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The Police Baton in Combative Measures

by Steven J. Kaplan and Jeffrey A. Kaplan

There are many methods seen today of employing the 24 to 26 inch police baton in law- enforcement. A past article written by the senior author for Arresting Solutions presented a general overview of this standard of police tactics. It was felt that some methods have valuable techniques in them; others are impractical and even dangerous for the officer. Regardless of the system, there are parameters which the officer must stay within, most of which center around techniques which are appropriate in force to the situation. Some of these techniques involve blocks, counters, or control. Although not employed against extreme noncompliant offenders or those with weapons as often as they were prior to the use of mace and tasers, the police baton can certainly be an effective asset in situations warranting its use.
While not a standard issue weapon for the military (with the exception of military police units), the use of a 24 to 26 inch baton is taught to select Special Forces units. Since the goals of Special Forces are certainly different than those of non-military law-enforcement, the parameters for the baton’s use are broader. As examples, target areas of the body which are generally off-limits to law-enforcement, e.g., head, throat, knees, are primary targets for military. The ultimate goal of the police officer is to secure an arrest. The goal of baton use in the military is to maim or at times kill the enemy. As such, not only are the techniques themselves different, but the system and style of employing these techniques differ as well.
One system of techniques most frequently taught to the military is based on Filipino styles. Here, both one and two sticks, each approximately 24 inches in length, are used. The techniques include many figure-eight movements from all directions, used for both blocking and countering. The movements are swift, and this is made easier due to the baton itself being made of a lighter wood than the hardwood standard police baton. It does not appear at all practical for these movements to be used with the heavier baton.


Footwork is important in this system, although from training videos viewed, a majority of the foot movements are straight backward and forward rather than the taisabaki utilized in taiho-jutsu. Moving away from a weapon attack, even with a baton counter, is not as safe or effective as getting out of the line of attack. Since military personnel do not have a choice in what style or system they are taught, it seems this system will be the trend for the coming years.

It may be noted that there is a similar system to the one described above, and that is tanbo. This is an Okinawan-based system part of Ryu-Kyu Kempo. The system employs both one and two sticks in its curriculum, and there are kata to be learned along with the techniques themselves. The movements, though similar, are noticeably distinct from its Filipino counterparts. A most effective system, the length of time for training based upon the complexity of the many techniques and kata would make this a time-consuming system for military learn.
Another style of police baton use seen less frequently today than in past years is rooted in the taiho-jutsu methods which were taught to Strategic Air Command personnel as part of the former Combative Measures program. Primarily defensive in style, this system focused on counters to armed and unarmed attacks using the baton. While the taiho-jutsu aspect included restraints, in a military application, restraints were unnecessary. The style is a simple, direct one, and employs taisabaki with every move. It is a style which, unlike the previous two mentioned, does not engage in the practice of sparring or "dueling" with the batons. It is, in the opinion of the authors, a superior system which can be used in military and non-military settings and conditions.

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