Sunday, January 17, 2010

Unarmed against a knife what chance?

Experienced knife fighters will conceal the knife

In the martial arts there are those that specialize in unarmed self defense and then there are those that specialize in defending against all sorts of weapons and even both armed and unarmed.

When it’s a blunt instrument being used against you no matter what MA you practice there may be a chance that you will be able to defend against this type of weapon by treating it as an extension of the assailant’s limb implementing the strategies tactics and techniques from within your MA to deal with the situation.

This may mean that you are ready to absorb hits while covering or shielding against the instrument in order to dish some of your own off, including closing the gap and trying to get in close which may nullify the blunt instrument e.g. like a base ball bat or an iron bar.

What happens if the weapon has a cutting edge or a point for stabbing, imo these two things change everything you ever learned about unarmed self defense as a whole and how to deal with the weapon known as the blade or knife?

The example I like to use is pick someone in your family that you can easily subdue be it a 12 or 13 year old child or your granddad for example, you would have no problem dispatching them in an unarmed confrontation, now put a small tanto (knife) in their hands, this drastically changes the situation, since the tanto would easily slice you like a hot knife through butter without the use of excessive force.

Now I’m not really a weapons expert and have never trained against knife fighting tactics, so apart from what I think and my opinion about blade defence don’t get too excited because I can’t reveal any life saving tactics against a knife attack.

So your assailant is armed with a sharp cold steel knife and is ready to damage or kill you what would be the best thing for you to do?

Well imo distance and mobility is going to be your best friend in a blade encounter, I know some knife experts would disagree but I can’t see how closing the gap to clinching or grappling range will make things better for you, imo it will only make it easier for the assailant to carve you up and possibly kill you.

Just think of sparring unarmed at trapping and clinching range it’s virtually impossible to defend against hooks and upper cuts, the best chance you have is to form a shield in the general area with a flinch response, this shield could be a folded arm taking the hit on the bicep/forearm area or even better spiking the attacking limb with your elbow, even then your success rate would be minimal.

Closing the gap and getting in close really blinds you, in respect to the motions and body language of your attacker this is also true for your attacker with respect to what you will be doing, but getting in close when you have a knife that cuts flesh like butter is more advantageous to the person with the knife than the unarmed person.

Not being able to read the body language of someone who is armed with a knife and attacking you because he has bridged the gap and has gotten in close to you is the most disadvantageous position you could find yourself in imo, since you will not even be able to flinch when you don’t see it coming, and we all know that the one that does the damage is the one you didn’t see coming.

Most of us have experienced the rubber knife plunge or overhand rubber knife attack in a martial arts class and these methods are easily recognizable to scenario based trainers as not being good enough for a real confrontation, they will often say that this will get the student killed on the street, and while I agree with them.

What exactly is good enough?

Are the scenario based people also falling into the trap that the security of an overhand rubber knife defense in a martial arts class portrays, you have to ask yourself,

“what is the bottom line these people are conveying to their students at the end of the day?"

Does the student now feel empowered to deal with a live blade on the street because he has done some rough house scenario based training? Is this the message they are getting across to the student?

Well if it is imo it’s no better than the security of an overhand rubber knife technique in a martial arts class.

You would then have to ask yourself is this scenario based martial arts instructor talking from experience? Has he actually tested these methods in a live blade fight? And lived to tell the tale.

Or is he teaching a parrot fashioned technique he learned in some scenario based seminar? Which saw him qualify from student to master in one week?

When it comes to edged weapons, scenario based training is good for any individual to have under their belt, but i think it should also be pointed out by the respective scenario based martial arts instructor that this type of training doesn't guarantee you success against a live blade on the street any more than the rubber knife in the MA class does. It may prepare you a little better but all things should be kept in perspective.

So I suppose after shooting my mouth of like that you are all wondering what I would do? Well here is my 2 cents for what its worth.

Like I said at the start I haven’t studied knife fighting attacks or defense but I will draw on what I know about unarmed self defense, physiology and mix it with common sense and try to put something together here behind the safety of my keyboard in the shelter of my home which is always an easy thing to do.

Well when it comes to any type of self defense I like the keep it simple stupid principle (KISS), being attacked by a knife will imo require a few things from the defender to survive,

1. Distance and Mobility
2. Shield
3. Retaliation
4. Sacrifice
5. Level headiness

Ok what do I mean, well if you are walking to work with a brief case or back pack, and have enough time to position and use these articles or anything else as a shield (2) then do so, for ladies it could be a hand bag if its big enough, use the weaker hand to hold the shield, retaliate (3) with the strong hand.

As he attempts to slash or jab you, with a fully committed attack (3) try breaking his nose while using the shield with the weaker hand and placing the shield in the general area or vicinity of the attack, so pin point accuracy is not required for the shield, but just covering a general area, make your attempt at breaking his nose a fully committed one which will mean closing the gap and getting in close.

If you have been unlucky enough to be caught with only your shorts on then sacrifice (4) your weaker arm by placing it in harm’s way using flinch responses to his attacks, but you better make sure you get a good hit (3) in and make the sacrifice worthwhile, think of police dog training and how they use their protected arm against the jaws of a K9.

The use of your coat, jacket or your jumper wrapped around your weaker arm can also serve as a shield.

(1) and (5) should always be with you no matter what you’re feeling, clear your mind, try and maintain the correct distance, be mobile and be ready to sacrifice a weaker limb by shielding and being committed to your attack with intent so it doesn’t fail.

So there it is my 2 cents worth, its not an expert opinion (as i have said all through the article), its not found in any shotokan kata (knife fighting), its not based on any practical experience dealing with a knife, take it for what it is, just my thoughts and opinion based on common sense.

Imo one thing is for sure in a real knife encounter be prepared to be cut no matter what type of martial arts training you have had.