Yesterday I finished a series of five classes in a school in Sheffield and in it I mentioned that I live in a very safe area, relatively speaking, very low crime, virtually no anti social behaviour, excepting the illegal and dangerous parking around the shops, by people who should know better. It is an affluent area and well looked after. At the end of the class I was cornered, quite literally by young people telling me how dangerous their area was. The training is funded by the Home Office as part of Ending Gang and Youth Violence programme. This is not the first time and not a surprise as the area has had a serious problem with organised gangs for many years and a spate of gun crime in the back-end of last year.

My wife is a criminal lawyer and has been involved in many serious cases, quite a few murders where knives were used, the young people yesterday, ordinary kids from a disadvantaged area were really eager to tell me what scared them, not once in a while, but everyday fears. Apparently the worst spot is outside the local library that many of these kids pass to get to and from school, there is often police presence in that vicinity, I work in a number of schools in the area so drive through a lot. Guns are rare, but present in this community, there has been a huge clampdown by the police but very few guns found. Knives are not as rare, and they are cheap, the most common weapon used in murders is your cheap plastic handled kitchen knife. They are not the crafted Bowie knives posted on Facebook by knife collectors and lovers, I have a Fairbairn Sykes Fighting Knife, it is a classic hand made, Made in Sheffield model, a thing of beauty bought for me as a Christmas present. Knives, as with every other aspect of life, are seen differently by different people. They can be beautiful and ugly at the same time depending upon your perceptions and experience.

Fear of crime affects more people than being a victim of crime, but it is debilitating. Large sections of the areas these kids live in are described by them as dangerous, people carry knives to protect themselves and we know how that often ends up. Mirroring the discussions in the United States on gun ownership, we have a debate on knives, however, knives are incredibly freely available, every home has at least a few in the kitchen and every burglar knows it.

There has been quite a bit of discussion during our club training about how martial arts training deals with attacks with knives. As a result my ‘head of research’, Bill, has been doing a review of materials available on Youtube and has turned up some pretty useful stuff, he has sorted through a huge heap of trash to find these little nuggets of gold, we are studying them and looking at what this means for how we train. Last week on Facebook Julien Masson, who hosts a really good Facebook page, VCFS – Violent CCTV Footage Study, posted a video he put together, here it is.

This chimes with our little groups discussion on how do we put the real into our training, well we had a mini epiphany the other week, snow stopped play this last Saturday, and decided we needed to attack like a knifer. The only problem is what does this mean? Well does it mean a trained knifer, say someone skilled in the arts as outlined by W.E. Fairbairn in ‘Get Tough’, someone using the surgical strike approach or the prison shanking type attack as described by Don Pentecost in ‘Put ‘Em down, Take ‘Em Out! Knife Fighting Techniques from Folsom Prison’.

Both available as PDF files on my website; Click here to visit

Thinking about the video from Julien and having just read ‘Put ‘Em Down’ again, some of the answers are beginning to come together in my head. So our starting point is already agreed for our Saturday morning special session, binning the syllabus techniques we have learned, they are occasionally fun to do and test your technical ability but almost entirely impractical. In fact we did this a while ago preferring to slap down the offending knife attacking arm and simultaneously or as fast as possible striking full force to the attackers head (well a focus pad). Recently we put on the body armor too so we could strike full force to the body too. We have even played at grappling with the opponent pulling a knife and have even gone knife on knife using a dummy attacking arm that we can slash with a real knife.

Having watched the video of actual attacks I think I will plan some ‘unexpected’ attacks after some short but vigorous exercise, I do not mind being the guinea pig on this, some interesting things happen when you experiment. First I am going to dig out the Fairbairn Sykes, draw the curtains, very important that, and practice my attacks. I am going to construct a dummy from old clothes, like the Guy Fawkes effigies we made as kids for bonfire night and hang him in a doorway, then I will learn to kill him and cut him. I intend to develop controlled aggressive use of the knife as recommended by Don Pentecost then I will attack my friends in the same way but with a training knife, when they are not expecting it, a bit like Cato Fong in the Pink Panther.

What a great clip, I used to share a house with a mate and the light switch was on the wall opposite the front door, I occasionally used to stand in the middle of the room in the dark and let him walk into me, once I hid behind the cellar door and leapt out in the dark, it was very cruel but great fun for me, sometimes my sides ached from laughing as George had a minor heart attack on the settee. So whilst not going to the extremes of Cato and leaping out of the fridge, I will consult with my pals first, but I think unannounced knife attacks at random in training is also a way forward and I am also going to have a knife fighting party at my house. If my wife lets me.

Well I am going to do some more training and sort out my new best friend, the hanging dummy. Literally. I will build him up to cut him up. So please let me know how you train against the knife and until then lets hope we are spared the cutter.