Wim’s post on Christensen’s new book got me to thinking about my days of working in the joint. The book deals with tactics for the pain resistant attacker. Now some of you might think you are very sound in your particular system and can deal with anybody. You may indeed be a martial arts master but I’m here to tell you that unless you’ve scrapped with some knuckleheads in a non-sport setting, you may be missing the big picture.
The correctional officer strategy for dealing with any inmate — pain resistant or otherwise! — is this: Superior numbers. When it came to the solo officer we relied on camera positions, visual coverage from the towers, a hope that we could hit our tactical alert buttons if attacked, and good ol’ scene awareness to make sure we did not get into a blind spot. That having been said it was simply impossible not to be in spots where we were at a definite tactical disadvantage. Worse still, floor officers roamed among the inmates without weapons. All we had were radios and keys! Weapons were restricted for special teams, special positions, and special assignments. Generally it’s not a good idea to give murders and rapists the opportunity to get their hands on weapons which is the rationale behind keeping them off the floor.
The reality system that we had to certify and re-certify in was called PPCT. The company does a pretty good job of keeping their tactics secret. In fact, it’s very hard to find much online material that covers what is taught. The obvious reason for this secrecy is to keep it from the bad guys! Anyhow, I found a group that breaks down the current offerings. Better still I can show you what courses I once took!
Now one course I wish they had offered 11 years ago is this one: Ground Avoidance. In fact I think all stand up systems including the traditional martial arts would do well to work this type of material into their curriculum.
Back to the topic…
Loren’s excerpt talks about the pain resistant attacker and something called the somatic arc. Maybe it’s a police thing or maybe it just varies from profession and department. Anyhow, the PPCT folks spent an awful lot of time teaching us the “fluid shock wave principle”. The Fluid Shock Wave Principle uses nerve motor points as targets. The fist, foot, or baton is struck at a large muscle mass saturated with nerve motor points, and if done correctly, the nerves become over stimulated and experience a motor dysfunction. This motor dysfunction may temporarily immobilizes and weaken the region of the muscle mass. If a fluid shock wave is induced into a large muscle mass, the person may experience intense pain and may be temporarily immobilized in the muscle region of impact.
Or so the theory goes. The reality is that in four years of dealing with knuckleheads I rarely saw this work for the solo officer. Where it usually worked was with two or more officers trying to control one inmate. With two or more officers their to distract and partially restrain the solo officer usually had a clear shot. When it’s one-on-one it’s very hard to pull off a targeted strike on nerve motor points. In fact, the two times I saw it work it was delivered by officers who were at least six feet tall and a solid 200 lbs of body weight. One blasted a belligerent inmate in the shin with a hard toed boot while the other leveled a moron with a PPCT-style round kick to the outer thigh. Both inmates hit the ground thinking their legs had been broken yet both were up and walking again within the hour. Also, both inmates did not see it coming. Both had become verbally aggressive and were showing body language that justified this level of force. As they got in the officers’ face, both regained control through a surprise strike on a mostly stationary inmate.
The times I saw this principle fail are almost too numerous to recount. Top of the proverbial list would be the PPCT knee strike to the outer thigh. I once saw a female officer hanging on for dear life as the rest of us ran to her aid. All she kept trying is one of the few things she was taught: The outer thigh knee strike. All it really did was annoy the inmate. Lucky for her the strength in numbers principle did work!
I used to chuckle when Lt. Locus would say: “Patterson, use half this shit they teach us and we’ll get our asses kicked!” Lt. Locus was half right. The more I thought about if for this post I suddenly realized that the motor nerve over-stimulation idea is sound. In fact, the times I saw it work where when the inmate was partially restrained so that another officer had a clear shot. What is not sound is reasonably pulling it off alone, with minimal practice, or if you are of slight build (to a certain extent strength can compensate for poor technique). The typical corrections or security person certifies once and then re-certifies each year. This is just not enough time to build up any skill in solo combat. The only martial arts comparison I could think is having a crash course in point sparring and then being dumped in a tournament and expected to do well. Well, one week of training in intense point sparring is likely to result in someone losing badly at that hypothetical tournament!
As far as Christensen and the pain resistant attacker, well, I’m not sure. It was against the rules to eye gouge and we were not taught to punch the liver or poke the femoral artery in the pelvis. We were taught to strike the peroneal nerve of the inner thigh and also to strike the outer thigh. Those last two tactics I saw work but again it was usually with two or more officers.
So will any of this work for the striking martial artist? Probably. Think about how many training hours are required for a brown belt equivalent in Taekwondo, Karate, or a similar punching and kicking art. If you’ve had that many hours of static, targeted (i.e. pads, bags, etc.), and sparring practice then yes, I think you stand a good chance of hitting one of these sweet spots which may slow an attacker. The typical solo corrections or police officer does not have the luxury of those practice hours. However, this group often has some equalizers: superior numbers and various lethal and non-lethal weapons. So for sure I plan to get my hands on Loren’s book when it finally comes out!
Related to all this is a post on technique overload that I saw at Ikagai’s.
If 5 prearranged knife self defense techniques are good, certainly 50 would be better right?
One valuable lesson I learned from PPCT is the “keep it simple” principle. Their training centers on learning three to five techniques and then practicing those techniques in class and for real on the job. The idea is that when attacked it’s better to do some thing rather than nothing at all. Going back to the above female officer and her knee strike, some might argue that she was ineffective. In fact some of the male officers said exactly that after the event was over. If you put it in context I have to say that she was effective. Despite not crippling the attacker she did keep him distracted long enough for help to arrive. The inmate thought he had an easy target but the inmate was wrong!
Try the Patterson Principle: Take two or three hand strikes, kicks, throws, blocks/evasions, and at least one ground avoidance technique and practice them on your own at least once per week. Almost all of this can be practiced on a stationary bag. The rest can be treated as mini-katas or as simple solo drills and you can run through all of it in about 15 minutes. For example, I learned a version of this tackle avoidance drill at a seminar and now practice it every couple of weeks on my own. Ground is not my main game so at the very least it’s a good idea to practice some basics for not ending up there! Want to kick it up a notch? Find a willing partner from your school and practice these simple basics a few times a month. I’m certainly a far cry from the expert that Loren Christensen is but I can say that based on four years of prison observation, the keep it simple principle does work!
I want to close this post with two videos that are slightly related to the topic at hand. I probably should cover these in a post on batons but I’ve decided not to. The first is an old police training video on baton use. I have no idea what police officers are taught today. In PPCT we were only taught three basic strikes. In Army Guard riot training we were taught maybe a half dozen strikes. Anyhow, once I bracket out the general hilarity of this video I do have to say that a lot of these strikes would be very effective. I also have to say that many would look very bad if caught on a video camera so my hunch is that law enforcement might not be taught techniques like this today!
(Nothing like a baton to the neck to stop a pain resistant attacker and also probably get yourself sued! And how about that “American Strangle”? Can you imagine what the press would do to the officer who is caught on tape doing that to some attacker?)
And now the Hollywood Mythbuster’s version! Great fight scene but not very realistic.