SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah (ABC4) – Learning martial arts to defend yourself from an attack, a Utah man with all the right fighting techniques teaches them to police and military around the world. ABC4 discovered why the world goes to this renowned combative instructor to learn how to get out of danger, in this edition of Behind the Badge.  

Learning hand-to-hand combat to defend yourself from an attacker. None may do it better than international combative instructor Jared Wihongi of Utah.

“It’s kind of a passion that’s become a profession,” said Jared Wihongi, Close-Quarters Combat Instructor.

Wihongi is an expert in Filipino martial arts known as Kali. His acclaimed program combines Kali with Japanese jiu-jitsu, and other fighting styles like his New Zealand heritage of the Māori warrior then adapts the techniques for police and military training.

“He found a way to bring certain arts that are fairly common out there, but take portions of that and directly apply them to law enforcement,” said Det. Damian Harrison, Sandy Police Dept.

The former Salt Lake City and Cottonwood Heights SWAT operator, now travels the world, teaching this defensive close-range combat.

“I’ve taught the Navy Seals in South Korea; I’ve taught special forces, soldiers, here in the United States and parts of Europe… I’d say 20 to 30 countries around the world,” said Wihongi.  

Similar fighting techniques gained popularity in the Jason Bourne movies or last year’s award-winning remake of Dune. Wihongi has taught them to actors in Hollywood, but also some of the world’s royalty, where he’s learned some lessons of his own.

“I don’t know if they want their names getting out there… the two princes I had a chance to train… this country I was fortunate enough I did have someone that was a foreigner there that kind of explained to me this is how you address them, this is what to do, what you don’t do so I wasn’t inadvertently offending anyone based on those cultural norms,” Wihongi said.

For those taking his course in Utah, the methods seem to be working.

“I figured it out, it’s super easy. Haha,” said Lt. Steve Wooldridge, Salt Lake City Police Dept.

“Part of his training includes how someone who is unarmed could defend themselves from a knife attack. Today for training purposes, we’re using a shock knife,” said Reporter Brian Carlson, who sparred with Wihongi, during a training demonstration.  

He showed Carlson how if someone came at you with a knife, you don’t need a weapon of your own to disarm your attacker and take them to the ground.

Years ago, as a Salt Lake police officer, he used these same techniques to protect himself from a homeless man who lunged at him with a knife.

“I said ‘Sir, while I’m talking to you I need you to set that in your pocket, put it aside’… he opened the knife and came towards me and said ‘Just go and shoot me then!’ and at that moment I was able to grab his arm take the knife out of his hand, discard it and take him down to the ground,” Wihongi said.

As useful as these moves can be, Wihongi believes it’s even better to prevent a conflict before it starts.

“The conflict you’ll always survive is the one you’ve been able to avoid altogether,” he said.  

If you can’t, Wihongi will teach you how to defend yourself.

Most of the people who take his course are special police and military groups, but he’s now making the training available to more and more people. If you want to learn some of the techniques, classes are available to different groups and abilities, click here.