Leg Locks, Controls and Takedowns

In other parts of the world subject controls are commonly initiated using leg locks and take downs or other, leg applied techniques while in North America, Use of Force professionals generally focus on arm controls. Elsewhere law enforcement personnel, in particular, are taught to target the subject's legs even 'tackling' them as would a shoot fighter. The officer may also use their own leg(s) to apply their techniques.

When I reviewed the Australian Police Defensive Tactics training I was quite impressed at their preference for and emphasis on targeting the subject's legs. Obviously North Americans will retain their prefered focus on the subject's arms. Still the Aussie's and others do demonstrate that there are valid additional options out there. Leg locks and take downs can be useful additional tools to put in our arsenal.

Many of these tactics are found in various martial arts as 'stance destructions'. Most meet the real world requirement of involving only simple gross motor skills to effect. I found none to be any more complicated than our arm focused alternatives. Of course a change in mindset would be required for those who've never seen these variations or never thought to look at them as 'work' options.

The most negative factor affecting the choice for these leg options in North America would of course be our climate. Who wants to tackle any body's legs in -40 degrees and a couple feet of snow on the ground? However, with suitable officer discretion, these can be added to what we already do. For example, if we attempt a nerve pressure point strike to a subject's leg as a distraction in order to apply our arm lock or take down and it fails, continuing into a stance destruction would be a seamless and effective option.

Since most stance destructions attack structure and balance and are designed to inhibit or disrupt movement they would still be effective on those individuals whom even pain compliance techniques fail to affect. Likewise the leg control techniques would be extremely useful in those situations where a subject has been grounded but continues to rise as arm controls prove ineffective, usually because he's faced them before and figured them out. If you take away his legs, he can't get up. So, any of a variety of leg locks could be used to pin a subject on the ground when the more usual choice of arm locks has proven ineffective.

Leg controls can also be used much like arm bars and wrist techniques for roll overs, to get the subject onto their stomach prior to handcuffing or to get those resistive subjects to give you their hands in order to cuff them.

Regardless of your country of origin's preference for legs or arms neither is wrong and I would respectfully suggest that the two together are better than either option. So if you're looking to add to your arsenal of subject controls, consider the options presented by using leg locks and take downs and by using your own legs to effect leg applied tactics as additional options.

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