Knife and Blade Training in the Martial Arts
Most of this material on training with a knife also applies to other weapons.
“That‘s not a knife, this here is a knife…”
Since the beginning of time, the knife has proven a very practical and efficient tool for survival. Familiarized through a rage of Rambo, Crocodile Dundee and Ninja type films. The knife (as it should be) is given its due respect. This easily concealed item will be the most confronted weapon on the street or in the workplace, from the toolbox to your kitchen.
Practice makes perfect or at least it keeps you on the path of least resistance
The more training you have the better. It won’t be as easy as learning a few fancy knife disarms though. You have to perform each technique hundreds to thousands of times in order for it to be useful in combat. This could take years when incorporated with other training.
What we are saying is that you must increase the odds of self protection through realistic repetition and training. If you are training knife skills that are not realistic – then reality will cut up your fantasy self-defense skills and leave you bleeding in the streets.
When defending against a blade wielding assailant or assailants, one must first accept the possibility of being cut. If one does not accept this likely chance of being wounded, it could result in unnecessary movements and incorrect timing. Fear of getting cut must be overrun with the fear of losing your life. Remember, the knife is just an object (harmless by itself), it is the attacker you are fighting not the blade. Defending against a blade attack is not easy and the focus of training should be directed towards increasing your chances of survival. Your objective is to survive. Sometimes it is important to sacrifice an area of the body to the blade in order to improve chances for escape or to surprise and overcome your opponent.
Never underestimate your opponent or your chances
If your attacker is unskilled, your odds of surviving are increased, but if your attacker is skilled, it is a dangerous situation giving little chance to go unharmed. There are ways of telling if the opponent is an amateur or expert. It is impossible to know exactly how much knowledge your attacker has. Each opponent should be treated with the same level of respect. The idea is to avoid all confrontations if possible. This concept is especially important when your opponent has a weapon or there are more attackers. This is where reflexive training will increase your chances of escape and survival.
Observation of your environment might reveal something to give you an edge. By checking your surroundings you can improvise a weapon of your own. Below are a few you might find practical.
This can be used to wrap around the arm for protection or used as a weapon to entrap the incoming blade. Jackets can be swung or thrown to aid in self protection . You can use the jacket to strike to the eyes or even make use of the zipper to cut across the face.
A belt or scarf can also be used to entangle the attacker for disarming purposes. A belt buckle may be used attack or distract, slashing at the face and hands.
Purse or bag
These can be used for protection and weapons alike. They might be used as distractions to allow a quick getaway or chance to attack. Items in a purse or bag might also prove useful.
Trash cans, tables, etc.
These can be used as practical barriers between you and your opponent. A trash can lid could be used as a shield, a bottle or other items might also be found. You may even come up with a weapon more dangerous than your assailants.
Often you will see a demonstration of unrealistic knife defenses. If your instructor or system teaches these techniques just keep in mind that many unrealistic drills can train the body, eye hand coordination, footwork, timing etc. Just as long as you KNOW what is real and what isn’t, you will be okay with playing the movie martial artist every now and again.
On the Offense
When disarming a knife it is important to know your opponents vital points and primary striking areas – practical use of evasion, blocking or deflecting techniques, are important. The following are a few primary striking areas that can be used to immobilize or distract your opponent.
- Knees (kicks)
- Eyes (clothing, dirt, objects, fingers, liquid, etc.)
- Throat (in close combat, locks, strikes and chokes)
Whenever applying a strike it may be useful to kiai as well. A kiai is meant to break the concentration of your opponent, also to speed up your adrenaline flow which results in a sudden surge of power. A kiai is also good for controlling your own pain and fear. A kiai doesn’t have to be loud – it just has to be harnessed.
On the Edge
The blade itself is another area of importance which can affect how you will defend yourself in a fight. A double edge may be more difficult than a single edge. A longer blade will give your assailant a good reach, however, when in close, it will be difficult to use. A small blade will be weak at long distances, but will prove valuable in tight situations. Whether your opponents knife is long, short, wide, pointed or shiny, they must all be treated with equal respect.
Tip of the Tips
When confronted with an assault it is imperative to remain calm and observe the situation. Quick movements and hasty decisions can result in you doing more harm than good. Get a clear perspective of all the available options. Often times you can work your way out of the attack using intelligent speech or psychology. However, when your opponent jumps from out of the shadows you have to rely on natural reactions (built with repetitive training) for self defense. Below are a few tips to remember that will help keep you from adding to the list of blade victims:
Avoid dangerous situations
Pay attention to your intuition, your gut feelings. Sometimes natural instinct is all you have between a step forward and a step in the wrong direction. Another chance at life or a game of death. Avoid risky and hazardous surroundings where problem situations are more likely to occur. This includes people as well as places.
Stay in control
Never allow your friends, your ego or your emotions affect your reactions. Keep a clear head, avoid interference and make a rational decision. It is always better to respond than it is to react, whenever possible.
Never underestimate your opponent
Do not be trapped with a false confidence. Also, don’t rely on looks alone and remember a knife can be easily concealed. If someone is over confident they might be armed, so be aware and be nice. Look for signs that determine whether or not your attacker is an amateur or professional, but realize you will never know how much knowledge a person has.
Review and evaluate the situation and surroundings
Can you avoid the situation. Is the reason for combat worth the risk of your life? Can you escape? Is someone’ s life in danger? Where can you run and what can you use as an improvised weapon?
Stay calm and accept the possibility of being cut
Don‘t get the shakes because you are trying to protect yourself from being cut. Let your confidence and skill overrule. Train to create a positive stimulus response to these types of situations.
Train often and realistically
Training under the guidance of a qualified or experienced instructor in a realistic environment will better prepare you for success. Experiment with different scenarios and a variety of approaches. In time you will learn what works and what doesn’t.
Everyone is a potential target
Whatever the cause or causes, the threat of a knife attack is real, the possibility of being mugged or physically attacked exists for everyone. It does not matter who you are, where you live or where you work. The fact is it is a possibility. In order for us to learn to defend against a weapon it is important to learn how one attacks or uses the weapon. If you wanted to learn the best ways of defending against a gun you would first have to learn how to use it. Thus giving you background in how your opponent might react or think. This concept is the same with knife training or any other weapon for that matter. The knife has many advantages for the would be assailants, know what they are.
- Easy to obtain in almost any environment
- Easy to conceal on the body or nearby
- Simple to use and just as deadly
- One for each hand
- Silent, quick and deadly
All these advantages only lead us to realize that modern day martial artists should be skilled in knife training.
The first and most important levels of training start with empty hand against the knife. Next is knife versus empty hand and then knife and weapons versus knife.
Considering most people don’t carry a readily accessible weapon with them at all times, we must put emphasis on the first area of empty hand training. It must be noted that this or any other training must be done under the supervision of a qualified instructor.
Training only with a rubber knife causes you to take chances and develop bad habits that can result in serious injury when confronted with a real life threatening situation. Of course it is important in the beginning to train with a safe replica to ensure safety until the fundamentals and special skills are learned.
Learn to see a possible attack before it happens, so you can avoid it. Pay attention to your attackers physiology, emotions and actions are all telegraphed by eye expression and movement. You might be surprised how much body language an attacker will translate before he executes his move.
An example of a technique we often use is when you hand over your wallet you might slip it through his fingers or accidentally drop it, that split second he uses to focus on the wallet (trying to grab it as it falls) or ground gives you plenty of time to react. Even the blink of an eye, sudden sound, movement or the inhalation of breath may give you the chance you need if your speed and timing is right.
It is usually best to avoid going for the weapon directly. Don’t risk a cut leg, arm or worse a cut artery. Sometimes it is better to kick in order to keep distance and avoid getting close or cut. Kicking must only be used by skilled practitioners and best with protective shoes or boots.
If the situation is unavoidable then make sure you are prepared through hard realistic training by a professional instructor. Nothing can guarantee your survival, but with knowledge in the arts you can gain the skills necessary giving you the defensive edge.