For starters, I am not a knife or gun collector, no more than I would collect hammers, screwdrivers or wrenches. I just don’t care. You get the message. The “tool” message. I guess it comes from my Army and policing time and experiences. I am interested in efficiency. Don’t misunderstand me, I like looking at cool knives and guns, I admire them, I just don’t want them or need them. If you do collect and you have the money and time for such a hobby, then if you are happy? I am happy. The only time that my eyebrows raise is when the lines between pretty and necessary-survival are blurred (and maybe bloody). One problem often blurred is the texture of grips and handles.
Speaking of bloody, Johnny Cash once wrote about the “kicking and the gouging and the mud and blood and the beer.” There’s also guts, water, oils, sweat, bad gloves and other substances that can make life very slippery and your hands and tools very slippery. Legend has it that the Gurkhas would dip their kukris in motor oil and then train with slimy grips. And what if your hands are injured and-or are freezing? I always shake my head when I see slick, metal knife handles and gun handles.
It’s bad enough when people have stupid hand-finger positioning on grips.
A considerable amount of time, money and research has gone into making working tools like hammers, saws, screw drivers etc., very grip-able. Still you will find slick-handled hammers and tools too! But like wise tool-makers, many wise gun and knife makers and sellers have also labored to make your weapons stay put in your hands with textured grips! People like to suggest that textured gloves solve some of these problem, but will you ALWAYS be wearing gloves? 24-7?
“I want my weapons to be tools and my tools to be weapons,” – Paul Howe
I am not endorsing anyone or anything here. I am just making a suggestion, forego pretty and slick, and get the most textured grips on your firearms, knives and sticks-batons. In my Force Necessary: Stick course Level 1, Force Necessary: Knife course Level 1, Force Necessary: Gun course Level 1, I emphasize and display the vital importance of grip-handle textures. (The issue of the SIZE of handles and grips is a whole other important essay.)
It seems we human through the ages, always knew we need to keep training to keep sharp, and if you keep that single motto alone, probably all your performance bases are covered. I mean to remind that even cave men practiced their spear throwing, they had to, and then we moved on. Life has gotten way more complicated than tossing pointy sticks and just about every job, chore, hobby and skill has multiple layers of mental and physical performance that are stabilized, honed or slowly disintegrate. The concept of “perishable skills” has evolved into our vocabulary after we stopped just cave man grunting.
The first time I heard about “perishable skills” was in police training a very long time ago. But we all heard the phrase “use it or lose it” and versions of advice thereof for decades. Older-timers heard of it for centuries. The term “perishable skills” is another fancy way of saying use it or lose it.
In policing, topics like driving, handcuffing, verbal skills, firearms, strategic communications and less than lethal are skills have been deemed perishable, that LEO’s must stay “up” and current on. But there’s never enough money or manpower to enforce rigorous training cycles. In the worlds of combatives, martial arts and combat sports, we center in on hand, stick, knife and gun methods.
How long before perishable perishes? In hot pursuit of training ideology, various US state police and military, even in the business-world, training criteria has segmented the disintegration times into three categories:
perishable skills (half-life of less than two and a half years),
semi-durable skills (half-life of two and a half to seven and a half years), and…
durable skills (half-life of more than seven and a half years).
How were these timetables developed? By whom? For whom? But, organizations have to start somewhere and justify their timetables. We were once inundated with the “10,000 hour to expertise” training-experience rule and this idea was most recently promulgated by Gladwell’s “Outliers” book, but then we quickly learned from about a ton of experts that everyone is different and “hours-to-expertise” differ greatly, person-to-person. Just look this subject up on the web. (And quit quoting the 10,000 hours rule, people!) I too would like to suggest that such time limits are arbitrary and discretionary because all people are different. This established, we might therefore, logically think that “hours-to-perish” is also different too for different people. Everybody is different on both the up and down sides.
At or near the end? There has been considerable study in these performance matters and the topic of tennis is often used in sports performance testing and analysis. So, I will use a quick tennis analogy. Imagine a lifelong super tennis champion, like Serena Williams or Federa. They age, they just lose a step, even though they are constantly working out and playing. Eventually they must retire as fresh kids rise up. They retire to a tennis club and become resident tennis pros. There they teach tennis and so forth. It is hard for me to imagine that a 60, even 70 year old Serena or Federer would not still beat almost ALL “normal” tennis people in the neighborhood, country club. I think this because they have indeed accumulated so much time in the enterprise that even Serena and Federer, at their near-worst, are still above-average, darn good tennis players. Aspects have perished, but since they were once so high up, that even with significant perishing, they might still pretty darn good for a long time.
I could go off on an in-depth tangent, deep-dive on this topic and I have in various books, essays and articles, but in summary, it’s simple, I (and we-many) think that perishable skill timetables are highly situational in topic and person. The subjects of multi-layer teaching (in what I nicknamed “triple canopy” teaching – (1) books, (2) films and (3) classes/seminars) and the tricks of retention are related to perishability and are other subjects for other pinpoint essays elsewhere.)
Ol’ René Descartes started that little ditty, “Cogito, ergo sum,” Latin for – “I think, therefore I am.”And we are human and therefore will stop thinking someday. Perish the thought! We’ll slow down and stop…playing. So, “I perish, therefore perishability is inevitable.”
But while we are still alive, kicking and unperished, we can use that caveman idea that we humans need to keep tossing spears, keep training to keep sharp and this simple caveman idea instantly covers all your bases. It’s always nice when extensive research still matches with, and backs up, your definition of common sense.
You still might end up a pretty good ol’ pro at the old Caveman, Spear Pro Shop and Country Club.
Your Signature Moves and the Pareto and the Mental Model?
Mental models are descriptions of reality that apply across every area of our life, usually don’t get outdated, and provide good results by helping you make better decisions. What is an example of a mental model? One of the most famous and valuable mental models is called the Pareto Principle. Use the 80-20 Pareto Rule to create your signature moves
You probably know it as the “80-20 rule.” This mental models says that most of your results are going to come from just a small percentage of your effort or work.
Vilfredo Pareto, the man who “discovered” this principle noticed that 80% of the land in his area was owned by 20% of the people. He looked in his garden, and saw that 80% of the peas were in 20% of the pea pods. Then he realized that this was something like an organizing principle of life.
This phenomena applies across many domains including productivity, happiness, business, health, etc. Here are a few examples:
20% of relationships lead to 80% of happiness.
20% of exercises lead to 80% of health benefit.
20% of items on your to do list lead to 80% of productivity.
You know me, the eternal skeptic, and maybe the percentage might be 18% or 25%? But I do get the overall idea. This model is much more complex and it can be applied to infinitely more, but this basic concept allows you to quickly acquire what counts. In our “fighting world,” just look at the UFC and see what is actually and consistently done, juxtaposed with the total martial arts systems, techniques and methods of the world and history. Who, what, where, when, how and why?
In the “fight world” competition fighters have a small collection of go-to signature moves (and strategies). Opponents study those moves by way of films, personal observations and interviews to win. But what of war and crime? You might say that militaries have overall, signature strategies. But what of defending yourself against criminals? Criminals and the classic bullies have no films to study on you, to prepare for your signature moves.
I am not talking about hobby sports and arts here. Just survival. I would venture to say that you need some personal signature moves that best suit you, compiled after you do an extensive study in the “who, what, where, when, how and why” questions. This is why the cookie cutter, martial arts systems are not the best manufacturers of the survival, self defense product, and they can be very one-dimensional. Thai fight Thai. Boxers box. Wrestlers wrestle with no strikes. Etc. One dimensional, offering abstract skills to deal with the harsh, mixed-weapon chaos of the world. (I might add that I do not like the words “self defense” and “fight” or “fighting,” as they can be misleading and hackneyed when discussing survival. Still, I must use them for the lack of more succinct nouns.)
You know me, the eternal skeptic, and maybe the percentage might be 18% or 25%? But I do get the overall idea. This model is much more complex and it can be applied to infinitely more, but this basic concept allows you to quickly acquire what counts. In our “fighting world,” just look at the UFC and see what is actually and consistently done, juxtaposed with the total martial arts systems, techniques and methods of the world and history. Who, what, where, when, how and why?
I resolved this signature concept by insisting that people study to develop their signature moves for their size, shape, strength, age, coordination and predicable situations-and then later, non-predicable situations. It’s the biggest part of the “Who” question.
“Who are you…really!”
“Who do you think you will really be fighting?”
“Who are you legally, as in the eyes of the law? (Pee Wee Herman or Hulk Hogan?)” I frequently confess in seminars that “I can never tell you how to fight.” That is your job and the job of your local instructor, if he or she has sufficient “Martial IQ.” Not my job as a traveling seminar circus. I must shoot for concepts. You must experiment, pick and choose your so-called signatures. That is why in my hand, stick, knife and gun courses, I want to expose people to a college-like, experience-collection of many good things. Work on them, select wisely and collect what you want, need and can do. You cannot and should not embrace them all, because, here is where we get into the age-old debate of “too many techniques.” Too many techniques to choose from and therefore slows you down, it is claimed. I don’t think there is a universal “too many line” to draw because every person is genetically different. in terms of retention and education-ability. I have decided to create an exposure course (like college). You pick your majors and minors. You experience diversity and savvy. Study systems, but study systems to defeat them, not become them. I do think one might become “Martial Sick,” just adding and adding and adding until you vomit. There are indeed some things that are so smart, so simple and universal.
Some instructors will say “get 5 things.” “Come to my ‘5 Things’ school.” But then they one-dimensionally speak of only unarmed things. What of stick things, knife things, gun things? Five, then 5, and 5 and 5 more? What of standing through ground problems? That’s a matrix of mixed things! That’s a whole lot of simple things. I struggle with this numbers games by seeking the drill/exercises that are multi-purpose. Learn one movement, change the position and weapons. I must be ever vigilant in finding these short cuts for you. That’s my job. My mission.
In the end your signatures are also facing perishability. Will you do these things, say…for the rest of your life? Or, will these signature things slowly erode away. Perishability is another topic for another time, but will your signature become dim and unreadable. And in this vein, let me mention quickly that you need to review your signature moves every 5 or 6 years or so because as you age, you may not be able to execute them as well, or at all.
We fight criminals, enemy soldiers and our “drunk uncles.” I could go on with a lot of anecdotal stories, lessons and name-dropping here, but I think you get the point? Please take a deep dive in the “who, what, where, when, how and why” questions. Exercise and experiment with unarmed and mixed weapons. Collect things for you, yourself. Improve your “Martial IQ” and your “Martial Savvy”with skepticism and awareness. Don’t get yourself, “Martial Sick.”
This is all about YOU. Not me. Not the perpetual-ization and worship of systems and their god-heads. YOU! Get some signature moves for situations.
Knife-to-knife dueling is a controversial subject. I have come to believe that knife dueling is way over emphasized and over-practiced in these so-called “reality” knife training courses. This is something I have long called – “the myth of the duel.” The “myth of the duel” is complex subject in the splitting and organizing of martial arts and survival training. (You don’t learn how to play basketball to become a football player.)
Too many knife practitioners, fooled or ignorantly thinking they are studying realistic, modern or military knife combatives, express themselves through too much knife versus knife dueling. A methodology that is a mythology.
If you should escape a prisoner of war camp with a sharpened butter knife, the people who hunt you down have machine guns and dogs. It is unlikely you will be in a Rathbone-Fairbanks duel. Though it has happened in peculiar military circumstances as I have recorded in my Knife Combatives book. It took extensive searching into auto-biographies, biographies and history books, here in the age of firearms, to collect military knife duel events. They are quite rare in the big picture of combat. There are a few more civilian-criminal events than military. The second murderer I caught in the act, in Texas, had killed a rival in a bloody. kitchen-knife duel!
We in modern times live in a hand, stick, knife and gun, mixed-weapon world and a stand-off duel of sorts is not common. Still we must practice a proportionate, appropriate amount of knife versus knife dueling because the uncommon event has and will occur. We always need many knife skills in combinations, slashing, stabbing, support strikes and kicks, footwork and many aspects of knife awareness.
For example, in the “who, what, where, when, how and why of life”, if you are standing with a knife in your hand, in front of another person with a knife? Why are you still there? If at all possible, an orderly retreat is in order. You better have a good reason to stay!
I think knife course instructors may knife spar at each and every one of their own classes and seminars for exercise as they wish, as long as they teach and grasp the Myth of the Duel concept. The legendary Dan Inosanto said once in a seminar I attended, “knife dueling is really about developing footwork.” Instructors have different reasons for pursuing the subject. History? Fun? Competition?
Reality knife dueling can occur! They have happened. But common instructors usually forget the stress quick draw, the usually complicated, overall situations, and the physical layout of indoor and outdoor grounds/flooring where duels occur. These are overlooked factors in reality dueling training.
Strange places? I worked a murder case once where a big-knife, Bowie versus K-Bar, duel occurred between the driver and passenger in the cab of a big lumber truck, traveling down a two-lane highway! Driving and dueling. The driver won!
When survival training we should work on the obvious things first, and not spend a lot of time on things less likely to occur. Once this doctrine has been proportioned, we can delve into the less likely, because, as I have said, these things happen too!
The same holds true for stick fighting. It is unlikely most people will be in a 28-inch stick fight, duel. Of course, if you do these things for fun, as a hobby? As a sport? Go for it! I am happy if you are happy. I just hope people know what they are doing, and why they are doing what they are doing in the big picture. (As I said earlier, you don’t learn how to play basketball to become a football player.)
At times, missions, rules of engagement, the law, and use of force standards require the capture, containment and control, not the death of an enemy. This is once called by professionals as “non-lethal” measures, but military and law enforcement specialists recognize that the term “less-than-lethal” is a smarter, and a more comprehensive phrase than “non-lethal” – as various tactics and equipment designed not to kill and called non-lethal, might still actually kill despite the intent, design and name. This renders the term “non-lethal,” into an operational misnomer and confusing liability.
A comprehensive knife program also covers less-than lethal applications. This is important for the mission and legality. Your knife course must drop all the death cult, over-the-top, violent, macho imagery (unless you are a member of an elite military unit where such imagery is psychologically smart -which is NOT the majority of us). The knife is “just a tool,” as the old saying goes, but a tool with stigma. The following tactics are less-than-lethal and can be substituted for lethal movement.
We know that the knife strikes with:
1-the pommel (and or the ends of a closed folder)
3-the edge or edges
4-flat of the blade
5-the clenched hand-fist grip on the handle
Less than lethal applications of this are:
1-the pommel (and or the ends of a closed folder)
2-if single-edge, a dull edge for striking.
3-flat of the blade.
4-hand grip as a punch.
Less-Than-Lethal 1: Verbal Skills and the Art of Surrender
Your presence, your weapon presentation, your speech, your threats, your disarm, in the onset of a fight may cause the enemy to surrender. At times, getting in and getting the tip of your knife up against the enemy, along with a verbal threat, may coerce him to surrender.
Less-Than-Lethal 2: The knife pommel strike
The pommel strikes, saber or reverse grips are other less-than-lethal strikes unless it cracks the skull. Or, your pommel has a “Klingon-spiked-end” which renders a whole range of pommel use, useless.
Less-Than-Lethal 3: All support hand strikes and kicks
Striking and kicking the enemy are less-than-lethal moves. The enemy has dropped his weapon and is theoretically an unarmed man and in many situations, both military and civilian cannot be killed.
Less-Than-Lethal 4: The knife hand grip punches
The practitioner can turn his knife grip into a punch with the flat of his fist, forgoing the stab or slash, with a saber or reverse grip.
Less-Than-Lethal 5: The closed folder
The practitioner may fail to open, or close his or her tactical folder and use the closed folder as a “palm stick,” impact weapon.”
Less-Than-Lethal 5: Knife slashes on secondary targets
With a working knowledge of anatomy, a practitioner may slash various “secondary” targets like muscles and so forth that may cause an enemy to surrender or collapse, without a fatality.
Less-Than-Lethal 6: The flat of the blade strikes a stunning blow and grappling
Many militaries teach the flat of the blade strike to the head of an enemy to stun and bewilder them, as a set-up for further action. When a less-than-lethal mission becomes mandatory this flat strike becomes an option for striking, as well as a considerable amount of pushing and pulling of grappling.
In Summary… Of course the use of the knife is always stigmatized trouble. It is a nasty weapon, but every one who dares “study” the knife for the military, for enforcement or self defense, one who engages in a knife system, should be aware of its full potential, and that includes the “who, what, when, where, how and why” to minimize its damage.
Preemptive Strikes and Weapon Brandishing, or “Officer, The Guy in the Red Hat Started It.”
Preemptive strikes and brandishing. How are these two subjects connected? In an unarmed preemptive strike, you are detecting an impending attack upon yourself. You are making an educated or uneducated guess, smart or not smart, and you slug the other guy first before he slugs you. With brandishing a weapon, you are detecting an impending attack upon yourself, and with an educated guess or not, smart or not, you somehow display your carried weapon with just a peek or a flash of a jacket or vest, or…do a full pull out of a pistol, knife or stick.
In my Stop 1 Showdown-Standoff training module, and in the Level 1 of the hand, stick, knife and gun courses I teach, we cover sudden, unarmed attacks, and a whole lot of weapon draws. Stop 2 through Stop 6 and Levels 2 through 9 cover the mixed weapon, standing though ground, follow-ups. But…so, in the auspices of the Stop 1 boundaries, and in the Levels 1, it is imperative to discuss these two violence initiating subjects. Who does the physical initiation?
Unarmed Preemptive Strikes The topic of preemptive striking and kicking a pending attacker has always been suggested in martial systems. So many folks think this is the best idea. But there are a few drawbacks. Just a few. “Red hat” drawbacks, I’ll call them. In recent years there have been a lot of YouTube videos of superstar, fad martial artists beating the snot out of a training partner who is just standing still, hands hanging down, before them. Presumably there has been an argument to kick this off? The two are close and our hero springs forward, slaps, pokes, shin kicks and smacks the other guy down in a pile, in one second. The surrounding crowd is thrilled with his amazing skill. So amazed, I hear that he charges some $800 for a two day seminar. Where’s the “red hat” come in? It just helps define whose-who and whats-what. If the superstar is wearing a red hat, witnesses will report to the police,
“Officer, those two guys were just talking, and the guy with the red hat hit the other. He started it.”
Handcuffing ensues. Of you. I am not saying that preemptive strikes are a bad thing, they might be wonderful at times. It just can be tricky in the big picture (especially with witnesses around.)
Weapon Brandishing In simple terms, is just pulling a stick, a knife or a gun always sheer brandishing? When is it? When is it not? Like with an unarmed preemptive strike, what is the pre-draw situation? Federal law defines brandished as:
“…with reference to a dangerous weapon (including a firearm) means that all or part of the weapon was displayed, or the presence of the weapon was otherwise made known to another person, in order to intimidate that person, regardless of whether the weapon was directly visible to that person. Accordingly, although the dangerous weapon does not have to be directly visible, the weapon must be present.” (18 USCS Appx § 1B1.1)”
In Canada, a weapon is referred to in legalese as an “object.” So, one must do a dog-and-pony show on what “object” was used in the situation. Pencil? Screw diver? Tooth pick? Potato chip? Thumb? (Thumb? Actually, few, if any – there’s always one wacky place – regard unarmed tactics as a “weapon,” and the myth of karate-people required to register their hands as lethal weapons is just that – a myth.)
The US Carry webpage says, Brandishing a weapon can be called a lot of different things in different states. – “Improper Exhibition of a Weapon.” – “Defensive Display.” – “Unlawful Display.”
Retired special operations Ben Findly advises, “…‘brandishing’ or ‘improper exhibition’ or ‘defensive display’ or ‘unlawful display’ (or whatever your state and jurisdiction calls it) depends specifically on your state and jurisdiction. Very generally, however, for an operating definition “brandishing” means to display, show, wave, or exhibit the firearm in a manner which another person might find threatening. You can see how widely and differently this can be subjectively interpreted by different “reasonable” individuals and entities. The crime can actually be committed in some states by not even pointing a firearm at someone. In some states it’s a misdemeanor crime and in others a Felony. So, focus, think rationally, know your state’s law, and be careful out there.”
In other words, say you are the one wearing the red hat again. Things go bad and you try to scare off trouble. You pull your jacket back to show a weapon. Or, you pull a weapon to scare off this problem person, what will the witness say?
“Officer, they were just arguing and the man in the red hat pulled out a big ___!”
Fill in the blank. Knife? stick? Pistola? Handcuffs ensue.
A quick review of several state, weapon brandishing laws include words as legal terms like: – rude, (was the gun-toter obnoxious and rude?) – careless (was the knife-toter waving it around?) – angry, (was the stick-toter yelling and red-faced?) – threatening manner…
…threatening manner? What? For many the whole point of aiming a stick, knife and gun at a brewing bag guy is to be threatening! What then is the line between a smart preemptive strike, a smart weapon show or pull and a crime? How can we make it all become justified self defense? As a cop of three decades, I am alive today because I pulled my gun out a number of times, just before I REALLY needed it. This idea can work.
The remarkable researcher and police vet Massod Ayoob says, “When an unidentifiable citizen clears leather without obvious reason, folks start screaming and calling 9-1-1, and words like “brandishing” start being uttered. Thus, circumstances often constrain the law-abiding armed citizen from drawing until the danger is more apparent, which usually means the danger is greater. Therefore, often having to wait longer to reach for the gun, the armed citizen may actually need quick-draw skills more than the law enforcement officer.
A. Nathan Zeliff, a California attorney reports, “Brandishing – drawing your firearm pursuant to a lawful act of self defense should not be considered “brandishing”. However, if it is determined that you drew your firearm and the facts and circumstances show that you drew or exhibited the firearm in a threatening manner, and that such was not in self defense or in defense of another, then you may face charges of brandishing.”
I am not to sure this brandishing topic comes up all that much? Or not enough. So, here’s some collective words of wisdom on the subject. A collection of advice looks like this:
1: Prepare for problems by using the Who, What, Where, When, How and Why questions.
2: Avoid possible dangerous arguments and confrontations when possible. Conduct yourself with smart, self control. Leave if you morally, ethically can.
3: Obtain a valid, concealed carry license for all your weapons.
4: Keep your weapon concealed. Do not open carry it.
5. Do not display a stick/baton, knife or pistol, or threaten deadly force unless you, or others are threatened with imminent death or serious, bodily harm .
6: Do not in any way reveal your stick/baton, knife or gun, point to it, indicate that you have a them.
7: Attend a fundamentals of fighting with and without weapons training and learn the use of deadly force laws in your city, county, state and country.
Witnesses and “pointed-at, victims” can be stupid, bias and vindictive. They have cell phones and big mouths. And, don’t get caught wearing the red hat!
It has always mystified me that Filipino stick people virtually never consider from whence their stick comes from. I don’t mean the rattan farm. I mean from their body’s carry site. Like knives, the stick is just…in their hand. Poof! Magic. How did it get there, in hand, to do all their dastardly moves. Usually, it’s a belt.
I started in Ed Parker Kenpo in late 1972 and we never touched a stick.“I come to you with empty hands…” was the motto we memorized. No sticks. No stick carry site. But once in the Army Military Police Academy, I was taught the L.A.P.D. and L.A. County police baton course. It matched the NYPD version and was extensive with a ton of stick grappling back then. Now, all police stick courses are worthless, paranoid, watered-down junk, or gone.
We started the police course back then with…pulling out your stick! From your belt! So I had this grounding in stick, stress, quick draws since 1973. As with a pistol, you had to pull the damn thing out before you got to use it. It also included stick retention, because bad guys either wanted your stick or wanted to stop you from drawing your stick. Pretty important stuff.
For an example of such stress draw importance, in the 70s, I was dispatched once to two Army units brawling (on a gravel picnic ground). At least 20, 25 guys. I was punched off my feet by a soldier who did a 70s version of the “Superman Punch.” He and others landed on top of me and Superman was beating my face. I then…then…had to draw my baton from my belt. A…stress quick draw. (Did I mention the rock-gravel ground?) It is not always the stand-off, gentleman’s duel where you pull your weapon and declare, “En Garde!” Should you spend your life with a stick magically appearing in your hand? Like a pistol. Or a knife,
The same baton course was taught in the Texas police academy I later attended in late 1970s. I started doing Filipino Martial Arts in 1986. The various systems have HEAVY doses in stick versus stick. Which, being respectful, curious and thirsty, I followed the progressions. But in the back of mind I thought two main things.
From whence do these sticks come from on their bodies?
And do I really think I will be fighting another guy, with the exact same-sized stick?
I mean, as a cop, I have responded to a few fights with various impact weapons. Two dunk guys fighting with softball bats at a tournament. Two business partners fighting, one with a tire iron, the other with a crowbar. Stuff like that. It can happen, sure, but not much in civilized countries. In uncivilized countries, there is also a lot of mixed weapon fights.
I did the entire FMA courses to black belts and instructorships. I survived , committing to the idea that I was studying…an art. A hobby. With only abstract benefits. This is true of almost all martial stuff I attended. A naivety of thoughtlessly exists as you fight the other guy, a mirror image of yourself, dressed the same, same sized weapons, with the same book of techniques. Something I like to call, the Myth of the Duel. I have arrested a lot of people, and investigated a whole of cases since the 70s and real life doesn’t play out that same-same way.
But this lack of a belt and a draw concerned me as a doctrine problem. For a 4th degree black belt in Kempo in the 90s, we had to pick a traditional weapon for demonstration and scenarios. I fortunately picked the katana. I learned that Japanese martial arts concerning the Katana carry has belt-line, long-weapon retention methods I still find useful and show with modern, impact weapons. Drawing of the katana from the belt is a big deal in Japan.
While we were in the Philippines, Ernesto Presas taught a 4-count, two-stick diamond pattern, nicknamed “Chambered Diamond.” You have to chamber your arms (hands virtually under your armpits) twice in the 4-count. He said, and only once, “this is how you draw your sticks!” Okay! You start with the pattern empty handed, then the chambering hands pull a stick from each belt side and you continue the pattern with the sticks. A STICK DRAW! You have to have a belt. But, that was it.
But I will tell you, 99.5% of the time, a stick draw is never mentioned in FMA. And lots of people in FMA classes and seminars NEVER have a street belt or even a martial arts belt on to draw one from. (This drives me crazy.) The drawstring, karate pants don’t cut it. I once had a major, major league FMA person a little pissed at me when he declared that there were “no belts in Filipino martial arts.” No belts? What? Huh? Said hero had never been to homeland/motherland.
In my non-artsy, Force Necessary: Stick course, I use a lot of the old L.A.P.D. course and some of the Filipino material. It is “stick versus hand, stick versus stick (a little), stick versus knife and stick versus various gun threats world.” It very much includes expandable – collapsible batons. It has an emphasis on stick-baton, stress quick draws because as I said, that thing doesn’t just appear in your hand.
When you ignore belt or carry-site, quick draws, you forget that you must draw one and you forget to retain your stick at it’s carry site from take-aways. Weapon disarmings,
– begin at the carry site,
– happen during the draw process,
– happen when the weapon is presented only,
– happen when the weapon is being used.
On the other end of this list is you. And your weapon retention during that process. Lose it? Get it right back. Then you are the stick grabber! They call it “weapon recovery.”
I cover stick retention (and knife and pistol) in two study groupings:
Group 1: Protect the Belt.
Group 2: Protect the Pulled Weapon.
A lot of FMA stick vs. stick has disarms and counters (retention) but, when the weapon is produced (drawn) and-or used. And stick versus stick, and as I said, this comes in a hobby, art format. You have to work to glean and decipher useful, reality from it. Unless you are a hobby-ist, replicator? In which case, copy on. Copy that!
I still teach Filipino material. I am happy to do it when asked. It’s fun. But I add my concerns with it, like drawing the weapon from a belt under stress.
I ask attendees in my seminars to wear “street clothes.” Pants with pockets, even shorts with pockets. And a “street” belt. Wear a regular belt. We need all these things to train properly. Gun people might think me crazy that I even need to ask this, as it just makes utter common sense, but I deal with differing “worlds.” But, I sometimes also have to ask gun people not to dress like they are being dropped into Cambodia for two weeks.
In the “who, what, where, when, how and why of life, “WHAT are you wearing? WHY are you wearing that? And don’t forget the belt, the draw from the belt, and retention at the belt level.
.This is where I have fallen down. Where my knife course has fallen down. Before the fall, in the 1990s there was a “resurgence” if you will, a re-look, re-examination of older knife material (which essential was a lot of knife dueling). Some might call it “knife fighting,” but I don’t like that term. But you are still indeed, fighting with a knife when you are…fighting with a knife. Still, I don’t like many terms, images, messages, logos relating to the knife and knife fighting. By that time in the 90s, I was in police work for quite a while, both in the Army and in Texas, most of that time as a detective. I’d seen and experienced working on a lot of knife crime, as in aggravated assaults, rapes, attempted murders and murders. I myself have been attacked by both knife and ax.
I know the depressing, dark side, the wet side in juxtaposition to all the smiling people having fun, slap-dashing around in gyms playing tag with wooden and rubber knives. Knife training is often treated quite cavalierly. This doesn’t have to be the case as very serious cultures exist, like the culture of pistol training is quite serious and full of foreboding and legal scares. Careful, mature training cultures do exist, and this must certainly become true in knife training also.
In the early 90s, this edged weapon resurgence was sort of an international turning point in knife training. A reboot if you will? It first resurrected the old military knife courses and the semi-legendary names of yesteryear. They weren’t “kuraty” superstars. A sophisticated look at them however, revealed, they weren’t so sophisticated. So several of us, using the newer sports training methods of the time, and bolstered by years in Filipino martial arts or other historical backgrounds, stepped up and made “new” knife courses. Gone was the martial arts uniforms, belts, etc. We wore jeans with pockets and regular clothing belts. Street clothes.
Some of the 90s knife pioneers? James Keating. Tom Sotis. Kelly Worden, Bram Frank, Bob Kasper, yours truly, to name just a few, but there really were only a few of us. Paul Vunak is a late 80s pioneer in many areas. (Still, some of these guys were overdosing on knife dueling.) We wore shirts, jeans and shoes. I even taught at times in a suit and tie. Skeptical, we didn’t trust the old stuff and we didn’t trust the established martial arts either, even the Filipino applications of the knife are often tricky and too “duely”. (Do you want to walk around wearing a vest with 12 knives? Seriously.) Be free. Think free. Be skeptical. Are you a replicator? Or an innovator?
Still, the old just helps the new. This was also part of a bigger “breakaway” from establishments that was going on in that decade. The world was seeing MMA (or at least ground wrestling) on TV like never before. And somehow a collection of old stuff, dressed in athletic pants, painted in the “Israeli mystique” – Krav Maga – was really shoved down the throats of Tae Kwon Do schools as mandatory, by clever (and insidious) shaming, business groups, like NAPA in the 90s.
The “Mixed Revolution” was in the 1990s martial air! Jeet Kune Do was spreading into a heyday. Inosanto JKD/MMA was already doing Thai and ground, and so much more. Ever hear of “Shoot?” But, I guess the Israeli mystique was greater than the Bruce Lee mystique?
Mystique? Yes. Ever so important in advertising, sales and manipulation. That’s how we pick shoes, cars, purses and pistols (politicians, religions and…) Manipulation. More on that later…
My knife course had a few odd, infancy names in 1990 and 1991, but it was quickly called “When Necessary? Force Necessary: Knife!” But that 5-word title was a little long and clunky and it was shortened to just 3 words – “Force Necessary: Knife!” I do prefer the longer, clunky name, as it completely explains exactly what I mean to say. Only use that force necessary when absolutely necessary. But I got around the country and quickly, the whole world doing that knife material. Lots of traveling, lots of seminars. It lead to being voted Black Belt Magazine, Weapon Instructor of the Year and also into their BB Hall of Fame. (back when readers actually mailed in votes.) I also “scored-very well” in the non-arts, growing “combatives” world.
Black Belt. Tact Knifes. Hall of Fames. TRS. Such was the jargon and the martial/political stage of the 90s. Today, it’s hard to grasp that the total, martial world communication back that existed was with a mere 6 or 8 international, martial arts magazines. That’s it! Try and list them. Yes, Black Belt, Blitz, Martial Arts Illustrated, Inside Kung Fu, Inside Karate. Think of some more. Try and list them. They were the filter for us all. Talk forums developed slowly later and now, like the magazines, are almost all extinct.
Now? Nowadays, I don’t know where the martial arts communication filter exists, specifically. The…web…the gazillions of webpages? The gazillions of podcasts? The gazillion of….Instagrams? Facebook? Yesterday’s business card is today’s webpage. And any dipshit can pay to have amazing looking webpages. The battle for exposure takes a business up and down many extremely, frustrating, costly roads.
Of course with all businesses, this 1990s knife movement kicked off a new interest and a fair number of new knife courses popped up through and to, by 2005-ish, often by less experienced, less organized people, and in my opinion doing less comprehensive programs. But this business evolution is to be expected. Invent a new “widget?” There’s a knock-off. Then knock-offs with an “S.” In the big picture of training and education however, not widgets, this can be a positive thing. Awareness. Curiosity. Growth.
So, when did I fall? It happened slowly and then one day you are down looking up. How’d I get down here? Not enough Instagram pictures? Some 25-odd years later, in about 2015, on a popular public forum someone asked me what I thought of Johnny Swift’s new, knife, quick-draw article. Of course it was named something super-spiffy like “Armageddon Instrument Production,” but it’s just knife quick draws. Brand new, Biblical-worthy advice Swift preached, and published in the new amazing world of web-jargon magazines called something like “Organic Micro Evolution of Edged Prophetic Dynasty.” (I just made that magazine name up, but how far am I off? Have you seen these seminars names lately? Aren’t you impressed, or can you see right through the pretentiousness?) Twenty and 30 year-olds salivated!
I read Swift’s ground-breaking, testament as featured in “Retrograde, Skill Supremacy, Fusion Elite Magazine” and I replied on the public forum –
“Oh, I have to like Swift’s article. It is virtually, word-for-word, from my 1992, Knife Level 1 outline.”
My review/remark caused a lot of guffaws and a few smart ass remarks, among the 20 and 30 year old readers, most of whom were so submerged in modern “dynasty jargon” and up to their beards in mystique, and lost in the gazillion web world, they’d never even heard of us older guys from the 90s. I mean, who am I to comment like this on their latest fad-boy genius? I added that I was not suggesting that Johnny Swift plagiarized my outline, as it might have innocently been co-opted, or the older info has become so, ever so embedded into the “knife world” it was deemed as open knowledge. I get that. Sure. That happens. (That level 1 outline is/was free to the public and has been distributed for literally 3 decades, and my knife books have been for sale since about then too.)
I reminded the guffawers that the spread of education is a good thing and that at very least, I only partook in that process. I said that the old just helps the new, and you have to remember the old, so history doesn’t repeat itself. As a great gun instructor Dave Spaulding likes to remind us, “It’s not new. It’s just new to you.”
One guy was clever enough to say, “Well, sorry I missed you when I was 5 years old.” Ha! I told him that was a pretty damn, funny retort. It was. But missed me? Dude, I never left. But actually he never knew I was around to begin with. That is part of the mysterious “fall.”
I added in that discussion with Mr. Wise-ass that the spread of education was a good thing, and I only partook in the process. Seriously, I frequently read as new, many old catchy terms, ideas, expressions I published and advertised decades ago.
My really big mistake in the knife world, training business is…I think, not emphasizing the knife training course only. Alone. My obsession was/is with covering the bigger picture. Hand, stick, knife, gun. That’s “where it’s at” for me (is that phrase too 90s? Yikes, maybe too beatnik 60s?). The 1990s evolved into the 2000s and my step-by-step into what I really wanted to do all along since the 90s. My goal is to create the best hand, stick, knife and gun courses. It’s a mixed weapon world. Each subject I have is a carefully constructed 4-pillar, foundation. But I think when you shoot for this holistic picture, each separate pillar seems to get a little lost, a little less appreciated, a little less noticed. It also makes me appear to be less specialized. This ain’t true. There’s a big mixed weapon matrix:
But anyway, back to the knife! Inside a comprehensive knife course is:
* Knife vs hand.
* Knife vs stick.
* Knife vs knife.
* Knife vs some gun threats.
* Standing, kneeling, sitting and on the ground.
* Saber and reverse grip experimentation.
* Skill developing exercises.
* Knife combat scenarios and situations.
* Legal issues and smarts.
* Who what, where, when, how and why questions
* Criminal history knife stories.
* War history knife stories.
I do get a kick out of the occasional lame-brain who pipes up and says, “Knife training? Just stick the pointy end in the other guy.”Especially when these same complainers spend about ten thousand $$$ a year – plus – shooting at gun ranges. Why not just stick the pointy end of the bullet in the other guy, too, Brainiac? Is it all really that simple?
But, not focusing just on the knife is a marketing problem. I don’t advertise or highlight “just the knife” like other courses do. This is one point where I have really fallen down and why my knife course has fallen down through the years.
Another problem for me? No “flags.” I have no crutch system, no flag to fly, like Pekiti, JKD, Brazil-Mania, Krav. Silat. Arnis. Bruce Lee. UFC. It’s just little ol’ me flapping in the wind. I can’t draw in extraneous-system-people, capture super search terms, as some of those are obligated to attend, even arm-twisted by “the system” they’re in. Brand names are…brand names.
Plus, I avoid and dodge macho, death messages, grim reapers, and death images mystique. I would never advertise that I am “always bladed.” And I am not in any “mafia.” I am life-long cop. I fight the Mafia. I am not in any “cartel,” or a “cult” etc. Look, I can make the distinction between something that is a little fun and ironic and something/someone that is sick and weird. It takes a little investigation too, to not jump to conclusions, but sick and weird is sick and weird.
Various other ultra-violent, whack-job messaging should be reserved as a primer mentality for very serious, military, combat groups. THEIR psychology. Their prep. Not cops and certainly not every day, walk-around citizens. Mimicking them makes you look like a wannabe punk. Look at the lawsuits filed on cops and citizens. Go ahead, have a little death-engraved-logo on your cop gun and see what happens when you shoot someone. Have a patch or tattoo of a grim reaper with a knife, or a skull with a knife through it, and see what happens when you have to use a knife. We the police, the prosecutors search your history when you are in an assault, knifing or shooting. Mature survival is enduring the end game – as in the legal aftermath, is a big part of a well-thought-out, course. (Again, mature gun easily people understand this.)
Not like this silly fucker in New York for example – I read one New York City, very popular, international knife “cartel-liberty” group headline paragraph:
“I love it when I carve someone’s balls off and put them in his empty eye sockets.”
Shit man, you probably work in a fucking supermarket. And you think and talk like this? You need to be on watch list. These idiots give us all a bad name. But images and expressions like this, or near like this, this mystique, does attract a certain sick customer, usually young, or young in the brains anyway. (After my public complaints and comments on this, this moron took that line down.)
No Mystique? Which leads me back to the first paragraph. We know the established advertising fact the “the grass is always greener on the other….” side of the street? Other country? The sewers of Spain. The temples of Thailand. The monasteries of China? The borders of Israel…the…and so on. Me? I appear to be just a bland, white guy with some info. I don’t even have any tattoos! Many well-known knife people are Filipino, just cause, because…they are Filipino. They may have never been to the Philippines, but they have an exotic sounding name.
And the serious military angle? Even with them, take a look at the most sophisticated, revered, respected, top-flight, Special Forces vets and most play it quiet cool like a gray man.
Lackadaisical about making rank and instructors. I don’t really run the classic franchise business as seen in self defense, BJJ and Krav, other combatives courses, and Lord knows, classic martial arts. I am often lackadaisical about promoting people and making instructors. Other systems do this like precision clockwork, where I fail to emphasize this. It does hurt the proverbial martial, business model.
In the same vein, I shun all titles like guro, grandmaster, sensei, etc. “It’s just Hock,” I say, which also does not fly well with some organizations who base themselves on this structure. Also, street clothes please. It’s almost like I am insulting them? I’m not trying to. You do whatever you need to do to survive.
After the fall. However boring, I still do see some “knife people” all around the world. There are “normal” people, martial artists, historians, survivalists and hobbyists, gun people out there, interested in generic, evolved, knife material. There are. And that is who I mostly see when the knife topic comes around. Since I disdain the crazies and the fringers, they usually avoid me too. I know they know, I don’t like them.
I always do a few hours of knife in every seminar and I do have the occasional knife weekend seminars when and where I realize I need to catch up with people’s rank requests. And, normal people can always, sort of, hide their knife interests inside a classic martial arts name. To me the knife is inside of, part and parcel of, hand, stick, knife, gun crime and war, survival education.
So, me. Boring. No mystique. Not isolating the knife enough. Not promoting people fast enough. No skulls. No flags. No carved out-eyeballs. No macho. Just generic methods. Here is where I have shot myself in the…well, stabbed myself in the foot, in the knife training business, even though just a few of us are those innovator pioneers and turned the tide in the 1990s into what it all has become today. For better or for worse. Maybe you young fellers will learn from my mistakes?
It’s always good to mention and/or thank your prior teachers once in a while. I always do. But, before you young knife guys make any sarcastic jokes about me again (and Kelly and Bram, et al?) Keep in mind…your modern instructors might have “peeked” at all my and our long, established materials, and would not confess to it. I might just be your grandfather. Our materials have become such standard doctrine that these young guys don’t even know of us.
Should I Even Dare to Use a Knife to Defend Myself?
A motto for my Force Necessary: Knife course is “Use your knife to save your life!” It’s also for desperate times and situations. Mine is a politically correct slogan that sets the stage for the carry-and-use doctrine.
The knife can be used for less-than-lethal purposes and lethal purposes. Yes, less-than-lethal despite its reputation. The edged weapon is not well looked upon in the legal systems of the civilized world. I must warn you that if you use one to defend yourself you usually will be harshly regarded and will be working under an emotional and costly deficit to clear yourself of legal trouble.
Carrying alone can be a problem. Most pocket and belt carry knives are illegal in many countries and in some cities and states in the United States, unless you have a very common sense reason to do so, such as your job. If you run across the street to grab a cup of coffee, from your factory job, you may be grilled by authorities about your pocket knife. (This has happened.)
Knife who, what, where, when, how and why?
Who are you to carry a knife? What do you do that requires a knife? Where do you do this knife-as-tool work? When do you need a knife on your job or work? How will you use this knife on your job or work? Why such a knife?
These are some of the legal questions authorities will consider, investigate and ask about your knife-carry in these knife-restricted areas.
There is also a citizen-based, “never-knife” and “anti-knife” knife movement, if you will, in certain self defense and combatives programs. Many of these groups are in countries where knife carry is illegal. I get the message from several Krav Maga schools also, which is a bit surprising. I hear –
“I’ll never have a knife!”
“I’ll never need a knife, I have my unarmed skills.”
“Even if I disarm a knife, I’ll just throw it off.”
“Carrying Knives are illegal where I live. I won’t have one.”
“I don’t need knife training. Everyone already knows instinctively how to use a knife.”
“People who like and use knives are crazy, like criminals.”
“There are no self defense knife use statistics where I live. Why bother then?”
“Have you seen the kinds of people that carry and train with knives? they’re a cult. A crazy, wacky cult!” …and so on.
Knives are quite ubiquitous. There are in the kitchens and probably the garages of every home in the world. They are in every restaurant in the world, and every business in the world that requires a minimal amount of handy work. There was a stabbing the other day in a Walmart. A man got a for-sale knife off a shelf and used it. These facts render some of the above quotes moot.
And I might address the “There are no self defense knife use statistics where I live. Why bother then?” comment. I usually hear it from people/instructors/school owners who live in countries where knife-carry is nearly of fully illegal. There are consistent numbers of knife and gun crime but not knife self defense. Could that be that knives are just not allowed on the streets for the normal law abiding citizen? The no-knife mentality bleeds over to forgetting the knife, like Judo people forget to punch.
Still, despite the stigma, I carry on with my own knife course – Force Necessary: Knife. Here’s why and perhaps some of the talking points I use, maybe you can use for your positions. The following is how and why I justify a “nasty, violent” knife course.
First off, I understand your anti-knife concerns. I really do. I have wrangled with these issues. I have no particular fascination with knives themselves. I feel the same way about guns and sticks. I do not collect them, in the same way I wouldn’t collect wrenches or hammers, or all tools in general. These things to me are tools. Some folks do collect knives and of course that’s fine and fine hobby. But since I feel this way, this detachment, I might offer a very practical viewpoint on the subject, along with, needless to add, my decades of investigating knife crimes might add some value too. We live in a mixed weapon world and therefore I accept the challenge of trying to examine this…hand, stick, knife, gun world. Carry and possession laws aside, it’s still a hand, stick, knife, gun world. It’s a world of war and crime and that includes weapons. We fight criminals and/or worse, we fight enemy soldiers. Sometimes we escape them. Sometimes we capture them. Sometimes we have to injure them. And, sometimes we have to kill them.
A person (who lives anywhere) should know how to use a stick, a knife or a gun, despite the laws possessing them. I am not talking about legal or illegal possessing here, as in walking around with an illegal weapon in your pocket. I am just talking about use. Using it. Knowing. Messing with it. Familiarization.
The big picture. Martial instructors with statistics of things that almost never happening? A whole lot of things hardly ever happen in some areas. There are 330 million people in the United States. Millions in other countries. And the odds of being a victim of any hand, stick, knife or gun crime is quite small in comparison. Keep this in mind when we discuss one hand-fighting-only instructor in the USA who declared it was waste of time to bother learning long gun disarming. “Long gun attacks never happen,” he said. “You would be smarter to get on a treadmill than learn long gun disarming.” He said these very things the same week a guy walked into a church with an AR-15 and killed people. Annually, consistently, people use long guns like hunting rifles and shotguns in crimes. The problem exists. Since it exists, the problem requires solutions and one movement is in the available, existence of long gun disarming training.
Stats also that say that knife defense hardly ever happens too? That beatings with impact weapons hardly “never happen.” That fistfights and unarmed beatings hardly ever happen. I agree in the big picture. I think you would discover though that even simple, unarmed fights are also extremely rare when compared to population size and the billions of personal interactions people have every day.
So then, if an actual, unarmed fight, or an actual unarmed attack/crime is so very, very rare in comparison to the population number, the interactions numbers, why do we then bother to practice any self-defense at all? If hardly anything happens? Why bother with your Krav Maga?
Crime rates are small compared to the over-all population. Most of you reading this now will never be in an unarmed fight, never a knife fight, never be shot, or never be a victim of crime. Still we work on these problems because on some level we know, it has happened, will happen and could happen to you and yours. It sort of – needs to be done.
I ask this of the “never-knife,” people, the “never long-gun” person, the unarmed-only trainer. Why bother doing anything then? Does your “no-knife” logic carry over to “no-hand,” “no-stick, “no-gun?” None of it happens a lot anyway. Why bother?
A study of the FBI crime records disclosed that through the years, 40% to 90% of the people the police must fight, are armed in some fashion. That’s a lot of weapons out there in the civilian world. But, of course, in the history of crime and war, a knife (and sharp, knife-like things) has been used, dare I say, countless times in combat. Since this “no-knife-no-matter-what” essay aired on social media back in 2016, Brits, Europeans and Australians have presented examples when desperate people have used knives to save lives and have been acquitted, even within their strict laws. Even guns have been used in self defense and shooters were acquitted in “no-gun’ worlds. In the end, the “totality of circumstances” (a legal term) and common sense should usually win out. We hope! Should you ever, even dare to use a knife to save your life? It will certainly be ugly. There will be ramifications.
I do get a kick out of the knife simpletons who say, “just stick the pointy end in someone.” Well, there are mental and physical and situational and legal issues to work on and work out. I also find it interesting that many of these same folks spend thousands and thousands of dollars to own and learn how to stick the…”pointy end of a bullet,” into someone. A simpleton might say back to them, “What? Just point the barrel and pull the trigger. Stick the pointy end of a bullet into someone.” I would never say that about shooting and I won’t say that about the knife either.
Mental. Physical, Situational. Legal. I hope I don’t have to mention a long list of examples here. Training with a knife creates a desensitization of it’s use, something most people need. They need the speed, strength and coordination to overcome an opponent and their reflexive arms. What are the positions and situations of use? And my God, the legal issues! One could write a book about these vital things (oh…I have!)
And I would be remiss not to comment here on the subject listed above on “lost,” dropped or disarmed knives in this essay. You might not have a knife, but he does! And in your unarmed combatives class, your Krav Maga class in “no-knife” countries still practice knife disarms ad nauseam. You break the guy’s nose and execute Disarm #22. It worked! Two things happen to the knife –
The knife either hits the floor, or,
The knife is now in your untrained hand.
What happens next? One naysayer says he will just “throw that knife away” and continue to fight on versus one, (two or more) bad men unarmed. What size room are you in, anyway? And just because the knife (or gun) is on the floor doesn’t mean the bad guy can’t lunge down in a second’s flash and get it back. The lethal threat is not over because the knife has hit the floor at your feet. It’s still within lunge and reach and the deadly intent has been established with his assault.
Knives! Look…hey…they exist. They are everywhere. To save your life and the lives of others, use them when and where you got them. Its a hand, stick, knife, gun, world. If you call yourself a self defense, combatives, survivalist, you must have a working knowledge of hand, stick, knife, gun world.
Warning though, if you use a knife, even legally, you will still be rung through the legal ringer. First the knife carry-and-use stigma. Then your background, your comments on social media, your “unusual” (they will call it) interest in weapons. Your knife brand name and your knife social group. Your tattoos. Everything will be used against you. And you will spend a lot of money with lawyers. I have written about these obstacles extensively elsewhere. Violence sucks and this will suck too.
So, despite all the negativity, I still maintain the Force Necessary: Knife course as a storehouse of information and research on the subject. Somebody has to do it. Knife versus hand. Knife versus stick. Knife versus knife. Knife versus gun threats. Standing on down to floor/ground. Legal issues. Use of Force. Rules of engagement. Psychology. History. (Certainly not just knife dueling.)
I will leave you “never-ever-knife” folks with this thought. This question. It’s 4 am and you hear two thugs breaking into your back door. Your spouse and kids are asleep. Presuming you are unfortunate enough, deprived enough, not to have a gun handy, do you reach for the biggest kitchen knife you can get your hands on? Or, will they get to your big knife first instead, as so many home invaders and rapists like to use your kitchen knives, so they aren’t caught with a knife in transit. If you don’t even think about getting a kitchen knife in that very dark moment? You are a very poorly trained, self defense, survivalist. If you do realize you need to get the biggest knife you can find? You may have just joined that crazy knife cult you so quickly dismiss!
(note: This essay years ago, garnered me the greatest amount of hate mail ever. Granted I wrote this as a somewhat sarcastic, at times tongue-in-cheek, freestyle. But the hate poured in. (I saved them all). The best was one calling every “student” I had worldwide as stupid and uneducated because I knew nothing and I just tricked stupid people. )
To me, a knife is a knife. Sure there are many different kinds of knives, some better at some things than others. But in a primitive level, a knife is a knife. So, when some folks pop up “on the martial market” suggesting , and even at times arguing that a smaller, paring/fruit knife is suddenly real good for knife fighting, my answer is “ahhh…yeah, okay, so…”
I would never have excluded paring knives as a potential weapon. Of course not. Perhaps I have worked way too many police cases where kitchen knives, big and small, have been used. Of course they can be weapons. Always have been.
There seems to be a little fad/craze recently about using paring or fruit knives for fighting, instead of bigger knives or tactical folders, if even as some sort of a trick. A legal trick? A street fight trick? You know, those little kitchen knives just about everyone has and uses. A knife here in the States, you can buy for about a dollar or two in the common, Dollar Stores, or Walmart, or in every grocery store. One guy told me that when he lands from a plane ride, he runs to a cheapy store or supermarket right away, and buys a paring/fruit knife for self defense. Good idea? Although I don’t know how he’ll carry it around, but its good for the hotel room and…thereabouts. I don’t know. Why not? More on this “paring-knife-carrying-around” in a bit.
And I do worry about the classic hotel room defense problem too, especially in weapon-free countries I work in. I don’t exactly travel to the best and safest places all the time. I was in Africa one night, and the power went out, various people filled the streets outside and…well, that’s another story…
But do take a look at these paring knives. They are pointy, sharp and cheap and you probably can get them anywhere. Not a bad idea. Cheap knives. Expensive knives. I saw a fixed-blade knife in a big knife show one weekend back in the 1990s. It was very cool. It was about $175. Then my wife and I were in a kitchen store in an outlet shopping and they had kitchen knife sets for sale. From a distance, I saw a set with similar designed wooden handles. I looked closer, I swear, I swear, the middle knife in the set of 8, looked EXACTLY like the $175 knife I saw at the show. The whole kitchen set was like $19.99. Ever since then, I have been really pessimistic about the cost of knives and branding, etc. Sure, probably the knives were made differently. But how much? And what do you want to do with them. Who, what, where, when, how and why? Specifically, this equation – “Who-knife,” “what-knife,” “where-knife,” “when-knife,” “how-knife” and “why-knife?”
While we spend a lot on special “fighting” knives, we need to mention it is long known, world-wide, in law enforcement circles that simple kitchen knives of all sizes are used a lot – like in …70%, 80% or 90% – (I’ve even heard once 95%?) of all knife attacks in the civilized world. The rest of the world? Good chance you are going to be attacked by a knife-like, handy “tool” they use in the jungle, woods, garages or farm fields. Thereabouts. And then of course, next there is the use of the “tactical knives” to take up the statistical slack. In or out of the field, the military rarely uses a knife in combat, but rather as a handy tool, and when it does, it won’t be a little kitchen knife. I have a friend who works security in Mexico who translated a famous, underground phrase into English for me –
“You will be killed by a 5 peso knife.”
5 pesos or $500, I am not a collector of knives, per say, so I do not collect them just for the sake of admiration and collection – if you know what I mean. And I mean to say that I do really like the looks of some knives, but to me, they are just tools. I don’t collect pairs of pliers either. Or hammers. Do you see what I mean? That is how boring I am. Simple tools. Use-able. I understand that some people really do love collecting knives. Fine with me. Have fun with it, I say. If you want to spend $1,000 and get a super-duper, steel blade that will stab and penetrate an Army tank? Go for it. I’d like to look at them too. Hold them for a few seconds and flip them in my hand. “Size” them up. And so forth. But, I’m just not going to buy it. Buy it and then…what? Stick it in a drawer somewhere in my house?
Instead, I suffer horribly from, my malady, is the collection of knife TACTICS. Knife moves. Knife movements, Knife techniques. Knife situations. Not the collections of knives for the collection, adulation sake.
Most of you already also know how I feel about carrying knives officially called like, Close Quarter Combat 7 or, SEAL Team, Throat-slitter 6, …or studying knife courses with crazy names. (Remember the more macho you really are deep down? The least you need to show it.) Its all fun and games with macho, militant knives until you actually use your “Klingon CQC De-Bowelizer” in a fight. Or, you have graduated from knife courses with violent names like “Beserker,” or “Destructo.” What about that “Prison-Stick em” course with special “prison-stick em’ knives? Or, you proclaim you are a “bastard child of the knife mafia.” Worry about the name of your knife and the name of your knife course. Police and prosecutors will. We/they will take a hard look at this and add it to the demise of your freedom. Please trust me on this. I have worked these cases. The name of your knife and the name of your knife course, like your comments on social media, works for you or against you. Whack-job tattoos. Grow the fuck up. If you think you are defending yourself in some ultimate knife course, how well will you defend yourself AFTER you stab the crap out of someone, with all this mess in your background? I recently saw a webpage of one of these out-lander knife “families” and someone wrote a little ditty about “cutting someone balls off and sticking them in the newly-knife-emptied eye sockets.” YOU…are a sick fuck. YOU…are why the rest of us carry knives and guns.
But, back to the fruit/paring knife which started these ramblings off. Will the world treat you better if you have a paring knife and not a commando hatchet “in your pocket?” In the real world, a paring/fruit knife is still but a knife. Can you walk around with a paring knife and be safe from police scrutiny? Whatever knife, in the end, a knife is a knife. To a cop who pats you down, a knife is a knife. We know about the record high use of kitchen knives. So, to further confuse the police and society, the idea was/is floated on the internet of sticking said fruit knife into a piece of fruit, all inside a plastic bag, into your pocket?
And walking around like that, pretending an eventual, later hunger pang, with all that bulky, wet, rig bulging in your pocket, (as suggested by some young Mexico cop? Or, as I am also told the fruit/knife/bag idea was originated some by other people years and years ago?). But wait! I heard this years ago with walnuts. Stick the small knife tip inside a walnut and have some of these nuts loose in your pocket.
“Oh noooo, London officer, Sydney officer, (______ insert city officer) I just like nuts.” The rig might be better in a little paper sack? Or maybe better – a metal lunch box? Then you get to look like Charlie Brown walking to school all the time.
Using that wet pocket carry for “plausible deniability?” Nahhh. You know, I just don’t think so. Maybe in some rural area of Mexico? Or a picnic area on the coast of Greece? I think they are really S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G this pocket method of carry in a desperate ploy to sound innovative. To me? Not so much. Being a cop and being around cops for most of my adult life – a cop sees a knife. A knife is a knife. What happens next will all fall into local length laws, knife laws, personalities and the situation, etc. A police officer or detective doesn’t say,
“oh look, how cute. A harmless, fruit knife in a pomegranate.”
If the fruit knife is illegal by local law, the length and so forth, then the knife is just plain illegal, even if stuck in an avocado in a plastic bag in your pocket, or stuck anywhere else. This will not fool anyone unless the police deem the carrier is like a certified Forest Gump type. Or maybe the investigating authorities are dimwits? The situation will rule out.
You can of course, carrying your sheath-less paring knife inside your pocket with a little clever Origami (folded paper ala Japan). It won’t be a sheath-sheath, but you won’t sit down, say, and stab your thigh. Will it come freely from the paper sheath or require two hands to clear the knife? If the knife, this…this paring, fruit knife…is “legal” in size and so forth, you don’t need the fruit, the plastic bag, a nut, or the “hungry-later” tale. Still, even with the bagged knife, the police, the prosecutor, your lawyer or your embassy might think you a shallow liar. (It was suggested somewhere that …”spies”… carry their murder weapons in such a manner to fool the local, hapless gendarmes.) I would first, instantly think you a liar. Two strikes. Strike one – you got a knife. Strike two – you are lying to me. Try that in New York, England, Australia or parts of Canada and see what happens, or in some USA cities. London, England is now on a massive, anti-knife, witch-hunt, ban. But if the knife is legal. It’s legal. Stuck in no matter what. Stuck in a sheath. A walnut, with a pocket full of walnuts. A peach. The overall situation counts. As they say – the “totality of circumstances.”
I think part of the mystique is also, that you will more easily fool and stab someone suddenly with the knife in fruit and in a bag? You know – street, trick them? Think hard about that one. You are threatened. You smile, and slowly extract your bag/fruit/knife rig out for a quick, refreshing bite. Does the loan-shark, or crack dealer, mugger, or psycho not see…a KNIFE! Just exactly where, why and when would you do this or ANY such fruit trickery? Do you want to walk around all day long like this, day after day, after day with a wet, fruit bag in your pocket? What set of circumstances and situation calls for this knife/fruit/bag idea in YOUR life?
Can you stab a guy with such a short knife with its tip in fruit, all while inside a zip-lock bag? Think about this people! When “God made his little green apples,” some of those apples are hard. How hard is the fruit you using like Loki to confuse the police? Better be some soft peaches. And let’s not get into the lesser penetrations of really small, naked, knives, least of fruit-laden ones.
Worse, as soon as the fruit trick gets out on the world-wide-web of clever tricks and plans and was published? Well, it’s out on the internet as a clever trick!
The arresting and prosecuting parties can look on the net and your Facebook page, your social media, your favorite groups, (are you a bastard child of the edged weapon, grim-reaper, balls-in-the-eye-sockets, cosa nostra?) your tattoos, etc. and see its a “world-wide,” web trick.
Changing subject course a bit again (sorry) while I am rambling, while we are pondering/kicking-around, common, last ditch tools, especially in your hotel room, I can’t help but think of scissors? Last ditch? Scissors, the kind that can be disconnected at the joint/hinge as in the photo below? I travel all over the world with scissors. You can’t really walk around with scissors either in many countries. Your motivation could and will be questioned, though I know people who have scissors in a leather scissor carrier on their belts – using the old excuse that they are “needed for work.” (by the way, the next cop question is “where do you work?” And prove it.) I always have certain pairs of scissors in my hotel room, at very least. And…thereabouts. Some open and come apart, like in the photo here. Open em’ up, a little like one of those damn balisongs, and split em’ apart if you can. You got two edged weapons. Small, tough scissors blades hinged together, can actually feel just like a push dagger and small scissors are not illegal to possess. Just don’t put them in carry-on luggage.
Recently, I learned from a contact that in a factory in Canada, there was a series of knife assaults. The knives were issued by the factory because they were tools needed for the job. Management, frustrated with the crimes, collected all the knives and issued scissors instead. In a meeting, one of the employees stood up and took the scissor halves apart and held one half in each hand. He said, “look, they took away my one knife, and gave me two knives instead!” The contact said the halves, blades and handles were quite excellent-shaped, individual edged weapons. There are many scissors on the market that cannot be taken apart, but some can. (Oh, and by the way? No, I am not suggesting that people give up their knives and carry scissors, as some readers with low reading skills here have misinterpreted and smeared me on the net).
In the three decades I worked in patrol and investigations, I recall numerous times when scissors were used in fights. Domestics and self defense. I myself can’t recall a “scissor” murder I worked on or helped out on, but I am more than confident there have been in the annals of crime. I don’t remember anyone ever opening the scissors up and taking the blades apart though, which would enhance the “knife-like” use. I have also inspected crime scenes where the victim had the chance to grab scissors and did not, unable to psychologically identify them as a weapon. I recall one horrendous rape scene. A woman escaped into her bedroom and locked the door. While the intruder/rapist worked to open the door, the woman had time to gather something to defend herself. She didn’t. The man burst in, beat her and raped her. I was called to the scene. There atop the bed stand was a metal pair of scissors. Numerous other things were available too. She didn’t “identify” scissors (or a lamp, whatever,) as a weapon.
Knives. Scissors, Edged weapons. But once you use a commando knife, a paring knife or scissors in a fight, whatever, the time bomb of arrest, prosecution and lawsuits begins ticking. Clever “plausible deniability” becomes maybe what next? Aggravated assault,” maybe? And, or maybe “murder”? What actually happened? Who, what, where, when, how and why? Situational. When the police discover you have taken courses in “Cartel Knife Fighting” it starts to work against you.
Edged weapon innovation. Every few years a knife maker asks me to design a knife. I pass. I really would not know what to design? What could possibly be a new knife design? I mean, I can pick up some restaurant steak knives and some feel like magic, don’t they? How to be different, to design something different? I would probably suggest to the knife-maker the simple commando knife, only not completely double-edged, dodging that law. Maybe a pair of take-apart scissors, or a weird looking screwdriver or something that. No sales for those, though. And therefore, they’d say no.
If someone made tactical, combat scissors? Then that gig/secret would be “up” and the trick “outed” too on the web, wouldn’t it? The…combat scissors! Think about the combat cane. The combat baseball bat that has been converted into a black plastic weapon. Tricks out! We know it. We see it. Even discussing this here, teaching the message here, sounds like part of the conspiracy to fool the authorities.
Probably for sales, the scissors would have to be stamped on the side – Hock’s Tactical Combat Scissors by the company,with a mean looking design/logo. Maybe a skull of some sort? Maybe with…a tongue out and about to be snipped off by combat scissors? Yikes! Why else make them if you can’t sell them to the tactical/practical crowd? That logo could also potentially be a tattoo?
But legally, it would be safer and smarter just to name them, Aunt Sarah’s Knitting Club Scissors, – as etched on the side. And no, I am not suggesting that people get scissors, get a small sewing kit, put them in a plastic bag and carry them around in their pockets to fool the gendarmes. But if so, maybe the police would look at them and say,
“oh, what a cute little pair of Aunt Sarah’s knitting scissors!”
All fun and games until someone gets stuck in the eye with a pair! (as any good Aunt Sarah would certainly warn us against, once she saw us playing with them…)
(oh and by the way? the official stamped -engraved, “Hock’s Combat Scissors” tactical scissors thing is a joke. I thought I would add this disclaimer because some stupid people have read this and criticized me for my ‘”combat/tactical scissors” idea. Dear Low I.Q. reader – it’s a joke.)