Category: About Al Arsenault

Why Learn About Joint Locking?

Why Learn About Joint Locking?

I first began to write about Police Judo in 2010, when my beat partner (now retired) Sgt. Toby Hinton and I formally started this new martial art; he was my long-time partner (and later my Sergeant on the Skid Road beat centered in our infamous Downtown Eastside).

The Downtown Eastside (DTES) is a neighborhood in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. One of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, the DTES is the site of a complex set of social issues, including just disproportionately high levels of drug use, homelessness, poverty, crime, mental illness and sex work. (as per Wikipedia and my own personal experience)

After years of writing about this topic in many foreign countries (I use travel to escape the myriad of distractions of living in Port Moody – near Vancouver), I realized that there are volumes of material that needed to be covered to put Police Judo into a proper perspective—this would be far to big a book to publish in a single tome. I decided to publish on joint locking for law enforcement first, given its importance in using force that does not shock the public conscience like striking, kicking, and weapons use does. Although I was trained to 3rd-degree black belt in Karate by the mid-8os, hitting arrestees by any means just looks bad, especially now that the omnipotent eye of the media is constantly scrutinizing an officer’s every action in frame-by-frame detail!

When it comes to making a physical arrest on an unwilling arrestee, its all about controlling his arm(s), bringing the person to the ground (while you remain on your feet!), “owning” him through pain compliance, so that you are able to put him into handcuffs. Yes, a miscreant can kick, headbutt, bite, spit, scratch, get help from friends, use weapons, hip check you, but if you can quickly start your physical ownership of him using the subtle and strategic application of pain, then many of these problems can be nullified (or you can disengage quickly if you are not rolling on the pavement with him). It is also very important to maintain that control throughout the entire handcuffing process (and until he is out of your custody). By staying off the ground, standing arm control allows you to disengage when multiple opponents magically appear. Surprisingly, this simple fact appears to be lost on those following the jiu jitsu methods of making arrests. Some jiu jitsu techniques are very valuable (as are some striking techniques), but in my humble opinion, officers should stay on their feet while putting arrestees facedown! The ground is certainly not the officers’ friend.

Please understand the difference between sport and street uses of force, and that of holding and controlling! I gave up a strong background in striking to acquiesce to utilizing judo basics for control and arrest purposes. I gave up my passion for Karate to learn Judo, only to partially abandon the sporting applications of that martial art too because that is what the job demanded of me—safely taking people into custody without breaking them or putting myself at risk by rolling around with them. I am a fan of using practical martial arts techniques that are safe, easy to learn, tactically smart, practical, efficient, and ethical in nature.

With this tome on Comprehensive Joint-Locking Techniques of Law Enforcement I welcome all of you who are compelled to deal with criminals in the course of you duties, be it in policing, sheriffs, security, corrections, as park wardens and resource officers, immigration officers, loss prevention personnel, and even aircraft pilots (all of whom in Canada are deemed to be “public officers”), hence they are all authorized to use as much force as is necessary to effect their legal purpose. Even private citizens are allowed to make arrests to protect themselves, others, their property, and even to come to the aid of requesting police officers. These techniques will aid you in making effective physical detentions when needed.

Currently with the ubiquitous presence of cellphone surveillance cameras (not to mention body-worn cameras), the act of law enforcement officers striking civilians will often be captured and shown on many social media platforms (and repeatedly) as well as on the evening news. There is a time and place for such blunt uses for force, but it should not be the starting point of an arrest when joint-locking techniques could be done. If, as a public officer, you don’t know any of these techniques, then good luck explaining why you do not. In its most primal form, grabbing an arm (just above the elbow) from an offender’s blind spot is the most simplistic and expedient thing you can you. This could keep you from being struck while you hold onto an arrestee. Add some pain using a joint lock and you start the process of controlling him. The more joint locks you know, the better you are at modifying his behaviour and compelling him to comply with your lawful commands. Those who will not willingly obey your commands can be compelled to do so through pain compliance. Those who feel no pain can be taken to the ground using the arm as a tether (in combination with a trip, foot sweep, or a throw). The real magic of manipulating such people lies in the ability of gaining and maintaining continuous control over them. Resistance should be painfully, or otherwise, just plain futile.

The bottom line of making arrests lies not with takedowns, ground fighting, quick and slick handcuffing applications, or using (yet-to-be-invented) words meant to magically calm and induce cooperation, rather it is from joint-lock manipulations leading to handcuffing that makes a law enforcement professional reasonably effective. “De-escalation” is not a verb, that is to say that you cannot de-escalate someone. You can keep yourself in check and choose some tactical options that might give an arrestee some time to cool down or give you time to strategize and attain additional resources that could lead to a less violent outcome. Failing this lack of discretionary time, professional and measured (proportionate) physical coercion may be required.

That is why I chose to write this initial book on joint locking for your benefit—to give you some great tools to use when words fail. Joint-locking techniques effectively modify arrestee behaviour through the silent, but universally understood, language of pain—it is a satisfying use of force that requires no translation. It is the power of negotiation, using joint health, as painfully coercive bargaining chips. They can make to pain go away simply through their cooperation with you.

As an aside, if you find that this comprehensive approach is too much for you, given your lack of time and energy to train in something that could save your life (or keep you out of Court as a defendant), then watch for my book Essential Joint-Locking Techniques for Law Enforcement to come next year. This will essentially be Joint Locking for Dummies. Rather than a systematic look at how joint locks can be applied to the human body, this sequel will be a process-driven book on how to use joint locks, in their most basic forms, to get a person in and out of handcuffs. Rather than dealing with multiple techniques to achieve the same results, I will walk readers through the steps of taking arrestees into custody while offering but a single means of dealing with each of  the eight common forms of resistance that can be levelled at you. If you have limited training time or desire to make arrests as safely as possible, then this book is for you. You will be thrilled to know that a companion book on the H-CUFF Method of Handcuffing (Hands-on Control using Functional Force) will also be published soon as well.

If you look at most of the arrests gone bad, move past the “final-frame analysis”, to look at where things went downhill for the officer (and possibly for the offender). Walk the video backwards and you will likely discover inabilities to gain control or a lack of maintenance of that initial control. Before the cuffs come out, the offender should be owned by you, that is to say, he cannot escape from you or assault you. You show me a video of an officer with his cuffs in hand who approaches a non-compliant arrestee, and I’ll show you an arrest gone bad, unless the arrestee decides not to fight back. Most officers’ default reaction to losing control of their arrestee is to lash out in fear of being injured (or being made to look weak and spotty amongst their peers). He may go full “caveman” on him (hitting him over his “Stone Age bone cage” with a baton or a flashlight. What happens after that usually entails a lot of paperwork and creative writing, no?

Next time: World’s Best Joint Lock

Look at Me!    

Look at Me!    

The “Traveling Tactical Trainer” at home in Port Moody, British Columbia, Canada (Oct., 2023).

Welcome to my Police Judo Book Blog. It is my intention to both entertain and educate you about matters relating to use of force in general, and the martial art of Police Judo specifically. Please join me as I shove off on this new personal venture as a blogging virgin. As it turns out, I will be embarking on a year-long world tour to study police use-of-force training programs (as I originally did in 1986). I plan on leaving in late 2023 (Instagram I am looking to visit police agencies and their training academies, as well as do some sightseeing, so if you are able to help me out in these regards, then please drop me a line on the contact page. After Australia and New Zealand, I will be crossing Canada starting in June 2024,  and then it’s the United States and Europe.

First off, why should you listen to me? After more than 50 years of studying and teaching martial arts (overlapping 27 years of street policing), half of which was done on the other side of the tracks, if you will, I have lots to say about real-world experience pertaining the rough stuff on the street. “I know more ways to kill you than you know how to die” I’d joke to arrestees in my younger years. I will relate some of the hundreds of physical encounters I’ve had on the street as this blog progresses. I do, indeed, know where the rubber meets the road. If anyone is currently looking for a “suicide by cop” situation from me, you are too late, for I retired in 2006! The badge says “Retired”, but I am still very capable of dealing with the criminal element. (“I don’t need no stinking badge…or gun”, as I have already proven). Yes, the criminal element hasn’t seen the last of me yet. Though I am getting old (I was born in 1953 – the year Elizabeth was crowned Queen of England and the year that Sir Edmund Hillary first scaled Mt. Everest), I am still fairly fit; I try to remain mug-proof (using my repertoire of nasty and sneaky stuff). Anyone attempting to “end me” could be the first person in Heaven in a wheelchair…even God can’t fix that stuff (“Bless him, for he knew not what to do!”).

book cover imageBut, enough of this bravado. As clearly pointed out in my newly-released book (2021) Comprehensive Joint-Locking Techniques for Law Enforcement (#alarsenaultbooks), there is a huge difference between competing in sports and arresting criminals on the street. A few colleagues of mine and I won a contract with a Karate organization looking to “street-proof” their collective martial arts clubs. Ten different martial arts teachers applied, but not one of them had any real street experience at all. We won the contract based on our collective street policing experience and significant knowledge about police use of force and its legal and practical application. I’d say that these sports experts needed street-proofing themselves for applying!

Some of my writings will straight-up deal with tactics and techniques used in Police Judo. This joint-locking book of mine consolidates a fair amount of knowledge with police use specifically in mind. Feel free to “pretzelate” anyone you like, but do so with use-of-force legalities and ethics in mind. After all, it is you who must justify the force that is used, not me.

Other writings will take you to different places around the world where I learned various techniques, and to a lesser extent, taught martial arts. As previously mentioned, I am embarking on another world tour to look at police use-of-force training. Still other stories that I will tell you about will revolve around some of my personal experiences in life, policing, and studying martial arts, all to be told with some degree of pugilism (and a sense of humour) in mind.

I do not know all of what there is to know about martial arts and its application to law enforcement, but I have forgotten more about these matters than many police pugilists can remember. Having said that, my memory isn’t as good as it once was and my “war stories” grow richer with time. Isn’t that the way these tales progress? What distinguishes myself from the ranks and files, of even police use-of-force trainers, is my significant street experience in making hard physical arrests. Indeed, I have executed over two thousand formal criminal arrests, and have probably been engaged in an equal number of physical altercations stemming from the breaking up of fights, ejecting troublemakers from bars, breaching problematic miscreants, throwing drunks into the paddy wagon, etc. To say that I have triumphed over this plethora of arrestees during my career is no overstatement; to have done so without being dragged into Internal Investigations or without giving the criminal element an opening to bash me, is even more remarkable. I am not invulnerable, just operationally invincible (to beat me is to kill me; I have endured many minor Internal investigations for which no fault could be found). Remaining cool under pressure allows me to be dispassionate in the problem-solving part of taking tough guys into custody. The best strategy is to take the fight to an impending assailant. Competence breeds confidence – this allowed me to step up and make hard physical arrests.

I just want you to know that I do have important and sage things to say about using force from deep first-hand experience. This goes far beyond weekend certification courses, high grades in the martial arts, or studying books and videos (all of which I too have done). Few officers can challenge to better my street credentials. I feel sorry for those professing the knowledge, but who lack the experience, to teach use of force to anyone. Imagine how I feel for their students. To those of who have walked with me on parallel beats in the wild world of policing, I salute you; you know that I speak the truth. For those of you who have had limited exposure to the nastiness of criminal depravity, please learn from those of us who have found victory in these many encounters. Your life (and that of others) could depend on it.

I will leave you with a quote from the most famous (and greatest) boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali:

“I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale;
handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail;
only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalised a brick;
I’m so mean I make medicine sick.”

Stay healthy and keep training while maintaining a sense of humour.

Next time: Why learn about joint locking?