The Martial Art Used By Japanese Police

One of Japan’s biggest cultural exports is its martial arts: karate, judo, aikido, kendo. Back before anime got really big, Japanese martial arts was one of the big draws that got Westerners saying “I wanna move to Japan!”

Beyond the romantic notions of Japanese martial arts as some kind of path to enlightenment or self-realization, they still have lots of practical applications. Japanese cops are one group of people who still incorporate martial arts into their everyday work.

Japanese police work in a very different environment with a different set of tools and expectations than, say, American cops. While an American police officer using their gun is uncommon, it’s even more rare with Japanese police.

Using a gun in Japan, even if you’re a police officer, carries with it incredible consequences (the paperwork is the real killer), so it’s no surprise that the police have a wide arsenal of less lethal methods of subduing criminals.

In that arsenal is a martial art known as 逮捕術, or taiho-jutsu, which literally translates into “arrest technique.” It’s used by police, Imperial guard, the Japanese Self-Defense Force, Kamen Riders, Sailor Scouts, and pretty much every law enforcement and military agency in Japan.

kamen-riders

May or may not use taiho jutsu

Japanese law enforcement has used martial arts for a long, long time, but the modern taiho jutsu didn’t start to take shape until after WWII, around 1947. Post-war Japan was more or less entirely ruled by the occupying United States forces, which placed some restrictions on the way that Japanese police operated, including limiting their use of physical force and traditional martial arts.

At first, this caused problems; the country was in ruins and unrest, and limiting police meant that they had a hard time keeping order.

Fortunately, Japanese police officers turned lemons into lemonade and took the opportunity to basically build a new martial art from scratch.

taiho-jutsu-masked-criminal

Fact: all criminals wear hockey masks

If you know about Krav Maga, the martial art developed by Israeli police and military, then you have a pretty good idea of what taiho jutsu is all about. Both were developed for military and law enforcement, and both are built out of other martial arts.

Taiho jutsu, unlike Krav Maga, had the benefit of being created in a place with a strong martial arts tradition. When the Tokyo police bureau was in the process of creating taiho jutsu, it gathered masters from lots of different martial arts including judo and kendo, along with experts in armed combat too.

The martial art that was created in the postwar era was existed ever since, with minor revisions along the way. It incorporates lots of ways of disarming people with hand-to-hand combat, in addition to using police batons and, heaven forbid, guns.

When Japanese police aren’t laying down the law against would-be criminals, they practice and show off their skills in exhibition matches between officers. Not only is it nice to work out aggression against co-workers in a sancation environment, but these exhibitions have the added bonus of providing officers with the incentive to train harder to beat their peers.

Of course, taiho jutsu looks a lot different on the street than it does in an exhibition where all participants are wearing protective gear and have the same training, but these sorts of exhibition matches are still impressive. You get to see it all in action without knocking over a Family Mart.

Not all police officers learn exactly the same thing; some parts of the country emphasize particular styles, whether it’s judo, kendo, or aikido. But one thing’s for sure: if you decide to break the law (like dancing past a certain time of night), you might learn pretty quickly what kind of martial arts your arresting officer knows.


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  • http://twitter.com/Cupucuups Hamyo

    That shiny small gold badge which stick on the officer hat really cool!! i think if we touch that badge, we would recognize more quikcly what kind of martial arts they used. :D

    http://okonomikatsu.blogspot.com/2013/05/special-ladies-night-posting-ashida-mana.html

  • Mescale

    If theres one thing I’ve learn from watching Sentai, its that you only use your gun for the final finisher move, even if you combine to form a giant robot you only use your giant robot gun as a finishing move. All other times its punching and swords. Also its best to wait to trigger the flag for defeat on your enemy first, even if you use your gun, if you haven’t triggered the flag for defeat if will have no effect.

    Remember kids a gun is a lethal weapon when you point it at someone, its with the intent to kill, if you don’t intend to kill someone, then don’t point a gun at them, because they might decide to kill you first to save their life.

  • DAVIDPD

    Krav Maga is literally the deadliest martial art. It’s dirty, effective and quick.

  • Datte baru

    awesome , but now , whenever I’ll see someone wearing a hockey mask , I’ll run away …

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    That, or it’d transform them into their superhero form.

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    A very important safety concern indeed.

  • Mescale
  • http://twitter.com/shollum Shollum

    In case your comment was just a side comment and not a comparison, this comment was written under the assumption of the latter.

    That’s because it was designed from the ground up for killing enemies in battle when you can’t access your gun for some reason. I’m assuming 逮捕術 is more geared towards subduing criminals.

    There’s a big difference in the way you approach an enemy depending on if you want to kill or subdue. Quite a few years ago, I took self defense classes (it’s an American mutt style. Mainly 空手 and 拳法, with several others thrown in somewhere). Most things we learned were meant to subdue or disengage from an attacker (as is the point of a self defense style), but there were quite a few ways we were taught to brutalize an attacker in particularly bad situations. The one thing that stands out the most to me at the moment involves taking down the opponent and delivering a sharp kick (more of a stomp) or two to the head. It’s assumed you’re wearing shoes, so… Yeah, they probably aren’t getting up. If they do, they will probably be down again before long do to the massive trauma rubber soles will inflict to their face.

    The point that I didn’t really make is: If you are just trying to subdue someone, you have to go about it completely differently than if you want the threat to be permanently removed. These two styles focus on only one of these, so they can’t really be compared well in over-all effectiveness.

  • DAVIDPD

    That’s kind of what I meant. Hashi compared tai ho to krav maga when krava maga will easily be more destructive. I have personally viewed the brutality of krav maga when I was in Israel for holiday. They say never hit a man when he is down, well, practitioners of krav maga never got that memo.

  • Nimpa

    I need your attention. I love you. Be my company. おねがいします,

  • DeTo-13

    Now i know why Japan has such a low crime rate. The police are power rangers!. Give Aya a pat on the back for the picture its quality.

  • Paulo

    It’s good that Japan police were trained of martial arts.. At least, that is a plus on fighting on crimes, other than relying solely to just guns…