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The Riot Baton: Taiho Jutsu’s Versatile Asset

by Steven J. Kaplan

Most people, whether civilians, martial artists, or law enforcement personnel, are familiar with the standard 24" or 26" police club. Some are additionally familiar with the recent introduction of the expandable batons, and the tonfa variations in woods and plastics. These are frequently seen in the news as well as movies. There is, however, an almost forgotten, less glamorous weapon that is a tremendous and versatile asset to police officers, military police, and correction officers. This weapon is the riot baton.

The primary use of the riot baton has been just what the name implies, i.e., to control unruly or potentially unruly crowds with the help of a 36" staff. There are specific techniques employed, ranging from proper methods of grasping the baton, stances, defensive techniques against unarmed and armed attacks (non-firearm), and crowd control. However, while these areas are the primary function of officers trained in its use, the riot baton is a formidable ally which may be used to defend against and control a single individual in a myriad of ways.


In recent years, the popularity of ninjutsu has brought the hanbo to the public. A 3-foot wooden staff, the hanbo may be used to block attacks, strike to weaken and stop the attacker, assist in taking the attacker down, and restraining him/her. The curriculum for the hanbo is so extensive, that one may progress to Black Belt rank in it as a separate art. Coupled with the hanbo is another 3-foot staff, the tanjo. Based on the Western walking stick introduced to Japan, there are 12 kata in this system, whose application is more defensive than combative as in hanbo-jutsu.

Reality demands that we can’t expect law enforcement professionals to master the 12 kata of the tanjo or achieve Black Belt rank with the hanbo. However, it is both possible and should be encouraged, that officers are taught selective techniques of the riot baton for use against not just crowds, but individual attacks as well, to enhance their already learned skills, and that refresher courses be offered in the use of the riot baton on a regular, ongoing basis.

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