Lies about knifefighting – by Marc MacYoung (part 1)

Lie #1 You’re going to have time to draw your own weapon

In all the times I have been assaulted with knives,

only once was I able to pull my own weapon.

And I didn’t carry a folder, I carried a sheath knife

that I had repeatedly practiced speed drawing.

I could, in a crisis, draw and deploy a knife in just over one second.

This is not idle boasting, I demonstrate it in many of my videos.

And yet, despite this incredible rate of speed, when attacked

I didn’t have time to draw my knife

except for the one time that I leaped wildly backwards to gain space.

That’s because by the time I realized there was a knife involved,

I was already being attacked.

Not long ago I was involved in a discussion about a young biker

who had been blown off his barstool by a shotgun blast.

What had disturbed me is that he had been involved in an altercation

in the bar earlier and had not withdrawn, thereby signing his death warrant.

However, an Australian bouncer rightfully commented that the ages

between 18 and 24 is where these kinds of lifesaving lessons tend to be learned —

and those who don’t learn them, or aren’t lucky, never get any older.

It is only the young and inexperienced who make certain kinds of mistakes.

Most knife “fighting” training is predicated on the assumption

that you have somehow managed to get a blade in your hand.

Quite honestly, if you you are attacked by either a young punk,

a total incompetent or someone who was brandishing the knife

in order to get you to back off then there is a chance

that you might have time to draw you own weapon.

However, if you are dealing with anyone with any experience,

street savvy or cunning, you will not be able to draw your own blade

when you are attacked.

Against such a person, there is just not enough time.

He won’t show his weapon before he attacks.

That’s because those who are foolish enough to brandish weapons

in places where weapons are common don’t live long themselves.

And yet that is exactly what you are expecting him to do

so you can draw your own knife and defeat him.

Lie #2 It’s going to be a knife “fight”

Shortly before his death, I was sitting at the NRA convention in Phoenix

with Col. Rex Applegate, the father of American military knife work.

We were discussing the fad of “knife fighting” that we, as old timers in the subject,

were both amused and bemused with. He summed up the problem

with what was being promoted as knife work as “They’re teaching dueling.”

By this he meant standing there toe-to-toe, with the same weapons

and trying to kill each other like civilized gentlemen.

Not to be the bearer of bad tidings, but the reason someone uses a weapon

on another human being is to stack the deck in their favor.

People don’t use weapons to fight, they use weapons to win.

The absolute last thing any attacker wants to do

is to fight you with equal weapons.

If he was looking for a fight he wouldn’t have attacked you with a weapon

in the first place. And if he knows you have a knife,

he is going to attack you with a bigger and better weapon

to keep you from winning.

Personally one of the things that I really respect the Dog Brothers for doing

is experimenting with mismatched weapon contests. *That* is a reality.

You pull a knife and he gets a club. You pull a club and he pulls a gun.

There is no fighting involved, you use the superior weapon to disable your opponent.

And you do it before he does it to you.

As far as your attacker is concerned this is not a fight, it is an assassination.

He is not going to want to stand there with you and hack it out.

Unfortunately, this is exactly the fantasy that many so-called knife fighting

instructors promote. The absolute last thing you want to do is to try to “fight.”

Another reason that you need to chase the idea of “knife fighting” out of your head

is that in many states there is this attitude that “consensual fights” are best resolved

by throwing both of the morons who participated in jail.

It is true, you have the right to defend yourself against attack,

but if you decide to fight someone, it isn’t self-defense anymore,

and if you use a lethal weapon on someone

in a “knife fight” that you could have avoided,

then you have yourself a gang of problems ahead of you.

That is unless you like being gang raped in a prison shower.

Lie #3 “But what if I’m cornered?”

Common sense tells us that knife fighting is dangerous.

And yet, like a dog circling a bear’s den — where a smarter part of it

knows not to wake that sleeping bear, yet another,

more instinctive part is urging it on —

many people who train in knife fight have the same torn desires.

One of the biggest issues goading these people is Do they have what it takes?”.

Unlike dogs, however, human beings have the ability for self-deception

and rationalization. And one of the ways that we human fool ourselves

is that we fantasize about situations where we would be able

to give ourselves permission to find out if we “have it.”

Such people strongly resist the idea that knife fighting is a bad place to go.

It is literally as though they are seeking to find an excuse.

One of the strongest indicator of this fantasy mindset

is the reaction when they are told to flee instead of fighting with a knife,

literally the next words out of their mouths will be

“But what if I am cornered and can’t run?”

There are many such similar excuses that they can use

and they all start with the word but:

“but what if I am with old people or children and can’t run?”,

“But what if I am out of shape (or infirm) and can’t run?”

In all cases, of the millions of possible options available

they always seem to focus on the one that requires them

to engage in a knife fight. The truth is, it is incredibly difficult to “corner” someone

who is determined to leave.

Basically because he will use your face as traction

or squirt through the smallest of holes.

However, if the person’s desire to engage in physical violence

is stronger than his desire to leave, it is very easy to corner someone.

If you ask any experienced LEO, corrections officer or mental ward

orderly which they would rather face, a person who wants to fight them,

or someone who will climb over them to escape,

to a man they will tell you the former.

They know the latter will hurt them more and be harder to defeat.

That’s because that person is fully committed to a course of action.

Whereas a person who has allowed themselves to be “cornered”

will still be of a divided heart and therefore not able to fight at full capacity.

And that is exactly what it will take in order to survive

such a “no win” situation that they have put themselves into.

That is the true danger of this kind of thinking.

Because part of you does want to know if you have what it takes and “can do it,”

you can unconsciously trick yourself into not taking

appropriate precautions and ignoring danger signals.

Your pride and ego will blind you about what you are doing until it is too late.

Once there however, your life — if it continues past that moment —

will be utterly destroyed.

Don’t fantasize about being in a situation

where you have to use your knife fighting skills,

because you can end up tricking yourself

into just such a situation by blinding yourself to possible escape routes.

Lie #4 He’s going to attack you a certain way

I have a demonstration that I do during knife seminars.

I find the highest ranking Filipino martial arts player present

and I tell him to check and pass my attack.

I then proceed to do a well balanced, fast, cautious attack.

This is a legitimate and fast attack, and they tend to block it.

I then tell them to block the another attack – and aiming for the same target –

I do a prison yard rush on them. To this day I have gutted everyone of them.

The reason? They are entirely different knife attacks.

Many years ago Don Pentacost wrote a book called

Put ’em down, take ’em out: Knife fighting from Folsom Prison.

In it Don pointed out how actual knife homicides

occurred in maximum security prisons.

Putting it mildly, he outraged countless martial artists

by what he said in that book, who to this day still disparage the book.

Except for one thing, that prison yard rush is exactly what I use

to gut so many of them.

It is not a sophisticated attack, but it is a very common way

to attack someone with a knife in the USA.

The FMA are predicated on one basic assumption,

that you will be fighting a trained knifer.

The problem with that assumption is that not everyone attacks

the way that someone trained in the FMA will attack you.

This is problematic because the counters of the FMA

are designed to work against how people with FMA training will attack you.

Against these kinds of attacks, the counters work great.

The bottom line is, in the Western culture,

someone who is attacking you with a knife is attempting to murder you.

They are not going to be hanging back cautiously

in fear of your weapon and your fighting skill.

Instead they will usually attempt to overwhelm you and quickly kill you

by whatever means necessary. Such an attack is totally different

than the well balanced and liquid attacks of the FMA.

And that is totally different than how someone from Italy will attack you with a knife.

And that is different than how someone from Venezuela, Brazil,

South Africa or China is going to attack with a knife.

I know because I have traveled around the world

and encountered knife fighting systems from all of those places.

I know that those who are selling knife fighting training

and others who haven’t seen these other systems will deny it, but:

Just because you know how to handle one,

doesn’t mean you know how to handle the others.

Each are different, and each are equally lethal.

And those differences CAN kill you.

– to be continued –


~ by pinoro on February 20, 2011.

4 Responses to “Lies about knifefighting – by Marc MacYoung (part 1)”

  1. I’ve been looking for info on subjects of hand-to-hand fighting and knife fighting for eskrima, savate, silat, shadai, or others. This is the first one I’ve been satisfied with.

  2. Good set of observations. I would like to read the other six “lies”, and how about something other than the centered, dim, tampon-wrapper layout. Are you a f’in artiste or a knifeman?

  3. Respect. I was in your “young, stupid and potentially dead” category and now I’m not. I read this after I learned the truth. Wish I’d read it before! Incidentally, I’m an editor and, in the sentence” ” However, if the person’s desire not to engage in physical violence is stronger than his desire to leave, it is very easy to corner someone.”, you need to delete the word “not” I think. Also, “Each is”, no disrespect intended. In fact, maximum respect from me to you sir.

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