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An Adjunct to Riot Baton Techniques: Pugil Sticks Training

One of the more common visions people have when they think of hand-to-hand military combat is pugil sticks training. A seemingly stuffed, oversized stick often comes to mind, with servicemen flailing away at each other until one is "down" rounds out the image. This inaccurate picture is reinforced with popular TV. shows, where modern day "gladiators" rely on strength to overwhelm their opponents. Despite this distorted image, pugil sticks can be a valuable tool in police tactics training.

As a brief background, the pugil sticks training method was created by Dr. Armand Seidler of the University of New Mexico during World War ll. It allows a serviceman to develop his style of fighting, i.e., to develop and improve the way he fights with rifle and fixed bayonet. To prevent injuries, the pugil stick (usually a PVC pipe) is padded with large amounts of foam, and the participants wear headgear, groin protection, hockey gloves, and chest protector to insure safety.

The length of the stick itself is 40", although the added padding at each end extends it to 50". In the military, the serviceman is introduced to the pugil sticks after having already been taught basic positions and movements with the rifle and bayonet. The training and fighting is rugged, and aggression and alertness are stressed, important factors in the eventual use of rifle and bayonet in combat. The instructor hones the trainee's techniques, all the while supervising and controlling the training environment. While, as mentioned above, the individual is encouraged to develop his own style, all techniques must be within the parameters of accepted and established military techniques for the weapon. No "creative", wild choreography or gymnastic style movements are acceptable. 


The training is conducted in bouts, always under supervision. In some branches of the military, servicemen are told to growl while fighting, thereby relieving tension and fostering aggression. As is obvious, no one with medical contraindications to this training is permitted to participate. Following this training, the servicemen go on to the human thrusting target course, and the human thrusting assault course.

How does military pugil sticks training relate to police tactics? As noted in past articles for Arresting Solutions (see "The Riot Baton: Taiho-Jutsu's Versatile Asset", "The Riot Baton Revisited", "Shindo: A Taiho-Jutsu Complement"), the 36" riot baton is indeed a valuable and versatile asset to the officer trained in its use. It may be utilized for crowd control, blocking an attack, countering techniques, and restraints and come-alongs. There are certainly different goals the law-enforcement officer has than does the military serviceman preparing for combat. However, when utilizing the mentioned techniques, the polishing and honing of skills recently learned with rifle and bayonet increase the officer's confidence in protecting himself and others. While the pugil sticks are slightly longer than the standard riot baton, the techniques more closely resemble those of the standard riot baton than those of the longer Jo. Many of the movements of the pugil sticks closely resemble those of Shindo.

As the title of this article states, pugil sticks training, while not an essential aspect of riot baton training in police tactics, can be a most valuable adjunct in enhancing the skills of the officer assigned riot/crowd control duty and responsibilities.

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