Lies about knifefighting – by Marc MacYoung (part 3)

Lie #10 Grappling with a knife


I was in Germany with a group of martial artists teaching “street knife work.”

While demonstrating an empty-handed with one of them,

he tackled me and took me to the ground (This is no big deal

as when I do demo’s I don’t allow “courtesy attacks.”

I insist people attack me like they would were it a real fight –

 this occasionally means that I get slugged or taken down.

This was one of those times). Anyway, when we hit the floor

I realized that there was no way I could contest this guys strength,

he was a bull, full of muscle and grappling skill.

The thing was I had landed next to a practice knife

that I calmly picked up and dragged it across his throat.

We stood up and his eyes were the size of saucers

because he realized what the significance of what had just happened.

A knife had come out of nowhere and had this been real,

he would have been dead. The amazing thing was

 is there were only a few other people there who did too.

On of the bigger proponents of grappling stood there and said,

 “He tackled you.” To which I replied, “Yes, and I slit his throat”

 “But, he tackled you.”

In their minds there was no difference in the levels of damage.

The fact that I had been taken down counted the same as a knife

across the throat. Personally, I’ll take getting slammed to the ground

any day over getting my throat slit.

The myth of grappling is that it works everywhere.

The fact that it proved so successful in the UFC ring

 has blinded many people to the fact that there are critical differences

 between fighting barehanded and fighting with weapons.

 While empty-hand fighting might easily turn into an endurance marathon,

 where size, strength, physical shape and ability to endure punishment

 significantly influence the outcome of an altercation,

that is not applicable to weapons work.

In that arena, every man bleeds the same.

Oh yeah, remember how I said bio-mechanical cutting

did have validity to it about the damage a knife can cause?

 What makes you think you can keep on fighting

with that kind of damage being done to you?

All a guy has to do is cut you a few times to seriously reduce

your ability to move and then wait while you bleed out.

Now the really bad news, being pumped up on adrenalin

 is going to make that happen faster, the higher your heart rate,

 the faster you bleed out and lose strength.

All he has to do is out wait for your strength to fail

before finishing the job. Do not attempt to “grapple” with a knifer.

 Once on the ground, you are not guaranteed to be able

to control his knife arm well enough to prevent him from carving you up.

 If it were a barehanded fight, then you can often prevent him

from being able to generate enough power to effectively strike you,

 but a knife doesn’t need power, it just needs to touch you.

And if you are attempting to control his arm while on the ground,

 he will wiggle free and repeatedly cut you

until you can no longer continue to resist.

Now for the fun news, I know of a small knife being manufactured

 that is called the “clinch pick.” A small concealable –

 and easily accessible – knife, that can be rammed into a grappler’s guts

 and chest three or four times before the grappler knows it is there.

Where it is carried makes it nearly impossible for the grappler

to prevent its deployment. When you realize he has it, it is too late.


Lie #11 The knife is an extension of your hand


This lie is most often promoted by empty-handed stylists

who insist that they can teach you

how to either defend yourself  against a knife or to use one.

Unfortunately, many people who started out

in such systems have transferred over to supposed blade arts

and continued promoting this often misinterpreted saying.

Empty hand fighting is not the same as weapon fighting –

 it requires different body mechanics, different ranges ,

 different timing and – most importantly –

 an emphasis on movement that is not found

 in most kicking and punching arts.

At least not in how they are taught in Westernized countries.

This emphasis on the hand largely stems

from the sports influence of modern martial arts.

However, the problem is that most empty handed fighters

 lack the understanding of how to generate force

from a moving state, instead seeking to generate force

from a stationary/rooted stance and a twisting the hips.

 While this works for barehanded fighting styles,

 it fails to address the needs of weapons fighting.

It is my personal belief that the idea that the

“knife is an extension of your hand” encourages a lack of bodily movement,

 instead relying on the hand to do all your work for you.

In these circumstances your not being cut

relies on you speed and reflexes, rather than more reliable means.

Basically, because you might not be fast enough to counter,

parry or block what he is doing. I further believe

 that this lack of motion largely stems from attempting to extend –

– whether unconsciously or intentionally – the thought process

of empty handed fighting into a field where it does not belong, or work. 

I prefer the more encompassing and flexible term:

The knife is an extension of your will.

What I will say is that if it is an extension of my hand,

my body may or may not move. However, if it is instead my will,

 everything in between my will and my knife will be likely

 to move to achieve my ends.

And that is far more effective for staying alive.


Lie #12 There is such a thing as a master knife fighter


Despite all the fantasy self-defense scenarios so-called “knife experts”

concoct in their minds and are always talking about –

– where they would be justified in using a knife on another human being –

– the flat-out truth is that in 99.9% of the times

that a knife is used on another human being it is a criminal act.

Not to burst anybody’s bubble here, but those famous challenges

and death matches that the old maestros engaged in were wildly illegal –

– both in the United States AND in the Philippines.

Now having said that I will be the first to point out that hot-headed,

young bucks looking to prove themselves will often engage

in extremely stupid, dangerous and criminal behavior

 in the name of pride or anger. But you know what?

 If they live, they often wind up in jail, if not prison.

 The law tends to frown on fights, much less duels.

Something Brian Curl, the cameraman on my knife videos

and ex-SEAL said to me that I will always remember is

 “There ain’t no such thing as a professional knife fighter.”

Truer words were never spoken. Nobody gets paid for knife fighting.

 On top of this, you don’t survive multiple knife fights

 without getting carved up pretty badly yourself.

But most importantly, long before you stacked up enough murders

 to be qualified as a “master knife fighter”

you would have found yourself on death row.

So look long and hard at anyone calling themselves a blademaster,

 knife fighter or knife fighting expert…

because more likely than not, it is a self-imposed title

that has no bearing on reality. And if he were such a master knife fighter,

 how come he ain’t got more scars and isn’t in prison?


Lie #13 That this is a “fight” at all

If you want to live, you don’t go in with a “fighting attitude”

 to any altercation involving weapons.

Weapons take it out of the arena of fighting and put it in the realm of combat.

And if you aren’t ready to go there, there is no shame in that.

 But don’t let your pride or anger push you into there,

because the rules are totally different, and if you don’t know that,

 then you are the one who is going to get hurt.

If you see a weapon deployed, run. If you stay, don’t even think of fighting.

It left that three counties back…someone is going to get seriously hurt if you stay.

Now the question is, will it be him or you? Or both?


Lie #14 Expect to get cut


Remember that thing called bio-mechanical cutting?

 I said the major problem with it is on the legal front, but,

 on the “a knife is going to do a shitload of damage to you”

front there’s a lot to be said for it.

 What amazes me is that some people can talk about

 the damage that their knife will do to an attacker,

 but at the same time blurt out the old cliche of “expect to get cut”

as though getting cut were only a minor inconvenience.

HELLO! Wake up and smell the coffee!!!!!

Where I really hit the roof on this mindset is when I see someone

 who comes from a empty hand fighting system

attempt to “fight” an armed opponent in the same way

 that he would an unarmed opponent.

The thing is, these same people are the ones who often talk about

 “expecting to get cut.” And then, having said that,

they take no effective measures to prevent it from happening!

 I have literally seen such people wade into a cuisine-art.

Now who ever came up with that term originally was speaking

about a very important idea. That is that you will be cut

in a blade altercation and that you need not to panic

when it happens and that you must continue on

to the best of your abilities  in order to increase your chances of survival.

To that intent and meaning I say “Amen!” I couldn’t agree more.

However, like the idea of biomechanical cutting has been bastardized

 by people into a dangerous misconception, so has this one.

In fact, from having watched people who study so-called “blade arts”

many of them have apparently taken it to mean

allow yourself to be sliced up, making no effective defensive moves

in order to try to get in one good hit.

Apparently, if you nick him once to his twenty seven slashes,

 it is an acceptable exchange rate.

The other side of the pendulum swing is however,

overly focusing on trying to control his knife arm before entering.

 Hanging back and trying to catch this fast moving blade

 so you can safely enter is one of the best ways I know

to make getting cut a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This is what really results from trying to extend a “fighting mindset”

into weapons combat. It simply just does not work.

Would you like to hear our philosophy on this subject?

Trade a cut for a kill, but nothing else.

That’s the difference between fighting and combat.


Lie #15 The FMA are the ultimate knife fighting systems

Let me lay it out on the line here.

When it comes to knife fighting, they are all fucking dangerous.

There is no “sun source” of knife fighting.

There is no land of ultimate knife fighting arts.

 There is no race who hold the monopoly on the “right way”

 to use a knife. As I said, I have traveled around the world

and seen knife fighting systems from even more places

and what I will tell you is that each of them will make you just as dead,

 just as quick. What I will be the absolute first to admit

 is that the FMA have done wonders for organizing and explaining

the ideas behind how they do what they do.

And for that I take my hat off to them.

And I salute and respect the skill and prowess of their eskrimadors,

 kali gurus and arnis masters.

But I draw the line at even sitting quietly

when someone tries to elevate one group of fighting skills

 above all others so they can swagger around

saying that they study the ultimate “knife fighting” system.

This above my immediate gag reflex when someone –

– who has never faced a knife in the hands of someone who wishes him ill –

 swaggers around and tells me that he knows everything there is to know

 about knife fighting because he studies under (fill in the blank).

There is no right way, one way or only way to use a knife…

and the more you know about all the different ways

the more likely you are to be able to come up with an effective counter

 if you are attacked in one of those ways.

But if you have only studied one system, the odds are against you

 being able to come up with something that works.

And I have to tell you, although Western practitioners like to claim

 that the FMAs do, those arts don’t cover all the ways a knife can be used on you.

There is literally a world full of differences out there.

I have said it before and I will say it again:

*Nobody* has a monopoly on the truth about knife fighting.

The whole of the subject is just too big. Everybody has a slice of the pie.

And learning what they have to say about it

and how they do it where they are from is the best way for you

 to increase you chances of survival.


Lie #16 It’s easy to disarm an armed opponent

Every time I hear someone say this, I cringe.

Because A) they have just told me that they have never dealt

 with someone intent on trying to kill them.

B) Odds are that they are a bully and braggart.

C) If they are teaching people this nonsense they are going to get someone killed.

In a very real sense, someone standing there brandishing a knife

 is not trying to kill you…he is trying to scare you away.

Now I will admit that it is often easier to overwhelm such a person

 because he is not in attack mode, but it is never easy.

 Such people can be surprised and often they cannot react in time.

However, someone who is genuinely intent on attacking you with a blade

 is *never* easy to disarm or overcome.

And promoting this lie is literally begging to get someone killed –

especially if they encounter a committed attacker.

The problem that I have encountered with bullies

 is that they are very selective on who chose to bully.

 I have seen individuals who have savaged weaker opponents –

– as if by magic – disappear when trouble starts with true hard-cases.

These individuals may have taken blades away from intimidated kids,

but somehow they never seem to be around to try it

against someone who is an experienced  streetrat or former convict.

So again, proving that the exact choice of words

is important we are left with a small, but important modification

of what is commonly taught and what needs to be said:

 The concepts behind disarming an armed opponent are simple, they are not,

however, easy – and neither is the actual disarm itself.


Lie #17 You can successfully fight an armed attacker

This entire page has been dedicated to disproving this lie.

 The main reason it is a lie is that you cannot “fight” an armed opponent.

 You can survive against one and you might even be able

to successfully put him down before he causes you any major damage…

but, whatever you do, it must be fast, effective and brutal.

 If it isn’t, then you will not stop him before he causes you major damage.

You cannot stand there and engage in a long, drawn out contest

with an armed opponent. If you try to do so, you will lose.

It is not a matter of if, but of when.

Simply stated, every the touches you with the knife he will cause

serious damage. How can you hope to launch a long drawn

out retaliation against him when every time he touches you

he causes “biomechanical cutting” on you?

You are going to bleed out and cease to function long before

your strategy comes to fruition.

Lie #18 Drills teach you how to knife fight

Drills teach principles. They teach ideas. They are the map, not the territory.

Unfortunately, many people mistake the map for the territory.

One of the most unrealistic tendencies that drills teach

 is they do not teach you proper ranging.

The object of an attack is to stab/slash your partner.

However, often in training you will see people standing back

ranging their attack against their partner’s stick

or their training knife falling at least a foot short of their partner.

 Furthermore they are not attacking with the same commitment

and force level that a real knife assault will occur with.

 Therefore the training drill, while important

is missing several critical components.


Lie #19 You can use a knife on another human being

without legal repercussions

I have seen videos by so-called “knife fighting masters”

who actually show the fool encouraging his students

to slash someone with a knife for trying to slug the student.

 I have also seen videos where after disarming their attackers

with several slashes to the arm, these knife killers proceed to slash their –

– no longer armed – attacker to ribbons.

 I have stood in a convention hall and seen a martial artist

 doing a demo, leap back while slashing the weapon arm of his attacker,

 and then .. after “defanging the snake,” he leap back into range

 and executed a disemboweling move on his unarmed former attacker.

 Later, when I asked him about if he understood

that any student doing that move would be committing manslaughter

 instead of “self-defense” his eyes bugged out

because he’d never considered how that move would be viewed in court.

 I have stood in my front room with attorneys

 and use of  force experts and watched a tape on knife fighting

 where a supposed “expert,” not only starts a bar fight,

 does a suicide move that would have gotten his throat slit

 and then kneels down and stabs a downed opponent –

in front of witnesses! Actions that everyone agreed

would be prosecuted as murder.

As such, don’t even get me started on the bozo’s

who insist their students cut a person multiple times

because “one cut may not stop him.”

Unfortunately, this kind of training often goes awry

when the attacker attempts to withdraw and the knife fighter

keeps on slashing, even after the ex-attacker has turned his back

 on the knife fighter. Now, this once upon a time attacker

 has been slashed many times after he was disarmed

 and is slashed more on his back while attempting to retreat..

.guess who is going to go to prison for attempted murder?

A knife is considered a lethal force instrument…

and the use of lethal force is *very* narrowly approved.

 If you use one another human being you had better damned well

 be firmly within those parameters…if not, then you are –

– in the eyes of the law and society — the bad guy.

Before you even think of picking up a knife for “self-defense”

 go out and take a course on Judicious Use of Lethal force.

 Do NOT take any knife fighting experts word on the subject,

 go to the source lawyers and expert witnesses on use of force.

~ by pinoro on March 4, 2011.

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

  1. I already knew the page (, they have really some shocking pictures, showing the “reality” and what a knife can really do on a human… No good…
    Had luck today to open the youtube video from China. Now again, I can’t open it (so no answer per youtube possible). Today I wrote a short essay about this training week, you can have a look. The next one will be about Beijing, most probably!🙂
    Have a nice sunday, and please check your yahoo-email! (I wrote a short message there too) Thx!

  2. Ah…nope, this one was it:

  3. The greatest swordsman in France does not fear the second greatest swordsman in France, but fears the worst swordsman in France.

    Beware of a crazy man with a knife.
    -Old Samurai saying

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