PTI POLICE BATON: Baton vs Knife

WARNING: The following article is not a substitute for training from a qualified Police Baton instructor. It is intended to offer advice, from one instructor to another, as to what basic training techniques they may wish to consider when training students to defend themselves with a police baton when facing an attacker armed with an edged weapon.

Note, I started training in the Pekiti-Tirsia system in 1975 and assisted my teacher for the NYC Auxiliary Police baton course in 1979. In 1986 I became a NY State Court Officer and  co-authored the first defensive tactics manual for my dept in 1987. I served as a Defense Tactics Instructor for 20 of my 30 years with the NY State court system. This essay is based on my experience with this subject.

PTI POLICE BATON: Baton vs Knife.
by Tuhon Bill McGrath
This article is an explanation of a video intended for PTI and Police Defensive Tactics instructors who are already familiar with these techniques and should not be used as a substitute for qualified instruction. 

The specific purpose of this article is to gives details on the PTI Police Baton vs Knife Instructor’s Notes video and to explain my thinking as to why each technique was chosen. (LEO DT instructors; contact me with your credentials and I will send you a code to download the relevant video). The first half of the video lists the basic strikes, while the second half shows some sample applications. Note: the leg is best targeted when the opponent is unarmed, or when an armed opponent is focused away from you: as when you are one of several officers trying to take down an armed offender with your baton (used in areas/situations where officers can not use or are not authorized to carry a firearm).


 Both the video and this article assume one of the following has occurred:

1. The officer has a baton in his hand prior to the offender drawing a knife. In most cases in the U.S., this would be because the incident started as an empty hand attack on the officer and the baton was the primary less-than-lethal option for that officer’s dept.

2. The incident occurred in one of those jurisdictions (usually outside the U.S.) where most officers do not carry a firearm and the baton is the primary defensive tool for the officer.



 The stance in police baton is very much like a boxer’s stance, with the difference of course, being the baton in your hand. The baton should be gripped firmly with all five fingers and chambered upon your trapezius muscle. The pommel of the baton can act as a front sight and help to aim the baton at the target; in this case, the attacker’s closest limb.




 I know some of the civilian martial artists reading the above paragraph said to themselves: “Well duh, of course you are going to grip a weapon with all five fingers.” Unfortunately, there are law enforcement agencies that follow a baton program that has the baton resting on the middle of the upper arm, near the bottom of the deltoid. This supposedly will prevent an officer from raising the baton up and striking an unarmed attacker in the head. This position near the middle of the arm is supposed to be the officer’s ready position; irregardless that nearly no one can hold a baton there without opening their hand and thus leaving themselves more vulnerable to having the baton disarmed. Despite this defect, this program actually teaches the holding the baton with just the forefinger and thumb, since this low carry position is such a priority with them. This gives the appearance to their officers that avoiding departmental liability, not officer safety, is their department’s main priority.

My apologies for the lecture, but that technique and the poor priorities that seem to be behind it, really bothers me. We can now get back to the details on the video. 


DIAGONAL: I consider diagonal strikes to be similar in use to a boxer’s jab. They are faster to deliver and faster to recover from than the more powerful strikes. Also like a boxer’s jab, the diagonal strikes are used to buy you the time needed to deliver your power hits. The main targets of the diagonal strikes are the hands and wrists of an armed attacker. Secondary targets would be the radial nerve in the forearm and the bony protrusion of the elbow joint. You may notice on the video that I am using my left hand on my right wrist to add power to the backhand strike. This grip is called the “double force grip” in Pekiti-Tirsia. The idea here is to try and have two hands worth of power, while gripping a weapon with one hand. An important part of this grip is to keep your thumb on top of the grip, alongside your forefinger. This enables you to release your grip more easily and gives you more flexibility in your movements.

HORIZONTAL: The horizontal strikes are one of your power moves. Think of these like a boxer's hook. I like to keep the left hand gripping the right wrist in the “double force” grip, both for more power, but mainly here for more speed and control. Using this grip helps keep the semi-circle of your strike radius closer to you, and therefore, keeps the gaps between your strikes smaller. The longer it takes to recover your baton and return to target, the easier it will be for an attacker to slip a knife slash or thrust in on you.

You may notice in the video that I emphasize striking with the baton at the same angle as if you had a sword. There are two reasons for this. A sword is built to have the cutting edge where you have the most power in your hand; which is the knuckle side. Therefore, you should strike with a baton with the knuckles towards the direction you need to deliver power, much like hitting a nail with a hammer. Used against an armed attacker, the main targets for this strike when an attacker is facing you are either side of the head. (Consider the ear the bullseye of that area. If you miss it, you still have useful targets nearby). If encountering an armed attacker from the side, then the face and back of the neck are prime targets.

VERTICAL: The vertical strikes can be considered like a boxer’s right cross. They are power hits that aim to the centerline. The crown of the head and a forearm when held horizontally are primary targets for this strike.

BROKEN: A broken strike is given that name because it impacts the target, but does not slide off to chamber on the opposite side of your body (as the diagonal and horizontal strikes do in the video). This strike is most often used to the attacker's legs; either the iliotibial band or the common peroneal nerve when dealing with an unarmed single attacker; or the knee as a more effective leg target when defending against an armed attacker.

GENERAL STRIKING PRINCIPLES: In order to have the most efficient transfer of force to a target with an impact tool such as a baton, you should try to deliver the strike perpendicular (90 degrees) to the surface of the target. Therefore, vertical targets like the side of the head are best hit horizontally; while a horizontal target (such as an attacker’s forearm during most punches) should be struck vertically. Think of the target and your baton as making either a cross (for vertical or horizontal targets) or an “X” for diagonal targets. The diagonal strikes that target the attacker’s hands, wrists and forearms may or may not hit perpendicular to the surface, depending on how the attacker holds his arms, but this is a trade off prioritizing speed over power.


 I’ve seen the following scenario many times on video; usually occurring outside the U.S..

An EDP with a knife is surrounded by several officers. The officers are taking turns trying to strike the weapon arm with their batons and disarm the EDP, but it takes a very long time to get the job done. Meanwhile, the officer’s endurance seems to be running out faster than the EDP’s.

What you see in the PTI baton video is a simple plan designed to assign each officer a specific task in this scenario. Having a simple plan with a short flow chart should help people make useful decisions quickly under stress. The more limited the training time is for a particular weapon, the more important this principle becomes. K.I.S.S. in this case stands for Keep It Simple & Short.

In the video, each of the three officers are assigned a specific job, depending on how the attacker moves.

If the EDP goes after you, then your job is to shuffle step back, while covering your retreat with vertical strikes. The reason you are using vertical strikes is to lessen the chance that you strike a fellow officer coming to your aid. (Note: The attacker goes after the center officer in the video to keep everyone in frame, but the plan is whoever is attacked first makes a tactical retreat, while covering their retreat with necessary strikes.)

The remaining officers should outflank the EDP from the sides and strike the EDP's limbs as many times as needed.

If an officer is on the weapon side of the EDP, then that officer will strike the weapon arm.

If an officer is on the non-weapon side of the EDP, then that officer will strike the non-weapon side leg, while their free arm either protects their own head/neck area or grabs a non-weapon side body part of the EDP to pull them off balance.

Once the knife is removed from the attacker’s hand, (usually from the hand being struck by a baton) the officers may attempt a takedown.

I teach two takedown techniques, the straight arm bar and the bent arm bar, as I found these to be the most reliable for the average officer to use under stress during my 30 years with NY state courts. Officers should already be familiar with both the bent and straight arm bar techniques, as these are commonly taught in police defensive tactics classes. While I list my preference for which side of the body each technique works best for when the officer is holding a baton, officers should be familiar with working these takedowns on both sides of the body. 

Each of these takedown techniques assumes the baton is held in your right hand.

 BENT ARM BAR VS RIGHT ARM: If you intend to perform a takedown against the offender’s right arm, then I prefer the bent arm bar. This technique has the pommel end of your baton hooking the offender’s elbow and your left arm snaking through the bent arm to preform the lock and takedown. Using the bent arm bar with the baton in your right hand helps to keep the baton available if you need to use it unexpectedly; as it does not tie up your baton inside the bent arm of the attacker.

STRAIGHT ARM BAR VS LEFT ARM: If you intend to perform a takedown against the offender’s left arm, I prefer the straight arm bar. This technique has your left hand grabbing the offender’s left wrist, while your right forearm is putting pressure on the lower part of their left tricep for the takedown.


The primary footwork used with the police baton at close quarters is the shuffle or slide step. A shuffle or slide step to the rear is done by sliding the rear leg back so you have a longer stance, then the front leg is brought in with the same sliding step, so that the original distance of the stance is recovered. The feet are never crossed with this type of step and you should have less likelihood of tripping, since you are passing over ground that you have already covered. To shuffle step forward, simply move the front leg forward first, then the rear foot recovers the distance to regain the stance. An exception to the slide or shuffle step is when moving diagonally to your right (as when flanking an offender). In this case, a walking step to your right is used. And of course, when you need to move long distances you will either walk or run as needed. (Please read my post on Gun vs Knife Training for more on footwork). 


 The final technique shown on the video is handcuffing procedure with a baton. The plan here is for the officer who takes the attacker down to maintain control, while the second officer applies the handcuffs. Once the handcuffs are on, the officer who applied them takes control of the person in custody, while the officer with the baton still in hand acts as security during transport.


If you wish to learn more about the subject of Police Defensive Tactics, please contact me for a list of PTI instructors/certified trainers who are also Police Defensive Tactics instructors.

Two other excellent resources for this training I can recommend are:

Tuhon Erwin Ballarta at:

Tuhon Jared Wihongi at:


Another article you may find useful is on the subject of developing power in your strikes.


Train hard, but train smart,

Tuhon Bill McGrath