A Peace Officer’s Story

It’s impossible to prepare for every specific situation we might get into. The following account from a student at our dojo helps illustrate how aikido training prepares us to respond based on proper fundamentals, particularly ma-ai, shikaku and kuzushi (which refer to time-space, dead angle and balance breaking). Proper understanding of the basics allows us to handle many unexpected situations without resorting to violence or becoming injured.

Dear Sensei,

I had an Aikido experience I wanted to share with you. As a law enforcement detective I have many opportunities to come into contact with people who violate the law. On a recent investigation, a search warrant was issued to search for stolen property. A search warrant is an order by a judge that mandates the police to search the suspect’s house because the investigation has shown that the stolen property would likely be found there. The police organize enough personnel and resources to safely serve the search warrant with much planning and preparation.

What hopefully occurs when the police serve a search warrant is that the occupants submit without any physical resistance. However, too often, persons inside the house become violent, resistant and uncooperative as the police serve the warrant.

During this investigation and search warrant service, I was assigned to be the “point” or first officer in line to enter the suspect’s house. Upon making contact with the entry point of the house, police are required to knock on the door, announce that they are the police and to demand physical entry into the house. After doing so, we waited for the occupants to come to the door to allow us entry. When the door opened on this case, a man opened to door and I immediately announced that we were the police and requested that the man show me his hands. After requesting that the man show me his hands and to step outside, the man resisted and did not come out peacefully. Instead the man turned his body, reached for the door and it appeared that the man was going to either run back inside or slam the door shut on the police.

There are few more dangerous encounters for police officers than to be met with resistance such as this. The occupants could be mounting a deadly response, flee or destroy critical evidence. Being the “point” or first officer to encounter the resistant man, I was in a very dangerous situation. At this moment, my Aikido training subconsciously kicked into action. My options were to either rush into the house and attempt to restrain the man; which would not be safe as the environment inside could not be known. Or I could bring the man outside of the house and restrain him away from any additional threats. In order to get the man outside of the entryway, I grabbed the man’s left arm with my left hand and stepped into the space just slightly to the man’s left side. I applied an unbalancing technique and moved the center of my body into the “empty space” as I felt the man’s arm and body tense up. This movement completed the connection between he and myself. I moved the man’s entire body toward the front porch as I maintained contact with him. Using my center and turning my hips, I used a “breath throw” to easily bring the man out into the front grassy area just outside the front doorway. He was safely placed in a prone position and handcuffed. Neither the man nor anyone else was injured and the situation was quickly brought under control.

I was pleased that after handcuffing the man, searching him and securing the scene I realized my Aikido training had proven to be effective in its primary philosophy – to protect everyone involved in a conflict, and to turn a confrontation into a peaceful encounter. As you know, there can be no greater example of how effective Aikido is than to be able to use it in such a potentially violent situation.

This story wouldn’t be complete unless I expressed how calm I was during this hazardous encounter. They say “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” My many months of intense study of Aikido in the dojo and at home has given me a calm that I have never felt before. It takes such training and study so that when the moment of truth arises, panic doesn’t set in. Panic is the opposite of peace. Being a peace officer we are expected to handle these types of situations without panic. It is necessary to maintain the trust of the public and to maintain the overall goal; to bring calm to chaos. It is because of my Aikido training that calm was born out of the chaos that was sure to evolve in this dangerous situation.

I have found nothing in this life better suited to bring calm to chaos than Aikido.

~Tony, Peace Officer