logo   t

A Minimum Age for Police Tactics
and Combative Measures?

Back in the mid-1960s, I recall an article in a martial arts magazine, accompanied by a photo, of a ten year old Korean who was awarded a Black Belt. As a result of that article, there was much discussion and debate, in letters to the magazine and on dojo floors, as to whether or not someone that young should be awarded a Black Belt. The arguments fell into three general categories: 1) If the technical excellence was there, along with a proper understanding of all involved, the belt should be awarded; 2) Despite any technical excellence, there is size and strength lacking to be truly effective in a self-defense situation, and a fourteen year old non-martial artist could probably overwhelm a ten year old kid with a Black Belt in the street. Therefore, no Black Belt should be awarded; 3) Rank should be awarded if deserved, but as a separate "childrens' rank", much the same way women in Judo wore a Black Belt with a white stripe around it years ago. The bottom line question became, should there be a minimum age reached before awarding a Black Belt?

If we fast forward forty years, we see there are programs for youth featured on countless dojo windows and signs. Inside the dojos, there are children of all rank displaying their techniques, some flashy, others traditional. All forms of arts have children in the programs, e.g., Kickboxing, Karate, Mixed Martial Arts. One may argue the merits and wisdom of children taking select martial arts, but almost all would agree that under the tutelage of a competent instructor, martial arts training can be of tremendous benefit to a child. There is, however, a trend we see for children to be taught "reality fighting", which, if the techniques are observed, is really a form of Police Tactics and/or Combative Measures. Here is where we encounter problems when discussing the appropriateness of certain techniques being taught to children, even under a competent instructor.



Police Tactics and Combative Measures are systems geared for law-enforcement and military. They can inflict great damage and even death if the situation warrants. Officers are taught, for example, as part of their training, to disarm an attacker with a knife. S/he does not having the option of running away. An officer (hopefully) has the training to stop and restrain an assailant, inflicting enough pain to insure compliance. Military personnel can collapse the windpipe of an attacker, break a knee or snap a neck. These are appropriate responses when the situation warrants it, particularly in a military setting and application. Police Tactics and Combative Measures are not sports, and go beyond arts. They are most efficient means to accomplish the goal necessary, depending on their designated task and assignment. While character building may be one result of their training, it is not a primary objective.

One may make the argument, therefore, that since individuals can join law-enforcement and the military when they are eighteen, then eighteen could be a minimum age to teach Police Tactics and/or Combative Measures. In the opinion of this writer, that is an inaccurate gauge. In civilian life, there are enough varieties of martial arts available to youth that there is simply no reason to teach children the dangerous techniques of Police Tactics and Combative Measures. Regardless of instructor oversight and cautions, we're still dealing with children, with all the emotional and psychological issues kids go through while growing. Even at eighteen, it is felt that unless a given student and his/her special circumstances may warrant it, and there is a competent, qualified instructor overseeing and providing guidance, Police Tactics and Combative Measure should not, as a general statement, be taught to civilians. These are serious systems, to be respected for the potential injury and even death they can cause. They are weapons which have no place in childrens' hands.

Return to Table of Contents