Knife in Combat, Part II

by Stephen LaBounty (2007-09-25)

Okay, now that you have a basic idea of how I view the use of an edged weapon, let's go into some more facts and ideas to get your mind right for this event we never want to happen.

You will note I haven't really touched on the "defense" against a knife. The reason for this has multiple layers. First, the use of an edged weapon is empowering, falsely so most of the time, but still gives the wielder the feeling of power. Second, most persons believe they have a 'knife' defense intact via their own particular style, seminars they've attended, or lessons they've taken on occasion. That's fine and can work, so I'll keep most of my thoughts toward the use of the edged weapon.

When someone approaches me regarding learning how to use the knife I first ask if they are interested in a serious, prolonged study of the blade that would result in some sort of advancement. Most say yes, and then I tell them that I am not qualified to teach an entire program in the blade arts, and then recommend them to either the weapons Guru of the LaBounty family, Paul Silva, or if that is not possible, a variety of "Blade/Stick only" teachers. I have trained in most of the Filipino, and some of the Indonesian arts, at some time or another and still do when the teachers are available, but not to the receiving any more than a beginner rank.

When they say no, then I am able to show them how I use and defend against the blade and teach law enforcement officers and civilians who have no desire to study a structured system. This is true of Martial Artists as well who are working to increase their abilities in their system but want some knowledge of knife craft.

So I then give them the following lecture.

1) Our society has become more aggressive and violent, so we need to be better trained, more alert and ready for anything.
2) Ignore the drop in the murder rate. Medical science is preserving life on a higher-than-average rate than even five years ago. What one needs to look at is the aggravated assault rate, especially with weapons. These rates on police and civilians are exploding and are causing the prison population to expand four-fold.
3) The capacity of the American criminal to hurt, maim, kill has increased with the rise of drug use, alcohol abuse, and a variety of social problems.
4) Law Enforcement fatalities are on the rise as a whole. In one study by California Peace Officers Standards and Training, edged weapon assaults alone on Peace Officers was up by 62%.

So now the person has an idea what they will be possibly facing in an edged weapon assault, and how important the training I'm about to give them must be adhered to. Here, in very brief form is the beginning set of principles:

Stress Management: In the beat of the heart, you can be faced with a situation that can render you helpless and even paralyzed. Imagine the psychological horror of being slashed, having the meat on your arm hacked and dangling, with incredibly debilitating pain, and the knowledge that the assailant is not through with his attack. Though this may have not in fact actually happened, it is the stress inducing scenario that begins the downfall of a possible success for you, and will have you reaching for "knife defense A" on some list somewhere. It is only through real time training, with real time tempo and assaults that you will ingrain your responses. Sterile and static training does have its place and is necessary, but any blade, or weapon for that matter, must raise the heart rate and get you as close to gross motor movement as possible. Through this type of dynamic training will your confidence be raised and the reaction time increased.

Survival Skills: Ideally, your survival skills should be kept simple as possible. The technique should not be too complex, hence if you are not training in a structured blade art, don't attempt disarms, ejections, captures and reversals. Once you've reached a level of competence, you can add those later. Basically, we are concerned with the response time of your technique, and that it is, in fact, a proper one for the situation. But even with that, we mustn't assume that which works in practice will work in the field.

Dynamic Training Drills: Now we begin to develop all those confidence building, practical and resourceful drills that become of our movement with or without stress. First off, what type of equipment will you be using? What is the proper grip(s)? What about footwork, stances, the off hand? What angles will be of most use? Pain management after being hit? How do we cover and then counter? What about the feet and hands of the attacker, how do I watch all of that? So then, the "real time" instruction begins. The student is given the suggestions to all of the above (and then some) and put through a series of slow motion walk through using different "what ifs?" All the mistakes are recorded and redone until a confidence is noted. Coaching points are reinforced and the student required to self correct to soft wire these points to the central nervous system for rapid muscle/motor response.

Next, the development of reactionary motor skills, done in slow motion still, where the student will have to react to this deadly force attack by his opponent. A variety of problems arise, deployment of his weapon, management of balance, defense and environment, but also the fact this person is kicking, punching, slashing and stabbing. This must be done statically and with speed as a non-issue. This student now begins to see the many forms of deadly force from a person not as well trained as he or she, but lethal none the less. In this scene, winning or losing isn't the goal, proper technique and response is.