JIU JITSU APPLICATIONS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT
By Richard North
My name is Richard North. I am a proud member of a local law enforcement agency in San Diego County.
My current assignment is being a K-9 handler in an elite specialized unit within the department. I have been a peace officer for fifteen years. During my tour of duty, I have worked in some of the most challenging areas San Diego can offer. I have also been a training officer, corporal, FBI-trained hostage negotiator, and a tactical coordinator. Five years ago, I was selected to be a K-9 handler. After over five hundred hours of training, I am now a certified patrol/narcotics detection K-9 handler.
My martial arts training started nearly twenty-five years ago, like most young men and women, in my teenage years. First was boxing. This took place in San Diego starting at the age of 11 until I was 14. I then began Tae Kwon Do, where I trained for many years and then life happened… a wife, career, children, rent, bills etc… Later, I trained Hattan Suru in Imperial Beach, California, and earned a brown belt. While training in Imperial Beach, I also returned to boxing until I discovered Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in June of 1999. My chief instructor is Mr. Roy Harris, 3rd degree Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
On December 7, 2006, I tested and was promoted to the rank of Purple Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Mr. Harris. On April 1, 2006, I opened SouthBay Jiu Jitsu Club in Chula Vista. My student base numbers in the high forties.
I have decided to write this article articulating some experiences I have taken part in involving the practicality of grappling for control and arrest techniques. The number of accounts I recall involving arrest and control techniques using Jiu Jitsu, over the years, would be in the hundreds. From simply controlling a person with command presence or verbal commands, all the way up to knock down, drag out, bloody uses of force.
“The vast majority of violence towards peace officers occurs during the handcuffing process.”
Leverage, joint manipulation, and body mechanic control are critical when contacting a suspect/subject who does not want to be detained or arrested. The vast majority of violence towards peace officers occurs
during the handcuffing process. This is when the reality sinks in, “Hey, wait a minute… I am going to jail.” The first handcuff goes on and then the fight begins. This is also an area where most officers and deputies lack training and knowledge in controlling a suspect. The quicker you handcuff a suspect, the less opportunity they have to resist, fight, or run. However, you must maintain control over a suspect when it comes time to handcuff for a detention, or an arrest. Therefore, the question is “How does one maintain
control over a person with one hand, handcuff with the other hand, and not be injured?” Well that goes back to leverage, joint manipulation, and body mechanic control.
Body weight and size comes into play, but not to the extent many people believe. Weight and size matter, but there are positions you can place yourself in to have an advantage. When I decide to handcuff a suspect/subject, I order the person to place his/her hands behind their back. I reach out, take hold of both of their wrists, and place the backs of their hands together. I then order them to interlace their fingers together. Once this is completed, I then take hold of three to four fingers and give a slight squeeze. The squeeze lets the person know I have control of them. I then order the suspect/subject to slightly separate their feet apart.
This positioning does a few things:
The only muscle groups available for the suspect/subject to pull their hands free are his traps and a small percentage of triceps. The interlaced fingers act as locking device to make it that much harder to free their hands. Their backs are to me, and we all know in Jiu Jitsu what a bad position offering one’s back to someone can be. From this positioning, I can apply a blood choke, or if it turns into a deadly force confrontation and use of a firearm is out of the question (i.e. crowded area where children are present), there is the wind choke.
Using the instep of one of my feet, I can apply downward pressure to the back of their knee and force the suspect to the ground. I can sweep their feet and force a hard impact to the ground. I can simply push my suspect away and transition to any degree of force necessary to stop the threat, or overcome their resistance.
From this starting positioning, when I apply my handcuffs, it is done with one hand, my free hand not controlling the suspect’s hands. The single strands of my handcuffs make contact with the suspect’s wrists, and within a second, the handcuffing is complete. There is generally not enough time for the suspect to react to the handcuffing, let alone think about attacking me. I have had so many people, once handcuffed, comment on the speed and control. I once had a 325 pound, hardcore gang banger inform my partner in contrail
booking that if I had not handcuffed him the way I did, and with the speed I did, he intended on killing me. My partner informed the banger, “You may have wanted to try another deputy- that one would have taken you apart.” The banger smiled and answered, “I figured after he cuffed me, not tonight with this one.” This all relates back to Jiu Jitsu:
In the latter parts of your training: purple, brown, and black belt levels, some say there is not much more
knowledge that comes with these belt levels, just refinement. However, I disagree. At these levels come
experience, knowledge, and understanding about leverage, awareness, sensitivity and timing. In the
beginning, Jiu Jitsu is very structured with rules and formulas. A few years down the road, once you’ve
donned a blue belt, the rules start to change. Your instructor tells you to pass the guard a new way, which
violates the rules you have followed. When your belt is even darker, you are given a new path; now there are no rules and you are able to pass the guard whenever and however you choose. Why? Well, let me explain:
I will tie of this all into the handcuffing in a few paragraphs. When the rules change, you start to develop an understanding about leverage. “If I twist my hips this way, more weight is pressed through my elbow and my opponent can no longer apply that darn bent armbar, because he can no longer get under my elbow…” When your instructor tells you to violate the rules they have so strictly enforced over the years, it is because your awareness and sensitivity to movement has elevated to a level where you are reacting to your opponent’s movements, countering them before he/she is halfway through their first movement (high purple belt level). Therefore, a new Jiu Jitsu game has opened up to you.
“If I told you today, tomorrow you would be in a deadly force confrontation and you would fight for your very life, would that change the way you train today?”
The last few years of training, before that black belt is donned around your waist, are spent perfecting your timing. Learning when and how to move, why to move, when and what not to do, then making these movements all reflexive. This takes thousands of mat hours, thousand of drilling hours, thousands of hours
experimenting and making your Jiu Jitsu game yours, stamping your signature into the art. I have tweaked and twisted my handcuffing technique over fourteen years of service to the community in which I work. Improving and changing my handcuffing technique has taken me through the full experience of Jiu Jitsu training. When I first started handcuffing suspects, I could hardly get the cuffs on. I fumbled around indecisively, unsure of myself and sadly enough, I had a few fights I should have been ready for but was not. Therefore, my training officer gave me structured instructions on handcuffing. After a while, I became comfortable handcuffing. But then I started to see openings in my game, ways an opponent could defeat my movements and technique, so I developed my knowledge and understanding of leverage. I figured out the best handcuffing position and how to control my suspect, allowing me to have higher levels of awareness and sensitivity. Last came the timing of the handcuffing. Handcuffing vs. when to take action, how to take action, and use of the appropriate force levels when needed.
“It is hard to fight someone who will never stop fighting.”
~Unknown Soldier, Navy Seal~
Jiu Jitsu is not only a physical activity but is also psychological. I can teach a student all the techniques Jiu Jitsu has to offer, but if that person does not have the warrior’s heart, he will never be able to step into battle and come out victorious. The warrior’s path is the most honorable path in life. Warriors are the chosen people. If one is not willing to step in front of the crowd to possibly give their life for another, or even be forced to take a life, then those who aren’t shouldn’t criticize those who are willing.
Some important characteristics of a warrior’s mindsets: Please let me explain; a warrior needs to focus on having and remaining:
- Alert and tactically prepared for potential threats
- Aware of your opponents tactics and thinking
- Skeptical of appearances: wary of assumptions
- Insatiably curious
- Skilled at communicating with all types of people
- Able to learn from other’s mistakes
- Resilient after setbacks
- Able to make sound controlled decisions even under stress
- Committed no matter what!
I would like to clarify one thing: In every incident I have never participated in, whether the level of force had been verbal commands, command presence, chemical, hands on, impact weapons, less lethal or deadly force (all levels which I have taken part in at one point or another in my career), all have been forced on me by the actions the suspect dictates. I did not decide the levels of force, which were taken; I simply reacted to the actions a suspect took. I do not decide who goes to jail, who lives, who dies; I simply react to the actions/situation of those who prey on the weak.
You can go though life being preyed upon, preying on the weak, or being the protectors of the weak. The weak never fully accept their protectors, but they know their protectors are necessary for their survival. Those who prey of the weak seek them out when they are alone, then kill without remorse. But those who prey on the weak stay away when the protectors are on duty, because they know the warriors of society crave the righteous fight. The protectors will fight until their last breath. This is the way of a warriors path is the most honorable path to take in life.