Although this took place in a JuJutsu class, similar questions and thoughts have been expressed over the years by officers (and non-officers) in the Taiho-Jutsu course. How does one in fact know whether s/he is competent enough to effectively use Taiho-Jutsu a real, street situation? In today's world of mixed martial arts where so many "thugs", trained formally or self-taught, seem to know just enough to be a threat to law enforcement, how does the officer know s/he is competent enough to handle an aggressive assailants?

An easy answer would be to objectively grade the officer on technique on a scale from 1 to 5, and at the completion of each technique, the officer is graded on speed, form, and technical excellence. While this may seem to be the easy answer, it is too simplistic, and does not take into account anything other than dojo/gym performance. There are other factors which come into play which allow one to feel confident. One may lack this feeling, yet have flawless technique. There is a psychological variable which comes into play, and the variable in essence, may be equate self-confidence with competency.

To explain, one may acquire self-confidence by first understanding one's personal criteria for determining competency. To begin with, goals have to be realistic. If an officer believes that s/he can complete the basic Taiho-Jutsu stand toe-to-toe and “duke it out” with a trained martial artist or experienced street fighter and emerge the victor, one's goals and expectations need reevaluation.


In previous articles in Arresting Solutions, it has been emphasized that the goal of an officer is not to go toe-to-toe with a fighter and compete to see who emerges victorious. Competition has no place in the streets. The officer's goal is to affect an arrest. If one can do this with nothing more than a restraint and comealong, great. If the officer needs to resort to a kick to break the assailant’s leg if his/her life is threatened, so be it. In both examples, there is no competition involved. It is a matter of using the principles of Taiho-Jutsu appropriately and sufficiently to "get the job done". This is one gauge to determine one’s competency.

The officer must always be aware of his/her limitations. A Taiho-Jutsu course will not provide the stamina or the advanced skills needed for one to compete with the experienced assailant, who may have been formally trained. The assailant has a different goal from the officer. There is also a different mental attitude accompanying the officer's goal. While the military servicemen and women who complete combative measures training have the goal of killing the enemy, the officer does not have this "limitless" freedom. S/he does indeed have limits, which makes the acquisition of self-confidence and competency more difficult. Nevertheless, with diligent training and proper application of the principles of Taiho-Jutsu, competency will be experienced in a natural way. It becomes the result of one's training and street application. Competency will then speak for itself on the streets, and in time, becomes internalized.

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