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Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture
De-fang or wrist-lock this

Hi All,

Sadly I can’t embed this one: http://youtu.be/QHSXZnxLZ0I

An interesting illustration (on a ballistic gel dummy) of why most “knife defences” won’t work. There is no way most of what is taught within the martial arts will work when an aggressive attacker means it. No “stabbing and standing” in the style of a classical lunge punch here; just lots of damage done very quickly.

All the best,

Iain

michael rosenbaum
michael rosenbaum's picture

This might also be of interest and though humorous I am being serious about weapons defense in the article: http://michaelrosnbaum.blogspot.com/2012/03/sticks-stones-and-knives-that-cut.html

You guys look out for pickup trucks!

Mike

JWT
JWT's picture

Thanks for sharing that.  I know a number of people who'd say "I'd hit him" but I'm sure in private honesty with themselves would recognise that dealing with such power and aggression combined with a blade  is the type of fight we'd all do well to avoid.

Although the stats are numerically out of date now I seem to remember writing a piece on how to develop knife drills for Jissen.

JWT
JWT's picture

Nice article Michael - I hadn't read that before.  Thanks for sharing.

nielmag
nielmag's picture

michael rosenbaum wrote:

This might also be of interest and though humorous I am being serious about weapons defense in the article: http://michaelrosnbaum.blogspot.com/2012/03/sticks-stones-and-knives-that-cut.html

You guys look out for pickup trucks!

Mike

Great article!  I agree whole heartedly, however I always wonder, what if you have no choice but to deal with someone with a weapon?  for example, you and wife, child, etc is cornered and cant run away, etc?  Not trying to be difficult, but even if guy was unarmed, and we can escape, we should.  But we learn self protection in the case we must protect ourselves and fleeing is not an option. 

Wastelander
Wastelander's picture

I actually happened to be watching the show when this episode originally aired--it is a very good illustration of how someone who really wants to kill you will attack you with a knife. My sensei always reminds everyone that a knife is a "rage weapon" every time we train weapons defense, stating that if someone attacks you with a knife it is because they want to stab you and slash you over and over again until you are dead or they aren't pissed off anymore.  We do not work fancy disarms when we work knife defense, either. Instead, we stick to doing whatever you can to get away, and if that fails to control the stabbing arm until you can get away (including any striking or locking that happens to be available). It tends to be a very free-flowing portion of class that starts off with slower attacks that eventually speed up, and then the attacks come randomly. Unfortunately, we don't typically work defensive drills against knives very often and we do not have many people with enough experience who happen to come to class on days we do them, so we don't get to do full-speed, resistant training against them often.

Some information that I have found really useful was actually some research done by Libre (a modern knife fighting art) practitioners. As a bladed tool enthusiast and occasional bladesmith, I frequent several knifemaking related forums and came across Libre through them. This particular thread is along the same vein as this one, but with accompanying videos and conversations about the research, so I highly recommend it:

http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/showthread.php/972282-Libre-Fighting-K...

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

I have actually tried out a bit of live  and semi-live"knife defense" in my class against this kind of movement - the 'grab and stab' we used plastic spatulas lol.

Only a few things seemed effective, the most effective seemed to involve getting behind the person, if we weren't  quick enough and got followed you have to - at least transitionally "grapple" the arm tightly, if you fail to move at all but manage to keep going the person moves to a wider angle with the knife, sort of like a hook punch with a knife - felt like a scary place to be!

One thing that seemed to result in unmitigated disaster was trying to hold on at the wrist, or focus on hand stuff, to a degree I would even say the idea of "disarming" first seemed like a waste of time rather than just attacking the guy. Walls and barriers made a really big difference in things at times.

Obviously our play is not conclusive stuff by any means, but every time we have done this in class I felt like it was really an eye opening experience for everyone - it's crazy what little control you have against someone when they use an implement like this instead of in a 'martial artsy' way. There are a number of youtube videos of knife attacks - some got removed for being offensive, many seem to go this way..including a lot of prision shanking  videos. I assume this kind of attack is really what people are likely to face (unfortunately) if they get attacked in earnest..rather than a n FMA style slash fest, or West Side Story style dancing. Funnily, the stuff we found that worked within reason can be found in kata, but it was very gross motor based, nothing with fine manipulation. Another thing i've seen mentioned regarding knife defense is fluids and slipperyness, i've heard it's worth trying once or twice with vaseline or similar just to see how much harder it is.

I've also noticed that sometimes people will defend the typical "martial artsy way" to the ends of the earth, even when much of it demonstrably won't hold up at all vs. this kind of attack. Alot of people will also argue that there's no point in training against this kind of worse case scenario..I dunno, I figure if you're going to screw around with "weapons defense" you are better off working against stuff like this than anything else. I've also seen a few good dieas of training with coats, belts etc...though I don't think most people who want to attack you like this will allow you the time to get a coat or belt etc. Of course there are a million things to learn about environments, avoidance etc. outside of this...but in terms of physical drilling I think something like this is 100x more likely than alot of the silly stuff I see in martial arts knifework.

Anyone with direct experience of this stuff btyw?

clouviere
clouviere's picture

I think that the lesson here is simple...don't let the attacker have his way.  It really doesn't matter if it's a knife or a fist, if he can stand there and rinse and repeat the same two basic physical attacks...you will loose.  Knife or no knife.

All I see there is an individual trained to just grab and stab till the target stops moving.  That can be grab and stab or grab and punch...or grab and choke.  Doesn't matter.  I don't think that fancy locks and wrist grabs and disarms work against things like this any way.  Reminds me of Iain's Naihanchi elbow demo.  It's the same principle...grab and elbow till something gets in the way, clear it, and keep elbowing until the target stops moving.

How do you defend against that?  I don't know 100%, still on my journey, but it seems like you have to match the attack with a similar defense.  Boards don't hit back...and neither do dummies.  I think we have all the tools we need, we just need to train them properly.  And single technique solutions to a single attacking technique are not going to do it. 

There's also a bit of misunderstanding when it comes to exactly what does an individual meant on doing you harm look like.  We don't have that person in our dojo.  So couple old school, impractical Shotokan knife defense with compliant and non agressive uke and you have a recipe for getting people hurt.

On a side note, we did do some gun disarms the other night in class...and as proof that my sensei is waking up and slowly coming out of his 30 year Shotokan bubble, we pulled out an actual gun.  Okay, I went to my car and got mine.  Cleared, no rounds, everyone saw for them selves...I played Uke...and I pulled the trigger...and they all heard the hammer hitting the pin and the click of the trigger, and felt the weight as they tried to move off line.  And 95% of the time they would have been dead.  And more importantly they knew it.  One young man had to be calmed down.  The affect was overwhelming.  No rounds, no danger, but the addition of the real weapon was enough to make it very hard for him to train.  And he learned a valuable lesson...if you can't train the disarm or the defense because you are already in flight mode...you've already lost.

The added benifit, in the short term, everyone's single technque disarm's improved measurable over the evening.  Even the young man.  But as Eddie Bravo says...more reps are indeed needed.

The moral of the story...for the first time since I started training there (about a year) we were talking about life and death...in a real way.  So there's hope.

Chris

P.S. We did assume a) you were within range of the weapon, and b) that the individual was not a trained marksman who knew how to hold their weapon for offensive and defensive shooting.  We, well I, did cover that if someone meant you harm, they likely would have already shot you.  And we covered that it doesn't matter if they are using the gun for show, bad things still happen around guns and thus it is life and death.

Th0mas
Th0mas's picture

I will put my cards on the table, in 26 years I have not ever seriously trained for knife defence. I have also not ever been in a knife fight, I have been confronted with one but that was at school and it ended with me psyching out my attacker, so never ended in an exchange of blows. I have always made the assumption that a knife attack will be more like a real fight rather than the imagined karate defence scenario,,, you will be blind sided and if it is a face off, then many flailing arms will ensure...

clouviere wrote:
...Boards don't hit back...and neither do dummies...  
...And this was my major criticism with the video...the target WILL NOT stay still and the Target WILL retaliate.

So, It is a shocking video and absolutely brings home the point that you can do a lot of damage with a knife to an unresisting victim. However I don't think it is a good representation of a real knife attack just as the "traditional" defence against a single knife attack is also not. So I haven't specifically trained for knife defence. I don't believe that if the circumstance arises, I will even realise my attacker has a knife till it is too late and as far as I am concerned defending against the more likely aggressive street attacker who is intent on causing me much harm is challenging enough... the strategy I will use and the fighting principles will remain the same...is that naive of me?
shoshinkanuk
shoshinkanuk's picture

I have felt for a long time the application of kata in a knife fight is rather weird, unless applied once the opponent is imobilised or semi imobilised. (in fact soem of the old 'modern' masters actually wrote kata application in general is for this).

How to achieve that, well as many said in honesty its a real tough one to call, I do feel the hit and keep hitting approach has validity but you gotta take an angle and try to get behind the weapon.

Tau
Tau's picture

Th0mas wrote:
this was my major criticism with the video...the target WILL NOT stay still and the Target WILL retaliate.

So, It is a shocking video and absolutely brings home the point that you can do a lot of damage with a knife to an unresisting victim. However I don't think it is a good representation of a real knife attack just as the "traditional" defence against a single knife attack is also not.

I can't help but think "if I were that dummy..."

You're right, I wouldn't stay still and just take it. I'd flinch repsonse and get my hands up to protect my face and neck at all costs... and get my arms cut to pieces possibly to the point of amputation of the hand. The attack isn't typical in terms of fitness, focus, strength, having an artifical objective, being prepared for the explosion of fitness etc. But the point remains, that's a scary video. There are also videos out there showing this sort of sustained random knife attack. I concede not as effective in terms of end result, but you don't need to be that effective to do permanent damage or end a life.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

shoshinkanuk wrote:
I have felt for a long time the application of kata in a knife fight is rather weird, unless applied once the opponent is immobilised or semi-immobilised.

I disagree here. Some key things that are a must in such a situation; where escaping is not immediately possible:

1 - Get off the enemy’s main attack line i.e. take an angle.

2 - Do your best to control the limb wielding the weapon.

3 - Focus on impacting the head and neck of the enemy so that they are incapacitated and hence the weapon is no longer a threat (i.e. don’t think of “defending against the weapon” but instead focus on “incapacitating the person wielding the weapon”).

To my way of viewing kata, all three of those are fundamental and ever-present. Taking angles, controlling limbs and seeking incapacitation through impact are what kata application primarily is to me. It is not “fancy stuff” to be done when the enemy is dazed and confused following impact; it is the “meat and potatoes” methods that get ensure we can deliver that impact effectively.

shoshinkanuk wrote:
I do feel the hit and keep hitting approach has validity but you gotta take an angle and try to get behind the weapon.

Totally agree … and I see kata applications being very useful in teaching us to do just that.

Th0mas wrote:
And this was my major criticism with the video...the target WILL NOT stay still and the Target WILL retaliate.

This is a valid observation, but when I watch that video I’m not left thinking I’d be fine because I’d fight back :-) There is highly unlikely to be a good outcome for anyone facing that level of aggression at that range. I think we need to be careful that we don’t discount what is illustrated in the video on the basis of the “boards don’t hit back” argument. The enemy has a huge advantage here and hence the retaliation needs to be highly effective if the tables are to be turned. Seeking wrist-locks and disarms are not going to work. We can forget almost all “traditional knife defences” such as shown in the clip below (kind defences start 40 second in):

To be clear Tatsuo Suzuki is a karateka I really admire and he is part of my karate “family tree”. So this is not a criticism of him, just an honest observation that this kind of “knife defense” won’t work against a realistic determined attack and hence I feel the practice of such things does more harm than good. Worth practicing for enjoyment or historical interest, but as a way to avoid bleeding to death, they have no value.

I think the same can be said of many “reality based” knife defences too.  I did a quick web search and found the following video of Krav Maga knife defences.

OK so we have “street clothing” and no formal holding of stances, but all the same problems exist. The attacker typically lunges in from a large distance, just once, and then complies with the complex defences being applied. Again, this is highly unlikely to work against an aggressive attack as shown in the original video. Looks good in the movies thorough; and it is interesting that Jason Bourne is shown as an example of what to do. I do however wholeheartedly agree with the last few seconds of the video. Simply saying “run” isn’t enough through; like anything else it needs to be practised.

I was once chatting about Gun Defence with Rory Miller and he asked me what I would do if he went to draw a gun. I said I would try to jam his hand and then I’d hit with everything I had. He then said, “You know all you need to know about gun defence”. Same with knives; it needs to be super simple to stand a chance of working. This is not an environment that favours complexity and it’s the simple jam on the draw (if possible), impact and control, incapacitate / flee approach that is most likely to work. We should forget the fancy locks and disarms if workable skills are our primary concern. However, learning key awareness skills are all the more important because there is no “good solution” once the blade starts whizzing about.

All the best,

Iain

Cataphract
Cataphract's picture

Apropos whizzing

"Surviving Edged Weapons" has some good advice, but it is rather graphic. You can find it YouTube.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

That is a good video that is well worth a watch, but even some of that has been superseded. For example, “pat, wrap, attack” does not need the “wrap” part. “Pat, attack” is generally thought to be more effective these days. The “wrap” is hard to get live and seeking it delays the vital “attack”. Certainly, for us civilians, “pat, attack, flee” is a better way to think.

It is a good video though … watch it and you’ll never stand directly in front of a letter box again! ;-)

All the best,

Iain

sarflondonboydo...
sarflondonboydonewell's picture

A good thread; but in my view being attacked by an expert knife fighter is different from being attacked by a street yob;

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08s334d/the-met-policing-london-series-2-episode-1

In one has not got the time to watch this whole episode  then watch from  26.06 to 26.58, once the attacker has momentum as well as psychological dominance the victim is on the back foot and  over whelmed. The victim was very lucky to survive

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

sarflondonboydonewell wrote:
in my view being attacked by an expert knife fighter is different from being attacked by a street yob;

While that’s undoubtedly true, we need to be very careful with that because martial artists have a bad habit of twisting such statements to justify practising in some very dangerous ways. The argument quickly becomes something akin to:

“Fighting a trained knife fighter is very different to fighting an untrained thug. We are highly skilled knife fighters, so we know what we are doing unlike the yobs. And therefore, our skills are way in excess of theirs. They pose no threat to us.”

You hear that a lot … and it’s full of logical fallacies.

Fault in Probability

It is “possible” you may be attacked by an expert knife fighter … but it is NOT PROBABLE. Where is the evidence for this crime wave of murderous high-level Arnis practitioners? Are there any reports of Arnis masters using their skills to rape and murder? It’s a martial myth martial artists dream up to justify complexity and fuel false feelings of superiority. We need to focus on the reality of crime, not reinvent it into something we find more interesting or convenient. This was discussed in my recent “Reinventing Violence” podcast.

Difference in Goals and Methodology.

A “knife fighter” trains to fight another “knife fighter”. A criminal does not want a fight they want to harm, rob, rape and kill. For them it’s surprise, numbers and raw aggression. Not squaring off for a skilled exchange. In this related thread, I tell the story of a undoubtedly skilled and highly trained knife fighter failing got get this difference and hence being “taken out” by someone who does understand how criminals work (thankfully in a demonstration). It’s relevant, so I’ll repost that test here:

https://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/comment/12601#comment-12601

A highly skilled and experienced criminal does not need to be a highly skilled and experienced martial artist. Martial artists have a bad habit of failing to see that. The criminal who uses deception, ambush and raw aggression, and who is fully committed to killing you, is a very dangerous enemy. The fact they may not have martial training is entirely irrelevant.

I was once part of a discussion with a highly skilled martial “knife fighter” and an individual with a very “colourful past”.  The martial artist was boasting about all the qualifications he had and people he had trained with. The other gent could not get a word in edgeways … even when he remarked that his experience of using a knife began when “I was 14 and a drug deal went wrong”. In the end the guy with real criminal experience asked the highly qualified martial artist to “show me”. As the martial artists got set, the gent with criminal experience picked up my pen from the desk and then, without any warning, quickly dragged the “knife” (pen) across the martial artist’s inner upper-arm and neck before indicating plunging it several times into his heart. It all happened in little more than a second and was done with bags of aggression. The martial artist was left stunned as he was expecting a “fight” not the surprise execution that took place in the blink of an eye. The guy with the criminal experience then coldly whispered into the martial artist’s ear, “Did you see what I did there? Do you understand that you’re dead now?”. The martial artist finally shut up and listened. For me, it was a privilege to witness it.

The above was a very clear display that failing to appreciate criminals don’t think and operate like martial artists is a huge problem … as is having the arrogant view that skill in the martial arts makes prevailing against “untrained criminals” a walk in the park. Crime is their game. They are the experts. We need to think like them and understand them if we are to be able to deal with them.

Practicality vs Academia

For practical purposes, we need to acknowledge the inescapable fact that if faced with a knife it is most likely to be in the hands of as criminal who will uses it as criminals do. Those methods are the most effective way for crime. The methods a martial-arts trained knife-fighter would use in a theoretical duel are far LESS effective for crime and needlessly complex for that objective. For practicality, we need to “know our enemy” and focus on how knives are used in crime; because that is what we are almost certain to be facing.

Just as people like learning the skilled use and skilled defence of all kinds of weaponry (swords, staff, sai, tonfa, etc) then I can understand how learning the knife methods that would be relevant to consensual violence (a duel or a fight) can be of interest. However, I would say this field of study is “martial arts” / “martial academia” and not “self-defence”.

Now, for some this is not good enough and they need to concoct a link to self-defence i.e. “What if he’s a skilled knife fighter, squares off and attacks you as such … unlike those dumb criminals who are easy to beat”. The problem is that this confuses the issue and makes people less able to deal with the actual threat by introducing falsehoods by treating extremely remote possibilities as the norm.

It’s fine to train in martial arts for interest and enjoyment; there is no need to link everything back to self-defence and “reinvent violence” in the process.

So I agree that fighting a knife fighter and keeping yourself safe from criminals are different, but we need to be careful not to take that truth and make a falsehood out of it i.e. “learning to deal with a knife fighter is the best preparation for dealing with crime, because knife fighters are more “skilled” than criminals.” That’s untrue, precisely because fighting a knife fighter and keeping yourself safe from criminals are different. We need to understand our enemy, know their objectives, and be clear on our own.

sarflondonboydonewell wrote:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08s334d/the-met-policing-london-se...

In one has not got the time to watch this whole episode then watch from  26.06 to 26.58, once the attacker has momentum as well as psychological dominance the victim is on the back foot and  over whelmed. The victim was very lucky to survive

Disturbing footage. In that footage the victim does seem to have an improvised weapon of his own (length of wood?), and then he is knocked to the floor by one of the gang members with a kick from the rear (surprise and numbers). Now he is on the floor, he is repeatedly stabbed and slashed by one of the other gang members. See we see no skilled martial arts here … but we see how savagely effectively the criminals operate through surprise, numbers and weapons. That’s how they operate and it works. There’s no “fight” and the fact the victim is armed makes no difference due to the gangs use of surprise and numbers. That’s what we are up against; not skilled exchanges with fellow martial artist. 

All the best,

Iain

Cataphract
Cataphract's picture

Last time around I tried to include this. Second try ;-)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-YK31by5i0
Iain Abernethy wrote:

“Fighting a trained knife fighter is very different to fighting an untrained thug. We are highly skilled knife fighters, so we know what we are doing unlike the yobs. And therefore, our skills are way in excess of theirs. They pose no threat to us.”

The vocabulary seems a little black and white to me. Untrained and unskilled thugs versus trained and skilled martial artists on the other side.

Just because those "thugs" may not have ranked in a traditional martial art does not mean they are untrained and unskilled. Their skill set is just different. They can also have much more first hand experience with real violence than the average karateka. I think all those stories about martial monks and damsels in distress just cloud the fact that most martial arts stem from rather thuggish sources themselves.

That begs the question: What makes a martial artist? Can only the "good guy" be one? The only reason karate and tai chi are socially accepted is that we train for sport, self defense and character development. At the core they are still about beating people up.

On the other hand, somebody with a weapon does not have to be skilled at all to be dangerous.