Saturday, July 3, 2010

Daily Video: 03.07.2010 – How NOT to Defend Against a Knife Attack

As a follow up to the last video, here is an example of two "experts" showing an irresponsible technique.

I'm not into trashing individual styles, as quite often it's the practitioner or instructor that makes the style, not the style itself. However, I will address this particular technique sequence. Notice that this is done with absolutely zero intensity or realism. The attack slowly lunges forward and then freezes. Why would he do this? He doesn't with draw his hand and try to stab again (reality) which would in effect cancel the following up joint manipulation into the hammerlock. I also seriously doubt he'd be able to stab his assailant in the back, or strip the knife so easily.

This is why we MUST train with intensity and energy! I don't know who these two gentlemen are, but I'm sure they think they're doing the right thing and teaching quality self defence. But quite simply, trying this will get someone killed! This is one of the reasons why the entire Progressive Defence team, as well as all of our recommended trainers, pressure test every technique before teaching it to anyone else. We need to be sure it works.

Please keep this in mind next time you think you're learning an awesome technique that is sure to impress your friends. Often it's the unimpressive techniques that work.


  1. I agree about the lack of intensity, however in itself it's not a bad technique only it's performed inadequately: while I would never try an X-block against a knife (an experienced guy will nail you with his other hand or trap both your hands) it can be done against a novice provided you drive forward with high intensity (this prevents him from stabbing again) and it should be followed immediately by a knee to the groin. What my sensei taught us to do is block with hand and strike with the other at his biceps while driving forward and kneeing him in the process.

    One more thing: this isn't 'Isreali martial arts', it's a technique from ju-jutsu. This whole set-up reeks of a mcdojo to me and you're right: doing it in this manner will get you killed but don't knock the entire technique because of some bozo's who don't know what they're doing and leaving out important elements.

  2. Hi Zara. Thanks for your comment. I agree that, in principle, the key to knife defence is intensity and commitment. A forward drive is often very effective. Staying outside or dancing away from the knife over and over is only going to end in tears. Eventually you need to get in there and control the thing. I'm not a fan of perscribing specific technique sequences in the method of "if he does this, you do this" as I find there are far too many variables for this kind of pattern formation to ever work in the real world. Also, trying to strike at a moving target like someone's bicep, while they're trying to gut you with a knife, would be a very difficult task. It sounds like your sensei's on the right track with trapping and driving though. You should play with this principle against someone really trying to stab you prison-style using a marker pen. It can be a great drill.

    I agree that the group I chose to show in the video were not super-reputable, hence why I didn't have an issue using them as an example of what not to do. However, I won't say they're not legitimate "Israeli Martial Arts" as I'm far from an authority in the field. Also, once you've been around the traps, everything in everything looks like something in jujitsu, and everything in jujitsu looks like something in Kabbadi, and everything in Kabbadi looks like something in Pankration... there's only so many ways the human body can move. At the end of the day we're all trying to achieve the same thing.

    Thanks for your readership and your comment. :)

  3. Thanks again for your lengthy reply, Zara. It makes for interesting reading.

    I think we mostly agree in principle on this issue. One thing I've learned regarding knife defence from doing hundreds of live drills and training with the likes of Ray Floro, is that it is imperative that you get some kind of control over the knife hand. Now, whether you choose to do this by controlling the wrist or by crashing into some kind of overhook or underhook (potentially very dangerous), if you don't get control over that limb you're just going to keep getting stabbed - unless you're fortunate enough to knock him out with your first shot. That's my main objection to the simultaneous block and strike method.

    As for what we teach, I've found the most effective method for myself and my students in no-compliance drills is to engage the knife, control the hand/arm and then "destroy the computer" by shredding, headbutting, elbowing... really whatever presents itself. The idea is we want to control the threat and then eliminate it as quickly as possible.

  4. All methods of knife defense carry risk (goes with the territory) but the block & hit method is very valid: I don’t know how you see it but you wouldn’t just block & hit and then do nothing or wait for his next strike. In kali you immediately check the weapon with your other hand and you guide it down (this prevents sudden changes in direction), preferably with another eyejab and or kneekick, and then control & takedown or disarm. The kali method was developed as a last ditch response to an experienced knife wielding attacker (the Phillipines are pretty much a knife culture) when you got caught unarmed so they know perfectly well what can be done with this particular weapon and that is why I said it’s better than krav maga (burst in and trap the arm in your biceps while clinching & kneeing). In either system you wouldn’t stay motionless after contact and the only good reason to back off is if you have a weapon of your own you can deploy (repel the first attack and draw your own knife, gun or baton). To each his own of course and obviously there are more paths than this one but I don’t see why you’d knock the block & hit method. Combining offense and defense in one motion is always more efficient than merely reacting and if you can hit him in the eye or on the nose you’ll stun him buying you a split second to move to a safer position from where to finish him. Block & hit or grabbing: both work as long as you do it with gusto and you’ve trained it enough. The main thing is to get in close without getting stabbed or cut in the vitals and to finish him quickly. Luckily we don’t live in a culture that emphasizes knives and especially the combative use of blades so if this happens it’s almost certain he hasn’t had formal training and uses his weapon in the manner that is fairly easy to defend against (fully committed attacks). Facing a trained knife fighter (especially one with practical experience) is a nightmare and I’ve seen enough of kali to know you don’t stand a chance unarmed (probably not even armed). I highly doubt anyone, no matter their experience and training, will ever willingly engage an armed attacker barehanded, not unless they have a death wish. Even Ron Balicki, an internationally renowned expert in kali and a host of other arts, backed away when faced with a knifeman (obviously an amateur) and retrieved a broomstick with which he disarmed the guy. He could have taken the guy unarmed too but it’s just not worth the risk and as an ex police officer he knows how gruesome and deadly knife wounds are.

  5. To be clear, I'm not saying that the silmultaneous hit and block is without merit or that it won't work for anyone - just that I haven't made it work for me reliably in pressure drills. A silmultaneous catch/latch and strike, however, is a different method which I've found to be more succcessful for myself and my students.

    I agree with you that taking on a trained knife fighter is just about suicide. Chances are if the person knows what they're doing, you'll be dead without ever seeing the knife. Thankfully that is an extreme rarity, at least in our culture.