Must-Know Self-Defense: How to Move a Loved One Who Is Injured

Must-Know Self-Defense: How to Move a Loved One Who Is Injured
According to Plutarch (46 - 119), the Greek historian who wrote Moralia (Customs and Mores), Spartan mothers would tell their sons before they went into battle, “With your shield or upon it.” The meaning was “Come home victorious, or your fellow soldiers will bring your wounded or dead body back home on your shield using it as a stretcher.”

What does this have to do with your martial arts training? Although it was written 2,000 years ago, the truths of combat are just as valid today as they were then. And in this case, the actual technique mentioned by Plutarch still has value.

Injury and death are often a consequence of fighting. That’s reality. Knowing how to carry a wounded person off the battlefield — and a “battlefield” in modern society can be a chairs-and-bottles-thrown bar fight, a house of worship after an active shooter, an office massacre or any other place where conflict happens — may be critical to the injured person’s survival.

That is especially important if the wounded person is someone you care about. Or it could be you who ends up getting hurt and rendered unable to walk or crawl out of the hot zone. You may have to give instructions to those who are aiding you because few people are trained in victim rescue.

Self-defense students begin making an improvised rescue litter using sticks and jackets.

They button or zip up the jackets to make the litter stay together.

They button or zip up the jackets to make the litter stay together.

Although I teach a variety of victim-rescue techniques that I’ve picked up in my law-enforcement and military careers, I’m going to narrow it down to an improvised litter (another word for “stretcher”) in this post. It’s a device the victim is placed on — the “shield,” so to speak — that has carrying handles for two or more rescuers and is used for medical evacuation to a green zone or an ambulance.

Whether it’s a natural disaster such as an earthquake or tornado, or a manmade disaster such as a terrorist attack or act of war, there may be no commercially made stretchers available to get all the casualties out. How many litters do you have at home, at work or in your vehicle? If your answer is none, you will need to use available materials.

You may be thinking, Wait!I’ll just grab a few people to help me drag or carry out the victim. Yes, that will work in many situations, but what if you must carry the victim down a flight of stairs, across a field of rubble or over a great distance? The best way to accomplish this is with a litter that evenly distributes the person’s bodyweight and keeps him or her off the ground.

To make an effective improvised litter takes nothing more than two broomsticks (or mop handles or tree branches if you’re in the wilderness) and two jackets. If two hoodies are all you have, they should work. They’re not as strong as jackets, but they ought to suffice.

Lay the jackets (or hoodies) on the ground, coattail to coattail with the sleeves raised above the neck openings. Button or zip up both jackets. Then run a broom handle through the wrist opening of one jacket and all the way through the other jacket sleeve. Take the second broom handle and do the same thing on the other side.

On a mild “obstacle course,” the rescuers must get the victim onto the couch. This simulates placing the victim into a vehicle or helicopter.

What works for an improvised litter is much easier with a manufactured rescue litter.

These four students work as a team to evacuate the casualty from the hot zone.

If you don’t have any jackets or hoodies available — maybe the incident took place in the summer — lay out a blanket or tarp. Roll the broom handle into one side of the blanket for a couple of turns, then do the same thing on the other side. You now have an improvised litter.

The rescuer near the head of the injured person is the litter team leader. This is the person who will call for the lift: “On the count of three, lift. One, two, three, lift.” This is also the person who will determine the direction of travel. Always have the victim’s feet aimed in the direction of travel.

For all you self-defense instructors, I have a question: If you teach your students how to make an improvised litter and have them perform a victim rescue, will they appreciate and enjoy it or think it’s a waste of time?

If the photos I recently took of a group I showed it to for the first time (seen here) are any indication of the value of this training, I can assure you that your students will like it. That’s because few martial artists know this technique, and they sense that it might be needed one day.

Plus, litter training promotes teamwork, and it’s a fun way to exercise — picking up a heavy person and moving that person from point A to point B can be challenging. Years ago, when I regularly taught tactical-medic courses to SWAT teams and military units, I had students carry the “casualties” through an obstacle course to simulate conditions they might face in the field. They were exhausting workouts.

If you decide to teach your students how to make and use an improvised litter, know that it takes only several minutes more of instruction and application to add a commercially made litter — a “Spartan shield” — to your training. You can purchase a nylon rescue litter that is rated to carry 500 pounds (225 kilograms) for less than $25. Because it’s so affordable, I recommend all students of self-defense keep a least one litter in their vehicle, in their home and at their place of employment.

Teaching post-conflict techniques should be a part of any self-defense program as much as conflict techniques and tactics are. It’s not something you need to practice a lot, but including it twice a year enriches the curriculum and keeps it in muscle memory.


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