Caution: Sharp Edges...

(reprinted from a journal article by Quikshift)

So I did another R.E.A.C.T. seminar yesterday. This time it was a knife seminar. No verbal skills, just knife defense tactics. Let me begin by saying that the first and most important lesson learned here was that knives are extremely dangerous. Stop, read that again (yes, right now... I'm not kidding) and then continue.

Ready? Ok, let's keep going and expand of the previous paragraph. The general lesson was that knives are very dangerous when in the hands of an opponent, often times even more so than guns. This may seems like a shock to many people especially those with no knife training experience but let me elucidate further. First of all, a gun is only dangerous when it’s pointed at you. A gun must be loaded, and when empty has to be reloaded. A gun, even one pointed at you requires that all safeties be turned off (unless it’s a Glock) and a round is chambered. Then, the operator has to have their finger on the trigger, and maintain the gun on the target while firing (harder to do than it looks in the movies, trust me). A knife on the other hand is always dangerous. It only has to touch you, nay simply to graze you to injure you gravely. A knife never runs out of ammo and never has to be reloaded. Now the best part, while it actually takes some skill to hit what you’re firing at it takes virtually no skill at all to stab someone many times in an extremely short period of time. If you can touch them you can cut them… badly. Am I beginning to make my point yet?

The seminar got up to speed quickly. The basic 15 minute introduction about the dangers of knives, and then the recommendation that if ever faced with an knife wielding opponent, to simply run. That’s right, the best defense here is to avoid the fight at all costs. After that to realize that you’re going to get cut. Bruce Lee kung-fu shit not withstanding you’re probably not going to realize that you’re in a knife fight until you’re already cut. Sounds terrible but it’s probably true. If you know you’re in a knife fight before the first slice, you’re already ahead. Now get the hell out of there. Sounds great, but what if that’s not an option? That’s where the rest of the seminar comes in. First of all understand that it’s better to be cut once rather than twice, twice rather than three times… you get the idea. Usually people who die from stabbings have gotten cut many times; it wasn’t the first cut that did them in. Most of the seminar was spent putting that knowledge to use.

Here’s the basic premise of the Krav Maga knife defense tactics we learned. First, don’t get into a knife fight (this one bears repeating). Second, control the knife. Third, destroy the operator. Sounds simple, right? What, no fancy disarms or knife stripping drills? Absolutely not. The weapon is disarmed when the operator is no longer conscious. This is different than the “de-fanging the snake” in other martial arts but it makes sense. Disarms and strips are hard to pull off under ideal situations by trained operators. In a dark and grungy street-fight with adrenaline pounding, robbing you of your fine motor control, the odds of pulling one off are slim. If you’re not getting stabbed yet use distance, kick. Step off the line of attack and kick as hard as you can. If you can’t move off center line thrust kick and put your body back, keep your hands up. Don’t try any fancy “kicking the knife out of the hand” shit, kick to the body. Kick once, kick twice, just don’t let them get close enough to cut you, then run. This is actually amazingly effective.

Now let’s assume the fight is already a little closer. First of all, this isn’t a fist fight. Keep your hands up and away from your face, give yourself some distance to work with. If you block close, the knife might still get through. If you see the attack coming jam it immediately and push forward. If you’re on your heels then your opponent is pushing their attack and stabbing you, don’t let them. Keep on your toes and moving forward, press the attack. Second, once your get a hand on the knife arm, keep it there. Also, counter the attack immediately as you’re jamming theirs. Punch their throat, their face, keep punching (all the while do not let go of that knife hand). As soon as you can get control of the weapon, get both hands on it. Once you have control keep pressing the attack, kick, knee head-butt, whatever you have to do to destroy the operator. If you let the weapon hand go the cycle begins again and you’re going to get cut... again.

The class had multiple scenarios, from attacks beginning at a distance to the “hostage” situation where someone is holding a knife to your throat or back. The basic premise was always the same. Identify the threat, move your body away from it and get control of the weapon (realizing that you’re probably getting stabbed in the process) while attacking the operator. Once you have control continue to press the attack until the operator is no longer conscious. If by any chance the weapon falls away continue to focus on the operator and not on the weapon. They may have a second knife, they may take your pause as an opportunity to counter attack. Do not give them a chance to use it, press the attack.

After over 3 ½ hours of training it was time to fight. This time all the scenarios were one-on-one. The bullet men started you out with your eyes closed facing towards them, away from them, on the ground or somewhere in between and assaulted you with the knife. Sometimes you saw the attack right before it happened, sometimes you just felt it begin and were already getting stabbed. We went through 3 scenarios each and they were eye opening. I was so adrenalized that I can’t even tell you how my first scenario began. I can only tell you that I was stabbed at least 5 times before I finally got control of the knife. In my second scenario I got lucky. It began with a threat at arms length and I might not have gotten stabbed at all (it happened very quickly, so I might have) while gaining control of the knife and head-butting and kicking my opponent into submission. This was luck, pure and simple. In my third scenario, I got to see the attack and kicked for everything I was worth to keep distance but ultimately I got stabbed a lot before finally getting control of the weapon as my opponent came in despite my kicks. That said I found it amazing how effective the kicks actually were and wished I had used them in my first scenario. against an unarmored opponent they would have been very effective. All in all I’d have to say that in only 1 out of every 10 scenarios did the “defender” not get cut. More often then not even the best defense resulted in multiple stabbings. What is the lesson here? That’s right, do not get into a knife fight.

The training was exceptional and quite illuminating. I have seen many movie fights and learned various disarms but to see a full speed knife fight up close over and over was fantastic. It has given me a better understanding of just how dangerous a knife fight actually is. The amazing thing was just how quickly the attacks happened. Even within 15 feet there was barely time to perceive the attack and begin to react. Often in the scenarios and at closer distances the defenders suffered cuts even as they were beginning to mount a defense. The beautiful thing was, they didn’t stop. Once you realize that you’re in a fight, you do not stop until the attacker is neutralized. It doesn’t matter if you’re cut and bleeding, you just keep going.

Is there anything that could have made this seminar better? Yes. I’d love to go through a few scenarios with the attackers using Shock-Knives. I realize that for a Level 1 knife seminar that might be a bit much but I think it would really have made the fights more interesting (and painful). Otherwise it was fantastic. The instructors were terrific and enthusiastic. The bullet men were great and really got in the game. They pressed their attacks and made all of the defenders really work for it. I believe that the adrenalized fight scenarios are probably some of the best training available. As Bruce Lee said, “The best preparation for an event, is the event itself.” Considering that even today I’ve found myself walking around having flashbacks to my fights, I’d have to say that my mind is convinced that it was in a bunch of real fights.

What’s the lesson here? That’s right… it bears repeating; eat your vegetables.