CTS / Martial Arts

Knife Thoughts

This week I taught a bit of the blade reversal drill from Counterpoint Tactical System’s green belt curriculum. This drill is part of the empty hands versus knife level one block. Master Zach Whitson placed empty hands defending against a knife in the sak-sak (hammer grip) position early in the CTS training regimen. This drill works on turning the attackers knife back upon them, which is why it is called blade reversal. It comes after strikes have been delivered. Master Whitson says, “Never attempt to disarm someone in their right mind.” This same ideology can be applied to the blade reversal drill. Make sure that you’ve hit and hurt the attacker before, if it is at all possible, turning the blade on him . But the focus of the empty hands versus knife curriculum block is that you probably won’t have a weapon drawn when you’re attacked by one. It is important to survive and defend against the weapon before worrying about offense. Part of defense is striking against the attacker if possible, or it could involve creating distance between you and the attacker. But I’ve been thinking about why the CTS student encounters empty hand versus knife before knife versus knife. For me, this is a practical approach to self defense. Knife versus knife is much more fun, but without empty hands versus knife, I might never get to the point where I can draw my weapon in a real encounter.

Last night, I enjoyed a bit of knife sparring with Team Kali, which was fun but not really self defense. It was knife dueling that shows in a knife fight everyone gets hurt. Then later that night, a friend posted on Facebook a post by Marc MacYoung that really struck home. The whole thing is full of gems, but these lines have stuck with me as the most important.

When it comes to blades, the challenge is not getting stabbed or slashed — a result that is much, much harder to achieve without effective defensive training. Got it? Stabbing easy. Not getting stabbed, hard. Yet the emphasis in commercial knife training is on offense.

You can find the rest of the post here, and I encourage you to read and think about it.

Since knife fighting has been on my brain, I decided to post some general thoughts for me and my personal circumstances. Now, I only have five years of training time in a comprehensive knife system, which is no time at all. There are much more knowledgeable individuals out there, and I suggest you seek them out. Also, I am not a lawyer; so, if you see something that looks like legal advice, it isn’t. If you want legal advice, seek out a qualified attorney in your area. If you see something you disagree with, please, let me know in the comments. This list is me sorting out my own thoughts.

  • Escape is the goal. If your attacker is blocking the ONLY path to escape and achieve your goal, put the attacker down so he won’t get back up.
  • If you have a route to escape away from the attacker but choose not to use it, it could be said that you are no longer defending yourself but that you are in a fight.
  • If you have a route to escape away from the attacker but move towards him, it could be said that you are instigating a fight.
  • Knife fighting is not knife defense.
  • Knife fighting, or dueling, will result in injury to both parties unless one is much more skilled than the other. Avoid if possible.
  • Any stab can become a slash (draw cut), and any slash can be turned into a stab.
  • Stabs are more dangerous than slashes because stabs go deeper into the body.
  • Slashes are quicker and don’t require as much of a weapon commitment.
  • If the person is brandishing the knife, it is a display and, possibly, a warning. It is an attempt at behavior modification. It is a signal to escape if possible or to give up a possession.
  • Giving your wallet away is much safer than defending against a weapon.
  • Someone who has made up his mind to attack will not signal intent beforehand.
  • Most likely, you won’t know you’re stabbed if the person is intent on attacking with the knife.
  • As Master Whitson says, “I’m not worried about the [weapon], I’m worried about the man holding the [weapon].” Or, to put it another way, don’t focus on the weapon and ignore everything else, worry about stopping the attacker.
  • Knife versus knife is much more fun to practice, but empty hands versus knife is more valuable.
  • Defanging the snake, i.e. attacking the weapon hand in an attempt to remove the weapon, is unreliable and could potentially be used against you in court. That said, if it will save your life, do it.


There you have it. Nothing too deep or revelatory, but it’s what has been floating around my head for the past few weeks. If I left anything out, let me know in the comments!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s