Control Is The Goal

by Jack I. Mann

December 1995

Within the last decade, training law enforcement officers has improved by leaps and bounds. Our officers are spending more time on the firing range in combat scenario training. Rather than only standing at the twenty-five yard mark and taking slow, relaxed shots; the modern law enforcement officer is being taught realist game plans for tactical traffic stops ( in our state thanks in large part to Bob Magnuson ). We all have rules of engagement that we can understand and explain to a judge and a jury ( thank you Samuel D. Faulkner ). In the past, you needed a B.A., Ph.D. and a few other letters behind your name to have any idea as to what the accepted use of force continuums were trying to convey. Now available to our officers is video simulated training. The video simulated training assists our officers in the way of firearms and driving scenarios. The video reacts to the necessary decisions made by the officer performing the training…And these are only a few of the current developments in the field of training for our chosen profession.

But, as with any profession we need to continually attempt to improve upon our standards. One improvement, that I believe needs to be considered, is in the area of physical control over suspects. With our current empty hand programs, we deal mostly with “self-defense.” Although, this is very important and a vital area of training, it is not often, for most of our officers, that we actually need these skills. What most of our officers encounter on a daily basis is the need to control a suspect, while doing as little damage as possible (lots of damage, leads to lots of law suits). The self-defense skills most often taught, has a much greater chance of damaging the suspect.

Many of the current “defensive tactics” programs in vogue today are based upon ancient martial arts systems. With the needed adaptations, this idea has worked well thus far. Therefore, it seems reasonable to use the same idea for the control aspect of our needs. Jujutsu is one of the more noted arts of control. However, a problems arises, in that, jujutsu, in its traditional sense, does control the opponent but the potential for damage is great. Jujutsu was intended for the battlefield. A warrior practicing jujutsu wanted to completely and swiftly disable their opponent, permanently! Although, most of our subjects under arrest may deserve this, by law it is not our job to dispense this justice.

Down through history others have faced the same dilemma. Similar to Jujutsu, there is the art of Sumo. With jujutsu the focus was to damage and disable the opponent. With sumo, the focus is to arrest your opponent's balance. This seemed like a logical place to start looking for the answers to the stated dilemma.

Many of the popular martial arts systems boast of hundreds of techniques for their practitioners. The art of sumo, simply stated, has seventy techniques that the participants are allowed to use. Out of that seventy, most wrestlers master only three or four for their career. How is that for practicality? Another strong point of sumo wrestling is the focus on gross motor skills ( no, I am not referring to the bodies of the wrestlers ). In the active environment of the sumo ring, the participants need techniques that actually work under high stress conditions. There is no room for “ Hollywood ” ( especially with the size of today's sumo wrestlers ) inside that ring. With these points in mind, let's take a look at some techniques from sumo that may be of benefit to us.

First, I want to address the tachi-ia or the initial clash of the two wrestlers. Of course in the sumo contest, momentum and size play a large role (no pun intended that time). For our street officers, this initial clash can come in two forms, defensive or offensive. Defensively, sumo has its version of our redirection of force called hatakikomi. With this technique the opponent is simply directed down as they charge forward. With many of the currently popular defensive tactics programs, the redirection of force moves the assailant to the side. With hatakikomi, the opponent is grounded where the officer could immediately continue with handcuffing procedures.

Another defensive sumo maneuver is the uwatedashinage. As the opponent charges in, so to speak, the defending sumo wrestler would grab his opponent's mawashi or belt and direct the opponent's force to the ground, while sidestepping. With both of these defensive techniques, it would only take slight adaptations for them to be useful for the average street officer.

As for offensive sumo techniques, sotogake could prove of benefit. As the wrestler makes the initial charge, the wrester's leg is wrapped around the opponent's leg. The momentum combined with the loss of structural support, causes the opponent to topple to the ground. Another offensive technique from sumo that may be of benefit is the katasukashi. Upon the clash, the wrestler uses an arm bar type maneuver to force the opponent to the ground. Another of the arm bar variety is the tottari. This is using an arm bar from the face to face position to simply drive the opponent to the ground backwards.

I have quickly covered five sumo techniques. If there wasn't something you like there, sumo has sixty-five more techniques from which to choose. Understand that I am by no means any type of authority on the art of sumo. I am simply saying that we have a need, sumo may have the answer. Other arts are derivative of jujutsu , such as judo and aikido, have taken out the more deadly aspects of jujutsu. However, sumo has been in existence for well over a thousand years, consequently sumo's perspective is a little different from the more recently developed arts of judo and aikido (both of which are fantastic in their own right). My whole intention of looking for a new approach was because of a deficiency. If you are trying to take someone into custody and he, she, or it is backing away, the perspective is different than that of an offensive situation. Sumo is an aggression oriented art. If you're interested in looking into sumo, just try a more aggressive approach instead of a defensive one.


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