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Improvisation in Teaching Police Tactics

In a previous article written for Arresting Solutions, the reasons for variations in seeing the Taiho-Jutsu curriculum taught by different instructors was discussed, with the focus on the individual's background prior to learning Taiho-Jutsu, and one's personal preferences based upon personal biases. This article speaks of improvisation made while teaching police tactics, even if every instructor were teaching the exact same curriculum.

To elaborate, the senior author recalls a story told to him by his primary sensei, when the sensei was teaching the Orlando Police Department. As was his practice, the sensei took who he perceived to be the biggest and strongest officer present, and used him to demonstrate come-alongs. The sensei, who was approximately 5'6", took the man's wrist as he was explaining the technique and its movements. It was related that this particular officer was as strong and as stiff as a robot, and was intentionally resisting the sensei's movements. While the sensei certainly had the option of resorting to a harsh response, he opted to simply step down on the man's instep with his heel, resulting in the successful completion of the technique.

This story is illustrative of what is meant by improvisation when teaching police tactics. Officers and assailants come in all shapes and sizes, some with average strength, some with extraordinary strength. To expect a 5'6" female officer to apply every technique "by the book" to a 6'3" male assailant is both foolish and unrealistic.


A wrist lock is certainly an effective technique, especially when applied with perfect precision and timing. If, however, the female officer is applying the technique to someone with vastly superior strength and stature, she must do something to "weaken" the perpetrator, and put him in the proper position for a restraint or come-along to work. Depending on which technique is favored, she, in this case, will have to improvise to affect the desired result.

In another example, the senior author was once asked by his sensei to teach JuJutsu to a private student, an adult male nearly thirty years the author's senior. After a few techniques were learned, I suggested we assume Judo-style positions and practice the techniques in motion with some randori. As the author was attempting to off-balance the student, the student simply lifted the author straight up in the air, off the ground, and held him in the air by the collar and sleeve, feet dangling. If something of this nature occurred in a street situation, certainly a kick to the testicles would have served as an improvised means of off-balancing.

The point of the above examples is that an instructor should not become so narrowly focused on the "exact" curriculum in "the book" that s/he loses the freedom to improvise when needed and necessary. Police tactics are to have the assailant's safety in mind, but more importantly, the officer's safety. More often than not, the ability to improvise will add to the success of the officer's techniques. This is something which must be imparted by the instructor to the student-officer.

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