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The cutting edge. Language of steel.

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  • The cutting edge. Language of steel.

    I found this short article posted on another forum, it didn't seem to get much in the way of discussion started there but I thought it was fair to good... IMHO


    This is an important area that is seldom addressed. The knife has its own unique theory of use, its own language. Wielding it competently isn't a casual skill, it takes years to achieve anything resembling mastery. There are no hard & fast rules for knife play, you must take into consideration so many different variables that it would be impossible to categorize them minimally. If you leave the concept of "Style" out for a moment, you will find a large portion of blade craft is ubiquitous. It has no real home other than itself, and therefore can lend itself to any style of technique. Due to the nebulous nature of knife fighting, there are also many abstract theories & motions that can only live in their own category, perhaps "dirty tricks & sneaky moves" being the most succinct. Many people get caught up in the aspects of style in the martial arts, what system has the best moves, the most complete repertoire, hundreds of forms, etc. This is a mistake when addressing the knife, you should instead examine the weapon itself. What does it do? Unlike the stick, the blade is at once powerful without the use of muscles, and lethal without the backing of a martial art. It only has to touch you to do damage, A child could kill with it in seconds, by accident.

    You must approach this area of training with utter seriousness, and develop it to a high degree. You don't have to necessarily be strong to use a knife, the knife has all the power. It only has to touch you to do damage. All the knifer really provides is a weapon delivery system and it can come in at varied speeds, with erratic motions and awkward angles. The sight of this can be more frightening than the application of it. A common saying in many Martial Arts schools is “Nobody is more dangerous and unpredictable than a beginner. You have no idea how they're going to move.” Think of a person with a knife in his hand, moving in this kind of unpredictable lurch. Even to the trained knifer, this is a nightmare.

    The area of practical knife skills are sorely neglected in many martial arts, and for whatever reason, many instructors have an insurmountable aversion to learning and teaching it. I think this stems largely from the fact that knife skills can't be as easily classified or categorized as empty hand styles. I mean, you can see the logic behind a Wing Chun fighter’s philosophy of “We fight close, because others are uncomfortable with that range,” or the Aikido “Blend with your attacker’s motion & he will be defenseless” Jiu Jitsu is easily identifiable as the brutal older brother of Judo and Aikido. Even simplistic kick and punch arts like Karate or Taekwondo have an immediately identifiable value as far as they go. But there is a multitude of conflicting theories and patterns that are at once expert and suicidal at the same time. Knifework cannot be dragged through the same obstacle course you came through with your empty hand skills. It takes a certain kind of instructor to face this truth, because honesty demands courage. You can see why the knife is so avoided, or often as not, approached so unrealistically. If you examine the end result of many of the aforementioned arts, you will see a recurring pattern of “block – strike - kick – grapple - subdue”. Maybe not in that exact order, but many of the elements are always present. Although serious injury or death is not impossible, it is rarely, if ever, the chief aim. In fact, restraint and control are always touted when training traditional arts, particularly the Japanese arts.

    This is where the knife truly separates itself, for the pattern here is “draw – kill” or at least “draw – maim”. Such a stark contrast holds little interest for someone who has dedicated his life to a twelve-step martial arts program, especially one with a boatload of ethics tied behind it. It is cold and harsh, with an unforgiving attitude in combat and very little (if any) moralistic code behind it. It is, however, truth in its purest sense: People can die easily, especially if they are unprepared for reality. I believe truth often carries with it the inherent necessity for change. The most common expression when real change enforces itself is “Why didn’t anyone warn us?” Truly, they did not hear. Or, hearing, they chose not to listen.

    I have left a couple of large areas alone until now: Mindset & Legalities. I'll start with the legal: Very obviously, murder is against the law. In most states, aggressive, unnecessary or overuse of deadly force is against the law. In some states, just carrying a bladed weapon is illegal.

    It is important that you understand the law, not just in self-defense, but also in every aspect of your existence, because it will always be a dictating factor no matter where you live. Your continued freedom will depend on your skillful manipulation of it. The law is a juggernaut, not a precision instrument, or perhaps I should say law enforcement is. It doesn't matter if you're a good guy or a bad guy, if it lurches toward you your chances are always 50-50 of a positive outcome. Maybe the court will see things your way, or maybe you will get a DA with a vigilante Jones. Maybe witnesses will back you up and you get off scott-free, or maybe the gangbanger you offed has friends, and they find out who you are from the court proceedings, and murder your family in retaliation.

    Not that I think the police officers can really do anything about this process, or are responsible for it’s machinery. The criminal justice system in America is much more severe on cops than criminals, and I for one don't envy them their jobs.

    Now, there are people who will say "If you had to use a knife, what did you do provoke it?" or "Every time you use a knife, you are breaking the law". There's truth to that. But it's really only one part of a larger argument, there are many points left dangling in the wind and they should be addressed as well. For instance, it's just as illegal for THEM to kill YOU, as it is for you to kill them in self-defense. Yet, nobody ever brings this up, it's almost always lost in translation if you had to finish the fight by killing the attacker. I have heard many an argument start with "If you had to (cut/maim/kill) them, you had no business being involved in the first place." Sometimes, IT chooses US. If you are backed into a corner, or the lives of your loved ones are at stake, well, that's not exactly the time to be saying "Wait! Consider the legal ramifications of this!!" Like my friend Mushtaq says, there's no way to cure being dead.

    You have different options open for you in different situations, but I see it like this: If the mad dog is looking for you, outrun it if you can. If you can't, your only hope for survival is to turn & face it. And put that mother***ker into the ground. People who have been in some sort of public institution will have discovered this earlier than many who are ardent martial artists. It’s a lesson that is taught in the first few hours of your arrival in an orphanage, children’s home, reform school, or prison: Make an example of the first person who steps across the line, and everyone else gets the message. If you don’t, prepare to become terribly in touch with your feminine side. Or with God.

    So, what I think: If it comes to it, do your best not to get caught. Don't stand around & gloat, dispose of the weapon, burn the body & your clothes, prepare & rehearse a story in case you're questioned GET THE HELL OUT OF DODGE. I have been on BOTH sides of the law, and it usually doesn’t matter to them "who swung first", especially if there's a body. The law demands justice, and I for one will go home to my wife and family instead of "owning up" to it. I have done worse, and not cried all night about it.


    This is just as important as physical skill when dealing with a knife. Mindset has different labels, Vunak calls it "Killer Instinct", but essentially it's the ability to instantly respond with equal or superior deadly force than your attacker. I might caveat that by adding "...And not cry all night about it". Having this ability, to respond to an attack & be perfectly willing to do whatever it takes to live through it, will often be a deciding factor in an altercation. Hesitation comes from uncertainty, from being in a situation you are uncomfortable in. A half-assed defense will not route a dedicated attack in my personal experience, but for the occasional exception (i.e. attacker is on drugs), most garden-variety thugs will not attack if there is a good chance of them getting the worst of it, and if your attitude is "I'm willing to die, & I'm willing to take your sorry ass with me for amusement on my journey" chances are they will back off. If not, you are at least equipped with all the tools you need to survive. Earlier I mentioned disposing of a body that you may have been responsible for sending to the afterlife. Killing isn’t something that is easily gotten used to, and you have to sacrifice something of yourself to achieve it. If you have successfully taken a life, it will normally take everything you have to keep you head on relatively straight to be able to think and function in the way that you must for the next few hours. This, again, is providence of mindset. You don’t really have to prepare yourself to be skillful at killing, but just to be resilient at keeping your head under extreme levels of stress.

    Unfortunately, the single best way to gain this ability is lead a hard life, and be a cold bastard. And that comes with a whole truckload of emotional crap as well as if you ever actually have to DO it. Marc MacYoung's excellent website has a section that talks about the hell of conscience over something horrific you have done, i.e. killed someone. The person writing it speaks of the reminder of your actions coming back to haunt you when you least expect it, no matter how hard you try or how deep you bury it. This is true to a point, some people are wired that way. Others will never think twice about it. Still others will be somber for a period, and then gradually accept what has happened, and get on with their lives. And that, in a nutshell, is my point: If you are attacked and live through it, you will be suffering some degree of emotional trauma, whether you off the guy or not. I have been through situations where I survived an assault from beating the crap out of the other guy, and others where I survived because they arbitrarily decided not to kill me. Of the latter, I have a scar on the right side my face, just above the lip, where the barrel-sight of a shotgun cut it enroute to being rammed down the back of my throat. Believe me when I say that the emotional trauma from NOT being able to, or having done anything is as maddening as having sent somebody to the hospital or the morgue. Either way, you still have to look at yourself in the mirror, and square it with yourself. You need to think about the end result right now, and consider your alternatives & the conclusions they will bring. Running is certianly NOT the best answer to every solution, my wife can't run as fast as I can, nor is she a product of a hellish childhood. Therefore, she doesn't have the skill at threat recognition that I do, and I often see things coming WAY before she even figures out we are in danger. I cannot just jet the scene and leave her to fend for herself. There is a time when a perforated lung is the exact answer to an altercation, and it must be said that nothing thwarts an attacker like an unexpected tracheotomy.

    Also, consider this: If the worst happened, let's say you did everything by the LEGAL book, but you or someone you loved suffered/died anyway, do you know what you would say, in the aftermath of loss and regret? You would say, verbatim: "I would have done ANYTHING in the world to prevent this."

    Well, guess what, cowboy: Killing is what it took.

    I am trying to be as realistic as possible here, and speak from my own experience as opposed to supposition. This is probably one of the most unsavory articles I’ve ever written, but I hope I didn’t offend anyone. My apologies if that is the case.

    Bobbe Edmonds
    Edmonds Martial Arts Academy
    This domain may be for sale!