Monday, February 15, 2010

The Reality of Knife Defense Techniques

I had the privilege of attending a pot-luck dinner this last weekend hosted by my son’s Scout troop, during which, one of the boys demonstrated three different knife defense techniques.

The attacks were:Knife attack - combatives defense

  • Underhand stab with the right hand
  • Overhand slash with the right (angle #1 for you Filipino martial artists)
  • Vertical, reverse-grip stab straight down with the right hand.

If you’ve served in the military, you’ve seen the defenses performed, or learned them yourself in basic training. They are very basic, stiff, and unrealistic, but you had to perform it by rote. I’ve learned and taught them myself, and proper performance of the techniques depends on a cooperative and reliably predictable partner feeding you the attacks.

By contrast, please take a look at the video below from the program, “Fight Quest,” where the hosts learned some techniques in a short time and have to compete or demonstrate them against exponents of the style or system that they’ve learned. In this case, Filipino martial arts.

Hat tip to Tan Dao for the video. Follow him on Twitter, too.

The first fight on this video is of one of our hosts, the white dude squaring off versus a Filipino representing their Marine Corps. As you can see, it’s not even close. The knives are coated with dye or ink to simulate the damage that would be caused by cuts or stabs, and it' isn’t pretty.

The problem with standard knife defense techniques taught all over the world, including in military service and police academy class environments is that people don’t attack that way. Only an extremely unskilled attacker will attack in those fully-committed stabs or slashes. Same goes for displaying the weapon; even a moderately skilled knife attacker will not display the weapon, but instead, use it before you knew it was there.

What’s the solution? How can you defend against something you can’t see, or of which you aren’t aware? What are the differences between what you need to know as a civilian, law enforcement officer, or soldier?

Our recommendations:

  1. Get a rubber knife and eye protection (important), a reliable partner, and try to defend against a knife you can see, on displayed openly, and against reasonable telegraphed attacks.
  2. Then, have the partner do everything in his/her power to cut or stab you without letting you grab him or strike him. In other words, upgrade his level of skill to something more realistic.
  3. Integrate a hidden knife into any sparring session where you do wear eye protection. It doesn’t matter whether it’s grappling, kickboxing, or MMA-style integration.
  4. Add magic markers to the mix whenever possible and strike versus white t-shirts to display what will really happen.

I think what you will find is that the knife almost always will cut you, regardless of your skill, especially if you try to defend it in the manner that you’ve been taught in the past.

Finally, seek qualified instruction through seminars, videos, and tapes, and drill, drill, drill. Once you become aware of the danger and iniquitousness of knives in most areas, you’ll learn to carry one yourself, and watch the hands of anyone who makes your “spidey-sense” go off.

Stay safe out there!

Photo source: US Army FM 3-25.150 (FM 21-150) p8-21

For more information:

TDA Knife defense scenario training
TDA Bringing a gun to a knife fight?
TDA It could happen anytime - real knife attack
TDA Rush a gun; Run from a knife
TDA Unarmed Knife Defense Video
TDA Reexamining Modern Knife Instruction - WR Mann
TDA If an attacker pulls a knife...
Defend University Disengage Safely from the Fight
Defend University The Most Dangerous Opponent: Dealing with the Sudden Attack
Technorati Tags: ,


Colin Wee said...

My first style taught four prescribed knife defences against, as you say, an extremely unskilled knife attacker. This modular approach to weapons and training is a weak point of many martial art schools - where students are given a false sense of what works or a glimpse into an unrealistic attack. It's a worry! Colin

Noah said...

I've done some sparring with rubber knives like you describe in your second recommendation, and I can definitely say that it is very tough to defend against. I certainly think it's something that needs to be practiced more often.

Nathan Teodoro said...

Colin: Agreed, it's a weak point of some schools. I would add, though, that most (in my opinion) teach what they're calling, "self-defense" in the same way. No "aliveness."

Noah: You're right - reps are the important thing here.

Colin Wee said...

Not only that - the 'self defence' segment is taught as isolated techniques. There's no way of linking the strikes and blocks to 'self defence' -- which are mainly lock/grabs/takedowns/escapes. This was what got me jaded with my own style some years ago. Colin