The following article by Greg Erie was first published in the ILEETA Use of Force Journal and is reprinted here with Greg’s permission.
Police Ground Fighting: To complicated or not drilled enough?
There seems to be confusion when I teach ground control tactics to cops during in-service training. I sometimes feel as if I am speaking in tongues. What I as a trainer have to remember is the people I am training don’t train! I have been training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, A.K.A. ‘ground fighting’ for the better part of 10 years. What is basic and almost forgotten to me is new and very complex to them.
When I first began teaching, I was incorporating complex sweeps, reversals and control positions that required some prior training to achieve. As time passed, I realized the “cool” sweeps and submissions aren’t practical for cops. I sometimes attend other instructors’ classes to see what is being taught and often times, I get dumbfounded at the complexity of what they are showing. Yes, it looks cool and makes you look like a wizard to most, but can you pull it off while someone is punching you in the face repeatedly? Can you pull it off wearing your gun belt, vest and work boots while lying in gravel? Put it to the test and I bet you will be surprised that for some reason, it doesn’t work as well as it did in a controlled environment.
What I have found that works is this: total basics, over and over and over. Yes, it’s a cliché and we all know this, but it works. Period. Basic technique that requires only gross motor skills drilled over and over again is what works for the street cop who doesn’t train outside of work and is lucky to get 8 hours of in service on it each year.
Around 4 years ago, I began teaching just basic escapes, reversals and strangle (choke) defense to our in-service training. I also include a choke awareness aspect, showing different types of chokes, how they are set up and what they feel like so our people would be able to recognize or feel them should they be applied to them while on duty. I truly feel that it is “what you don’t know can kill you” when it comes to this aspect of defending yourself. Not a lot of officers knew what a ‘sleeve choke’ was or how it worked. None of them suspected I could strangle them with their own work coat.
I sometimes break down and talk about the why of the technique more than the how to. This helps them understand it more and recognize it when we drill. I have introduced no more techniques into the same class that I began teaching 4 years ago and a surprising thing occurred. Someone actually told me since they had been doing these same techniques over and over again during in service training they actually remembered them! Now when I teach the class, they can actually walk ME through what I am demonstrating. Don’t get me wrong; there are different variations of the same techniques but keeping it simple is the main objective behind it all.
If your students/colleagues cannot remember what they need to during confrontations or violent attacks while at work, what good have you really done them? A complex technique that requires 500 repetitions before you can do it without thinking about it isn’t going to do someone who won’t drill it again any good. You might as well have shown them Michael Phelps’ most advanced swimming stroke and immediately thrown them into a pool and told them to win a gold medal. Not going to happen.
What it boils down to is this: Keep it really simple when it comes to ground fighting techniques, any techniques for that matter. The ground is no place for the average officer to be engaging suspects one on one and if they do, they’d better have some basic concept of positioning and escaping. No fancy reversals, no fancy 10 step submissions, just good, old fashioned tried and true techniques that work for everyone from white belts to world champions.
Officer Erie is a 15-year veteran with the Waterloo, IA. Police Department. His current assignment is the Training Unit. He is also a member of the Tactical Unit. He has been a defensive tactics instructor since 1998 and has been involved in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu for 10 years and is currently a purple belt under Jeff Curran. firstname.lastname@example.org