In This Hub:
Adrenal Decay
Conflict in Training
DT: A Critical Review
Effective Movement
Gun Retention
Mushy Movement
Pain And Submission
SD/DT/MA Training
Unnecessary Movement
Why Takedowns Go Wrong Yellow Tinted Back-Up LEO/Corrections Hub
Martial Arts Hub
Psychological Survival Hub
Self-Defense Hub

NNSD Home Page

Search the Site

Marc MacYoung?
Dianna Gordon MacYoung?
Animal E-list
Crime Avoidance Lectures
Crime Blog
Colorado Classes
Contact Us
Hosting A Seminar
   Crime Prevention
   Expert Witness
   Knife Defense
   Law Enforcement
   Martial Arts
   Movie Consulting
   Women's Self-Defense
Our Linking Policy
On-line Store
Train with MacYoung
Terms of Use
Topics of Interest

Before you expect a man to risk his life using
a system, make sure it has been tested and proven
to his satisfaction  -- not yours. While, from the safety
of a desk you may tell yourself they are the same,
he knows his needs and goals are different than yours.

Defensive tactics:
A critical review

On this page:
Trust Reliability | Whose problem is it? | A working criteria for DT | Problems inherent in the system | So what am I looking for?|

Right up front, let us tell you what this page is not. It isn't a marketing ploy to sell you our ultimate-officer-survival-arrest-and-control system. Nor are we going to hand you a cure-all, wonder tool -- that you just plug into your restraint and handcuffing tactics -- and they all start magically working. There ain't no such animal. Also, like we said on the LEO page, we're not motivational speakers. So whether you are a patrol officer or an administrator, don't expect us to reflect sunshine up a particular orifice of yours about the problems with departmentally approved defensive tactics.We are not here to tell you how to fix the problems you face.

But we are here to help you find ways to fix the problem of control techniques not working.

Albert Einstein used to say: You cannot resolve significant problems with the same thinking you were at when you created them. Well, there's a nail that just got hit on the head. The reason we say this is that in order to fix this particular 'problem' you have to look at it from a different perspective. Let's start with a BIG paradigm shift:

The problem isn't that the defensive tactics don't work. The problem is WHY they don't work.

That simple shift of perspective changes YOU from a disgruntled, pissed off customer (because this car you were sold isn't working) to a mechanic. Someone who's job it is to get that car back onto the road again. Why is this important? Because it's your car! You're the one who's driving it and who most needs it to work.

Without watching videos of you wrestling with resisting perps we cannot tell you where the problem is with your defensive tactics. Like a car, there are a lot of things that can break down. Our goal with this page is to show you how to diagnose your cars systems so you know what needs to be fixed.

It’s no secret: Most officers don't believe departmentally approved defensive tactics work.

And that means they don't trust them.

They don't trust them to keep them from getting hurt. They don't trust them not to hurt the perp. They don't trust them to keep the subject away from their guns. They don't trust them not to extend a conflict and turn it into a fight.

This creates what can at best be called an "umbrella problem"  One giant problem that contains several smaller ones. That's right, all those issues with the tactics are all problems in their own right. But even if you fix one aspect, the others remain.

At worst, this massive distrust creates a self-reinforcing spiral of ineffective techniques, wasted time, wasted money, excessive force,  litigation, negative public relations, injured officers workman's comp claims and lousy moral from top to bottom. It doesn't matter if you're talking police, corrections, Federal, hospital, asylum or private contractors. Nobody likes holding a wet noodle when it comes to trying to restrain a resisting subject.

Masaad Ayoob once summed up a critical component of the problem perfectly when he said, "Excessive use of force comes from repeatedly trying to apply ineffective control techniques."

If you have something that reliably works, you don't need to force it.

The problem is how train people in reliable tactics for unpredictable circumstances? Are you going to be working in a hallway or an open parking lot. Are you going to be on ice or uneven ground? Is the guy going to attack or try to run? Are you dealing with a drunk on the fight or that same drunk with a knife ... and on the fight?

Unfortunately cops are just as susceptible to marketing as everyone else. And one of the biggest misconceptions promoted by marketing is that there is one, cure-all Vunder-Tool. They've bought into this lie. Having been sold that bill of goods, they try and force a technique that doesn't work in those circumstances. When it fails, they blame the technique.

Here is where the the things we have spoken about come together. Both because they were not taught how to be mechanics AND because they are conditioned to believe in cure-all solutions. When that defensive tactic doesn't work, they abandon it and go looking for another cure-all technique that WILL work.

Wow, they have a different car, but sooner or later that one will break down too. And they won't know how to fix that one either. Like we said. The problem isn't that it doesn't work. It's not knowing why it doesn't work.

So ... you ready to start learning how to be a defensive tactics mechanic?

To prove a point we'd like to ask you to participate in a little test. The test is easy and it is one we ask in all of our LEO seminars. It's only two questions. First: What are the fundamental components someone must have to fire a gun and hit a target?

We sincerely ask you to come up with a simple list in answer to this question before you continue reading. Take it to the most basic and obvious answers possible.

Our answers are: 
1) You must have the physical means to pull the trigger (e.g. a corpse can't fire a gun).
2) You must have a gun.
3) The gun must be in working order (e.g. the safety off).
4) You must have bullets in the gun and 
5) The gun must be oriented on the target.

Even though they have never thought of it this way, most officers come up with at least four, if not all five of these points within 7 to 10 seconds of being asked. In some form or the other they hit these nails right on the head, one right after another. You know the subject so well, that when confronted by a unique question, you can still come up with the answers.

Now, the second question: What are the fundamental components a takedown/control tactic must have?

You can try to answer this one, but it took us 5 years.

The purpose of this test  is to both prove a point and to suggest a reason why this point is important. Most officers have never had to fire their gun in the line of duty. Yet they can easily  and correctly identify the necessary components. However, most officers have been involved in physically controlling a resisting perp/inmate/mentally unstable person. And yet, they can't identify the fundamental components of a control tactic or defensive tactic.


That's a big question that has many factors involved in the answer. And quite frankly the answers are going to change depending where one is in the departmental hierarchy and the instructor/trainee line. What we'd like to do however, is take it in a different direction. A direction that keeps it from turning into the typical blame game between administration and line officers regarding use of force. Our suggestion is that a very significant part of the reason why officers can tell you what works with guns is "reliability." 

A gun will work. The laws of physics guarantee it. As such, officers trust that response. They have faith in a gun and know what it takes to make it work. That's why they can answer the first question so easily. Whereas, officers do not have faith in defensive/control tactics and takedowns. These tactics do not have the easily identified guarantors that a gun has. In short, these tactics are unreliable.

But let's take this a step further. Unlike a gun, if you can't identify the fundamentals, you certainly can't reliably use the tactic. You can shoot someone without training (thousands of people do it every year). But even with training is a control tactic guaranteed? This is especially true if the training was technique oriented instead focused on  fundamentals and application under various circumstances..

Realistically why should you bother to train in something that is unreliable? More importantly, why should you bother to use it if it's going to fail? Remember the quote at the top of this page. Trust is based on reliability. And if that is lacking, the problems go a whole lot deeper than just technique and training. Because if we turn it around: Why should the men train in something that is unreliable?  And how much money is the department pouring down the drain training them in techniques that were so aptly summed up by the officer who said "The only time I tried that move I got punched in the face"?

Whose problem is it?
Officers are often left facing violent perps with techniques that only work against a cooperative or surprised individual. This results in a "it's not working, crank it up" situation. This creates all kinds of other problems however. Unfortunately, a far more common result is -- after a move goes sideways -- what follows bears no resemblance what-so-ever to approved tactics. It's a donnybrook of flailing limbs, strikes and rolling around on the floor. Unfortunately, if either happens, officers end up hurting resisting perps. The officer is then left to I.A. and litigation for using non-approved techniques. And the department has a massive PR problem on its hands.

So we can, at the very least, conclude that most departmentally approved takedowns don't work to keep you, the officer, safe. Safe from either the resisting perp or the department.

It's no wonder many officer's have a fatalistic view of defensive tactics. Their opinion of martial arts isn’t much better -- and with good reason. Even if they did work as well as they claim, most martial arts systems are simply not appropriate for police work. In the United States, martial arts are sports oriented. Even if they did work for street application , the kind of impact/hitting/ fighting that most martial arts engage in is forbidden to officers. Why should you spend years studying something that is either not going to work or will get you in serious trouble?

Worse, most officers get more hands-on experience with physical confrontation in a month of Friday night shifts than 90 percent of martial arts instructors have had in their entire lives. Martial artists may pontificate about how these techniques are from ancient warrior traditions, but you're the one who's facing the 350 pound, naked, screaming drug freak out in the 7-11 parking lot. Yet these martial arts ‘experts’ claim to be able to teach officers how to handle physical violence. Suurrrreee....

No matter how you look at the situation -- it is not good. The department will only pay for approved training that doesn’t work. Grappling training is a gun-retention nightmare. And anything that won’t get you shot, stabbed or seriously beaten will get you sued. No wonder officers are pessimistic about defensive tactics training.

However, one indisputable fact remains:

It's your blood

As screwed up as the situation is, you are the one who is going to end up getting hurt. The longer you go without finding something that is street-effective (yet will keep you out of I.A.), the greater your chances of being hurt. And in these days of infectious diseases, the absolutely last thing you want to do is spend a long time wrestling a perp and risking an open cut or scrape. So whatever you use has to be fast, as well as effective in order to keep you safe. At this moment, you are in a serious jam. You're endangered from all sides -- the perp, health, safety and the department. Whether the department wants to pay for it or not, it is up to you to find something that works out on the street. And you need it now. The danger to you is immediate and so too needs to be the solution.

So what is the criteria you need?

  1) Simple
  2) Flexible
  3) Works no matter what the circumstances or area available
  4) Quick and easy to apply
  5) Immediate use (not having to train for five years before it works)
  6) Works within departmental guidelines
  7) Ensures gun retention
  8) Can be done while weighted down by gear. (limited mobility)
  9) Works no matter what the climatic/traction conditions (wet, dry, icy, carpet or concrete)
  10) Works no matter what the size, strength or mental state of the perp
  11) Works against armed and unarmed perps
  12) Works with - not replaces - what you already know
  13) Lets you control the amount of force you use - yet still gets the job done
  14) Judgment proof

The way it looks, you’re more likely to have sex with a supermodel than to find something that meets these standards. Well, I can’t do anything about you and Claudia (or for female officers, Mel), but I can do something about keeping you from getting hurt or sued. For the record, I don’t expect every officer to come to Colorado to train with me or the department to fly me out to wherever you are – it would be nice, but it's not likely . Nor do I expect you to run out and buy my books or videos (no matter how many nice things officers say about them on Again, nice, but not something I am banking on

What I can do here, however, is point out fundamental issues that are at the root of the problems with defensive tactics and how they are taught.

Once you carefully consider these issues with new insight, you will never look at defensive tactics in the same way. And the more you experiment with applying these concepts the faster and more effective your takedowns will be, thereby ensuring your safety.

Systemic problems with modern defensive tactics
While simple, these issues are incredibly profound in their impact on whether or not your defensive tactics work in the street. In the book Secrets of Effective Offense: Survival Strategies for Self-Defense, Martial Arts and Law Enforcement I speak of knowing the "building codes" of effective offense. By building codes, I mean the criteria and standards that any move must meet in order to be effective. In the same way that a house, no matter what its shape, needs to meet underlying rules of construction, defensive/control /restraint tactics need to meet fundamental criteria.

The problem is -- as the question about shooting and defensive tactics demonstrates -- a knowledge of these fundamentals are missing from most DT training. Just knowing (or teaching) the technique isn't enough. Without meeting the building codes, these tactics are just not going to work. You may have the form, but you don't have what it needs to make it go. The analogy we use is that you end up with a car with no engine. Although a gun with no bullets also works to communicate that something important is missing.

Unfortunately the issues effecting defensive tactics are complex and varied. Fortunately a lot of the physical ones are easily addressed with properly modified (and informed) training . These physical issues are
Gun retention
Mushy Movement
Unnecessary Movement

Where things begin to get complicated however, are on the tactical, strategic and psychological issues. Such as
Control presence
Conflicting training philosophies
Pain as motivation
What's involved in violence

These are the bedrock issues that you must go back and re-examine. Things that you might think you already know. And in going back asking yourself "where would this take me if I tweaked it just a little?" Amazingly enough those little tweaks make big differences when you're applying them in the field. In the same way that a five degree shift in the angle of your gun barrel will not make much of a difference at point blank range, but at twenty feet it makes all the difference in the world, the points covered in these Web pages will help you make that 5 degree tweak for your defensive tactics and how you handle violent situations.

So what am I looking for?
In many ways, the whole problem can be summed up in one word: Emphasis.

It’s like a cooking recipe: If there is too much emphasis on salt, a good dish becomes a disaster. A dash of cayenne pepper adds zest to a recipe, too much makes it inedible. The trick to good cooking is getting everything in the right proportion

So too is it with defensive tactics -- an over-emphasis on one minor component will ruin the entire effort. This is made doubly true when important elements are intentionally removed by departmental decree. This leaves a hole in the maneuver. One that cannot be patched by increasing the amount of another element. (e.g. de-emphasizing destroying a suspect's structure and emphasizing inflicting pain).

In modern defensive tactics, all of the elements are there. Unfortunately, because noncritical elements have been overemphasized while critical elements have been either ignored or removed, these techniques are functionally useless for controlling a violent perp.

This is why we say you must go back to the fundamental issues and see how they have been "tweaked" and at what cost.

A secondary issue that infects modern control tactics is fragmentation. There are countless conflicting procedures on what to do "if the perp does (fill in the blank.)." There is no unification or continuity of responses. This leads to a conflict of training philosophies that more often than not run into each other rather than work together. Unfortunately this confused state of patchwork response is micro-managed by departmental policies to to point of can only be called "organized despair." In the middle of a crisis, you cannot stand there and try to figure out which of several different responses would work best. You need something that works no matter what is happening.

In the defensive tactics arena, officers are literally burdened with every bit of firearms equipment possible, except bullets.

Here's your bullets back.

Return to top

Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement
Learn More >
Order Now!

Deadly Force Encounters
Learn More >

Order Now!

Combat Sanshou: Striking
Learn More >

Order Now!

CQB Clearing Tactics For First Responders/ Patrol Tactics for 911 Officer
Learn More >
Order Now!

Fighter's Guide to Heavy Bag Training (DVD)
Learn More >
Order Now!

Learn More >

Order Now!

Hand to Hand Combat for Police Officers
Learn More >

Order Now!

StressFire: Handgun
Learn More >

Order Now!

Restraint and Control Strategies
Learn More >
Order Now!

Psycho-Physiological Effects of Violent Encounters
Learn More >

Order Now!

Do You See What I am Saying? Reading Body Language
Learn More >
Order Now!

The Combat Perspective: A Thinking Man's Guide to Self-Defense
Learn More >
Order Now!

Far Beyond Defensive Tactics
Learn More >

Order Now!

Ending Violence Quickly
Learn More >
Order Now!

Beyond Brazilian Jujitsu
Learn More >
Order Now!

Escape Combatives
Special Bonus Feature
Learn More >
Order Now!

Fighting Dirty
Learn More >

Order Now!

Ground Combatives for Police
Learn More >
Order Now!

Floor Fighting
Learn More >
Order Now!

Fighting Footwork of Kuntao/Silat Volume 3
Learn More >
Order Now!

Surviving a Street Knife Attack
Learn More >
Order Now!

High Risk Entry
Learn More >
 Order Now!

The Bulletproof Mind
Learn More >
Order Now!

Carlos Hathcock: In His Own Words
Learn More >
Order Now!

Fists, Wits And A Wicked Right
Learn More >
Order Now!

About navigating this site | Animal List | Bibliography | Bullies | Burglary while on vacation | Classes in Colorado | Car Jacking | Children and Martial Arts | Child Safety | Criminal Mindset | Cults in MA/SD | De-Escalation | E-mail Dianna | E-mail Marc| FAQs | Have MacYoung speak about crime avoidance | Home Page | Home Defense | Hosting a Seminar | Fear | Five Stages of Crime | Knife Fighting | Legal Issues | LEO/Correctional Officer/EMS | Linking policy | Links | Martial Arts | Photo Gallery | Property Crime | Psychology | Rape | Robbery | Safe Dating | Self-Defense Training | Selling your books/DVDs on NNSD | Seminar Schedule | Stalking/Domestic Violence | Street Fighting | Terms of Use | Testimonials | Train with Marc MacYoung | Who is Dianna Gordon MacYoung? | Who is Marc "Animal" MacYoung? | Victimhood | Workplace Problems | Zero Tolerance