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.
“If you see a guy hold a knife like this (reverse grip) watch out! He really knows what he is doing.”
Said the tipster who knows nothing, anyway. A receiver from another tipster who knew nothing. I have heard that “insider tip” numerous times. One time, I was even told this tip by a guy who had never been in the Marines, but heard this tip from a “Marine friend.” The irony was I was in Triangle, VA, hotel restaurant next to the Marine base Quantico, there teaching Marines among other things – “knife.” Some of it saber grip knife.
I have nothing against the reverse grip. I teach it too. But, how many times have you heard or been told, or been taught the reverse grip is the only grip to use? Because there are some popular courses out there preaching this idea. I am often both depressed and fascinated by the paths and ideas of various knife courses. Some appear to me like death cults, others have what seems to be oddball, incomplete conclusions. Take for one example, the obsession with dueling. While dueling can happen, it is not the only thing that happens in a knife fight (ohhh, like ground fighting?) Most never cover legal issues and just cut and stab away. Some way over-emphasize Sumbrada patterns. I could go on. Another is the various obsessions with knife grips.
In the 1980s, I was at a Dan Inosanto seminar and he said. “there is no one perfect knife grip, just the best one for the moment.”
Man! That little phrase stuck with me forever as a baseline. Sometimes I think I have short-changed myself as a teacher when I state my mission statement is total “hand, stick, knife, gun.” I think it subliminally shortchanges the 4 individual courses in the minds of practitioners. Courses of which I think are terrific, otherwise I would improve them or not teach them at all. I have slaved over these courses for decades to keep them simple and thorough. “Each course is stand-alone.” So, my stand-alone knife course seems to get buried inside this bigger mission – nomenclature.
I worry about knife grips too. With my Force Necessary: Knife course, I insist that a practitioner learn and experience BOTH the saber and reverse grips. Then after much COMPLETE study, they choose what their favorite grip is, based on the “who, what, where, when and how and why” of their lives. I never tell them to automatically favor any one grip. Pick one, but make it an EDUCATED choice (and not a whisper tip choice). I like both grips. But some don’t like or respect both grips and for odd and incomplete reasons.
The first time I received any training with a knife was in a Parker Kenpo class in about 1972 when they received Kenpo knives and dull trainers from Gil Hibben. The knife was designed to be held in a reverse grip and used in a kick boxing format. This initiation caused decades of Kenpo-ists to hold their knives in a reverse grip as though Moses, not Gil Hibbens, had handed them knives from the mountaintop. In the late 1990s I was teaching in a multi-instructor camp and a old Parker Kenpo black belt was there with his little group. I was covering saber grip material ( a pox! ) and he would horde his people over into a corner and show them the “proper, reverse grip way” to fix what I was doing saber style. Which by the way his was more complicated and somewhat awkward than the simple saber material I was covering.
Finally he had to approach me and said, “you know, the reverse grip is the superior grip.”
I said, “no it isn’t.”
He glared at me.
“You can do just as much or even more with a saber grip,” I added.
He stormed off – his 7th dan “master” self, all upset that someone younger in blue jeans and a polo shirt told him flat-out no. (oh, did I mention that he also makes and sells reverse-grip-only knives?) My next session by the way, I covered some reverse grip material, as I am…an equal opportunity stabber.
People pick grips for odd reasons too. I recently read from a guy writing about his grip choice. He said he once saw someone with a training knife, saber grip, stab a mitt and the guy’s hand slipped up on the blade. This made him pick the reverse grip. Really? That? Well, as a detective who has investigated knife crime for decades, I can tell you such slippage happens with BOTH saber AND reverse grips. It depends on the knife! It’s shape, handle texture and any guard/hilts, design, etc. Dear Reverser – your hand slips down on a reverse grip too. Jeez. In fact, a hammering reverse grip deals a mighty blow and your hand needs to be protected perhaps even more, versus an ice pick grip slip.
There are people and courses out there now that mandate the reverse grip, ignoring the saber grip, therefore treating the saber grip as worthless? Mindless followers argue that:
“well, the reverse grip is the Filipino way.”
“The reverse grip is the Pekiti Tirsia way.”
“Ex-super-copper Pete Smith says the reverse grip is the best.”
People! People….people. FMA does BOTH grips. Pekiti Tirsia also teaches tons of saber grip material. And Pete Smith? He is just, flat-out, wrong-headed about this. He is not as smart as you think. He is not as smart as he thinks.
And I will go you one more reverse grip oddity that’s worse. There is a sub-culture out there that wants you to fight reverse grip, with a single edge knife, with the one sharp side, “inside,” facing back at your body. Not edge out to the outside world, where the enemy bodies are attacking you, but edge back at you. Dull edge at the enemy. This is its own unique thinking disorder. The world you are fighting is OUT there, not in your armpit. And why must you hook and haul ALL your enemies, ALLthe time inside and close to you? Can you? Can you hook ALL people, ALL the time, in for your one- trick, special magic?
You should have a double-edged knife, which is legal in some places, or you should have a knife with one complete sharp edge and the other side/edge 1/4, ½ or ¾ sharp anyway. (the so-called “false edge,” a confusing term for “civilians.”) Then the edge-in-only argument becomes moot, because you can still slash and stab, and stab and slash the outside world. But to purposely plan and buy and limit yourself to one edge, then limit yourself with that edge-in only, is…is…just a thinking disorder. It’s a dangerous, thoughtless, thinking disorder. People even make up these excuses…
“Well this type of knife is meant for…”
“I like this type of knife because when the guy is here, I can….
“It works really good for getting his arm away when he’s choking me…”
The guy is…here? How’d he get there? Dude, your “meant for” list is too small when you consider all the possibilities you might face. So then, are you going to carry 3 or 4 different “meant-for” knives for when the he’s here, one for one he’s there, and two for when he’s everywhere? To cover all your “meant-fors?” All knives work well on an arm when someone is choking you. Dude, maximize your survival with the most versatile knife. “Meant-for knives” is like putting 2 rounds in a six gun, and then carrying 3 pistols.
Why in the world…WHY…buy a fighting, survival knife to save your life and the lives of others that is single-edged? And then…and then…carry it, and use it, edge inward?
You do know sometimes in a fight, things don’t always go as “stabbingly” as planned. The reverse grip, edge-OUT offers a slashing possibility, an ADVANTAGE that might diminish the opponent. A double-edged, or 1/4 or 1/2 edge or 3/4s on the other side is ALWAYS going to be an advantage.
Reverse grip tip in accidents. When the Samurai commit suicide – seppuku – they do it with a reverse grip. There’s a reason for this. It’s easier. The tip is already aimed inward. (Incidentally, the helper that will kill him if he fails? Holds a saber grip.) This “easy-tip-inward” is one more point no one seems to consider when raving about reverse grips. The tip is often aimed back at you. About once every 4 weeks on the nightly reruns of the “Cops” TV show you can see a reverse grip knifer get tackled by cops. When they turn the suspect over? He was – “self-stabbed.” One of our lesson plans with the reverse grip is self-awareness of these maneuvering problems.
I cover dropping to the ground and we see people stab their thighs, and when tackled or shoved against the wall, we see the “Cops” incident of the accidental self-stabbing. Tell people to practice falling while holding a knife and watch the accidents. If people are running and holding a reverse grip knife, and they trip and fall? Watch out! There are more reverse grip “selfie” accidents than saber grip ones. Just be aware of this!
Having written my extensive and popular knife book, which took years, studying crime, war and forensic medicine, working cases and the streets, you discover that there are about some…what.. 30 or so ways to fight people with a saber grip and about 25 ways with a reverse group. But, after 8 ways each, does it matter?
There are many pros and cons for each grip. I HAVE NOTHING AGAINST THE REVERSE GRIP. I teach it also and I believe better and more thorough and thoughtful than most…or I wouldn’t try. I just don’t like the blind acceptance, the secret whisper about which grip is the best and which is to be ignored. And folks, the single-edge-inward version is just dangerous nonsense. And It bothers me that people thoughtlessly accept courses about these things. Question everything. Get educated. Then pick a knife and a grip you need for your world.
The knife is a very forgiving weapon, in that you can do a whole lot of screwed-up, stupid shit with a knife and get away with it. This is not an excuse to stay stupid. You have to think beyond that to create a comprehensive program and promote real knowledge.
Look, I really don’t care what grip you use as long as it is an EDUCATED, informed choice, and not some mindless, mandate from some short-sighted, and, or brainwashed person, or from that ignorant knife whisperer who knows somebody, who knew somebody else, who…
Some Responses: “Years ago I was grappling with my training partner and had a wooden training knife in the reverse grip. Long story short, we went to the ground and I fell on the training knife and caught the tip in the ribs. That definitely made my eyes water. Since then I’m very iffy whether I’d ever use that grip with a live blade in a real situation. I still train both grips but I much prefer the saber grip due to the added reach, maneuverability, and the sharp end isn’t pointing back at me most of the time.” – Neil Ferguson, USA
“I was at a seminar where an “expert” told us that if we see a man using a knife in that grip to “Run! That man is a professional!” First off, I’m gonna run either way genius! A twelve year old can get my wallet with a two inch folding knife. Stitches are expensive! Furthermore most women use that grip when they stab. Are they professionals??” Zane Issacs, USA (This leads us to wonder, do we not run when the man has a saber grip? – Hock)
Knives have personalities. The generic look. The generic history. Slashing look. Stabbers. The personal attachment look. What is the personality or your knife?
I think there are several factors in knife personalities.
Culture of the knife Personality – One is the culture of the knife. Certain edged weapons have a history, a geographic flavor. Just think of the Japanese Tanto. The Kris. The Bowie knife. The Italian stiletto. The medieval dagger. The double-edged, commando knife. One in the martial business, or the knife aficionados, or makers recognize the aura/genre of many knives. This cultural attraction alone might be a main reason someone buys to collect, or buys to carry a knife. Somehow, some way, the look captures one’s fancy, imagination, expectation or whatever connection to books, movies, TV or past affiliation. Sort of a mysticism we mentally project upon a simple inanimate knife. After all, what makes us select the cars, pants, churches or sports teams we do? We are tribal, particular and peculiar from our hats down to our shoes. Hats and shoes as in style that is, not in size. We can’t change the size of our head or our feet. We can change the size and shape of a knife, but will the size be appropriate for our…”heads” and ”feet?”
Slashing, hacking and stabbing personalities – The shape and size of the knife tells an experienced handler what it can do best. Some are better hackers. Some long, thin ones are better stabbers. Some are wide and are better shaped for slicing. Like a carpet layer needs a certain angle for exactly what is needed, so do all knife users. A novice to so-called, knife “fighting,” a new-be to say, construction work, will not know what kind of knife does what best. Experience and education is called for.
Personal, knife personality examples – I knew a Green Beret, Vietnam vet who passed on standard Army/government issue knives and preferred his old own Bowie Knife, replete with a carved stag handle. It was a family heirloom you might say, and therefore more important to him than any generic, legend of Jim Bowie. He said it gave him a certain power, a certain mojo from which he garnered mental and physical strength. This is a personal touchstone, reminiscent of many cultures, such as some of the native Americans might carry a medicine bag of mojo. Same-same.
Another friend of mind sought an old-fashioned, traditional looking (and hard to open) pocket, folding knife with stag handles, with multiple blades, because his dad had a similar one and it was lost through time. Both, more “personal, private” personality, touchstone selections. Still, with game points awarded for symbolic and personal mojo, on the battlefield or for back porch whittling, the knife size, shape and handle must fall within a scope and range of usable practicality and common sense. Switch this over to a parallel concept – you wouldn’t a pack a flintlock pistol around for self defense, just because you love the early American history era. Extrapolate this idea over to other weapons and survival.
What personality knife do you really need? – Not just want for whatever abstract reason, but need? I think we have to return to the classic, Who, What, Where, When, How and Why questions I use all the time to best determine this.
Who are you to need a knife?
Who are you to carry a knife?
What do you really need or want a knife exactly for?
What do you exactly expect to do with this knife?
What training do you have to make this a wise choice?What are the local laws for such a knife? What state and, or country do you live in?
What happens next? You use the knife and what will the police and prosecutors think of the name and look of your knife?
Where will you carry this knife? Job? Protection? Handiness?
Where on your body will you clip, or sheath or cart your knife?
When will you need this knife? Work time? Off-time? Daytime? Nighttime?
How will you acquire this knife?
How will you use it? Do you know how?
Why will you select a specific knife?
Another, longer “what” question. The chicken or the egg? What came first for you? Or, what will come first, if you are just now thinking about knives? That mysterious adulation of …“the knife,” and then a knife training course? Or did you need a knife first for a task first, then seek a training course? This consideration might help clear a path for your knife selection and proper training. The collector, the historian, the practical user, the adulator? Who are you?
But that last line of questioning…the “why.” Why will you select a specific knife? I suggest that you do not make a selection based on looks, genres, eras and or culture alone. I think you should select a knife on its ultimate practicality. Of course if you are a collector looking for this or that showpiece – “I own one! It’s a beauty!” – have fun! (I am not much of a collector of things so I cannot relate to this, but of course, I do understand the hobby.) Or, if you are fanatic about say, old European sword and dagger fighting. Whatever. Get those weapons and mess around with them. Have fun and exercise. Shoot flintlock firearms (just don’t carry them as a self defense weapon).
Knives have personalities – The generic look. The generic history. The personal attachment. If you plan to actually carry and use a knife? Whether on the job as a telephone lineman, a surgeon, a soldier or a cop, or just a citizen with a hankering for a knife, think of them as tools and well…think of them as shoes. You’ll be wearing them too, and like your hat and shoes, you can change the style, but you can’t change the size of your head and feet. Get the appropriate tool/knife. See clearly, be fleet of foot for the trails and paths of life, Kemosabe. Don’t stumble around with the wrong size, else you’ll trip, fall and fail. And like “running with scissors,” running with the wrong knife can be a minor or costly mistake.
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!
There’s an old story going around about me and a karmabit. The tale goes that during a seminar, lunch break, in the 1990s, a guy walked up to me and showed me his karambit, and I looked at it, opened a nearby window and threw it out the window of a two-story building. This isn’t true. I would never do that to a guy’s property. I can say confidently that not only would I not be so rude as to throw his property out a 2-story window, I would never throw my own karambit out a window either – because I would never own one in the first place to toss it.
You know, the curved-bladed knife that looks like a single animal claw. Some folks think they are God’s gifts to knives. And I am shown, and I get to see, way too many karambits. I see photos and photos of them in the web. God, they look cool. All kinda’ science-fictiony, Klingon-like. Deadly. Tiger-paw looking. In fact, I have come to believe that, they are so scary looking because they remind us of animal claws of critters we are naturally afraid of.
Straight, bent, curved are the choices. The curve of the knife. How curved must one be to qualify? Quite a bit. The more curve, the worse. There are knives on the market that have some bend to them, some just a slight bend, bended/angle. You know one when when you see one.
What did they tell us in elementary school years ago, when writing an essay? “Contrast and compare.” Then what of the Karambit Handicap. It’s a gambit. I hope I can leave this up here on the web as a source for people with these questions for me and questions in general about the true value of the curved knife in the big picture of use, simplicity and survival. I hope I can offer some reasoning and answers about the subject. The following are my personal beliefs and how I have come about them. If you love you some karambits? That’s fine. Enjoy a happy, healthy life. I hope you NEVER have to use one, (or any knife) in any fight.
First, before the hate mail comes in, understand my self-defense-only mission. I don’t collect knives and guns, no more than I would hammers and screwdrivers. But, being in the business of knife instruction, I am often shown karambits and asked questions about karambits. I can honestly proclaim I have never seen a karambit I didn’t think was very, very, cool looking.
Now look, you can cut somebody with a torn-open, tin can top. I also don’t want to be attacked by anything sharp. Broken glass bottle. Nope. A spear? Hell no. A Karambit? Good God, no. But the question remains is, yes, while a tin can will cut you, is it the smartest thing to use? Do we need the Tactical Tin-Can course? No. Think of this on a scale. You must get a knife. Get the best, versatile knife. Like a straight knife that stabs with deep efficiency potential and slashes without getting stuck in bodies and some clothing and can also, easily perform dozens of handy, life-saving and survival chores from chopping wood to cooking.
As a questioner, as a skeptic, never a fan-boy, not naïve, I just don’t fall for worshipping a system-head or a system. It’s a recipe for potential mistakes and failure. If you never question your revered leader, you fail to evolve. So does he and the system he does. Or folks never question gear of the revered. Do you think you must fight with a Klingon knife because you worship the culture, look, feel and history of Klingons? Or are you really looking to carry, fight and survive with the best, most versatile, edged weapon? Are you so mystified by a culture that you can’t see the faults? I know Systema people who like it so much, they start believing in and supporting Communism. I know Kung Fu people who change their religion west to east. Communism and Zen Buddhism should have nothing to do with kicking a guy in the nuts or selecting the best knife. If you want to learn how to fight with hands, sticks, knives and guns? Keep hero-worship OUT of the picture. Keep system worship out of the picture. I think this imperative.
Am I just so untrained and dumb in the wild and wooly ways of the karembit? I frequently get hate mail over this from fan-boys and faddists. Someone will always suggest that I am ignorant and suggest that maybe I should take a real, karambit course from Dijon Scoop and see the wonders and magic of the knife. I was force-fed balisong and karambit material since the late 1980s with multiple training trips to Negros Island and Manila, the Philippines, and many times since there and here since. These knives were part of curriculum we had to learn all the way to Filipino black belt, along with a lot more of the straight knife material. (and well – just forget about the odd, opening process with the balisong. I mean, seriously, why bother? Unless of course you are a weapons-historian-collector-artison of some sort, and I am not.).
As soon as I held a karambit in my hand, it felt wrong, off taget and much of what they asked me to do was clearly unnecessary when compared to all the other straight blade training. As a former Army and Texas cop and an investigator most of my adult life, from arrests, cases and forensic training, I learned the straight knife is far superior and can do just about everything better and simpler than any curved knife, just about any time. The curve of the blade is a handicap. The more the curve, the more the handicap.
I cringe every time I see a seminar attendee with a karambit training knife. I know that this person will have an extra and harder time doing even the most simple, obvious, historically-successful knife moves. My worst-case-scenario knife training course is built to be as simple as possible, as fast and effective, with the obvious and simple tools mostly found, which are the straight blades. Curved blades complicate simplicity. I recall the first time a karambit-teer showed up in a New England seminar in the 1990s. He was a rather famous, Silat guy (great guy, very friendly) showed up with his curved plastic trainer. He had difficulty doing even the most simple, primitive knife things all day long. He couldn’t stab deep which is forensically the most successful, quicker kill method. It was plain to see that when slashing, his curve and tip would get stuck in body parts. Did he know he had to improvise and construct more steps, more “work-arounds,” to get the otherwise, simple job done . Through the years the curved blade trainees still appear in my classes. The curve group often has to pow-wow off in the corner to make a simple thing work, because they are mentally and physically confined from the curved shape of their knife. Their adaptations always involve extra work-arounds and extra training and extra movement to do something otherwise done simpler with the straight blade.
What do I mean by simple, proven moves? One quick, simple example? Studies by the Marines in 1980s – while researching World War II knife tactics in the South Pacific, the USMC study group discovered that the uppercut stab to the groin/intestines, and, or the diaphragm/heart and, or even up inside the jawbone – the common hooking uppercut was a very successful. Successful, but oddly, not really emphasized and in most cases not taught. Yet, Marines instinctively still did them. Naturally. Natural. This research led to the implementation of these very natural moves in training courses. Instinctive. Natural. Simple. Now, can you do this natural, straight knife, saber grip uppercut into these areas with a karambit. You can’t plummet a karmabit as deep and powerful into these vital parts as a saber, straight knife. The karambit will require extra training and still won’t garner the same success. All forensic specialists will list deep stabs as very deadly.
Perhaps the biggest point to me is that the human race has evolved to hunt, grow, prepare food and eat with a straight knife. Ever try to eat a steak with a karambit? Cut and butter bread? I have a friend who likes to tease me on this point and threatens to send me a video of him eating a steak with his curvy karambit. I’ll bet he can! I’ll also bet he can eat a steak with a torn, tin can too. The point is, THE EXTRA WORK INVOLVED! Not that you can or can’t, but rather – what is the smartest, easier tool to use. And we can’t forget, simple kitchen cutlery has reeked international havoc in self-defense, crime and war. In civilized countries over 99% of all knife violence is with simple, STRAIGHT kitchen cutlery. A pretty good success rate for the straight blade.
The Dueling Test. And needless to add, take a guy with a straight, blade knife in a saber grip versus a guy with karambit and let them duel. Who do you think has the advantage? Spar it out. Take two Superflys and spar this straight vs. curved karambit. I can tell you from doing that for decades and organizing/ref experience that the saber grip straight blade has the advantage. Not that dueling is the end-all knife encounter, oh no, but dueling can and does happen. And listen to this – this is telling – even the beloved Superflies still teach and use a whole lot of straight knives too! Most still teach more straight knife than curved knife. Why bother if the Karambit was God’s gift for knife work? Wouldn’t they give up on straight blade material all together?
“Oh but my Dijon! My Dijon does so many arm manipulations-catches with the curve.” Do you think you will really hook and push around so many angry, adrenalized arms with a karambit as Dojon Superfly does in a cooperative flow drill on Youtube? And by the way, a straight knife, saber or reverse grip can push and pull arms around too.
Stress Quick Draws Issues. A comprehensive knife program covers stress quick draws. It seems all modern knives now try to have some pocket catching device that facilitates a quick folder opening. But some don’t. Sometimes people get their folder out,but in the heat of the fight, can’t open right away. The folder then must become a palm stick until it can be opened. Your smart- selected knife when folded, ends should protrude from the top and bottom of the fisted hand, and it should support the hand inside the fist for punching. I have a pretty big hand and have tried punching heavy bags with various karambits. Due to the needed space for the curved blade, the folded karambits are quite wide and have all hurt to punch with. This “wideness” and pain when punching alert is on my “what-knife-to-pick” checklist and another survival reason/problem to avoid the karambit.
Spinning the Karambit? a simple ring in the handle alone does not a karambit make. I have seen some folks calling a straight knife with a ring in the handle a karambit, just because of the ring. No. The blade has to have a significant, curve to be one, ring or no ring. Now, to what degree of a curve, I can’t precisely say. I think you know one when you see one. The ring is for mostly for retention and…spinning. On spinning, another dubious karambit characteristic or which even the Karambit sellers page warn:
“Karambit spinning is showy, flashy and useless without significant training, practice and understanding of the application. New users should not spin karambits until they’re intimately familiar with their blade, its balance, the way it fits into their hand in various grips and while in motion AND, most importantly, until they’ve received instruction.”
Further, “…many people don’t use the smaller muscles in the hands and it takes time to build them up.”
Confessions from a top karambit salesman! And there you have it from the source. More stuff to do. More muscles to build. More unnecessary stuff to do.
Spinning and chopping off limbs with the Karambit? A friend of mine, unusually consumed by all things “distant” and eastern, oriental and Indonesian, was telling me that a butcher he knew, using a very stout, very big karambit with a sharp outside edge, could flip/spin the curved knife and chop off the limbs of large animals in his shop. It took some practice, but he could. The message for me was that the karambit could, if worked right, with the right momentum, chop off big things in a power spin. CHOP! I just nodded my head. Whatever. “TOOK…SOME…PRACTICE.” But such takes more work, awkward applications, etc. and stouter karambits with a sharp outside edge. If it were a big folder? How do you have a sharp, outside edge like this and carry it? Not in a pocket, but in a sheath…in case you know…you have to lop off a criminal’s hand. I am quite sure the butchers of the world will still prefer regular straight knives and cleavers for more efficient, consistent success. What will be this butcher’s tool of day-to-day preference. The easy one.
Is it skill-with-weapon-alone? Martial artists like to argue that all you need is skill with just about about weapon that will win the day. “Don’t be so picky, Hock! It’s the skill with the weapon that really counts.” And Captain America makes a garbage can cover a deadly weapon! The only problem with that is, none of your pupils are Captain America (or Musashi). And you are not Captain America. And if you are? At 38 years old, you won’t be at 48. “It’s skill with the weapon that counts”…this is a very martial artsy thing to say, and to over-believe. And a lame excuse that could lead to the acceptance of lesser weapons. “I’ll just work harder and forever with this one. After all, it’s not the best, but…but skill. MORE SKILL!
Leaders, decision makers certainly in the military and policing, obsess about finding and authorizing the best weapons they can, not settling. (They often fail in their selection process because these leaders are often there from the “Peter Principle,” promoted beyond their means and are inept.) But at least they know they have to try, equip and train. Citizens too must fully investigate their guns and knife choices too, void of hyperbole theory, fads and…looks. Develop your best skill with the BEST WEAPON choice.
As retired cop and martialist Bret Gould reminds us, “And as we get older, many forget , it was Sam Colt that made men equal. It took superior ability and training to be a samurai only to be killed by a peasant with a gun. The equalizer.
End Users. Sellers of Karambits often have much sales-pitch, yadda-yadda about the cancer-curing perfections/wonders of the curved shape. They often proclaim that just about everyone on the planet already uses, benefits and really needs the really curved knife. Everyone except the real people you see, you know, work with and read about and watch in documentaries, etc. I suggest you challenge every line of the sales pitch because in the end, it is not the selection of the practical.
Butchers don’t use or mandate them.
Surgeons don’t use or mandate them.
Cooks don’t use or mandate them.
Hunters don’t use or mandate them.
Fishermen don’t use or mandate them.
Soldiers & Marines don’t use or mandate them.
People don’t use or mandate them to camp.
Workers with real labor jobs won’t use-mandate them.
People don’t eat with them (this is a big point).
Prosecutors and police LOVE to see you use them.
If they are so perfect and superior for the end-user, why are they not used by all humanity almost of the time? Try giving a farmer, a factory worker or a camper just a karambit and see how long that idea lasts before they trade out for a straight blade. Give a carpet layer a karambit and he will quickly resort back to his classic carpet knife.
Some right-angle bends remind me somewhat of carpet knives. The sharp, 90 degree bend of the carpet knife, its position to the handle, is superior to the more curved karambits, otherwise thousands of carpet layers would have invented karambits or they would all use karambits. They don’t. Some folks, like carpet folks, work projects that require that sharp point and a hard, direct bend, for the maximum position of their hand grip for the job. As a detective I have worked some serious, slashing assaults involving common, carpet knife attacks.
Losing the natural, hammer grip stab. There seems to be an inert, intuitive hammer fist application with a reverse grip stab. Think of the power of just a hammer fist. It alone breaks many boards, many ice blocks, many pieces of cement. Imagine that force delivering a straight knife stab! But wait! Now hold a karambit in its reverse grip application, as in the curved end looping out of the bottom of the hand. Gone is all the hammer fist intuition. Gone is the simple, practical, stab and its extra power shot potential. .
Getting Stuck. The hooked blade, like an axe…gets stuck in people and things. The curved point is called a hook, because…it hooks. I see the karambit practitioners simulating cuts with figure 8 patterns and X patterns in the air, or in front of partners. No contact. Do they not realize that with contact, their point embeds into the person and the bones and the clothing, gear, etc.? X pattern over. Figure 8 pattern over. And now they must learn extraction techniques, unique to that knife. Extra stuff to learn. (this is also true with the tomahawk/axe craze. On first impact? THUNK! NO more slap-dash, flowy, dancy, prancy axe moves, just a big-ass axe (or knife) sunk into bone structures.
As a Karambit fan replied, “Oh yeah, not that the Indonesians didn’t use them successfully for hundreds of years… Well, Mr. Fan, what is the difference between “successfully” and something “more successfully?” I think the karambit was a minority knife among the straight or straighter blades. And indig, Indos used some of them within whole tons of straight and only slightly curved knives and swords too.
If so wonderful, I wonder why they ever they bothered with the straight ones? Anyway, the first time I saw a bunch of the regional weapons in the 1980s, I noted how many of the straight ones had pistol-like grips which was interesting and comfortable. The most famous area one is the Kris, small and big. Straight but wavy. The story goes that the waves cut more, but while I was “over there,” I learned that each wave had a religious meaning. The shapes of Indo-edged weapons were “talismans with magical powers, weapons, sanctified heirlooms, auxiliary equipment for court soldiers, accessories for ceremonial dress, an indicator of social status, a symbol of heroism, etc.” You hear a lot of historical stories about the how and why of these shapes, some not related to actual fighting at all.
“The Kris remains the most distinctive sword of Southeast Asia and the Philippines and was extensively used. The sinuously waved, straight blade Kris is said to represent the tail of stingray, a dragon, or the winding body of a snake.” I do think the karambit was a minority knife among the majority of straight or straighter blades, such as the Kris.
And lastly, need we discuss the legal stigma again of this Klingon-looking knife. It gets legally bad enough to use any knife for any self defense, but this knife, by its very appearance also causes negative, legal prejudices to the police, the prosecutors, the courts and to juries. Think of it in terms of pistols. Would you rather defend yourself with the “Widowmaker” pistol? Or…the “Peacemaker” pistol?” Yes, these…things…count. In a recent self defense courtroom trial, Assistant District Attorney in Texas Aaron Bundoc also said of the defendant’s self defense use of the karambit, “It was not a self-defense tool as Hernandez alleged.” He said “…a Karambit is a combat weapon designed to gut and butcher people.” Like it or not, (as with guns) or knives, the jury listened.
Look, what do I care about people, their fixations, fascinations and hobbies? Why should you care what I think? Some people love history and weapons. Perhaps you are an artisan? Some people like to crack bull whips, while the whip is on fire! Get a hobby! Get a karambit and mess with it. Do all that extra training. Place it on a rotating pedestal in your den. One in each pocket and on a neck chain. Get the t-shirt and ballcap. Follow the Dijon. Smile. Live long and prosper. These are just my personal beliefs and opinions.
For me, a karambit is a handicap to sheer simplicity and ultimate practicality. People are just too damn hypnotized by the shape, culture, history, hero-worship and system-worship. If you really contrast and compare, without bias and fixations, fandom and fads? What do you come up with? Being that we here are Force NECESSARY, and not Force UN-necessary, no karambits for me please. But please do however continue to show me your karambits. They are all very cool looking. And I certainly will not throw them out of any window. Only, you know…figuratively speaking.
Extra! While I would probably watch this gal juggle marshmallows for hours, WHY is she spinning this Klingon, unnecessarily curved edged-weapon around and Lord knows she cuts herself badly in the end…
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