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"The Patch" in Police Tactics

by Steven J. Kaplan

When I was a new student in the martial arts, I had a friend who was a greenbelt in U.S.A. Goju. Not only was his patch proudly displayed on his gi, but he had decals and drawings on the covers of his notebooks and textbooks. He was fiercely loyal to that patch and all it represented. At some point in time, he began sporting a "different" patch. It was the exact same patch, with one exception – instead of U.S.A. at the bottom of the Goju fist, the word "Goju" was written in Japanese. His loyalty had shifted to the new patch, which had replaced the old one on all he owned.

While this example may seem somewhat dramatic, it certainly is not isolated. During this same period of time, the patch worn by Isshinryu practitioners had undergone an ever-so-slight-modification. It was the same goddess featured, with the same kanji, with the same colors. The shape, however, was a little different. Still, there were those whose loyalty (not merely design preference) was to the first patch, with others pledging loyalty to the second. Stories of this nature can go on and on and on.

The above examples, as noted, maybe somewhat dramatic, but serves to illustrate a point. Social Psychologists teach us that there are certain types of people who are "true believers", i.e., those who find an item or an ideal or almost anything they opt to focus on, and display an almost obsessive loyalty to that object. While an exploration of the social-psychological dynamics of this behavior is interesting, what is relevant to this article is how this relates to Taiho-Jutsu just and police tactics.


The large majority of those taking Taiho-Jutsu or any form of police tactics usually do so in an academy setting. The garb is generally a sweat suit of some kind. The odds are that there is nothing on the clothing indicating any type of specific form of police tactics. A normal question could now be, why should there be? If the academy's name or the particular agency's name is on a shirt, isn't that enough? It is the position of this writer that the answer to the second question is a qualified "no". The reason is tied in with the answer to the first question.

Police tactics is serious. Without sounding melodramatic, it can mean the difference between an officer returning home safely or sustaining a serious or even fatal in jury. When an officer is in a police tactics course, s/he is there because it is a requirement. Some may truly enjoy the program, others may not. In order to develop and enhance motivation in the training, as well as a sense of camaraderie and esprit de corps with one another, a focal point is a proven technique to help this process along. That focal point, which the trainees can rally around, is the patch which can clearly state the style or sponsor of the taiho-jutsu/police tactics they're learning. An analogy could be the banners opposing armies of old Japan carried, which the soldiers rallied fiercely around.

Obviously, a patch is not going to magically produce experts from recruits, nor provide the motivation of a SWAT member. This is not the purpose of the patch. Rather, it is to display what is being learned with pride, increase motivation regardless of the level it is on, and in so doing it, develop a more serious attitude and approach to the field of police tactics. Not only could this encourage officers to continue with training on an ongoing basis, but increase their level of skill, thereby increasing the odds for their safety in an encounter.

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