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The problem with how a lot of how people
do these moves is they are doing them the way
they think they are done instead of doing
them the way they are supposed to be done.

Unnecessary Movement

On this page:
Racing Weakness | Formula of throws | Stepping back | Cocking back | Further Resources

When we start talking about unconscious unnecessary movement many officers look at us like they'd like us to pee in a bottle for them. That's because it seems that we're talking nonsense when we say "The way most officers perform defensive tactics too much time is wasted in preparing for what they will do to control a violent suspect."

Unfortunately, a whole lot of this "prep time" is unconscious on the part of the officer. That means they don't know they're doing it. But the end effect is instead of getting the job done, half of the time is wasted getting ready to do it. It is during this prep time that the suspect has time to rally his resistance.

And that is why so often things go sideways when arresting a resisting suspect.

While officers start eyeballing the breathalyzer machine when we talk about unnecessary movement, to us, it feels like we should be administering the test to them. Imagine watching someone doing an arrest and restraint technique. But before he starts and midway through the process,  he inserts two dance steps. It doesn't matter if it's line dancing or tap dancing you imagine, out of nowhere he just starts dancing. And not just once, but twice. Then when you ask him later what that was about he replies "What dance moves?"  He honestly believes he was doing the defensive tactic the way it is supposed to be executed.

We watch the officers execute these unnecessary movements and then tell us "I don't do that"
"We just saw you do it"
"No I didn't"
We'd like you to fill this sample bottle for us...

 Unlike a criminal who knows he's lying,  the officers really aren't aware they are doing these unnecessary movements. That is because the action are based on unconscious assumptions and ingrained movement patterns. That means we don't realize we're doing it because it is -- to our way of thinking -- part of the process. We are normally no more aware of it than breathing. In fact, that is a very good example of what we are talking about. You might be aware that when we exert a large amount of force we exhale. If you stand against the wall and count "One. Two. Three" and push you will notice the word "three" is is often the cover for this exhale. (We would like to try this before reading further. Count it out and push into the wall)

But, did  you consciously notice the preparatory inhale? Or are you so focused on the task that you don't notice that your body is unconsciously preparing? That's where unconscious -- and usually unnecessary -- movement comes in.

It is you preparing to use muscle and in expectation of dealing with resistance  and trying to generate more force. The first two factors -- that while they are closely related  -- are not exactly the same, even though they both tend to result in the same unnecessary movement patterns. The last one creates movement patterns that, once you understand how to effectively generate force, are just out of left field. These unnecessary movements aren't tactically a waste of time, but they actually leave you exposed and vulnerable.

The truth of the matter is this isn't just wasted movement, it is extra time consuming action that makes your job harder and increases your chances of getting hurt. So with this in mind, you might want to consider cutting out those extra -- but unconscious -- dance steps in your defensive tactics.


Racing Weaknesses
Our silat instructor had a saying "Human beings are two legged milking stools" This is a very important concept to understand, but before you can apply it, you have to understand that there is both an instinctive tendency and a trained one to take a specific stance. While the photo demonstrates a trained "horse stance," what you will commonly see is some variation of this stance taken when a person is dealing with force or about to try and generate it. This is a fundamental pose to take when you are expecting to have to use muscle.

Although this is not a mobile stance it most clearly demonstrates a critical concept. Mentally draw a line between the person's ankles. This creates what we call the "Line of Stance Integrity." Along this  line we can resist forces. By this we mean both pushes and pulls. If you were to stand to either shoulder and attempt to push into the person's shoulder, he would be able to resist you very effectively. That is because his skeletal is aligned in a way that creates structural stability. You are literally pushing against the frame of a house in this direction.

We'd like you to notice something in the calm of sitting in front of your computer, that is almost universally overlooked in the chaotic whirl that is a physical conflict. Standing at his shoulder and applying force (pushing or pulling, it doesn't matter), your line of force is the same as the line of his stance integrity. You're applying force into where he is most stable and strong. While there are ways to easily uproot someone from this pose, once again, in the heat of the moment, most people -- unless specifically trained to use angles -- are going to attempt to apply force straight in. Using straight line force you are literally pushing into the frame of his house (into the strongest structural pose and line of stance integrity).
Although the individual looks stable -- and is from the side -- there is an inherent weakness with the LSI (Line of Stance Integrity). That is it is vulnerable to perpendicular force (force coming in from the 90 degrees). It is likely the person could withstand your entire bodyweight hitting him from the side without being uprooted. In other words you couldn't tackle him from the side. But what  you could  do is  knock him over with just two fingers. This is not an exaggeration, we do this demonstration all the time. Using just two fingers, if you pushed into either his chest or his back (e.g. pushing into his chest straight towards his back) he would topple. Notice I didn't say fall, there is a missing component here, but we're demonstrating a principle. But you need to know when you put that other component in, you can -- literally -- knock someone over with just two fingers using this principle. It takes thousands of times more force to overwhelm someone's structure than it does to exploit a weakness in it. Keep this in mind because this is you so often end up on the ground with a resisting perp.

Back to recognizing the LSI. The LSI is so ingrained in our movement that we don't even see it. In fact, a very good analogy  is we'd like you to glance across the room and look at something.

You saw the object correct? Now what if the room was pitch black? Would you still have seen the object? The answer is no, because there wouldn't be any light. And that is what you didn't see. You saw the object, what you didn't see was light that allowed you to see the object. We specifically chose this example because officers tend to be more conscious of the importance of light than civilians. That is because officers use light as a tactical measure (e.g. shining the flashlight into someone's eyes). The average person however, very seldom notices light. They occasionally will notice a reflection, a shadow display or lights streaming, but if you ask them how to tactically apply light they will look at you like you've grown a second head.

The exact same thing can be said of the Line of Stance Integrity. It is so ingrained in what we are doing that we don't even recognize it anymore -- much less that it has a tactical application.

It is instinctive for people when moving -- and more specifically teetering and about to fall -- to establish a LSI. We habitually move along the LSI. These lines are constantly changing and shifting, and like the light, we don't even see them anymore. Although the pose above most clearly demonstrates the concept, LSI is just as present when someone takes a step. In fact, constantly establishing a line of stance integrity is a critical component of walking. If you watch someone walk across the room, what you are seeing is an ingrained movement strategy based on the LSI. A strategy, that not only allows the person to propel him/herself forward off the rear leg in a "controlled fall," but allows the person to catch themselves before going too far. (This is why drunks fall down, they fail to establish the LSI in time). The next stage of the process is the walker allows the momentum of the push/fall to carry his weight over his weight bearing leg and then start the process over again. Once you realize this you will see how walking is a continuous process of establishing a LSI, breaking it, and reestablishing it.

One of the major problems of doing a takedown however, is that if you apply force to someone, it is an ingrained and reflexive action to re-establish the LSI. When you watch a baby walk, you will see this reflexive strategy being developed. A baby does not yet comprehend that he/she must place his/her foot in a specific location in order to create the LSI. That's why babies fall, their LSI is going one way, but their momentum is going another. They have not developed the ingrained and reflexive strategy of creating an LSI. When you have developed it, it is an unconscious process. You mentally go "I'm falling" but you reflexively put your foot where you need it to be to establish LSI. Why do you think so many takedowns turn into wrestling matches? You move a perp off his LSI and he immediately establishes another one. One that is specifically designed to resist the force you are applying.

So what does all of this have to do with unnecessary movement?

Well, instead of changing directions (remember the two fingers perpendicular to the LSI?) most officers attempt to overpower the resistance. Our easy to remember description of this tactic is "They try to bull him over instead of giving him the finger"(1). Here's the problem with doing that. They're going to try to use muscle. And in expecting to have to use muscle, they unconsciously into the stance we showed above.

Well guess what's wrong with that? The very physics and physiology that work against the perp, work against you too.

And that means what will put him down will also put you down too!

Both you and he are now in rooted LSIs that are equally vulnerable to perpendicular force. Stances that neither one of you can move out of fast enough to re-establish new LSIs. Hanging onto each other like you are, you both are going to go over ass over tea kettle.

It is an unfortunate truth that many standing grappling situation are "racing weaknesses." That means most officers are attempting to "do unto others before it is done unto them." While they are positioning themselves to do a take down, they are vulnerable to a similar attack. It is during the time of preparation to overcome his resistance with muscle that your own weaknesses are most exposed. If you do not get past this "window of weakness" fast enough, the suspect can (and often will) move in a way that will take you down too. This is another reason why so many takedowns end up on the ground as wrestling matches -- even with extensive grappling training.

So let me give you some general and then some specific advice. First, don't waste time by taking an unnecessary "I'm going to use muscle" stance. Learn to move early and often. When you encounter resistance, learn to give "him the finger." That means move to a place where you don't have to use muscle.

Second, while I will be the first to say knowing how to grapple is important, there is a serious gap in modern training. Due to current fads in defensive tactics training you are either striking him or rolling around the floor with him. There is a huge, and often overlooked middle ground. And that is instead of grappling with him, throwing him. Personally -- especially because there is at least one gun present -- I feel it is better that there is only one person on the ground: Him.

This is why, if you are going to get external martial arts training, I recommend instead of grappling or striking training, you get "throwing" training. Even though everyone is ga-ga over Brazilian Jujitsu/submission fighting, there are arts like Judo, Danzan Ryu, Hapkido -- and in cases of an instructor who knows how to fight with it -- Aikido, that generally leave you standing and him not. These are far more useful for officers than the flying tackle often used by grapplers to take someone down to the ground. That's because inherent in these arts is moving out of the way of an attack and then moving in perpendicular to his LSI.


Formula of throws
A popular theorem for throws is "enter, break, throw." The idea is you dynamically enter his space; once there, you somehow break his balance, then do the takedown.

However, this epitomizes the problem I am talking about. Often an officer closes in and then -- like a hen after sitting on her egg, wiggles to settle over the eggs -- the officer (and I'm not making this up) settles into a "I'm ready to use muscle" stance. It only lasts a split second but you can see it if you watch for it. From that pose the officer attempts to execute both the breaking of balance and throw at the same time. The problem with this is that, by stopping, the officer has totally wasted the far more effective momentum that moving into position has generated. This is like throwing away a free steak and lobster dinner (momentum) and insisting on paying for a stale McDonalds hamburger (muscle).

As an aside, the other thing you will usually see is mushy movement. Instead of the "mother hen settle" what occurs is that the officer tries to execute too many things at once. Instead of the sequential "enter, break, throw" what the officer tries to do is execute them all at once. For the ease of explanation, let's say the move has three parts. Instead of going 1,2,3 the officer attempts to execute them all at once. A specific example is that instead of stepping straight in (breaking the suspect's balance), then turning into the takedown. the officer will step in and turn at the same time. This causes the officer to arrive into the location to execute the turn/takedown, but standing sideways. The force that the turn was supposed to create to execute the takedown has already been expended. This is wrong on too many levels to fully explain, but putting in the context of the Line of Stance Integrity, what it creates is two people standing together with parallel LSIs. They both are going to go over.

But let's get back to the unnecessary chicken wiggle in preparation to use muscles. The reason this is unnecessary is that it isn't a 123 move. Instead of being separate issues, your entrance should break his balance. You don't need to get into a strong stance to break his balance, you break it as you're stepping in. Instead of two beats, it is only one. As such, with his balance and structure already wobbly, your turn is going to keep him from "getting his legs back under him. There is no need to wiggle into a "I'm going to use muscle" stance.

Oh BTW, often when I am training officers I am told, "But if I don't get into a stable stance, I'll fall over when I do the take down." It's statements like this that make me want to drink heavily. By simply stepping you already have an LSI. The reason these officers feel they have to do the chicken butt wiggle into a strong stance is that they are NOT turning far enough!

It's real simple. When you turn you go from facing one direction on your LSI to another! You're facing one direction and then you turn 180 degrees so you're facing the other. You're still using the same LSI! And guess what, you're dragging him along that same LSI which can resist the force.

The reason I'm reaching for the whiskey bottle is what these officers are complaining about. What they are doing is they are turning half way and stopping. They are taking that pose in the picture and then dragging the perp perpendicular over their line of stance integrity! And then they wonder why they fall down! Now believe it or not, in these circumstances, doing the chicken-butt wiggle into a "I'm ready to use muscle" stance can develop enough structure that you don't get bowled over. That's because what they don't notice is that they are also slightly changing their LSI. Sometimes this change is enough to keep them upright, sometimes it's not, but it definitely has a better chance of working than just turning to face the 90 and dragging him perpendicularly over your LSI.

Remember what I said about unconscious movement? There it is.

But let's get back to this enter break throw idea for a moment. Amazingly enough, this idea also can serve to block the current attack and undermine his ability to launch further attacks.

Therefore, instead of reading:
1) Block 2) Enter 3) Break 4) Throw 5) Control hold

A more streamlined and therefore more effective series would read:
1)Block/enter/break 2) Takedown 3) Control hold

Amazingly enough if you just stick your arm out there at an angle and step into his swing  you can do several things at once. 1) Not get hit
2) Break his balance
3) Position yourself for a takedown
4) Generate a lot more force than if you try to use muscle
4) Distract him from the horrible thing that is about to happen to him.
Obviously there is less to go wrong with this streamlined version. If something doesn’t go wrong with the more complicated approach, it’s a miracle. The way to achieve a truly dynamic entrance that will do all of those wonderful things is rooted firmly in the issues discussed on the Conflict in training, Muscle, Distance and angles. pages.


Stepping back
Perhaps the worst way unnecessary motion is added to defensive tactics is for an officer to step back into a defensive stance from which he or she will launch the defensive tactics. Stepping back in this manner is, bar none, the best way to ensure that you will be hit (if not again).

Officers cannot be defensive fighters. They have to take the offense, even when doing a tactical withdrawal. Unfortunately -- due to a wide spectrum of issues discussed in these pages -- their offense sucks. It is no wonder they don’t want to charge forward, all they have is a limp noodle. Stepping back into a defensive stance seems the most reasonable thing to do with present defensive tactics.

The problem is that by stepping back you do nothing to undermine the perp’s ability to attack you or towards stopping him from continuing his attack! That is the crux of the problem with unnecessary motion, it doesn’t immediately do anything to control the perp or remove his ability to attack you.


Cocking Back
Remember how I said perhaps the worst unnecessary movement was stepping back? I changed my mind, the worst is cocking back. The reason most people cock back is that they don't  know how to effectively generate power. So what they are doing is attempting to pick up more speed and power by pulling back. Again this is another wrong on so many levels that I can't even begin to list them all.

But there is one in particular that stands out heads and shoulders above the rest. It is exactly the same reason why going for your weapon when being attacked from a range where you can extend your hand, take a step and touch your attacker is a death move. Your arms are like shields, they need to be between you and the threat. If they are down trying to draw a weapon or way out yonder trying to pick up extra speed then there is NOTHING between you and the threat. Your fly is open and you are flapping in the wind.

The sad truth is that it really isn't hard to block an attack if your arm is in the right area. But if it's way out in the back 40 trying to get up speed, you haven't just left yourself wide open. You've nearly guaranteed that you're going to get zapped. That's because when an attack is coming in, your shield doesn't just have to travel back in from the boonies -- which I don't care how fast it's coming back, it's still got longer to travel and that takes more time. The real problem is that odds are you did a totally unnecessary time waster and moved it out there so it could come back fast. And you probably did it when you first saw the attack coming.

But that is the kind of unnecessary movement you unconsciously put in when you don't trust your training. It seems screamingly stupid when you see it in black and white like this, but this is what most officers do. And the reason they are doing it is that they are trying to do an unhappy compromise between what they were trained to do and what have far more faith in it working.

Summing this up: Any motion that doesn’t have a direct effect on the suspect's ability to attack either needs to be dropped or modified so it does.

Once again the answer is found in correct muscle tension, footwork, distance, and a sneaky thing called the wedge. If instead of trying to use your arms like a gorilla, you use them to deliver your body’s momentum, you will have more success against even the largest, strongest and wildest perp. No matter what he is on, what meds he didn’t take, how tough he his or how angry he is, he’s not able to defy gravity. And that is what you will be introducing him to by learning how to move correctly.

Return to top

#1) In our training program, we train to so disrupt the individual's structure, balance, LSI, etc., that it is is possible to cause one's opponent to fall using one finger. In fact, that is the standard that you've done it correctly. "Give him the finger" is not only the training goal, but when you hear it, it's the indicator that his structure, balance and LSI have been destroyed. He's plucked, trussed, stuffed and ready to go into the oven. Realize,  that just because you can drop someone in training using one finger, doesn't mean you have to do it that way in the street. In an actual conflict, you get to use your entire hand ... and it works even better. Return to Text

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