If you’re a student of self-defense, learning how to wield ancient weapons and defend against them is impractical. Why? Because it’s unlikely you’ll face a Greek spear or a Japanese katana outside the dojo. It’s much more practical to acquire a working knowledge of edged weapons and firearms and concentrate on how to neutralize them. The pankration approach to weapons defense teaches you to always assume your assailant is armed while you look for subtle clues about what he’s actually carrying. If he’s wearing a coat in hot weather or has one hand behind his back or in a pocket, he might be concealing a handgun. Regardless of how good you are at gun disarms, you should resort to using such a technique only if you think all other alternatives—avoidance, de-escalation and escape—are futile.


To learn more about Jim Arvanitis’ take on empty-hand self-defense, pick up a copy of the September 2011 issue of Black Belt magazine.

Knife defense is just as serious, sometimes even more so. Your chances of not getting cut are slim. Therefore, your goal should be to keep from being stabbed and to prevent your attacker from slicing a major artery. Empty-hand techniques against weapons are clearly the last resort. When you practice defense, similar principles apply to both endeavors. You must move off the line of attack and simultaneously perform a hand defense. If your opponent’s weapon is a handgun and you’re close enough to touch it, you can take it. That often entails gripping the end of the barrel and twisting it away from you, then applying a joint manipulation to make it easier to remove it from his grasp. Once it’s in your possession, you can strike him or move into a safety zone while holding him at gunpoint. Knife assaults can be static—such as when the blade is held against a part of your body—or in motion—such as when he’s slashing at you from various angles. You must strive to immobilize the weapon hand (without gripping the blade) or disarm the assailant. Either way, once the immediate threat is neutralized, strike with speed and ferocity until he’s incapacitated. Pankration teaches a multitude of techniques for finishing the fight at this point, whether it’s standing or on the ground.

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