Thursday, February 05, 2009
Things That Go Stab in the Night
Silat is based on the blade. I might have mentioned that a time or twelve, but it is. There are limits to such weapons, of course. Taking a knife to a gun fight where the starting distance is any farther apart than a standard-sized pick-up truck is long? Not such a good idea.
As is taking a bare fist to a knife fight any closer than that.
It being a knife art, we spend a fair amount of time playing with sharps -- or rubberized sharps, so we don't kill each other with any frequency. Nobody wants to have to scrub the blood off Cotten's garage floor.
Most of the in-class training we have done with blades has been bare-handed against a short blade ("short" here meaning anything easily concealable upon one's person.) The reason for that is that we think it's the most likely event for which we can train. Somebody is close, they attack, and you just have time to realize there is a knife involved. (Yeah, yeah, in real attacks, often you don't get any warning, but in such cases, you are in even deeper shit. If somebody stands off a half mile away and pots you with their deer rifle, whaddya gonna do? Defense against total surprise goes to threat-recognition. You don't see it coming, how do you stop it?)
Also note that most of this close-range training falls into the Oh, Shit! category. You don't have a lot of time, and there aren't a lot of options.
We have also spent time working with longer blades, machete or short sword-length.
And lately, we have done several sessions on the knife-against-knife scenario. Yep, if you have time to pull a knife, you probably have time to run, but let's postulate the trapped-in-the-bathroom sequence, or you have the wife and kids and granny with you, just because, you know, it's not altogether unlikely that you might find running not an option.
It's a given that a silat student in our school will have a knife or three near to hand.
How much skill has all this training given me? Not much. Mostly, the realization that I really don't want to tangle with somebody waving at knife at my nuts. I might have to, and it's good to have some idea of something that might work, but given my druthers, I want to be elsewhere drinking a cold one and having fries with that.
This is especially true of somebody who knows what he is about with a pointy thing. If you are bare-handed and he is an expert? His only worry is whether he wants sirloin or T-bone. We believe generally -- and after fiddling with this stuff for a while, I certainly do -- that those guys who think they can just dance in and slap the knife out of Musashi's grip, or pass it back and forth like the Chinese ping-pong team before executing a perfect lock and disarm are, um ... mistaken. (We spell that h-a-m-b-u-r-g-e-r ...)
I have a knife, you don't, my advantage. My knife takes away a lot of your skill. I have all the tools you do, so I can hit or kick or elbow you, plus the knife. That's why armies don't fight empty-handed.
Even if we both have knives, it isn't going to be a picnic on a sunny May afternoon and the ants all stay home.
What it does is get us used to the idea of seeing a weapon incoming, and that standing there and staring at it goggle-eyed is maybe not the best defense.
Part of our philosophy is to train worst-case scenario. What if? when the "what" is bad. If you only train for perfect conditions, barefoot on the mat, in your nice loose gi, you are short-changing yourself. We believe. Of course, it could be argued that training on a concrete floor in street clothes doesn't prepare you for sand; or that training in the sand pit doesn't give you an icy hillside; or that the hillside doesn't give you tree roots and bear traps. True enough.
But in three years of Okinawa-te, getting to brown belt, I learned three knife defenses, two of which would get you killed against anybody with the Scarecrow's brain and the coördination of the Tin Man, and one of which would work against somebody really stoned, and you can't wait on him even so. One out of three isn't so good, you make the wrong choice. He says, speaking from personal experience.
Here, at least, we are realizing that weapons ramp the game way up, and even practice-reality demonstrates how nasty it can get to be in a real hurry. If you can't stop the rubber knife in your friend's hand, stopping the steel one in a bad guy's grip is going to be a real problem.