Weapon Techniques

Maximize Your Chance of Surviving a Knife Fight — by Training Smart!

The part of self-defense that frightens me most is defending against a knife attack. It’s hard to convey the ugliness of combat with a bladed weapon. Anyone — trained or untrained, male or female — gains a significant advantage when wielding a knife and suffers a great disadvantage when facing one.

How should you prepare for this type of potentially fatal encounter? Being realistic in training is the key.

I say this because most martial artists train primarily to deal with face-to-face, Hollywood-style knife attacks. You need to distinguish between what looks good for demonstration purposes and movies and what will work in an actual knife fight.

Think about the way you train. Your workouts should help you gain the skills and attributes needed to deal with high-speed, aggressive blade attacks. Furthermore, your workouts must be shaped by reality. That means they should include functional training methods and reliable techniques.

Morne Swanepoel

Research has shown that techniques that depend on fine-motor skills require heightened awareness, proximity sense and precise timing. That’s a lot to ask in a real-life self-defense situation.

It follows that the best techniques are those that rely on gross-motor skills, especially ones you’ve practiced over and over in environments designed to mimic reality. When you start training your body and brain that way, it quickly becomes apparent that keeping things simple is the preferred way to ensure you can function under pressure.

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I’ve found that the best method for getting this kind of experience involves sparring with a resisting opponent using training knives. Knife fights occur at full speed, so all your sparring should be done at a fast pace.

A crucial part of knife training is composed of offensive techniques. Only by understanding the offensive elements of blade combat will you be able to develop good defensive tactics. Knowledge of the way weapons work can give you the advantage you need to defend against them.

Of course, you can’t neglect empty-hand-vs.-weapon training. To keep it realistic, engage in scenarios that occasionally include surrendering as soon as a weapon is deployed, as well as scenarios in which you can’t do that because it would place you in greater danger.

The following is the training progression I teach:

1 — Avoid

Improve your awareness so you can avoid threats. Study the mindset of the sociopath. Review statistics associated with knife attacks. Read about relevant criminal cases.

2 — Escape

Set up training scenarios that allow escape. Engage in “mental practice” that involves planning a quick exit from the places you visit. Don’t forget to envision yourself fleeing along with a loved one.

Go here to download a free guide titled “Knife-Fighting Techniques: 9 Essential Drills to Deploy Tactical Folders for Self-Defense Moves Under Any Conditions.”

3 — Use the Environment

Learn how to identify nearby objects that can be thrown at an armed attacker, as well as objects that can be used to bludgeon or cut him. Also learn how to maneuver so an obstacle or barrier stands between him and you. To ingrain this concept, engage in training scenarios with focus mitts, boxing gloves and so on to serve as throwable objects and other improvised weapons.

Morne Swanepoel

4 — Mobility

Develop your perception so that distancing, timing and accuracy become second nature. Practice not engaging with the enemy and making your escape. Don’t forget to train in the presence of role-playing “loved ones” who need your protection.

5 — Engage

Know that this should be your course of action only if your life or the life of a loved one is at stake. When engaging, it’s imperative to grab the assailant’s knife hand with both your hands before executing a counterattack.

Avoid focusing on disarms unless one presents itself. Incorporate training knives of various sizes and designs, as well as all kinds of improvised weapons, into your drills. Train in a variety of environments and adjust your methods according to what works where.

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Blade training is essential in the education of anyone who’s into self-defense. Never make the mistake of thinking a knife attack won’t happen to you or that you can disarm an assailant as easily as they do in the movies.

If you teach, reinforce the notion that “avoid and escape” is preferred to “stand and fight.” Constantly tell your students that this is by no means a cowardly response to an attack. Your possessions can be replaced, but your life cannot.

As they say, there can be only one winner in a knife fight — but more often, there are two losers.

Morné Swanepoel is a

Combat Focus Shooting Expert Rob Pincus Discusses the Not-So-Picture-Perfect Reality of Self-Defense Against a Knife Attack on the Street

You’re out for a walk in the city at night and a man approaches you. Before you know it, he comes at you for a knife attack.

What do you do?

In a martial arts magazine, self-defense experts could suggest a variety of counterattacks — some from the traditional martial arts arena, some from the modern martial arts such as krav maga, and others from the reality-based self-defense world of combatives and the like.

The common element, though, would be a picture-perfect execution. “Assailants” attack when the self-defense instructor tells them to, the photographer directs the angle, and there would probably be the opportunity for a second take — not to mention the in-studio snacks and option for lunch when the shoot wraps.

But what does a not-so-picture-perfect knife-attack scenario look like? Combat Focus Shooting expert Rob Pincus talks about that in his latest video, shot exclusively for BlackBeltMag.com:

Rob Pincus Discusses Self-Defense Against a Knife Attack Under Pressure in a Dynamic Situation

Learn how to deploy your knife in any situation with this FREE e-book!
Knife-Fighting Techniques: 9 Essential Drills to Deploy Tactical Folders for Self-Defense Moves Under Any Conditions

Armed with a training gun, Rob Pincus reacts to the approach of his assailant calmly in an attempt to diffuse the potentially lethal situation. As the attack situation escalates, so does the volume of Rob Pincus’ voice as he urges the assailant to “Stop!” and “Stay back!” as they clash in a flurry of advances, retreats, twists and turns. Rob Pincus deflects the attacker’s knife arm outward so as to keep it extended and away from his own torso’s vital organs. This hyperextension throws the attacker slightly off-balance.

While he attempts to regain ground so as to get his knife hand back into the game, Rob Pincus sneaks his right arm under the opponent’s left shoulder and forces that left arm up and over to (a) keep the attacker’s left hand away from the firearm stowed on his belt and (b) open up the attacker’s own vital-organ section and get him into position for the most effective usage of said firearm.

It’s a loud, messy scene. The combatants are all over the place. There is no “take two.” These guys are playing for keeps, and it’s not very photo-friendly. “You can see that in a dynamic environment,” Rob Pincus explains, “it’s much harder to actually make all that look perfect.”

Rob Pincus continues: “And as we know, with any complex motor skills, when you do them at speed and under pressure, they’re going to look sloppy. … The key was keeping [the attacker’s right] arm, using an outside-90, using a forearm technique — kind of a SPEAR System technique — to keep that knife away from my body until I can get pressure and control and then slip my underhook in to a point where I can get set up to duck in.”

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The Ultimate Guide to Knife Combat

Reality-Based Personal Protection

“Mack” on Movements, Weapons and Targets in Combat

Richard "Mack" Machowicz on weapons, movements and targets for Black Belt magazine.Richard “Mack” Machowicz, an ex-Navy SEAL and former host of the cable-TV series Future Weapons, as well as a student of taekwondo, muay Thai, kali, boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Paul Vunak’s jeet kune do, discusses the three dynamic elements of combat (movements, weapons and targets) in this exclusive footage shot on location by Black Belt magazine.

“Rarely if ever will you experience combat,” Richard “Mack” Machowicz says, “and most likely you will never see combat in a literal sense, but the principles that make for effectiveness in battle are relevant to the daily challenges you face.”

It’s his way of telling people that the benefits of what he’s about to explain extend far beyond fighting. After interrogating Richard “Mack” Machowicz for 10 minutes, however, I learn that it would be a huge mistake to dismiss him as a guy who uses self-defense to preach self-help. It would be just as erroneous to brush him off as just another retired military man who doesn’t know that the skills civilians need are radically different from the skills soldiers need.

Twenty minutes into our interview, it’s clear that Mack is a martial artist who can throw down and a guy who sees the big picture with respect to violence. Which is probably why he’s so successful at what he does.

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After he’d become a hand-to-hand-combat instructor for his SEAL Team and studied muay Thai, kali, boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Paul Vunak’s take on jeet kune do, Mack found himself in an interesting quandary. “There were so many ideas I wanted to convey that [I had to convert them] into simple principles,” he says. “Why? Because people tend to get stuck on technique. They don’t understand that techniques apply to specific situations at specific times in specific ways. That means techniques are limited. Principles are more universal. The basic principle of ‘target dictates weapon and weapons dictate movement’ can apply to everything in life because everything is a target, a weapon or a movement.”

Mack explains that fighting is composed of three dynamic elements, then forces me to exercise my brain a bit to see the light: “From nukes to hand-to-hand combat, everything in life is a movement, a weapon or a target.”

During the photo shoot to accompany the interview, he put the theory into practice with our creative director, as shown in this video:

Ex-Navy SEAL on Movements, Weapons and Targets in Combat

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Self-Defense Expert Rob Pincus Shows You How to Use a Firearm in Close-Quarters Combat

Rob Pincus is an internationally known firearms trainer who teaches both end-user and instructor-development self-defense courses. In this exclusive self-defense video, this close-quarters-combat expert shows you how to use a technique called “duck under to side control” in a situation when you have a handgun and an attacker with a knife threatens your safety.

SELF-DEFENSE VIDEO | Rob Pincus Shows You How to Use a Firearm in Close-Quarters Combat

Learn how to deploy your knife in any situation with this FREE e-book!
Knife-Fighting Techniques: 9 Essential Drills to Deploy Tactical Folders for Self-Defense Moves Under Any Conditions

“Shooting in extreme close quarters requires a little different technique than we think about when we just think about putting holes in paper or even defending yourself from that beyond-two-arms-reach situation where you’re gonna be able to use kinesthetic alignment to put the gun in the right place or maybe even using the sights on your firearm to control the rounds,” Rob Pincus explains.

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Jim Wagner’s Reality-Based Personal Protection: Handgun Survival

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Michael D. Echanis Collection

The Ultimate Guide to Knife Combat

The duck-under-to-side-control technique involves facing an armed attacker — in this case, an attacker armed with a knife. Rob Pincus’ natural reaction to the presentation of the knife is to first raise his hands, even though he himself is carrying a handgun. Rob Pincus closes the gap before the attacker can complete the knife attack, electing to intercept the knife hand and use his forearm to block the man’s shoulder.

The attacker in this scenario then enters into the clinch and establishes an underhook of the attacker’s arm on his gun side. When the man tries to attack or escape from the hold, Rob Pincus ducks under the attacker’s left arm and moves to his back. From that position of relative safety, if the threat to his life still exists, Rob Pincus can draw his weapon and fire without interference.

If you like this video, learn more about Rob Pincus and Combat Focus Shooting by reading this exclusive interview: 10 Questions With Combat Focus Shooting’s Rob Pincus!

Counter Knife-Fighting Techniques With 3 Self-Defense Moves From Michael Echanis

The Complete Michael D. Echanis Collection cover published by Black Belt Books.The defense against an armed assailant by an unarmed defender creates a distinct and critical disadvantage integral to the survival of the unarmed soldier.

The weapon is the integral factor leading to the lethal capability induced by the weapon’s presence.

Regardless of size and physical power in relation to the enemy’s size and physical power, the weapon makes the smallest man a lethal and formidable adversary.

Who Has the Advantage When It Comes to Self-Defense Moves Against Knife-Fighting Techniques?

In a close-quarters, hand-to-hand combat situation, a 160-pound professional soldier with quick reactions, plenty of endurance, stamina and enough power to slash a knife and cut deep will be at a distinct and lethal advantage over a 250-pound powerful and fast, unarmed hand-to-hand combat expert.

The smallest man can pull the trigger of a rifle. Because the weapon is our primary concern, it becomes the unarmed defender’s priority of action. Neutralization, stabilization and disarmament of the weapon are the essential factors in survival.

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How to Execute Self-Defense Moves Against Knife-Fighting Techniques

First, you must block and redirect the attack of the weapon to neutralize its lethal capability and clear the body of its trajectory of fire and angle of attack.

Second, you must stabilize the weapon by controlling the wrist, hand and weapon of the attacking arm of the enemy.

Third, you proceed to disarm the weapon by breaking the joint of the locked extremity or simply by applying power to induce enough pain for control and disarmament.

Michael Echanis’ Self-Defense Moves Against Knife-Fighting Techniques #1
High Block and Elbow Lock, Groin Thrust, Cross-Leg Reaping Throw,
Takedown and Control

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What Self-Defense Moves Are Typically Used Against Knife-Fighting Techniques?

Knife attacks are generally met with blocking, trapping and redirection of the attacking arm. The unarmed soldier evades by sidestepping while simultaneously locking the arm and using a powerful kick to a low vital target to break the enemy’s base of balance and redirect his focus of attention.

The unarmed defender throws the attacker, dislocating the shoulder or breaking the elbow and wrist. Tearing and attacking the eyes and throat are used as a follow-up in a life-or-death struggle during hand-to-hand combat. Restraint, disarmament and control are more suitable for street use.

Michael Echanis’ Self-Defense Moves Against Knife-Fighting Techniques #2
Outside Circular Hand Trap, Attack and Redirection
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Your FREE e-book for essential knife skills is here!
Knife-Fighting Techniques: 9 Essential Drills to Deploy Tactical Folders for Self-Defense Moves Under Any Conditions

Michael Echanis’ Self-Defense Moves Against Knife-Fighting Techniques #3
Two-Handed Wrist Catch With Inside Wrist-Breaking Throw
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What Tools Does a Defender Have to Augment the Efficacy of His Self-Defense Move Against Knife-Fighting Techniques?

The unarmed soldier must take advantage of his ingenuity and immediate availability from man-made and natural weapons: using his helmet as a shield or using his web gear or pistol belt as a whip. He also could use his jacket or shirt as arm padding to be utilized for deflecting a slashing attack; to be whipped in at the enemy like a bullwhip or chain in figure eights aiming to wrap around the attacker’s weapon arm; to possibly dislodge the weapon; or to give availability to restraint, disarmament and control.

Throwing sand, gravel, rocks, hot coffee or ice-cold water can create that
momentary shock and delay necessary for evasion or counterattack from the unarmed defender.

What Are the Best Self-Defense Moves Against Knife-Fighting Techniques?

Remember, the best defense against an armed attack is evasion and a well-timed counterattack. No matter how well-trained and developed the unarmed expert is, he is at a distinct disadvantage and can count on a high probability of sustaining some type of injury during unarmed self-defense against an armed attack.

Your primary concern is evasion followed by a fast and powerful counterattack. Training should be conducted at four basic speeds: one-quarter, half, three-quarter and full speeds so as to allow for psychological/physical orientation of the movements.

About Michael Echanis:
The Complete Michael D. Echanis Collection is a comprehensive compilation of the highly popular three-volume Special Tactics series from legendary soldier Michael Echanis. Since the series of Michael Echanis books first hit the martial arts scene in 1977, Michael Echanis’ unique approach to hand-to-hand combat techniques and knife fighting has revolutionized reality-based fighting.

The Complete Michael D. Echanis Collection combines close-quarters combat with lethal knife-fighting strategies, creating a must-read for modern fighters and those interested in the legendary Michael Echanis.…