Lies about knifefighting – by Marc MacYoung (part 2)

Lie# 5 And then he is going to passively stand there while you carve him
Just like in the magazines and in the training drills.

What few people realize is that a wild defensive flailing while holding a knife,

 is just as dangerous and damaging as an intentional strike.

In fact, it is often more dangerous because of its unpredictable nature.

 If you are indeed tearing someone up, his defensive moves can hurt you badly –

 especially if he is flailing around trying to stop your next attack.

I have seen a serious over emphasis on defense before closing

and a serious lack of emphasis after closing – either one will get you mauled, if not killed.

BTW, this is over and above the fact that he might not be willing

 to let you carve him and he might do something different

after his initial attack fails…like attack again in a different manner.

 Or if his first one did succeed to attack again.

Fights are never static…and his ability to move is his ability to hurt you…

and do it before you have a chance to do your really cool moves.


Lie #6 Trapping and stripping

Defanging the snake is something that is commonly taught at higher levels.

Subtle and complex moves are drilled into the advanced students

so they can either knock the knife out of their attacker’s hands

or carve the knife out of his hand.

There’s just one problem with it, you have a snowball’s chance in hell of making it work.

The truth is these are what we call “green moves.”

 They have very little to do with actual knife defense

and very much to do with keeping the student involved in the system

and paying money (which in the U.S. is green, ergo the term green move).

Such moves rely on the attacker moving “just so”

and thereby putting you in the perfect position to do the move.

The thing is even the older masters tell you that these moves

are purely opportunity and chance. And yet, these moves are often over-emphasized

at the expense of more effective altercation ending moves.

In short, they train in elements as though they were the most important element

or the highest degree of the art.

Call me silly, but I feel that getting out alive is the best proof of skill,

 not how many subtle and complex moves you know.

In truth, unless an attacker is drunk or pathetically slow

the odds of successfully catching his hand and doing all these marvelous joint locks

or controlling moves are very, very slim.

Furthermore you are not going to be able to effectively control

 a wildly struggling opponent’s arm with only one hand.

Odds are that he will be able to wiggle free of it and cause you some degree of damage.

This does, however, bring up an issue that I made a passing reference to previously.

 I often see too much of an emphasis placed on controlling your opponent

so you can safely close. The raw reality is that you cannot

effectively control someone out at such a distance.

While there are things that you can do that will give you momentary advantage,

 it is nowhere complete control. Unfortunately, I have seen too many people

 try to establish control so they can enter safely.

 It has been my experience, that you cannot do this.

What you can do is create an opening, enter and then prevent him from countering.

But if you attempt to hang back until it is “safe” to enter,

then you will take more damage staying back trying to create the perfect solution.

On top of the already unpleasant realities, there is something else

that is far more important. Okay, so it’s only important

 if you *don’t* like taking showers with lots of guys with tattoos.

Once you disarm an opponent whether by leverage or your own blade,

if you continue to use the knife on him, that isn’t self-defense anymore.

 At the very least it is attempted murder, probably manslaughter and

– if your lawyer isn’t very good – you can possibly go down for murder

 if the District Attorney is having a particularly bad hair day.


Lie #7 Bio-mechanical cutting

Technically this should not be on this page at all: First because I respect Bram Frank,

 and secondly – as far as it goes – it is a sound concept.

 The simple fact is that cutting tendons, muscles and nerves does work.

A slash will destroy/hinder motor abilities.

There is no argument about it’s effectiveness.

However, like Jeff Cooper’s well-thought out and considered

 “Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six” was bastardized by Bubbas and “gun nuts”

 into a cliche of ignorance of the legal issues, I have seen this idea seriously misinterpreted

and bandied about by those ignorant of the laws,

precedents and legal nuances regarding use of lethal force.

Much of the discussion about using a knife to inflict this kind of wound

is the same fantasy thinking as when a toothless redneck,

after being called upon his statement of “ah’d jes shoot ‘im,” responds with the Cooperism.

Neither of them are taking into account that the law has a slightly different outlook

about their use of a lethal force weapon on another human being.

In the eyes of the law, a knife is a deadly weapon.

It’s use on another human is classified as lethal force.

And the only time you are justified in using lethal force – in most states –

is when you are “in immediate threat of death or grievous bodily injury.”

In otherwords, if it is bad enough where you have to use a knife on someone,

it is bad enough to kill them. If you are at a point where you are just trying to wound someone,

you are not in enough danger to justify using a knife.

This is the ghost of the old “shooting him in the leg” misconception so many people had.

People would shoot an intruder and then tell the police

that they were only trying to wound him.

 This left them open to all kinds of criminal charges and civil litigation –

from the person they had shot. There is a natural hesitation to take another human life.

 However, when this manifests in seeking to “wound” someone

in order to make them “go away” you end up in a very dangerous legal grey area.

And the fact that you were even in a situation where a knife was used

 is going to make that grey area more dangerous.

Remember, a knife is considered a thug’s weapon.


Lie #8 Knowing how to stickfight means you know how to knife fight


I have a friend Randy Brannan who is a physicist.

 The man is basically brilliant and when he starts talking physics,

I shut up, sit down and listen, because he knows what he is talking about.

Thing is Randy and I used to fight with broadswords at the California Renaissance Faire.

 These live-steel bouts were not only unchoreographed,

 but were basically wild brawls (it helps to understand that at the time,

 we were both young and often slightly drunk – conditions known to produce

 “it seemed like a good idea at the time” thinking).

Later Randy would go out and study Kali/Escrima.

Having experience using a far wider range of weapons

than many of his fellow kali students

 gave him a slightly different perspective.

One day while discussing this very subject he said:

People claim that a stick is an average weapon.

That it has similarities to all weapons. This is true, it does.

But then they claim that if you know how to use a stick you can use all weapons.

This is not true. What they don’t understand is that the differences

are just as important as the similarities.

Give that man a cigar…although I might tweak his last sentence to read

 “what they don’t want to understand.” Just because you are proficient

with one type of tool doesn’t automatically mean

you can translate that skill to another weapon.

 And yet a great many people tell themselves that this is the case,

 in fact, they rather emphatically insist is it so.

Apparently the appeal of being a “master of all weapons”

is greater than being proficient with just a stick.

The simple truth is that different weapons handle differently.

 The have different weights, different sizes, different timing, different requirements

and different uses. There are indeed certain similarities,

 but unless you want to end up kneeling in a dark parking lot

 trying to hold your guts in, you had better stop telling yourself

about the similarities and start looking at the differences.

To begin with a stick doesn’t have an edge.

With blade work the point and the edge are critical components,

but not necessarily so with sticks. Edge control is pretty much the indicator

 between someone who knows how to use a knife and a stick jock

trying to tell you that he knows knife work.

If you know what to look for you can spot the difference with just one move –

even if it is a fast one. In fact, the faster the move, the more obvious it is.

The physics of a stick do not require this exactness of edge control.

 This is because a stick is an impact weapon,

were as a blade is designed to cut, slice, stab and sometimes, hack.

 If you do not have your edge on target, then you create

a totally different set of physics and reactions other than the one you want.

If you are learning stick fighting then accept that you are learning stick fighting,

 that is a legitimate pursuit. If you are learning knife work,

 then you are learning knife work…while there are similarities

 there are radical differences.

 Don’t tell yourself or allow yourself to be told different.

 If you don’t believe me, try working out with a wide variety of weapons

and do the exact same move.

These differences especially become manifest when your weapon encounters flesh.


Lie # 9 Knowing kali makes you a knife fighter

Kali, Escrima, Arnis, FMA, all of them have the aura and mystery

 of being weapons based arts. Deadly, savage arts of the Filipino warriors.

Lurid stories about guerrilla actions against Japanese invaders,

duels and death matches that the founder of the style was involved in abound.

Quite honestly what these maestros survived is incredible

and is more than worthy of kudos. These older gentlemen

survived a totally different culture, socio-economic environment,

time and, in some cases,

a World War and foreign invasion of their homeland.

That having been said however, just because the founder of the system or lineage

 was a walking piece of bad-assed real-estate doesn’t make you one.

They weren’t knife fighters, those people were survivors.

It’s what comes from living a hellishly hard life.

While they had physical skill that helped them, what kept them alive,

 what allowed them to strike fast enough, hard enough and brutally enough

wasn’t their art – it was the commitment not to die.

It was that grim savagery to do whatever is necessary

and to do it faster and harder than the other person that kept them alive.

In the lexicon, they had “heart.” Their art just allowed them to do that faster.

Knowing an art doesn’t give you that kind of commitment,

that kind of ruthlessness, that kind of grim endurance or that willingness

to descend into savagery to stay alive.

Just knowing the art doesn’t make you a knife fighter.

You have to have “heart” as well – that willingness to wade through hell

and come out the other side.


~ by pinoro on February 28, 2011.

3 Responses to “Lies about knifefighting – by Marc MacYoung (part 2)”

  1. This man knows what he is talking about… I especially liked the section about the wild broadsword-fights – sometimes this reminds me on my own dubious experiences with other guys from the scene 🙂

  2. Yes, he definitely knows! There’s still part 3 coming 🙂

  3. More true knowledge. This is to be read, absorbed and inwardly assimilated.

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