Real World Skills for Scene Safety: Part 3

The third in a series on defensive tactics for EMS providers. Visit our Video Network to view a video that outlines the steps below.

Step #4 of the six steps of DT4EMS is the double tap parry (DTP). The DTP is the primary physical skill taught to defend against the majority of frontal attacks. It has three overlapping parts: the parry, momentary elbow control and distraction.

If you are at Step #4 of the DT4EMS process, mistakes have been made that resulted in the failure of steps 1-3: You have ended up on an unsafe scene, weren't aware of an impending attack, and did not maintain a safe distance from a potential attacker. Of course no system is foolproof, and sometimes you just don't see violence coming, but steps 1-3 can avert most potential attacks.

Regardless of what type of training you've had in the past, the DTP will blend with the skills you already have. If you've had no prior training, the DTP is a useful skill to learn. We teach it in a "drill" format. You would never "fight" using a drill, but rather use pieces of the drill as needed. Our drill for the DTP has fail-safes built in, allowing for maximum defense--if you don't perform one part correctly, the next piece helps protect you. Learning a drill allows a participant hundreds of repetitions in a short amount of training time. If a person only practices a move a few times in class, it will fail them under stress. We have found that by training with drills, participants perform better when they really need to.

The first thing a participant learns is to sidestep. The sidestep is an addition to the DTP. It does not have to be present for the DTP to work; it only makes the DTP more efficient. Every martial arts system in the world trains in footwork, and the sidestep is taught first because a provider may not be able to take a step to evade an attack. It involves simply pivoting on the balls of the feet so the head, trunk and core change directions.

Next a provider learns to parry. This is a natural skill. Who taught you to swat a bug flying by your face? No one--you've been doing it since you were young. So we build on this natural skill you already possess. Working with a partner, students experience various stimuli in the form of grabs, slaps, punches and slashes at varying speeds. They practice parrying and begin to build muscle memory for executing the skill. Combining the parry with the sidestep puts a greater distance between the provider and the attacker's offending appendage.

After the parry the provider adds the second "tap," using their opposite hand to tap the elbow of the attacker. We call this second tap momentary elbow control. This control is used to either "jam" the attacker for a split second or to tell the provider where to move their own body to escape.

The third component of the DTP is to create a distraction. This is done with the parrying hand, usually opened. Deliver a beat/tap on the shoulder to push off from the attacker and escape. This may be delivered to the side of the head as a high-level stun if the attack is serious, or it may be directed to the attacker’s elbow as the provider sidesteps the other direction.

The accompanying series of photos shows the DTP in action.

  • Figure 1: Provider Jeremy Smith faces a simulated attack from angry bystander Brian Scott. (Smith and Scott are both DT4EMS instructors.)
  • Figure 2: The provider's perspective. Note that Smith's hands are up and open, conveying nonaggression as taught by step #3 of DT4EMS.
  • Figure 3: When the punch is thrown, the provider sidesteps and performs a parry. Note the distance this creates between the provider and the attacker's hand.
  • Figure 4: Now comes the second "tap," on the attacker's elbow. Looking at your hand and keeping your elbow low are important fail-safes.
  • Figure 5: Finally the third beat/tap is used to push off. This creates space for the provider to run.
  • Figure 6: If a provider under attack believes a high-level stun is needed to escape, the distraction beat/tap can be delivered to the side of the head.

Let's briefly discuss some fail-safes.

1) If you failed to sidestep, the parry will keep you from absorbing a full blow.

2) If you sidestepped but missed the parry, a strike may miss you completely.

3) The DTP works with the left or right hand, to the inside or out. In other words, if you anticipated a strike from the right hand but an assailant threw a left, the principles of parry, elbow control and distraction still apply.

4) The parrying hand can retract and become the distracting hand.

5) Alternatively, the hand delivering the second tap (momentary elbow control) can turn and push the head away, also becoming the distracting hand.

Mastering the DTP skill teaches providers to defend against numerous types of frontal attacks. We train to defend against the first blow. Doing that can greatly reduce the severity of any injuries a provider sustains from an assault.

There is nothing fancy about the tactics of parry, elbow control and distraction. Putting them into a drill simply reinforces hand-eye coordination and speeds up reaction timing. As with any physical skill, practice is required to maintain proficiency.

For more information and physical demonstrations, visit us at EMS EXPO.

Special thanks to DT4EMS instructors Jeremy Smith, Brian Scott and Bryan Shaw for their assistance in creating the photos used here.

Kip Teitsort is the founder of DT4EMS. He is a veteran paramedic and police officer experienced as an EMS educator and a certified law enforcement defensive tactics instructor. Kip is active in several martial arts, including Kali/silat, submission grappling and kickboxing. He is a featured speaker at EMS EXPO, to be held October 26--30 at the Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta. For more information, visit