Friday, October 25, 2013

Knife Disarm Technique: What Worked 200 years ago still works Today

Dear Ferfal,
I had a little previous traininig in knife fighting (using the knife and disarming it) via Kali and combatives. However, I am skeptical of how well most of those techniques work in knife disarming, especially those that rely on wrist manipulation.
As mentioned in your book, a good idea is to have a non-cooperative partner test out a technique. This is where most disarming techniques fail when the attacker (myself or my partner) becomes more aggressive aka stitching machine mode or shifts the knife to the other hand.
I am interested in the disarming technique mentioned in your book and would like to try it out. Do you know a good video clip showing what you described? Or at the very least, photos showing the same technique?
Thank you and keep up your good work!

Hi! What I explain in my book is based on an old book called “Esgrima Criolla”. What worked for gauchos fighting with knives for hundreds of years isn’t that different from what the US Army teaches in its combatives FM 3-25.150 manual. Check the video below for more on this.

Trying to explain defense drills against a knife attack is like trying to find a way of dodging a bullet, and to be honest in confined spaces or within close quarters or contact distance, I’d rather take my chances with someone with a gun rather than someone armed with one of today’s folders along with serious intent on using it.
The knife cuts everything in its path, doesn’t jam (and you cant make it jam like a gun) and it doesn’t run out of bullets. 

Also something that never gets mentioned, is that there’s been a revolution in the world of knives which has an impact, not unlike when autos dethroned revolvers as the most popular handgun: A couple decades ago quality tactical folders were rare and expensive. You had Cold Steel and a few others, but they weren’t common, they did cost a lot of money and if you found a criminal using a knife it was most likely a cheapo folder or a poorly sharpened kitchen knife. These knife would sure cut you, but it wouldn’t go through tissue like soft butter, as it happens today with most quality, commonly available and affordable folders that come hair splitting sharp straight out of the box.

I actually have a good example of this. It happened during a training session just a few weeks before leaving Argentina.  I was with a police officer friend of mine and his partner. So we set the interlocking foam mats and start jogging around in circles, warming up and flexing. Right after doing that my friend asks if I have a knife on me. I say yes, I had my Spyderco Resilience with me. He asks me to pull it out and I do so. He says we’re practicing some knife disarm drills and I warn him “look, I appreciate the realistic training but this is very sharp”. He says something like what good would it do if it wasn’t and we start doing some of the typical knife disarm drills. You know, the kind that doesn’t really work but we still practice them. So soon enough we end up on the floor and thanks to my cooperation my friend has me on a wrist lock even if I had to be careful not cut him during the entire drill. Once he had my wrist locked he applies pressure and I feel I have no other choice but to let go of the knife. My friend sees my trying to resist and says “Fer, let go”.  I couldn’t hold it any more so I try to shift the Spyderco with my finders so that at least the spine rather than the edge is pointing towards my friend’s back. I let go and hope for the best…

 The knife drops, skips down his neck and back and sticks tip first half an inch into the matt, sticking out in a perfectly perpendicular angle from the floor. My friend lets go and brings his fingers to where the knife touched him. There’s a bit of blood. The knife’s edge barely made contact sideways bit it still cut a shallow but long line. Had I not placed the edge up before dropping it, it would have been a much more serious cut, not to mention, I could have cut up my very well trained, martial arts expert friend a dozen times during the disarm drill. Maybe with a typical, poorly sharpened knife it would have worked better because it would have been harder for me to stab him, but with a knife that cuts flesh like butter with a slight flick of the wrist you can’t afford that.

So, I wont disrespect any of the instructors that spent decades training. Just look it up in youtube, search for “knife disarm”, and those of you that are knowledgeable about knives tell me if it would work or not. In 99% of the cases it just wont. Your fingers, arms, face, legs, they would all get seriously cut when trying most of these drills. What about that 1% that would work, we all want to know that one right, the super secret technique only tough to ninjas, special forces or that some guy sells online for only $19.99.
There’s no such thing. Some of these disarm drills could work when used against the right guy holding the right knife. By this I mean an less than determined attacker using a less than ideally sharp weapon.
You will get cut, it will hurt, and if the other guy wants it bad enough and you have nothing but your hands to defend yourself you’ll get cut to pieces. No matter how much you train a razor sharp folder does not discriminate, it will cut the martial art expert as much as it will cut average Joe. Sharp steel doesn’t discriminate. To a knife, it is all soft flesh.

The best advice I can give you is to work on your Speech Kung fu. Avoid the knife fight entirely. If you’re getting mugged, then your cell and wallet isn’t worth getting stabbed, or even the hassle of killing someone over them. Even if you can win, its just WAY cheaper to get another cellphone and ID rather than hire a lawyer for your defense.
Learn to defuse violent altercations. Insults, taunts, it all means nothing, just learn to ignore them and walk away. If you have to defend yourself and you happen to be unarmed the use any object you can between you and the attacker. Umbrellas, chairs, anything you can use for defense and to keep the distance should be used.
If you have no other choice but to fight unarmed, then go for control of the arm with the knife and grappling, using and arm bar to disarm or break the attackers arm. The Army Combatives FM explains how to do this depending on the angle of attack but in reality a knife attack is awfully unorthodox and hard to predict. Its about speed and strength. Getting control of that arm and disarming the opponent as quickly as possible.



Anonymous said...

OLD Jimmy Hoffa advice:
Charge a gun, Run from a knife.

Anonymous said...

Here's the thing. It is about strength more then it is about skill or technique. If you doubt it get a friend who is much stronger then you. Explain exactly what it is you are going to do, i.e. he is going to use a fake knife to attempt to stab you or slash you. Then take a few practices. Finally put $100 on the table and tell him that if he can slash you or stab you with the fake knife before you can take it from him he gets the $100. I'm betting you will lose every time. I'm bettng this is true even if you are a black belt.

Anonymous said...

I owned a chain of martial art schools for 25 years, and have trained for 45, mostly with combat veterans who have killed others in close quarters combat. These include veterans of Asian civil wars who grew up with edged weapons.

I taught first how to kill with knives, sticks, swords, etc, and only then the disarms, because they mostly don't work. We practiced occasionally with red magic markers. Spend a few minutes with that any any illusions of knife disarms will disappear. Also any desire to ever get into a knife fight. Even my top internationally ranked people would have more than a few ink lines after just a couple of minutes.

Don Williams said...

What's wrong with a baseball bat?

Fake a swing at the hand and when they move in reverse and hit the kneecap.

5 foot sawed off Broomstick (jo) works even better --you can swing faster, thrust like a rifle w/bayonet, or spear by holding middle of stick in left hand and using right hand to shove forward like shooting a pool ball.

It is still not very intelligent to fight someone with a knife --best avoided if at all possible.

A big problem is that either you or the threat will likely die. You can probably survive only by using deadly force , in which case you will probably be made bankrupt in the ensuing legal proceedings (defense against both criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits by the threat's family.)

Look at what happened to George Zimmerman in Florida. If thousands of strangers had not
donated to his defense, he would probably be in prison now -- and would not have lived very long given the gangs.

Valentin said...

Hopkido has an interesting trick where you go to the outside of whatever hand is holding the knife and grabbing the wrist and pulling him and than twisting the wrist the opposite direction hard so that the attacker is forced to either flip or risk a broken wrist.