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“There must be an ideal solution…”Assessing training methods of knife defense performance of police recruits

Swen Koerner (German Sport University Cologne, Cologne, Germany) (Department for Training Pedagogy and Martial Research, Cologne, Germany)
Mario S. Staller (University of Applied Sciences for Police and Public Administration,Aachen, Germany)
André Kecke (Hesse State University of Applied Sciences for Police andPublic Administration Management, Wiesbaden, Germany)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 1 December 2020

Issue publication date: 27 May 2021




The study compares the impact of two different pedagogical approaches in police training by assessing the knife defense performance of German police recruits against different types of knife attacks. Linear or nonlinear – which pedagogical approach leads to more efficient knife defense performance?


A total of 20 German state police recruits (w = 5, m = 15) were assigned to linear and nonlinear groups. The linear and nonlinear groups' performance on knife defense was assessed in a pretest, after a three-week training intervention in a posttest and eight weeks thereafter in a retention test, utilizing a mixed-method design (Sendall et al., 2018).


Quantitative data on knife defense performance suggest a lastingly better performance of the nonlinear group: in the retention test, participants of the nonlinear group were hit less (p = 0.029), solved the attack faster (p = 0.044) and more often (81.8%) than participants of the linear group (55.6%). In contrast, qualitative data reveal that, despite of evidence for a high level of perceived competence, the nonlinear teaching of knife defense skills has been accompanied by considerable uncertainties, affected by the lack of techniques and the focus on principles and operational parameters only.


It is the first study assessing the impact of different pedagogical approaches in police training. For the practice of police trainers, the results provide empirical orientations for an evidence-based planning of and reflection on pedagogical demands within their training (Mitchell and Lewis, 2017).



The authors thank the three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments, which have helped to increase the overall quality of this article. Furthermore, we would like to thank the police recruits for their participation and the police trainers of HfPV for making this study possible.


Koerner, S., Staller, M.S. and Kecke, A. (2021), "“There must be an ideal solution…”Assessing training methods of knife defense performance of police recruits", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 44 No. 3, pp. 483-497.



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