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Cataphract
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Juji Uke Against Knife?

There is no doubt that knifes, shanks etc. are really very dangerous. Vegetius wrote in De Re Militari:

Quote:
[...] a stab, though it penetrates but two inches, is generally fatal.

The Fairbairn Manual of Knife Fighting says

Quote:
[...] we state there is no means by which an unarmed man can defend against a knife fighter. Still, it must be acknowledged that there may come unfortunate circumstances in which one has no other choice but to make an attempt.

I heard that the Russians taught one arm raising block (age uke) to their soldiers in Afghanistan due to the common overhead ice pick attacks. I don't know how it worked out for them.

Using Juji Uke to trap the arm holding a knife seems like a bad idea. The attacker can collaps his arm and draw the blade from head to toe or plunge it into your collar. You could however use one forearm as a buffer and one hand to grip his wrist. Like in this video. That might work.

What are your thoughts on this?

Marc
Marc's picture

A knife is probably the most terrible weapon in one on one combat. There is no good way to deal with it, but there are a lot of really bad ways.

With respect to the video you linked, of course we only have that one clip so we don't know the overall training concept. Anyway, I see two things that I find problematic: First, the distance is too long. Second, there are over 10 different attack angles and just as many different disarm techniques. Now, distance might be expanded, so the students can see what's going on. But prescribed reactions to many different attacks is just too much cognitive load for a very fast, close distance, high-risk, adrenaline filled situation like a knife attack.

Here's another video by Jim Wagner that to me seems much more realistic:

Take care,

Marc

Les Bubka
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Cataphract it's not just Russians teaching this way. I attended few Krav Maga seminars where same was taught, due to specific of attacks, Israeli police and army wears stab vests at all times, so the most common attack is from the above to target the neck. I have been involved in sharp object attack and the stress and adrenaline is overwhelming, my martial arts skills was reduced to 1%. Luckly the guy was not skilled and I was wearing many layers of clothing (Polish winter) and Someone else was involved, still I was left with nice scar on the stomach. Kind regards Les

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Always difficult to make a judgement off a single YouTube clip … but in this case, I find what is presented in the clip to be way too complex. We are talking finite motions being done in response to attacks where the arm is compliantly left out. Even if the grip was achieved, it’s not a strong grip. The fingers would not be strong enough to stop the knife wielder pulling it free. See pics:

We need something much simpler that accepts that reality will see ferocious repeated attacks delivered with commitment. Think of how the things in the above video would fare when put up against an attack like this:

Some of my own thoughts on weapons and how to deal with them can be found in this podcast:

https://iainabernethy.co.uk/content/weapon-defence

All the best,

Iain

Cataphract
Cataphract's picture

Whatever may be their follow ups, the way they cross block makes more sense to me than the scissoring between the ulna action that could be linked with juji uke.

Iain Abernethy
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Cataphract wrote:
Whatever may be their follow ups, the way they cross block makes more sense to me than the scissoring between the ulna action that could be linked with juji uke.

Can't say I'm a fan. The grabbing of the knife wielding arm is not something that would withstand pressure testing. It requires way too much finite awareness of where the arm is. I’m not a fan of Juji-uke being used in that way either, but I don’t think this is much better.

As we’ve discussed, there is no “good” solution to knives, but there are better and worse ones. The better ones accept the reality of ferocious repeated attacks delivered with commitment. This does not do that.

As I was once told by a master level Arnis teacher “the best way to ‘de-fang the snake’ (as disarms are sometimes called) is to rip it’s ####ing head off”. We should not fixate on the knife and seek to disarm, but instead seek to proactively control the arm while smashing the enemy’s head with all we have.  Once the head goes, the knife in no longer an issue. Fixate on the knife (as they are doing here) and the enemy remains fully able and fully aware. We need to take out the control centre rapidly and aggressively. In short, there is no place for complexity here. We need to “fight like ####” or “run like ####”. Anything in-between is sure to end in disaster.

All the best,

Iain

Cataphract
Cataphract's picture

Hohan Soken taught something at least very similar, I think, using an X block to deflect and trap between palm and forearm. And he himself was fighting with hairpins, wasn't he? I'm under the impression this is old karate/tuite stuff.

I take it you mean a ferocious attack? I believe that people who know how to handle a knife will never commit to an attack in the sense of a lunge punch. Even the dreaded "prison yard rush" is not really committed. Thankfully an unskilled attacker is a far more realistic scenario as Les' example illustrates.

There seem to be two schools of thought. One is to get the knife wielding arm, the other is to get the head. Karate's k.o. power is a decisive factor here that maybe should be discussed elsewhere. I'd personally try and go for the neck. But I'm not sure even expert boxers could guarantee to knock somebody out before getting cut badly.

Iain Abernethy
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Cataphract wrote:
I'm under the impression this is old karate/tuite stuff.

If it was what they did in the past, then it needs dumped because this isn’t to work. If it was what they did in the past, then the past masters were inept. Those are inescapable conclusions if we believe this is “old karate” (I don’t).

Based on the fact there are highly functional ways to use the same movements, I take the view that the masters of the past were neither inept nor were their methods ineffective … instead it is today’s martial artists who misinterpret things.

Iain Abernethy wrote:
The better ones accept the reality of ferocious repeated attacks delivered with commitment.

Cataphract wrote:
I take it you mean a ferocious attack?

I used both “ferocious” and “commitment”. I was not using the two words to mean the same thing. By “commitment” I meant committed to killing you i.e. not slowly sticking a limb out so the teacher can do his thing. So, by “commitment” I did not mean sticking the arm out and leaving it there (i.e. in a oizuki style) as such an attack would be entirely uncommitted to my way of thinking.

Iain Abernethy wrote:
Even the dreaded "prison yard rush" is not really committed.

It is very committed. They are fully committed to harming / killing the person they are stabbing. They are not playing along.

Iain Abernethy wrote:
Thankfully an unskilled attacker is a far more realistic scenario …

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.

This is a big problem when it comes to martial artists addressing self-defence. I’ve done quite a few podcasts on various aspects of it:

https://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/content/thinking-criminal-podcast

https://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/content/two-things-criminals-know-about-violence-you-should-know-too-podcast

https://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/content/reinventing-violence-podcast

Cataphract wrote:
There seem to be two schools of thought. One is to get the knife wielding arm, the other is to get the head. Karate's k.o. power is a decisive factor here that maybe should be discussed elsewhere. I'd personally try and go for the neck. But I'm not sure even expert boxers could guarantee to knock somebody out before getting cut badly.

This may be a good illustration of what I mean. You seem to be making assumptions based on approaching this like a “fight” (as martial artists are prone to). Self-defence is not about winning fights, but assuring safety. So, accepting there is no “good” way to deal with a knife, the best way is to get out of there. If I seek to hold onto the knife arm as the goal, then I’m still there and the enemy is still functioning. None of that is what I want. I’m also not sticking around with the hope of knocking him out (that would be fighting). What I suggest is seeking to control the arm (i.e. slap it or push it offline … not “wrapping” it up because that’s hard to do and encourages the grapple that will see me unable to escape and stabbed a lot), smashing the criminal in the head (a couple of quick palm-heels), and while he’s discombobulated I get the hell out of there.

If we can’t get out of there, the enemy is upon us, and the knife is whizzing all over the place, then I have one hold I teach my students to use (just the one so they have no decisions to make under such intense pressure; although they do need wider skills to get to the hold). Under-hook upper arm, hold wrist and pivot to the aside so the enemy can’t simply pass the knife to the other hand. From there we don’t seek to disarm, or continue the hold, we slam the head and flee. We call the drill for this “The Mad Scramble” because that’s exactly what it is.

Seeking to disarm is a major mistake. Seeking to control as an end in itself is a major mistake. Seeking to “win the fight” is a major mistake. We need to seek to get out of there. And we need to drill accordingly. No fancy disarms and no fighting for a “victory”.

The knife stuff I teach my students is based on four very simple drills (the mad scramble is the forth drill and makes the assumption that the escape possibilities of the first three have not worked out). It takes little more than 30 mins to show it all. After that it’s a matter or practise.  

The knife stuff is something I never “play” with. We occasionally do some fancy locks, takedowns, combinations etc. in training of the fun of it (making clear to students it is just for fun and maybe to try in dojo play), but when it comes to knives it is 100% basic brutality. It’s way too serious to mess around with.

I have a former-student who was attacked by a mental ill person with a knife and she escaped (and helped her friend escape) by doing exactly what we drill. She told me that “my children still have a mum because of what you taught”. If I had taught elaborate nonsense, then if she died and her children grew up without a mum then I’d have had to take some of the responsibility for that. This is heavy stuff that is, literally, deadly serious. I take my responsibility on this very seriously. If we all did that, then the Jason Borne-esque disarms would disappear overnight.

All the best,

Iain

Les Bubka
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I completely agree with Iain, once a year I do class where we go through all of the standard knife defence senarios. New students get very excited that they will be able to fight off the attacker. Till on the end of the class we use marker pens and try to use shown techniques, we have 100% of dead students. After this exercise they have a bit more info, how difficult it is to engage and survive. I advice people who want to survive, to join athletics club and focus on 150 meters Sprint and then marathon home. I understand that sometimes there is no choice and you have to fight, as Iain said it have to be simple, otherwise you forget, like I did. Primary instincts kick in, to be honest I don't remember much of what happened. Kind regards Les

Cataphract
Cataphract's picture
Iain Abernethy wrote:
Based on the fact there are highly functional ways to use the same movements, I take the view that the masters of the past were neither inept nor were their methods ineffective … instead it is today’s martial artists who misinterpret things.

Thanks Iain for hosting this forum and offering the opportunity for open discussion of problematic topics.

My conclusion was based mostly on these two articles. A Glimpse Of Old Karate From Hohan Soken and Interview With Hohan Soken: The Last Of The Great Old Time Karate Warriors – Part 2

Iain Abernethy wrote:
So, by “commitment” I did not mean sticking the arm out and leaving it there (i.e. in a oizuki style) as such an attack would be entirely uncommitted to my way of thinking.

Ah ok.

Iain Abernethy wrote:
The fact they may not have martial training is entirely irrelevant.

I totally agree on that. My basic idea is this. I have much more contact to intoxicated youths, deranged persons and random idiots than to murderous criminals. It is becoming the norm for teenagers to carry knives. Knives are some part of a deranged macho culture (regardless of the owner's actual sex). Professional criminals on the other hand will use their weapon efficiently, causing maximal damage in minimal time without exposing themselves to counterattack, even if they have no formal training. In short, they know what they are doing.

Iain Abernethy wrote:
You seem to be making assumptions based on approaching this like a “fight” (as martial artists are prone to).

On the contrary. My initial idea was that maybe the juji uke seen in kata was intended for the "control the arm" phase of something similar to the Mad Scramble. I cross referenced karate with an unrelated martial art in the video above. The rationale is, when different backgrounds are using the same concept, that suggests we are not looking at fantasy fu. You have since dismissed it based on good arguments.

Generally I am seeking for a conditioned reflex which ideally improves the chance of survival by some percent.

Iain Abernethy
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Cataphract wrote:
I'm under the impression this is old karate/tuite stuff.

Cataphract wrote:
My conclusion was based mostly on these two articles. A Glimpse Of Old Karate From Hohan Soken and Interview With Hohan Soken: The Last Of The Great Old Time Karate Warriors – Part 2

http://www.fightingarts.com/reading/article.php?id=606

http://www.fightingarts.com/reading/article.php?id=427

Good articles! I don't think what is being shown is what you said it is though. Looking at the technique in that article I see a very common application from kata. When done to the inside, it’s a little like the first part of the technique Murray and Andrew demonstrate in this video (first part of shuto-uke). It’s a flowing way to help locate an arm and is found in most martial arts. It’s a common opener when clearing the path for strikes, setting up locks, etc. If look at this image you can see the “x” when it’s frozen in the picture (original pic of Roy Suenaka to the left). It’s not frozen like that in application though, as the video shows.

Video showing it moving:

The same method, both inside and outside variants (or clockwise and contraclockwise if you prefer), is in the majority of my videos because it’s such a widespread limb control method.

If you look at this picture of it being done to the outside it’s exactly the same position as in article. If you watch the video below, you will see how it flows.

Indeed, the drill for this described in part two of the article would look very close to what is shown in the video below:

Text from article: “Soken also taught two man drills where partners would practice exchanging various techniques back and forth in a continuous fashion. Here Suenaka Sensei practices a two man punch and block drill with Christopher Caile.”

So all of this is definitely part of karate because it’s found, in various guises, throughout all the various kata.

However, it’s NOT what is shown in the initial video in this thread.

In that video, he is doing a simultaneous forearm block and wrist grab. That’s a very different method that has very little redundancy (too finite to work in my view). What is shown there is not “old school karate”. What is shown in the articles you linked to is "old school" karate ... and it is also the common “parry, pass, catch” that we see wing chun, JKD, FMA, etc. They are two very different methods. If you look at the images side by side you can see it clearly. It's totally diffrent. When you compare the videos, it's even more apparent they are entirely diffrent.

One is blocking and plucking the arm out of the air (not workable), whereas Roy Suenaka is parrying, passing and then controlling.

I therfore think you have misunderstood what is described in the article. I hope that helps clarify?

The “old school” karate method and the method in the video at the start of this thread are not the same thing.

All the best,

Iain

Marc
Marc's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:

This is heavy stuff that is, literally, deadly serious. I take my responsibility on this very seriously. If we all did that, then the Jason Borne-esque disarms would disappear overnight.

I totally agree with you on the responsibility thing.

And I do get what you mean by "Jason Bourne-esque disarms". But I always felt that the Jason Bourne fight scenes were quite well composed. I can't remember a scene in which Jason took a knife from some attacker in an unrealistic way. - I know that's beside the point of this discussion, but does he in any of the movies do a flashy knife disarm?

Iain Abernethy
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Marc wrote:
I can't remember a scene in which Jason took a knife from some attacker in an unrealistic way. - I know that's beside the point of this discussion, but does he in any of the movies do a flashy knife disarms?

There are LOADs of disarms throughout the franchise. In fact, they are so ubiquitous that they do blend into the background a little, so I can understand why people may struggle to recall specific examples.

I found this clip putting some of the fight scenes together. There is the attempted wrist lock (1:05) against a knife (fighting the guy who comes in through the window with the machine gun … also disarmed), we see him wrap and control the arm and attempt a knife disarm at 1:20, wristlock and pen through the hand to disarm the knife at 1:44, uses a rolled-up magazine against a knife (2:52) and then disarms, uses a towel against a knife (5:41) and wraps it around arm before disarming … and there are more gun disarms than I can count! ;-)

In every scene that includes a knife we see Borne effortlessly parry numerous knife attacks before disarming in some way (often just knocking the hand against something which magically makes the grip loosen). Entertaining and exciting, but not realistic.

It’s a movie franchise – and a very good one at that – so we don’t necessarily want realism. No one wants to see Borne try to run away every time or get stabbed multiple times when rushed. I’m not one who thinks realism and entertainment go hand in hand when it comes to violence.

However, people consciously and subconsciously note that Borne defeats armed bad guys with ease, and hence unscrupulous instructors (or incompetent / uneducated instructors) can sell “fear management” on that basis i.e. “you can do what Borne does, so you don’t have anything to fear”. As Rory Miller so eloquently put it, “To manage fear, you only need to believe you can do things. To manage danger, you actually have to be able to do things.”

Getting a knife out of someone’s hand is very hard to do. So hard in fact that I think we are better not teaching any “disarms” and instead focus on escape, impact and controlling the limb holding the knife. Making the aim “get the knife out of the hand” is very dangerous because it’s so difficult to pull off. Sure, our fictional super solider can do it, but for real people in the real world we need to steer clear of what Jason Borne does.

All the best,

Iain

PS I love the Jason Borne films, but I do hold them partly responsible for modern martial artists passing off extended “trap-athons” as realism (see all of the above fight scenes). The way the fight scenes are constructed and filmed has been very influential and we can see more and more movie fight scenes (Superheroes, James Bond, indeed pretty much most of the action movies from the last ten years) being made up of “trap, trap, counter-trap, trapity, trap, punch” (filmed at close range with shaky cameras to put the viewer “in the action”) and I don’t think it’s coincidence that we see more and more martial artists teaching “reality” based self-defence along similar lines.

Marc
Marc's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:

Marc wrote:
I can't remember a scene in which Jason took a knife from some attacker in an unrealistic way. - I know that's beside the point of this discussion, but does he in any of the movies do a flashy knife disarms?

There are LOADs of disarms throughout the franchise. In fact, they are so ubiquitous that they do blend into the background a little, so I can understand why people may struggle to recall specific examples.

Wow, you're right. They're all over the place. Although sometimes they do not work (probably he did not drill them enough. ;-) )

Iain Abernethy wrote:

It’s a movie franchise – and a very good one at that – so we don’t necessarily want realism. No one wants to see Borne try to run away every time or get stabbed multiple times when rushed. I’m not one who thinks realism and entertainment go hand in hand when it comes to violence.

Very true. Action movies should be fun to watch, and realistic violence wouldn't be, it would be terrifying.

Iain Abernethy wrote:

Sure, our fictional super solider can do it, but for real people in the real world we need to steer clear of what Jason Borne does.

Absolutely agree.

But what I do like about the fight scences is how Bourne always makes use of his environment. Of course for Bourne escape is not an option. ;-)

By the way: The youtube clip is advertised as "Ultimate Krav Maga", which according to the fight choreographer is not true. He says that Bourne's system is mainly Kali combined with Jeet Kun Do. Matt Damon says he doesn't know any martial art and had to learn the moves like a dance. :)

Anyway, we've established the point that we're not Jason Bourne, nor do we want to be. And martial arts schools must not advertise they could train students to do in self-defence what film heroes do in fight scenes.

Iain Abernethy
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Marc wrote:
Anyway, we've established the point that we're not Jason Bourne, nor do we want to be. And martial arts schools must not advertise they could train students to do in self-defence what film heroes do in fight scenes.

... and that the movies are cool! :-)

All the best,

Iain

Cataphract
Cataphract's picture

Hey, the Basic Shuto-Uke Drills look brilliant. :-)

Iain Abernethy wrote:
What is shown in the articles you linked to is "old school" karate ... and it is also the common “parry, pass, catch” that we see wing chun, JKD, FMA, etc. They are two very different methods.

Ok, I don't know the Japanese name, but it is called lap sao or catching hands in wing chun and jkd. I learned that hubud lubud flow drill from the second video in a self defense seminar that was about anything but self defense. It was fun.

I'm not entirely sure these are totally unrelated concepts though. Maybe more like a continuum. If you melt those counts 1, 2, 3 into 1, you get something that looks like you smash into the attacking arm with your crossed forearms. We need three counts for the sake of the drill, of course. Maybe it is sloppy execution, but I also see how one might want to speed things up and do them in parallel. In between is "washing off the edges" in a flowing manner which begins to look very much like juji uke from pinan yondan/godan. But I get your point about "plucking it from the air".

Marc wrote:
He says that Bourne's system is mainly Kali combined with Jeet Kun Do.

That is what they teach. Bourne's fighting style looks like Dan Inosanto or modern arnis stuff straight from the book. Anyway some (all?) teachers make it clear that these trap-athons are there so you can practice traps. In reality they admit it goes boom - stabbed. There is some karate influence in the Filipino arts, especially modern arnis btw.

Iain Abernethy
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Cataphract wrote:
the Basic Shuto-Uke Drills look brilliant.:-)

I’m pleased you like them!

Cataphract wrote:
Anyway some (all?) teachers make it clear that these trap-athons are there so you can practice traps.

When we isolate the skill, then I certainly make it clear that’s exactly what we are doing … and then we quickly put it back into context so the drill does not become the objective.

This drill isolates some of the trapping methods from Naihanchi / Tekki. It’s a useful drill, but I always make clear it’s a training drill, not an application drill.

As you say, the reality is trap-hit-hit-hit / trap-grip-next method … the “range” collapses very quickly in reality and we don’t see extended trap-athons made up of trap and counter-trap

I know that far too few make the clear demarcation between isolating a given skill for practise of that specific method, and the practise of that skill in context for application. I also see a growing trend in bunkai based practise to pass off extended bouts of trapping as “realistic”. I’d therefore have to question “(all?)” and say my experience is that  far too few teachers mark the difference between isolation and application, and even fewer practise traps in context.

Trap-athons look and feel “cool” (movies playing a part in defining what “cool” is in popular culture). As I say in my classes and at seminars, such drills are “seductive”. People love doing them … but we need to make clear they are not accurate replications of how the methods of kata will be applied in context. Way too few do that in my view.

All the best,

Iain

PS Thanks for kicking off this tread! There’s been lots of interesting and multi-layered discussion. 3500 reads so far!