Edged-weapon attacks are on the rise. Throughout the European Union, they're almost epidemic. Even worse, edged weapons used in attacks overseas many times aren't the 4-inch folders Americans are used to seeing. They're 10- to 12-inch-long kitchen knives, which makes many of the standard disarms taught in martial arts schools more dangerous, if not impossible. The problem has grown so significant that London Mayor Sadiq Khan recently issued a proclamation: "No excuses. There is never a reason to carry a knife. Anyone who does will be caught, and they will feel the full force of the law." He basically banned knives for civilians to carry.

Let's step over the clichés — you know, "You'll likely be cut when you fight someone with a knife," "Use your pistol to defend against a knife," and so on. Instead, let's try to accomplish something here.Many people believe that combatives legend W.E. Fairbairn never published any techniques for countering a knife because he didn't believe it could be done effectively. True, a lot of clichéd instruction is premised on the unrealistic use of an edged weapon — i.e., the training knife is wielded slowly; the knife is displayed early to give the partner plenty of time to recognize it; the knife thrust is left extended and stationary; the attacker doesn't use the opposite hand to punch, grab or otherwise actively engage the victim; and so on.To be fair, attempts to identify trends in the specific use of knives in attacks have largely relied on anecdotal information and small sample groups. The reality is we simply can't know because it hasn't been studied properly. About the only thing that's even marginally reliable is the observation that the weapon will likely be held in the right hand — and that's only because statistically 90 percent of the world is right-handed.

What we do know is that, depending on where you're stabbed, it's difficult to differentiate being stabbed from being punched, that knives are difficult to recognize in a sudden attack, that the weapon moves fast (as quickly as a hand) and that the attacker can use both hands.Many of the "solutions" to knife attacks are promulgated by people who are compelled to give definitive or absolute answers without regard for the reality that nobody or no technique is 100 percent. Given a particularly challenging situation such as a blade attack or multiple-assailant situation, it's decidedly proper to provide potentially effective solutions with the caveat that, given the complexity of the attack, a successful outcome simply cannot be guaranteed.I've said this many times before, but I'll say it again: Anytime force is used, the ungovernable elements of risk and chance exist and favor neither combatant. Many times, the person who should win doesn't. It is called an upset in combat sports and is sure as hell going to be upsetting on the street. If you want to be undefeated, don't fight. You win 100 percent of the fights you don't have. That is a guarantee.

Anytime force is used, the ungovernable elements of risk and chance exist and favor neither combatant. Many times, the person who should win doesn't.

While we all likely train to block and lock the arm wielding the knife, it's important to really understand the conditions that will exist when you attempt it. Will it be dark? Will there be any early warning? Physiologically, what will your condition be? How much will your performance be diminished?It's crucial to expand the definition of a "disarm" beyond the classic application. You've effectively disarmed someone when you remove yourself from the situation. You've disarmed someone when you make him unwilling to continue his attack by avoiding (not controlling) the knife and making him unwilling to continue to attack with effective strikes. You've disarmed someone when you make him unable to continue by breaking bones, dislocating joints or rendering him unconscious.A disarm isn't necessarily the stereotypical sequence of blocking, locking, establishing control and removing the weapon.

Edged weapons continue to be one of the most challenging types of attacks we must satisfactorily address. It's human nature for people to want formulaic, drillable, absolute tactics to resolve the issue. It's also human nature for people in a position of authority to want to deliver those tactics (many times, without regard for reality). But to understand the truth about fighting is to realize that it's impossible to guarantee success in any situation.After a career spanning 40 years, I'm tired of hearing instructors speak in absolutes. Doing that just confirms their ignorance, their arrogance and their self-important need to establish themselves as the burning bush of self-defense.

To order Kelly McCann's Combatives for Street Survival, go to store.blackbeltmag.com. To sign up for his online course, visit madrills.com.

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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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