Police oriented Krav Maga may be one of the most underdeveloped areas of Krav Maga in general. While it overlaps heavily with security and VIP approaches, as there are many similarities, there are also many differences. While some organizations will excel at teaching Police oriented Krav Maga, like IKF and CT707, others may not, as there is not always a high demand. While military protocols and acceptable use of force are fairly standard globally for military, this is not the case for police and security. What is acceptable in one country may not be acceptable in another, thus making it difficult to have a general program as well as win specialized contracts. Many organizations do offer VIP security training, which is similar though things like “3rd party protection” will be more of a focus for security than police. So, depending where you are you may have to learn a military approach and combine it with a security approach, then mix it with other things to put together a good base for policing applications.
Police and Security Krav Maga
The main difference for police, and more so for security, when compared to military application is the fact that it is considerably less appropriate to use lethal force. Police certainly have the legal ability to use lethal force in extreme circumstances, but in general it is frowned upon by the public. This creates serious issues when it comes to making decisions. For security application it really depends; if you are doing security for the Cartels, then you are basically applying military Krav, but if you are doing security at a mall, unarmed, then it is safe to say that your best tool is your pen and paper, and maybe a camera, as your authority to use force is often limited (and lethal is definitely off the table.)
So what is a big difference between this and other styles of Krav Maga? Other than acceptable levels of use of force it is also assumed that punching and kicking people is generally off the table for police and security, which means that this kind of training needs to focus significantly more on grappling skills and arrest and detainment protocols. Arrest and detain are a large portion of your job, you show up to de-escalate or arrest and control. This is largely why police specific Krav Maga is lacking, as up until recently grappling was a weak skill in the Krav world, and even if you were in the military your arrest experience may be limited. Thus it is often assumed other aspects of Krav can be applied to this aspect just as well.
The problem is that when it comes to grappling you cannot just be aggressive, you actually need skill, which takes time to develop. It also means that if a police force has the choice between teaching wrestling/Judo/BJJ over Krav, they will often choose the former set of styles, as the image of Krav tends to be more aggressive. This means it creates hesitation over the adoption of a program that includes this mentality. The issue with this is finding an instructor that can adapt grappling for police and security situations, which may include a struggle over weapons, which often leads to problematic technique choices and strategies. Experience in the field of application is something to seriously consider when hiring a martial arts instructor for police and security.
So why does it need to be different other than the lethality? If it wasn’t clear already, it is because of legal restrictions and what public considers acceptable. If a police officer or security person simply punches a person to gain control as may be required according the how our nervous systems work, it may be perceived as excessive force. This means that punching and kicking are often not options as the public, politicians, and lawyers often remove it.
Enter the grappling. A police or security officer’s best bet is grappling, which ultimately will give control, with minimal damage to the opponent, and is already on the path to an arrest. The key is keeping it simple, using basic techniques that have a high percentage success rate for most people, and will function with weapons or multiple assailants. Another reason why the grappling aspect is more acceptable for this application (which goes against our general “do not go to the ground” rule) is because there is often more than one officer/agent/guard and it is, in many cases, not assumed to be a life or death situation. This means you have more freedom to go to the ground while one or more of your partners stands guard and can do crowd control. Having available support is something that is not always possible in the civilian world or practical in the military world (though sometimes needed). So the why is fairly straightforward, thought the training needs to be tough physically and mentally, as it is a tough job, it needs to focus less on the aggression and more on the control; which ultimately leads to a higher level of skill requirement than the military might.
So how would I run police training? One thing I always ask for, but rarely get, is to start unencumbered and work up to officers training with their duty gear on (unloaded pistol, of course), as it is very different training with gear on than without. Usually a fear of injury or damage to mats is often why this does not happen but should.
I would also work on training that mixes up the heart rate, from high to low to high to low, etc., in order to simulate how a real life policing situation impacts the nervous system. The intensity of this would depend on the physical capabilities of the officers or security being trained. Often this is much lower than it should be, but if someone drops dead during training it’s not very good for business.
Given the time I would show every variation of police specific takedown that I teach, whether they be drawn from Krav, wrestling, or BJJ. While judo is great in many places, it too may be considered excessive force and it’s high skill requirements make it difficult to teach in a short time. I would also focus on drilling actual arrest techniques against resistance, as this is an area many officers struggle with, particularly right out of the academy.
I would limit myself to only teach specific striking techniques, ones that are considered less aggressive and modified general application strikes. While regular techniques should be taught given the time, as to develop overall skill, if time is limited there is no sense in teaching someone a technique that would only get them into trouble. It has actually taken me quite some time to create police/security friendly techniques from what was traditionally taught in Krav Maga, which shows the difficulty in crafting police/security specific training, as so many of the normal Krav options (eye strikes, groin kicks, etc.) are no longer on the table.
If it wasn’t clear in this post, it certainly should be clear in my series on policing (1,2,3,4,5) that police and security, where they are allowed, actually need the highest level of hand-to-hand combat and unarmed training. Unfortunately, as we know they often receive surprisingly inferior training. Unlike the military, lethal use of force is not on the table as much, which means using other tools, like a taser, when possible; but in practical reality it’s almost always going to get physical. A quick search on YouTube can find video after video of interactions gone wrong for the police or security, because they were easily overwhelmed by the assailant. Police need more training, at more frequent and regular intervals, to develop and maintain the level of skill required to be proficient for their own safety and the safety of those they are trying to detain or protect. While it would be great to work on the physical and mental toughness, again due to time constraints and operational practicality, more time needs to focus on the technical aspects, in particular controlling another person safely and effectively and learning to arrest those who do not want to be arrested, without hurting then.
Perhaps when more Krav Maga instructors become more proficient at grappling, and integrate it into their programs in a way that doesn’t just look like MMA, then we may see Krav Maga be adopted as a style more and more by police forces outside of countries that allow police to employ extreme force.
Of course, a proper program will integrate this into the training because at some point even a civilian may need to safely detain someone. Even if it just means detaining an out of control person at a party until the police show up (something I have had to do before).
So, should police train Krav Maga? Absolutely, however, make sure you know your force’s policy, the laws of your country, and what you can and cannot do. In the case that you need to adapt the system, know what your restrictions are and how to modify the techniques and training to your needs. However, keep n mind that even police and security may face life and death situations, so don’t forget to train the mental and physical aspects, as well as the aggression, as much as you can.
Written by: Jonathan Fader