Black and white Sound Cloud icon Black and white YouTube icon Black and white LinkedIn icon Black and white Facebook icon

Gaining Control

Gaining and maintaining control of violent persons

Two men fighting

And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. ~ Gen 32:22b-32a

When [Moses] went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. ~ Exodus 2:13a

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against . . . the spiritual forces of evil . . . ~ Ephesians 6:12

I do not box as one beating the air. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:26b

An Escort to the Exit

John Sturgess was red-faced, glowering at Fred Marks, leaning forward until he was almost nose-to-nose. "I don't care what you think!" he yelled. "I have half a mind to knock your block off!"

"That's enough, Sir. Time to cool down."

John turned to face Mike Brown of the Safety Team at Sharon Road Community Church. "I'll cool down when I'm ready to!" he snapped back.

"I have to ask you to leave. Now."

"I'll leave when I'm ready!"

"Excuse me, Sir. We're going now."

John reached for Mike's vest.

Mike grabbed John's wrist with one hand, and his elbow with the other. Before John knew it, Mike was slightly behind him on one side guiding him to the door.

What Mike used was a version of the escort hold, one of several holds and locks used by police and security officers to bring combative persons under control without using weapons. These are among tactics and techniques that are taught to persons in the military, law enforcement and security services as part of their self-defense and close combat training. They are related to moves commonly seen in combative sports.

Combative Sports

The three most common categories of combative sports in America are wrestling, boxing and martial arts. All three have ancient origins in the military and personal self-defense.

The Art of Wrestling

Those of us who have wrestled competitively in high school or college know that the objective is to gain and maintain control of your opponent. The two wrestlers begin by circling each other. Soon one moves in on the other, trying to hold him and take him down. The other tries to evade the hold and takedown, then counter moves, seeking to turn the encounter to his favor.

When one wrestler gets a hold on the other, the other tries to break the hold and get one of his own. And a takedown is not the end. Takedowns can be reversed, the controller becoming the controlled.

A wrestler can win not just by taking his opponent down, but by putting a lock on him that forces his shoulders to the mat and holds them there for a count of "three."

The Art of Boxing

In the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, boxing matches were broadcast weekly on live television, first in CBS's Gillette Cavalcade of Sports [1], then ABC's Fight of the Week [2]. Viewers became familiar with swings, parries, dodges, and counter punches. Supposedly, the opponents did no real damage to each other under the Marquis of Queensbury Rules (MoQ), except for one boxer knocking the other unconscious (but we now know better).

Asian Martial Arts

In the middle of the 20th Century, Asian martial arts became well-known in America, beginning with Judo [3] and Karate [4]. Now with the addition of JiuJitsu (Jujutsu) [5], Taek won do (Taekwondo) [6], and many others, the practice of martial arts has become widespread and diverse.

Wrestling and Self-Defense

Self-defense does not keep the same rules as scholastic wrestling, but the principle is the same: control your opponent, or at least keep him from controlling you. This still involves holds, locks and takedowns, and adds throws, blows and thrusts. In reality, self defense uses tactics and techniques from all three categories of combative sports. The stakes are higher than a referee holding up the hand of the winner. They are often the life and well-being of the defender.

Close, Unarmed Combat in the Bible

Wrestling and boxing are two of the oldest combative arts - older than armies equipped with clubs, swords and spears. In one form or another, they have continued to this day, more often not as a sport.

The All-Night Wrestling Match

When Jacob forded the Jabbok River, he met a man. He did not know it was an angel. The man wrestled with Jacob throughthe night, using only the power of a man. Jacob was a tough old bird, even though he was now in his sixties, and could not be taken down with merely human strength. As morning dawned, the angel resorted to supernatural power to end the match, dislocating Jacob's hip with just a touch.

A Match in Egypt

The day after killing an Egyptian taskmaster, Moses saw two slaves struggling with each other and tried to be the referee.

A Figure of Speech

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul likens spiritual combat first to wrestling, then to warfare. Earlier, in a letter to the Corinthians, he referenced boxing in describing his ministry.

Using Locks and Holds in Self-Defense

In the previous Church Security Article [6], "On Guard" [7], we discuss how effective self-defense begins with Situational Awareness [8]. If we are aware of our surroundings and who or what is there, we may avoid conflict; but if we cannot avoid it, wecan be ready to meet it. Violence may be averted through verbal de-escalation.

Sometimes, verbal de-escalation is not enough, and we must defend ourselves as well as others. If the violator is notarmed, we need to know how to use non-lethal force, and how to apply the amount called for by the situation. [9] [10] Empty-Handed Control is the third mark on the nationally recognized Use-of-Force Continuum. [11]

If you must physically defend yourself and others [12] , you need to know how. If you grew up fighting, constantly defending yourself, you have some skill in this. Even then, training is helpful, even necessary. Unarmed force can be lethal, but with proper training we can learn how to defend ourselves effectively without excessive force.

Most self-defense courses now involve some form of mixed martial arts (MMA) [13] , a blend of wrestling, boxing, and several Asian martial arts. This is not something anyone can learn on his or her own. Generally, most MMA experts advise against learning self-defense and martial arts solely from videos. In-person one-on-one training, coaching, and practice is recommended. One reason for this is that these techniques require practice with a partner, and a coach can guard against excessive force.

Answering a question about wrist locks for self-defense, MMA pro Mike Anderson said, "However, to properly apply a wrist lock so the opponent is really locked in the heat of a confrontation, takes a lot of practice. If you don't practice it, trying a wrist lock in a confrontation is a really bad idea." [14]

However, there are many websites with instructions on self-defense. One of them, Life Hacker [15] , lists five "Basic Self-Defense Moves Anyone Can Do (and Everyone Should Know). These are presented as a defense against an attacker intending serious bodily harm:

Prevention Is the Best Self-Defense

Get Loud and Push Back

The Most Effective Body Parts to Hit

How to Maximize Damage

Moves for Getting Out of or Defending Against Common Holds or Attacks

Locks and holds are for controlling the attacker. A hold is getting and maintaining control over a person by holding a part of the body, such as the hand, wrist, or leg. A lock essentially immobilizes a limb. A bar hold or bar lock keeps a leg or arm straight. The escort hold is designed for escorting a non-compliant person away from the scene, as shown in a police training video [16].

One self-defense program is Krav Maga . [17] This was developed for the Israeli Defense Force . The name (מַגָּע קְרַב) is Hebrew for contact-combat. [18] Versions of Krav Maga are taught to law enforcement officers and members of the U.S. military services, such as the Marines [19] [20] .

Self-Defense Training in the Church

As members of Safety & Security Teams [21] in our churches, we need to know how to gain control of a combative or non-compliant person with the least amount of commotion and disruption. It is helpful to be able to quickly keep a disruptor from fighting and, if need be, escort him or her outside or to a secure area. There the person can be held for law enforcement, if need be. Some people, once brought under control, may be ready to talk and to reason, and can be put into the care of a counselor or mental health professional.

A church safety ministry should encourage its safety team to get training in self-defense. Even better is if they can provide training tailored for use in churches. Larger cities and metropolitan areas have several self-defense training programs available. Most of these are based on one or more of the martial arts. In smaller communities farther away from large cities, these services may be harder to find locally, especially ones with programs geared for church safety teams.

Some churches sponsor or host self-defense training. For instance, at least one congregation in the Greater Chicago Area has a self-defense class for women. [22] Some have this training for anyone.

In another twist, several churches around the country have combative sports as a church activity - in the same vein as church league softball - to attract persons with interests in that arena. [23] However, this should not be confused with serious self-defense training, especially as would be used by a Church Safety Team.

Get a Hold on Security

Knowing how to safely and effectively manage combative persons prepares us for the time combative situations arise. Proper use of locks and holds is part of this. Verbal de-escalation [24] works, but sometimes it is not enough.


Outside sources

Here are a few of the many online sites on techniques for unarmed self-defense:

Sheepdog Church Security[30]

Church Security Guide[31]

Church Security Articles[34]

Church Security Podcasts[37]

The Church Guardian (monthly newsletter)[42]

Downloadable Training Bundles[43]