In The Canadian Provost Corps
Lieutenant Colonel B.W.E. LEE, (left) a former officer in the Canadian Provost Corps, prepared this article for publication in the Canadian Army Journal, (CAJ Vol. XI, No. 3 - July 1957) while he was the Command Provost Marshal, (in the rank of Major), Eastern Command Headquarters, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Major (retired) Gilles Nault, a former officer with the Canadian Forces Military Police and honorary member of the Canadian Provost Corps Association, recently uncovered the article while reviewing old volumes of Canadian Army Journals and submitted it for use on the Canadian Provost Corps Web Site.
To a service policeman of the Canadian Provost Corps,
unarmed combat has a special meaning. It does not mean the act of
killing your enemy with your bare hands or supposedly non-lethal
items of military equipment. It means, instead, a system of holds
and breaks by which the service policeman can, while unarmed,
defend himself against any attacker and subdue him. This is done
without injury to the attacker or the service policeman.
In 1946 it was decided that the Canadian Provost Corps would become one of the few police forces in the world who carry out routine police duties without weapons of any sort. This decision ruled out not only firearms, but also the more familiar policeman's weapon - the truncheon or nightstick.
Facing an armed attacker or tackling a larger man or more than demands self-confidence and courage at the best of times. When unarmed and alone the most courageous man might be forgiven if he hesitated. Obviously something is required to reduce the odds against the unarmed policeman and, if possible, weigh them in his favour. Weapons that might cause injury to an arrested person or, worse, to a bystander, were ruled out. Therefore any combat engaged in by a service policeman in the line of duty must find him unarmed. A system of unarmed combat was required.
The Canadian Provost Corps School was given the task of developing a system of unarmed combat with a threefold purpose. It must enable the service policeman to defend himself against attack by an armed or unarmed attacker while unarmed himself. It must enable him to subdue an unruly person and force him to do his bidding. Finally, all this must be accomplished without injury to the policeman, the attacker or any person in the vicinity. his was indeed a formidable task.
The assignment was begun at Camp Borden in 1947 and continued until 1952 when the perfected system called unarmed combat was officially adopted by the Canadian Provost Corps. The development began with a study of jiu-jitsu, probably the oldest system of unarmed combat. Later developments such as judo were also studied. The "police holds" taught to members of various police forces were demonstrated by instructors from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and various civil police forces. In addition, the services of civilian instructors from commercial organizations were obtained. From this mass of information a proposed system evolved.
No instructors were available within the Canadian Army, so it was necessary to start from scratch and train the instructors as this system was developed. In spite of careful physical conditioning and constant supervision, bruises and strains were numerous. Those hardy instructors who followed through to the end made frequent and painful visits to the MIR. Gradually proficiency reduced the number of minor injuries and the system was ready for public showing. The first demonstration was conducted at the C Pro C School in Camp Borden in 1951. Minor changes were made and in the course year 1951-52 the first course in unarmed combat was conducted at the School.
Many of the instructional staff at the School became proficient at this new skill and in 1952 a full-fledged demonstration was held for officers atending the Provost Marshal's Annual Conference. The demonstration was impressive and well received. The system was adopted and placed in the training standards for service policemen. The research and development, including the bruises and strains, had begun to pay dividends.
Any system of self-defence, no matter how good it may be, is of little value unless the user believes in it. It is the old story of giving the soldier confidence in his weapon and his ability to use it. Unarmed combat demands quick reaction, positive action, but above all no instinctive flinching or retaliation. This is the most difficult part of the instructor's job. The trainee must be convinced not only that the system works but that it will always work for him. To this end many demonstrations are given and the trainees join in. As a result the Canadian Provost Corps has been able to stage many successful team demonstrations of their skill in unarmed combat. Teams have demonstrated at all the major annual exhibitions in Canada as well as at local fairs and shows. A team from No.1 Provost Company had also staged a very successful demonstration at the Canadian Army Boxing Championships. No doubt many readers of the Canadian Army Journal have seen these demonstrations.
Like any other physical skill, unarmed combat requires constant practise. Timing is important and so is physical conditioning. Before any recruit is taught unarmed combat he must undergo a period of about two weeks physical conditioning. After he has completed the course he must maintain his skill and conditioning by constant practise. As a result, a service policeman spends many extra hours each week maintaining and improving his skill. He may never have to use it but if he does he will have no chance to consult a training manual.
The system of unarmed combat developed by the Canadian Provost Corps School, through difficult and painful effort, has proved its efficiency in every way. It has, at last, enabled the service policeman to subdue the unruly soldier without resorting to weapons or causing injury. At the same time service policemen, while unarmed, have been able to defend themselves against attack by both unarmed and armed attackers. The service policeman of the Canadian Provost Corps may now be confident in his ability to defend himself in any unprovoked encounter.
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