ImageSir, can you please step out of your vehicle?”

Every day police officers are making “hands-on” contact with thousands of individuals: field interviews, searches, domestic calls at 4 a.m. Each situation requires a response with the appropriate manner and appropriate amount of force.

“Too many times, officers are in a position to use deadly force, because they don’t have any tools available to them,” explains former Burbank Chief of Police, Dave Newsham, who in 1992 brought in kung-fu grandmaster Don Baird to head the department’s defensive tactics program. “Any opportunity, we try and give our officers another option.”

Chin na provides police officers just that, because it’s a system of seizing and catching joints, tendons, ligaments, allowing the user to control an opponent’s body. Often gentle although sometimes severe, these techniques can create immense pain when applied correctly. By manipulating a finger or arm in different ways, a police officer can use the suspect’s body as leverage to control or arrest him.

China’s Grappling Art

Chin na isn’t an individual style, but an aspect of nearly all kung-fu styles in China. The word “chin” means “to seize or trap” and “na” means “to lock or break.”

For over 1,000 years, shaolin monks have trained in chin na, perfecting and honing techniques to the quality they are today. “It’s one thing to have techniques that were made up yesterday; it’s another to have ones that withstood the test of time in the most violent situations,” says Baird.

Based on more than just techniques, this system teaches the student principles of body mechanics and patience. You learn how to capture different parts of the body and the correct force required to be effective. The distance between you and the opponent, spatial orientation, intuition, reading an opponent through muscle shifting and body movement are only a few things chin na focuses on.

“To this day, chin na is one of the most effective training methods for Chinese military and police officers,” notes Baird. What made this system appealing was the ability to disable opponents without causing unnecessary harm. Our bodies are only meant to bend or twist at certain angles before feeling discomfort and then pain. When you grab and then manipulate a part of a person’s body in the correct way, you gain control over the rest of the body.

The suspect tries to grab the officer’s gun from behind.
The officer turns and pins the suspect’s hand to the holstered gun, kinking the suspect’s wrist.
An inside shot of the parry and wrist pressure
This photo shows the officer’s hand slipping to a grab/seize.
The officer turns further and prepares to lock/break the suspect’s arm.
The officer locks/breaks the suspect’s arm (this move can also lead to a strong takedown).

The Middle Ground

Police officers are in constant contact with people and are exposed to various kinds of resistance. To successfully handle that resistance and complete their sworn duty, an officer needs tools other than his service revolver and PR-24.

“Chin na is a wonderful middle ground area,” maintains Baird. “What better system to use in police work than chin na when its very definition is to seize and control and a police officer’s orders are to control the suspect?”

When arresting suspects, police are always aware of the “Force Continuum.” This is the series of steps between the initial contact with an individual, like asking someone to step out of a car, to lethal force, which is a gun being drawn or a baton pulled. Officers need more options in this middle ground and chin na provides that. By having more choices, officers can resolve difficult situations before the encounter escalates to a greater violence.  Police officers have thousands of rules they must follow when they enter a “hands-on” situation. Their actions could be scrutinized by their supervisor, a city attorney, a district attorney and even a civil court. If a department doesn’t approve of how an officer handled a situation, the officer could be suspended or terminated from his job. He can also be prosecuted if it’s shown he used improper force. Suspects often sue the officer, as well.

But anything goes with a suspect—they can hit, fight, even kill a cop with no pressure from the people around him. “Chin na gives police officers a middle ground where he can use appropriate techniques that keep him safe but also respects the suspect’s rights,” notes Baird.

These techniques provide ways to neutralize the situation without causing unnecessary or any greater harm to the suspect, while also ensuring the police officer’s safety. “Chin na, in a way, allows the suspect to dictate the amount of force an officer uses,” explains Baird. “The suspect is always in control of his own safety.”

When a suspect complies, the officer can easily do his job. But when there’s resistance and the suspect becomes difficult, the officer is placed in a situation where he must make more aggressive choices.

“The officer can restrain the suspect or if absolutely necessary, hurt the suspect more to force compliance,” Baird relates. This includes throws that would land the suspect on the ground in a position for cuffing. “Remember, officers of the law do not have a choice. They are sworn to do their job and if they don’t, for lack of technique or fear, they will be held accountable as the law dictates.”