Don’t Underestimate the Knife
When I teach self defence to young people I have some well-worn in routines and jokes that I use to encourage them to interact, asking questions works too and tests their learning at the same time. Whilst this is, in my humble opinion, good pedagogical practise, it also allows for some fun and alleviates the more serious side of what we are teaching them. One such question I always use when working around the issue of reasonable force is to have a threat who has grabbed me with one hand to the throat, the other hand is first open, then clenched as a fist then hidden, either into a pocket or behind the back. At this point I ask them what the threat is doing and they always say reaching for a weapon, more worryingly many of them say reaching for a gun. Now I do not want to go into statistical arguments but in the UK generally and Sheffield in particular knife crime is far more prevalent than gun crime. Knives and edged weapons are much easier to procure and far more effective as a close quarter weapon. In a previous blog ‘Sexual Killing’ I examined the psychological cost of using a knife where it is up close and personal, however, once a knife is in the hands of someone with the means, motive and opportunity to use it it can be the deadliest weapon, used properly it is quick, quiet and deadly efficient, even against a gun in trained hands.
Dated but really interesting video and I could put together loads of real life cctv footage of knives being used in real attacks. None is pretty, most are horrible if fascinating. I use the last not because I sit alone at night watching videos of people being killed and maimed but because as a martial artist and self defence instructor at some stage the question of dealing with an armed attacker will raise its ugly head. Yes I have practised some very practical gun disarms with Hoch Hochheim and Mo Teague and others, but, I have spent more time working on attack from a knife as it is more likely. There is no point rehearsing the arguments around many knife defence techniques taught in martial arts that would get you badly cut up in a real attack where you will only realise the attack has begun when the cutting and/or stabbing has begun, often frenzied cutting and/or stabbing. We usually only train with nice training knives, often rubber but definitely with no edge because of obvious health and safety and we are in a safe secure training environment. Jus a day or so ago, when I was letting this little baby gestate in my mind I gathered up a few knives and edged weapons that were within easy reach and took this picture,
So let’s go top to bottom, first there is a Billhook I use for cutting kindling for the fire, then two ordinary kitchen knives, box knife (carpet cutting etc), Fairbairn Sykes Fighting Knife (collectors Piece), machete (Ray Mears type intentions) and my Katana (Ju Jitsu). A handy collection I think, all legally owned and never misused, I am sure if you scratch around the normal home it would be easy to find some of these things if not all there will certainly be others. Once we broaden our thoughts to include edged weapons as well as knives we start to think of all objects capable of cutting and/or stabbing, as Homo Sapiens we excel in our creativity especially where we seek to degrade or destroy others, as societies we spend billions in the search for newer deadlier weapons so we can get the edge over our ‘enemies’, forgive the pun, whilst in the meanest jail cell the prisoner files his shank, (that is what they call it these days I believe)
OK, less of the stand up. For me the problem with most martial arts and self defence instructors is they focus on the disarm, the wrap and tap, just running away very fast does not look good on the syllabus, hitting the attacker with a chair or using it as a shield hardly figures either or if trapped following the chair out of the window could be an option. We do not teach reality do we if we stick to tradition. Stop right now, look around you and see how many shields and/or weapons are around you. This very laptop I am typing on would hurt if smacked into the face of a threat whether armed or not. Most martial artists go straight tap and wrap or block and break or and old kind of smooth looking combinations against their compliant attacker but look at the officers in the first video, they hardly stood a chance and they had a loaded pistol and are trained in its use. They are highly trained officers who should have been suspicious and alert not unaware citizens daydreaming through the mall or as they pick the kids up from school.
Eddie Quinn will show you the physical scars of a knife attack that nearly took his life, what we cannot see are the mental ones, but Eddie has trained hard over many years and explains how he overcame his fear of knives by training in Silat amongst other things. From the first napping of flint to make a cutting edge humans have exploited knives for a multitude of honest purposes we use them all the time. Aichmophobia, is the fear of knives and other sharp objects and aichurophobia is the fear of being touched by pointed objects. We may not suffer from an acute phobia but there is something primal about the knife that when you face one, and it has happened to me on three occasions in the past, that sends a chill down the spine. It is why they are so useful to criminals, they are a superb tool either to disable or dispose of you quickly, or worse still, slowly, or to scare you into compliance.
Therefore, training to deal with the threat of a knife or edged weapon begins with escape and may end with a grappling disarm but there are a multitude of scenarios in between. I have no panacea to offer you, I claim no expertise above the next guy but I offer the following advice, whenever you see a system or a single technique that claims to be the one solution to the threat of a knife apply your critical reasoning, Most of the stuff on the internet is BS, you cannot recreate the instant hit of fear that a knife in your face with a threatening mug from the lower end of the gene pool behind it will induce. You are alone, its dark, your taken by surprise and outnumbered. You are in a tight space, a corridor and both ends are blocked by your attackers. You can factor some of these things into your training but it will still be training, experiment, play around, have fun even but move off the matt, get out of the dojo and start making it real and Don’t underestimate the knife, and remember This is out there!!!