Thursday, December 17, 2009

Knives Redux

Back to playing with bare hands against knives in the silat class, and once again -- even though I've mentioned it a time or twelve -- the realization that against an attacker (or defender) who has a clue what s/he is doing with a sharp and pointy thing in your direction? You are in trouble.

Run away if you can.

If you can't run away and you don't have an equalizing weapon, the functional situation you will find yourself in is what we call Oh Shit! Mode. There are things you can do, though you really don't want to do them unless there is no other choice. All those fancy disarms you see in the movies, those multiple passes back and forth? Good luck with those.

Trading a punch for a stab? Only if you are the stabber.

A guy puts a blade out and has any skill, you go charging in at the wrong moment, you get to be shish kebab, a graduate of Skewer U ...


Ian SADLER said...

Nice post, here's some rules for a knife fight....

1) Don't get cut
2) Don't help the other guy to cut you.
3) Be the one doing the cutting!

AF1 said...

One knife self defense method that I liked (based on all the clinch work we do in MMA) suggested clamping on to the knife hand for dear life with a Russian 2-on-1 tie up.

Does that sound like a more realistic aproach do you think, or is it not workable?

Steve Perry said...

Anything is possible, but I wouldn't bet on that one.

If you have both hands clamped on my knife arm, you leave me a free hand with which I can offer insult or a possible escape. Several things I can do while you are concentrating on the arm that might make you let go with one or both hands.

Unless you have the grip strength of Hercules, if I can get one of your hands loose, you can't hold me with the other one -- out through the thumb takes relatively little effort.

Not to say you can't use both hands to control the knife arm, but we believe you should transition to something else in a big hurry. Disarms via breaks and locks are possible, but as my teacher is fond of pointing out, this is not a winning strategy to pursue. If somebody gives you a shot, take it, but going looking for these against a knifer with skill is a low percentage game.

As is grabbing the knife arm with both hands in the first place.

Lot of folks get a knife, they forget all their other tools. We go with the notion that we will be throwing other things at somebody go with the blade, and an instinctive block to stop a punch to the nose might make you miss the incoming knife. If you don't block the hit to the nose, that gives you something else to think about while the knife seeks a target. And you can't trade punch for stick without suffering damage.

It's a bad deal all the way around if you are barehanded and in range of somebody who plays with these things. You just aren't going to get the slomo single-thrust stabs that are easy to block.

If somebody hands you one, thank your deity, because it's a gift. If you depend on that and the guy is any kind of adept, you are getting cut, and maybe fatally.

it's not just us.

Take a look at the vids the Piper guys have up on their site and think about how you'd grab their arms while they are changing levels and chipping away at you like a big block of ice.

You only get to miss once and the punchbowl turns red.

I'm not in the same skill-class with Edwin or Serge, but I know a few things, and I still get tagged frequently in class.

You see a knife and you can't run, throw everything that isn't nailed down at it.

Scott said...

The hole I see is that I get the lock on Steve's knife arm, so he draws another knife with his other hand....

jks9199 said...

The best thing to go up against a knife with is a gun.

But since the topic is UNARMED vs. knife... There are things you can do, but they all fall into the category of last ditch options. You can try to control the knife hand -- but you better act fast, if you do, because he's got another hand (and feet, and more...) You can try to get inside and do enough damage to vital functions (breath, eyes, core structure...) before they get that knife into you -- but again, you better be fast, because they can do fatal damage to you before you get turned around. Whatever you do, you have to do it with a ton and a half of commitment and do it fast. And realize there's a damn good chance you'll get hurt anyway.

The fancy shit you see in too many places? That typically only works if you're attacked "the right way." And, too often, the real bad guys don't attack the right way...

AF1 said...

Here's a short clip showing the method I referenced earlier.

A couple of thoughts:

They appear to stay away from the free hand by angling behind the knifer. And the 2-on-1 is on tight...not that easy to pull away from in my experience.

That said I definitely can see it being very hard to secure the tie up in the first place against a fast knife wielder.

And the knifer's other hand is free to go for another weapon at which point the defender is pretty much helpless.

Viro said...

I am a master of the heretofore secret "Here is my wallet and car-keys" defense.

Mo-simple, Mo-bettah.

Steve Perry said...

If you get a lock -- and that is a big if -- that means in this position, the elbow is straight -- then you do control the arm.

You won't for long if the guy has any skill. If you have a break, you do it, fast or you lose it. He's not going to stand there the right way and let you get behind him. As soon as you latch on, he moves.

If the attacker can bend his elbow at all, then there is a good chance he can slip the lock, especially if he uses his body. If he understands position, as soon as you grab, he is going to adjust and go with it long enough to alleviate the pressure.

In our class, the only way anybody gets a lock, inside, outside, whatever, against a knife, is if we let them have it or we are disrupted and lose focus. It's a target of opportunity. If it's there, you take it, but if you go looking for it, that's a low-percentage technique. We practice them because at that point, everything is a low percentage technique, but some are lower than others.

I can see a couple ways to escape this offhand. If I step hard into the guy holding my arm and turn, using my body instead of just my arms and shoulder, I alleviate the lock, and he's also not behind me any more. My arm is bent and spot-welded to my hip or torso, and my other hand and both feet are free. If you let go, I can use the knife. If you don't, you are in front of me and I can use my other tools.

All things being equal, we both have knees and kicks, but I have a free hand and you don't. Either your high or low line is going to be open. If I can put a finger into your eye, or a hit to the solar plexus, you will probably react to that.

We have a basic move that looks like chambering a fist , ala a basic karate twisted hip-punch. That's not necessarily what we are doing. It can be a chamber for a punch, an elbow to the rear, or an escape from a grab.

Our feeling in this situation is that nothing is going to stay static for long. Against a knife, you will have to go in or get the hell away, you can't stay at carving range.

Hitting is good, but only when it is relatively safe, and we believe that such relative safety happens when a knife retracts for a another attack.

If I stab, you block and then come in, there is nothing to stop me from retracting the knife as you do so. Skilled knifers cut coming and going.

You see a lot of this in the FMA -- the initial target isn't the body but the blocking arm. You stab, the block or parry comes out, and you retract and slice the arm open, which was your intent. You can do this all day and pretty quick, the arm stops coming out, at which point ... well, you know.

If I stab and retract and you follow the retraction in, you could get a beat ahead and land a punch or elbow or head-butt, and that might do the trick. If it doesn't and I regain control of the knife, then we are back to square one.

A knife might not be the best weapon, but it is a better than bare hands, attacking or defending. It takes a way a lot of training. If somebody has a knife, you aren't going to try the single or double leg takedown unless you are suicidal. Your Sunday punch might do the trick, but if you have to take a stab to the throat to land it? That's a terrible trade.

steve-vh said...

I like how in the clip they show the attacker switching hands with the knife after it get's tied up. That's exactly what I might do with it. Good to plan for.
However, what they aren't showing is that before I did that, I'd smak/poke you somewhere with the free hand to give you something else to think about and keep you from countering after I changed hands ;-)
And that I wouldn't give a straight arm to tie up, it comes back faster than it goes out (as you mention).

AF1 said...

Great post Steve.

Yeah, going unarmed against a knife man who knows what he is doing doesn't sound like the greatest idea in the world. I hope to never be put in that situation.

The way we use the 2-on-1 doesn't require the arm to be straight, the focus is on getting a handle to maneuver the other guy by pushing and pulling. It's not so much an elbow lock as it is a wrestling tie up/control position.

But by the sounds of it you do have quite a few options for dealing with that, some of them unexpected for me as we are protected by the rules of the sport from having to think about your illegal dirty fighting!

I don't quite understand the move you described for opening up space, might have to actually train with you in person someday for it to sink in.

As always I appreciate you taking time to respond about this stuff, and to let people bounce ideas off you. It's enlightening (to me at least) to hear your take on things.

Some guy said...

I knew an ex-Marine - I want to say that he was in whatever the Marine special forces is called but don't remember for sure - who seriously studied Filipino martial arts in the Phillipines, and later taught. I mention his credentials because he recommended (and taught in a knife-fighting seminar)the basic X-block, high and low, as the basis of unarmed defense against the knife. It sounded a little naieve to me, but I had to take into account his credentials. Anyone have an opinion as to whether this is practical or just sure death?

Steve Perry said...

I know a guy I respect who swears by the X-block.

Far as I am concerned, with what little I know, I'd go with certain death.

Steve Perry said...

A little more on the X-block:

If you do it, both of your hands will be on one level, high or low. Which means your other line isn't covered. So a stab comes low, and you drop your crossed wrist, and what am I going to do with my other hand, you figure, up where you have zero coverage?

I stab high, both your hands come up, and as they rise, I change lines and bring the knife around and low, where you again have nothing covering your lowline. You can't can't reverse and get back fast enough, you are a beat behind. At the very least, I open your belly and when you drop your hands, I use the basic pukulan reversal and stab you in the throat or the eye ...

We are always thinking "high line, low line" for this reason.

Some guy said...

Ummm. You're going to give a friendly wave?

Thanks. All that sounds doable and supports my doubts. I was having trouble with the apparent near total commitment and the seeming need for the opponent to use a straight arm, but then again, how many knife fights have I been in? Maybe he figured that you're pretty much dead if you can't get away and this gives you your best average chance of surviving if you just HAVE to be in that situation. Still seems like there should be a more agile desperate defense, though...

Anonymous said...

I've seen the x-block stuff taught by probably a dozen different people. Seemed pretty silly to me for the most part. But out of that dozen there was one guy who had a dramatically more dynamic approach to it that actually seemed workable.

My other, personal thought on the 'x-block' methodology is that it is a better then nothing approach. While it may be less then optimum it could, maybe, be made to work. If you look, systems/styles/arts/expressions that use a lot of weapons tend to have more sophisticated weapon defenses. But if you are a predominatly empty hand system and think it is unlikley you will ever run up against a shiv then maybe you take the approach that a)we want to spend some time but not a lot of time on knife defense and that b)and maybe the idea that 'some chance is better then no chance' is enough.

I dunno, just thoughts. Of course, my arts expect to run into weapons so it's hard for me to understand what some people's thought process might be.

Steve Perry said...

I guess I'm of the school that it's better not to have a gun unless it's loaded. If the tool you have isn't going to work, better you don't have it.

If you have a pair of what you think are insulated rubber gloves, you might be tempted to grab a live wire. If the gloves are defective, that'll get you killed.

Better to not have them and know that.

I tell a story, and I won't repeat it at length, but it's basically that a guy who thought he had some viable knife defenses had somebody he knew get killed by a knife. So he tried out what he knew in a don't-give-it-to-me-go-for-it! session, and none of his knife defenses worked. He stopped teaching knife defense.

Better sometimes to not-know something than to try a technique that will get you killed, but you don't know that.

Anonymous said...

yeah, I pretty much agree, just want to understand something if I'm going to reject.