To be effective for law enforcement, a martial art must include empty-hand techniques as well as weapons techniques. It must rely upon sound principles that allow a smaller individual to control a larger, stronger opponent. It must provide the officer with the skills needed to control a suspect while minimizing injuries, but at the same time giving the officer the option to inflict serious pain and crippling injuries if the altercation suddenly turns into a deadly force situation.
To fit the above criteria, the martial art has to be built around joint locks, throws and take downs. This immediately eliminates arts based predominately on striking and kicking. Here is a ranked list of martial arts that I recommend for police officers.
1. Filipino martial arts (Arnis de Mano, Doce Pares, Modern Arnis, etc.) – Most Filipino martial arts are comprised of Ju Jitsu, Judo or Aikido techniques to cover joint locks, chokes, throws and take downs.
- Advantages: They also include offensive and defensive knife fighting and stick fighting, which could save your life if you are one of the many officers attacked with an edged weapon or blunt force object. The Filipinos are unmatched in knife fighting and the sticks are comparable in size to straight police batons. Since the average Filipino person is smaller than the Japanese and Chinese, their techniques have been adapted to work on stronger and larger opponents.
- Disadvantages: It may be hard to find a qualified instructor. Many instructors may have learned the Filipino martial arts from seminars instead of learning from a school.
2. Traditional Ju Jitsu – These arts are usually based on the Japanese systems of Ju Jitsu that concentrate on joint locks, chokes, throws and take downs. These systems may cover some defensive techniques against weapons.
- Advantages: There are many qualified instructors and strong schools. There are many tournaments offered across the country to compete and improve your techniques.
- Disadvantages: These arts do not usually include a comprehensive study of fighting with and against sticks and knives.
3. Judo – This art is all about grappling and throwing. The throws taught in Judo can be devastating when done on a hard surface.
- Advantages: There are many qualified instructors and strong schools. There are many tournaments offered across the country to compete and improve your techniques. The training allows you to go all out against your opponent, which will get you in great shape for the fights you can find yourself in while on-duty.
- Disadvantages: Judo originated from Japanese Ju Jitsu. The founder eliminated many of the more dangerous techniques and concentrated on turning the art into a sport.
4. Aikido – Aikido is a Japanese system that is based on using your opponent’s force against him. It covers joint locks, chokes, throws and take downs. Most Aikido schools include defensive techniques for countering weapon attacks.
- Advantages: There are many qualified instructors and strong schools. Aikido works well for smaller officers because it teaches students to use their opponent’s force against him.
- Disadvantages: Most Aikido schools do not allow students to apply pressure to their training partners while practicing joint locks and throws. The training partner is taught to throw themselves. This is a dangerous habit that you have to be able to abandon on the street. It may take many years to develop confidence in your Aikido skills under this type of training environment.
5. Hapkido – Hapkido is a Korean martial art that includes joint locks, chokes, throws and take downs. Hapkido also includes most of the kicks found in Tae Kwon Do. Many Hapkido schools include defensive techniques for countering weapon attacks.
- Advantages: There are many qualified instructors, but finding a quality school may be difficult.
- Disadvantages: A large portion of the training time may be spent learning kicking techniques that are hard to perform and may prove harder to justify in police work. Beware of schools that claim to teach Hapkido, but turn out to only teach Tae Kwon Do.
6. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – No matter what style of martial art you pick, the ground fighting techniques taught in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu need to be added to your arsenal. In the event that you find yourself pinned on the ground by a larger, stronger attacker, almost all of your stand-up martial arts techniques will be thrown out the window. With the recent popularity of mixed martial arts, a large segment of the young male population is learning how to fight on the ground. Make sure you supplement your training with this martial art.
- Advantages: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu concentrates on joint locks and chokes performed on the ground, with particular emphasis placed on positional strategy. The system is designed for countering strength with technique and will make you comfortable fighting off of your back. There are many tournaments around the country that offer you the opportunity to compete.
- Disadvantages: Qualified instructors may be hard to find, but new schools are popping up all of the time. This martial art has been developed as a sport. Most schools concentrate on the sport side of the art. As an officer, the last place you want to end up is on the ground. Since most Brazilian Jiu Jitsu schools only cover ground fighting, I cannot recommend it as a primary martial art for police officers
This list is not exhaustive by any means. There are many other martial arts that could be very effective for police officers. This article is meant to offer my opinion based on over 20 years of martial arts experience and over 15 years of police experience. It is not my intention to insult any martial artist out there.
Please share your thoughts on which martial art you think works best for police officers.