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“I’m a Knife Fighter” 🙄

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

Yeah right, and I'm Jim Bowie. Now where can I find me a grizzly bear? 🐻 LOL!

Over the years I've watched many martial arts weapon technique videos, especially in the bladed realm. Throughout that same time I've "dabbled" in some of those weapon-based systems as well. My curiosity simply compelled me towards them. Call it a quest for knowledge.

There are many experts worldwide that teach techniques for stick vs stick, or knife vs stick, or knife vs knife, or even knife/stick vs empty hand. Let's not forget about those that teach combat firearms instruction or "gun fighting". Through hundreds of hours of training in various systems, and perhaps some with real life experience, those same experts make what they do look easy. They also make what they do look believable. As if when presented with the problem at hand, what they teach will work for you, the consumer, when you're stumbling into the worst day of your life.

Personally, I've trained with various instructors who taught these methods or systems. One of my instructors, Burton Richardson, is arguably one of the most knowledgeable people I've met when it comes to bladed weapons. He doesn't just focus on one aspect (i.e. knife, sword, machete, axe, etc.), Burton has studied, trained, experimented in many areas. However, one aspect I respect is his desire to pressure-test everything via sparring. This included the use of shock knives when dealing with bladed attacks.

To be clear, sparring is not fighting, nor is it combat. In my opinion, it's the dynamic act of fleshing out the theoretical from the reality. This is done through resistance being applied by both people involved in the exercise. Fighting is essentially a duel, between one or more individuals, with the objective of "winning", or coming out the victor of, the exchange. There may be rules, or there may not be any rules.

So how do we get sparring closer to actual fighting? Easy, up the intensity, or the resistance, or both. I've seen and experienced this time and time again. Two people sparring and getting after it, only to have one person "turn up the volume" and the other to reciprocate, until it becomes a battle of egos more than skill. Once it goes there it's difficult to come back down again. Now, the fight is on.

When I conversed with Burton about this topic, he was very clear that he never proclaimed to be a knife fighter, nor does he teach "knife fighting." What he does is teach weapons-based sparring. This is to increase skill and attributes, develop awareness and strategy, not to make anyone a "knife fighter." This is important, because when it comes to a knife attack, there is basically a doer and a receiver. I'm choosing my words carefully with this.

In the video below, I attempt to show why there's a doer and a receiver. Years ago, during one of our MMA For the Street training sessions I donned long underwear, put on a protective helmet, coated an aluminum knife with red lipstick, and gave it to my son. We set the round timer to 30 seconds, and I gave him simple instructions: "Cut or stab me as many times as you can until the timer goes off." He was reluctant at first but understanding the importance of the exercise he carried on.

To be clear, the artificial timeframe we set doesn't reflect how much time a person will have if a real attack happened. We went with 30 seconds simply to see how much damage could be done in that amount of time, and how exhausting it would be attacking someone with a blade. Results: Lots of damage, and very tiring work.

That exercise taught us some very valuable lessons when it comes to a blade attack:

  • You most likely won't know you're being cut or stabbed until it happens, so be aware of your spacing and environment

  • Avoid engaging with someone holding a blade because you will be cut or stabbed

  • There's a huge difference between being cut and being stabbed - a cut causes a slice, but a stab creates a hole

  • Going backwards defensively gets you stabbed or cut quicker because moving backwards provides more targets as the attacker is moving forward

  • Getting away is important, but not guaranteed, so find an equalizer - always use some type of object if available, and that includes something to slam the attacker into

  • You must hit back, or more importantly, HIT FIRST - the weapon isn't the blade as much as it is the brain inside the person holding the blade

  • Use your surroundings to your advantage - barriers, walls, objects, and the ground can be used for more than hiding behind or running on 😉

  • If you end up on the ground with the attacker whether on top or bottom get control of that hand holding the blade, don't let the other hand near it and find a way to disable the attacker - disable means many things in this context

  • The ground is by far the most reliable way to disarm the blade, followed by a barrier or solid object. However, don't rely on getting a disarm as the attacker will be holding the knife very tightly

  • There is no "knife fighting", there is a doer and a receiver, so be the doer even if the other person has the blade. Yes, they may be holding a blade, but if you're holding a stick, a rock or even a closed fist then get to work and be the doer

It's difficult to accurately train for bladed attacks. Most data is gathered from actual video footage of blade attacks perpetrated by others. However, even that isn't necessarily accurate because every occurrence is unique to that situation, and to those individuals.

One thing is for certain, your brain will only go where it has gone before. If you train, you will most likely go there, regardless of whether the training was "correct" or not. If you don't train, you will most likely do nothing, which may be worse.

That's it for now.


DISCLAIMER: The attached video depicts a violent situation, and its content may be disturbing to watch. It's not suitable for younger viewers. People in the video are trained, professional martial artists. The video is for training and information gathering purposes. No person in the video was injured, maimed or killed. Do not perform the techniques or actions shown in this video without proper instruction and supervision. Never attack anyone with a bladed weapon. Check your local self-defense laws especially when it comes to the use of bladed weapons.

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