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Author Topic: 3 Myths of the Knife  (Read 8509 times)

Hock

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3 Myths of the Knife
« on: December 20, 2004, 03:01:04 AM »

The 3 Deadly Myths in
Unarmed Versus Knife Fighting
An Important Letter To You by W. Hock Hochheim

Controversy!
Anytime martial artists get together to discuss hand-versus-knife fighting, arguments abound and proclamations of "that will get you killed," banter back and forth. It can get hot! Usually, none of the speculations are based on criminal and military histories, but rather on anecdotal observations and shortsighted, non-scientific testing. The commonly dropped "get-you-killed" techniques? The arm grab and the knife disarm are usually the first to go, in amongst other tactics like verbal skills, footwork, strikes, blocks, passing and takedowns. All these come and go in and out of favor.

   These debates really hinge on three critical points or myths, from which all false arguments crumble. The first litmus test is

1) The "Myth of the First Event."

2) The second is the fallacy I call "The Myth That All Knife Attackers are Experts,"

3) and the third mistake- "The Myth That All Knife Victims Stop and Drop on First Contact."


The Myth of the First Event.
When a martial instructor declares that a counter-knife technique will not work, he has usually tested it against his fully prepared, trained, athletic practitioners. In this test format, the knife stab or slash is the focused, first and main event of a staged experiment. His class "Superboy" attacks and the instructor cannot pull off the intended move. Then he declares," See! You can't do this." These
naysayers next eliminate it from the curriculum.

   But, what if your counter-move occurred on the fourth or sixth event of the fight, instead of the first? What if the first event was a chair or lamp across his head? Your subsequent knife counter, once impossible in the isolated dojo test against Superboy, suddenly works with a little Kryptonite. Try catching the weapon-bearing limb of your most athletic student in a class. Hard, huh? Next, hit him in the head with lamp and then try the grab? Not so hard. Stick your fingers in his eye. Easier?  Never dismiss a counter-knife tactic solely on the fact you can't do it on the very first event. First event responses against a knife attack should be blinding and stunning strikes as you evade the blade. Eye attack! Eye attack!


The Myth That All Knife Attackers Are Experts.
He slashes tight and rapidly. He stabs like a pumping machine. His other hand strikes, pushes, pulls and confuses you. Your worst nightmare is the trained knifer who also has previously set you up in landscape of disadvantages, including the element of surprise. The greatest armies of the world have been defeated by surprise and strategy. But the real, good news is that we usually fight against those deemed in professional training circles as "the zero-to-moderately-trained" opponent.  And then, more on the zero end of the spectrum.

   This non-expert makes a whole host of mistakes. In fact, he does the opposite of what I just suggested. He doesn't plan. He is over-emotional. He over-extends his arm in power stabs and slashes. He fails to adequately use his free hand for support. Worse for him, better for you, he is out-of-shape, slow, uncoordinated, drugged or drunk. You should train for the worst, but never dismiss tactics based solely upon the Expert Attacker Myth. Things you think are impossible against Bruce Lee, work on Delbert down the street. You must deminish Bruce down to Delbert's level.

The Myth That All Knife Victims Drop At First Contact
Fencing. The opponent epee touches the other. The arena buzzer sounds. The toucher wins and the touchee is theoretically…dead! The crowd applauds. But the dirty little secret in this fencing match is one split second after the winner touched the opponent with his epee? The loser touched the winner with his! But the match was already over on…first contact. Yet, both really "died" in but a second, didn't they?
 
   Wait! It gets even more complicated because in a street or battlefield fight, did either of them die at all? Lets move that edged weapon clash over to the typical prison fight, where victims are stabbed and slashed 10 to 40 times and are still fighting! Lets look too at a common street fight, or a military close quarters battle. We find again that multiple wounds and prolonged fights are the norm. A modern day knife fight is more like football game contact than a fencing match. Rarely will a first contact stab or slash put an opponent down. Plan on fighting long after a wounding.

Past the Myth
How do many of these fights end? Research and experience tells us that one main way is the arm wrap of the weapon-bearing limb. Once slowed or stopped by a block, a successful stab, or a slash, the arm catch becomes more of a possibility. Next, you will find that verbal skills, footwork, strikes, blocks, passing and takedowns account for most of the success stories. all technical terms for a chaotic scrap which is much more ugly like "football-with-a-knife," than any pretty dance move.
   
   The latest trend in police training and in some martial circles is Force-on-Force. FOF is suiting up and fighting full speed, low drag. The idea is that if the tactic doesn't work in this rabid experiment, it won't work at all. Not so, macho grasshopper! The suit protects the opponent from realistic injuries that would truly stun and break him down. The man in the suit must still act wounded, or you will lose the true value of the tactic. Realistic acting on the part of the attacker is a mandatory consideration when evaluating a technique.
   
   As in all fights, knife attacks are situational. We live in a world where an obese, 54 year-old, New York City bus driver grabbed the arm and disarmed a knife from a 20 year, drug-pumped, passenger. How can anyone say that knife disarms and arm grabs are impossible? These events occur all over the world on a weekly basis.

    When you are lost in the three myths, you foolishly remove viable tactics from training doctrine and you rob your students from learning life-saving possibilities. A good teacher knows all environmental, hand, stick, knife and gun options. Cheat first. Cheat last. And cheat in the middle. And never give up.

Wu_W3i

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Re: 3 Myths of the Knife
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2004, 10:27:26 AM »

Great! Really nice writing... I especially like the part about the missing reacitons when getting hit in sparring with lots of protective gear on.

But time for sleep now, been sitting here reading on the website all evening  ;D
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Jim

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Re: 3 Myths of the Knife
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2005, 12:40:18 AM »

"The latest trend in police training and in some martial circles is Force-on-Force. FOF is suiting up and fighting full speed, low drag. The idea is that if the tactic doesn't work in this rabid experiment, it won't work at all. Not so, macho grasshopper! The suit protects the opponent from realistic injuries that would truly stun and break him down. The man in the suit must still act wounded, or you will lose the true value of the tactic. Realistic acting on the part of the attacker is a mandatory consideration when evaluating a technique."

This is for me spot on, I got my wake up call for this out of the Valdosta training camp in 2003, doing fast draws on the baton using soft batons, easy no worrys. However started this exercise using night sticks, by God they made us get out of the way. In training the fear of injury is lost to a great extent due to the protective gear we all wear, this is something not to loose sight of. It certainly made an impact on me and the way I train, and made me re-evaluate what I do. Also the dental bill made me think as well. I know this is about knife training but the lessons learned span mediums....Jim S
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kroh

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Re: 3 Myths of the Knife
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2005, 08:23:48 PM »

Hey there All,

Great article!  The myth of the first cut is what we usually see when we have knife combatives training at our school.  During the training you would usually hear people say, "Aww man...I guess that would've done me in..." and then they restart whatever it is they were doing.

They never stop to think that the little cut that they just did to the other guy might be debilitating and demoralizing, but it is possible that brains become subserviant to balls under adrenaline and the guy still keeps comming.  In the beginning of their training they are so taken up by their own fear of the weapon and it's effects that they superimpose that fear into the mind of the attacker.  They don't stop to think of a truly commited attacker that won't stop until they get what they want.  Luckily we have a great instructor who knows his stuff and keeps us honest.

Although this is the opposite end of the coin...I recently tested in Kempo  and the test included a large weapons portion.  One part included a knife scenario versus some one weilding a stick/club.  When we were designing the scenario for the test, all sorts of junk happened.  It was supposed to be that i was attacking with the knife and the club weilder struck my WBL (weapon Bearing Limb) and tried to strike me in the head.  When we were putting things together we saw that sometimes i could avoid the bash and cut and sometimes he would get me off the bat and really stun me and proceed to knock out the "lights" (thank you sof-stix).  So we ( my training partner and I) did some research about real world knife encounters.  Man...the abuse people take as either attacker or defender and still be able to keep going is astounding. 

Anyhoo...The test went well and as Hock is fond of saying at his seminars...



I had my karate moment...

Thanks all...
Walt
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MantasDaga

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Re: 3 Myths of the Knife
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2005, 10:12:39 AM »

Nice word Mate,now your teachin them reality and cheating, that's survival and comon sense is'n't it ?

Gumagalang,

Mandatus Samuel A. Ibe
MantasDaga
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Hock

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Re: 3 Myths of the Knife
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2007, 06:38:24 AM »

Review

Hock

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Re: 3 Myths of the Knife
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2007, 08:04:12 PM »

Hock,

Thanks for bringing this up again!  It's a good refresher!

Strength & Honor,

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Ed Stowers

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Re: 3 Myths of the Knife
« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2007, 02:30:25 PM »

The myths seems to be built upon certain special circumstances that are taken to be generalities for all situations.  Then they get repeated ad nauseum over and over.  Finally, some people just come to accept them as axiomatic truths.

I remember having a conversation one time with a guy who was a sport fencing type, who told me that if a modern sport fender ever met a medieval samurai in combat, the fencer absolutely would win every time.  "What makes you say that?" I asked, somewhat nonplussed at what I thought was a radical departure from reality.  "Because before he could draw that katana, I'd have pierced his heart with my sabre," he declared confidently. (Don't you just love how he suddenly inserted himself into the hypothetical situation?)

Okay, granted, he was only 22 years old, probably insecure, and had little life experience to relate from.  Certainly I feel he had never met any angry medieval samurai.  But he was already out there building this myth with no scientific analysis, just his own impression and braggadocio.  I think it safe to say he never faced a samurai or a katana in a life-or-death fight (or he wouldn't have been there).  And he totally ignored a lot of particulars, like hydralic bleedout rate due to injury type, i.e., the cutting of nerves, organs, ligaments and muscle tissue by a long edged blade rather than merely impaling them with a rod, and most of all the personalities and mindset of the combatants involved.  From all of the police and military stuff I have studied, attitude or mindset is probably the most important factor after effectively hitting the target first.  While I can't speak for all fencers, I would generally asert that it is highly probable that a professional samurai warrior dedicated to Kenjutsu and the Code of Bushido--willing to die just to get an effective strike--would most likely have a stronger "warrior attitude" than a sport fender, and he would likely not be stopped instantly or just lay down and die, even with a heart-spearing epee thrust from his opponent.  The fencer might beat him to the draw (first strike), but I feel pretty certain in such a hypothetical situation the samurai would certainly cut the man in two before he bleed out from the epee stab (the effectiveness of the epee is far less than that of the katana).  In the words of the Old West, some men just take more killin' than others.

Oh well, I digress, but it seems very typical of how these kinds of myths get started when the truth is that nothing works all the time, but some  things do seem to work more often than not.  These generalities, however, cannot take into account every special condition.  Any such factor could change the outcome.  In the case of professionally trained fighters, a mutual kill is often the best one can expect.  But most fights do not involve these people.  Most fights are by untrained angry or scared people.  So, now the possible outcomes become more varied.

There are guys out there who say you will absolutely always get cut in a knife fight.  It's a myth.  If that was an absolute fact, then how do you explain people who emerge from knife fights uncut?  It may be rare, but it does happen.  Therefore, you cannot validly asset you will always get cut.  You most probably will be cut, or you might be cut...or you might not.  That's the trouble with these "common sense" myths.  They are absolutes and not specifics, and every encounter has very specific factors that modify it.  I would say you should probably be mentally prepared to be cut in any edged encounter, just in case...but it is not a 100% foregone conclusion.

I think some kind of BS filtering must be applied to such myths..from H2H myths to edged weapons to firearm myths.  People do not just stop fighting if they are invested in killing you unless you cut the brain stem somehow or they finally just run out of juice.  They might, but most likely won't.  The instant stop rarely ever happens.  You should expect they will keep fighting until they go down...and you'd better watch them even after they're down.  Many a man has been killed by a fatally wounded opponent.  Yet there are all of these "experts" out there who know beyond a doubt what will happen in any given fight.  If you don't think so, just ask them.  They are the most brilliant fight-savvy people around...just ask them, they'll tell you all about it. 

There are so many myths.  Like all myths, they have some grain of truth, but they are not the whole truth.  I'm an expert in nothing myself, except perhaps being me, but I am skeptical of a lot of know-it-all "shop talk."  There is some truth in all of it, but it is far from a complete picture.  I have had too many "sure things" collapse on me to believe in a lot of absolutes where combat is concerned.

There are some valid oldtimer adages, however, that are true, but they're built generaltiies, not absolutes.  Thus they are bits of wisdom, not myths.

One of my favorites is from the old cowboy days:  "There ain't no horse that can't be rode, and there ain't no rider that can't be throwed."
« Last Edit: June 20, 2007, 02:35:28 PM by Ed Stowers »
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TLE

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Re: 3 Myths of the Knife
« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2007, 04:44:58 PM »

Agreed. Many, many people survive knife attacks. I know a few. Question- I have been to many of hocks seminars and we never do any FOF. While I obviously get a lot out of them, I do feel sometimes there should be a little FOF. Am I misguided here? By the way, I am looking forward to  attending the H2H Seminar in Chicago in September. It's been a while!
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redcap

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Re: 3 Myths of the Knife
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2007, 09:00:34 AM »

I have always found FOF when it comes to edged weapon defence to be rather dubious in value.  As someone once said, no matter how real you try to make it, you both know neither of you intends to actually kill the other person and that is a huge factor in the situation and the outcome.

It is also a bit one sided. I can take a training knife and make just about anyone look silly, depends on the parameters I set for the demonstration.  I can make myself look like greased lightening but it proves very little.  I know instructors who make a living doing this, very quick and so forth and the naive and inexperienced all go "Wow" on cue but really it is all just speed x distance x reaction time stuff.

If I was to attack a student full speed, full force I would lose the student and not really teach him anything other than how savage a knife attack can be.  If I were to defend against the same student and strike him with the force I would use in a real fight, well I already lost him when I was the atacker so this will have to be a new student because I'm going to lose him too!  Perhaps even end up in court.

So with the absence of real intent to kill and the fact true full speed full force actions would be dangerous, even lethal then what is the point of pretending?  Why not slow things down so that you can work on the finer points (if that isn;t a contradiction...you know what I mean)

On this topic, I recently had a debate about the Bulletman Suit used in FAST by the former Model Mugging bloke.  I'm sorry but even with an excellent explanation as to the why etc...I still cant take that helmet seriously.  It really is far too unrealistic for me.  Anyone used one of those suits or done the course and care to comment?  How do they fair in knife scenarios?  I doubt Mr Bullethead could see where he was stabbing!  Cheers Redcap.
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Ed Stowers

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Re: 3 Myths of the Knife
« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2007, 01:53:25 PM »

I've takent the basic empty-hand FAST course, but none of the others, so I can't comment specifically on the knife stuff.

I know those Bulletman helmets look huge.  Looks like you're fighting something out of a PACMAN game.  The basic FAST course was just that: basic.  It is designed for someone who has no martial arts experience at all (none is really needed, either).  It is really focused on simple self-defense striking in the "scenario" phase.  I think they only taught two strikes: a double finger-gouge to the eyes--sort of like a crane's beak blow--and a straight knee shot to the groin.  Nothing fancy at all and very, very basic.  The only purpose of the Bulletman suit is safety.  You end up gouging those eyes and hitting that groin as hard as you can, while the BM tries to wrestle you down or strike you.  The thick padding keeps the "attacker" from getting seriously hurt and it also keeps you from damaging your fingers/knees, which is easy enough to do once you get hyped and go at it hard.  You do get immediate feedback from the suit when you hit it.  You know when you got focused and your shot rocks the attacker, as well as when it does nothing at all.  That becomes apparent very fast.

I had an interesting experience doing it, and I kind of enjoyed it.  When three of those guys come at you at once and you have to hit them full power and not get pinned, you realize pretty quickly that the fight is on you're going to have to simplify your options for striking way, way down.  You simply don't have time to think of many "options."  What they call "adrenal stress" is really adrenaline plus a lot of other stressors that Hock talks about all the time--not necessarily adrenaline related, but it's a simple term they use to encompass it all.  As the stress builds, you find you can't think about many techniques at all, so you resort to the most basic and effective ones, and you find you tend to use them over and over.  These are not really "perishable" skills.  Like eye gouge, palm heel and knee.  No fancier than that.  Stuff you don't have to practice over and over once you know how to hit someone with them.  The main point is to get you scared and familiar with the effects associated with an attack and your ability to still keep hitting.

It's not like a martial arts match at all; it's more like you trying to knock the hell out of a big linebacker while keeping him from taking you to the ground.  But the BMs won't stop attacking you until you hit them hard enough that they feel that withouyt the suit they would have been stopped.  I have never worn the suit, but several of the Bulletmen told me that even with all that padding they still often get their bells rung by trainees who are able to channel their fright/excitement/adrenaline into hitting power.  It is also very tiring to fight the BM when you don't stop them right off the bat. 

I will say that I thought the FAST guys did an excellent job of going over some areas of self-defense that are often ignored, like how to avoid a fight in the firs tplace, how to detect when a person is a threat, how to establish your personal space, and how to use assertiveness instead of aggressiveness--all thosed things that should take place before blows are ever struck.  For people who had no self-defense training at all, I thought it was an excellent way to start out.  Those are the ones most in need of basic self-defense.  I thought it did that fairly well and quite simply.  It also used basic scenarios.

But yeah, it does feel like you have these big rubber robots attacking you.  I think sometimes you end up hitting the Bulletmen a lot harder than you would real people, just because you know you will have a tough time hurting them, all the hard edges on their bodies are padded, and they never replicate many of the effects such strikes might actually have (like broken bones or reactions to nerve strikes).  On the other hand, they are trying to teach the newby to keep fighting once the fight is on and to get the "feel" of being stress out and scared--that they can still be effective even in that state.  I found that to be pretty valid for the basic course.  I haven't taken any others, so I can't really adress how they do with grappling or weapons yet.  If I get around to any of those, I'll let you know what my impressions are.
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redcap

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Re: 3 Myths of the Knife
« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2007, 04:04:12 AM »

Ed, thanks for the indepth response.  I can see the thinking behind it all and so on, but I still can;t take the suit seriously!  However, having used less protection I have to admit you get tired of being the bad guy pretty quickly!  Cheers, Redcap
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shastana

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Re: 3 Myths of the Knife
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2007, 07:05:44 PM »

Thanks Hock for shedding light on this one because I've been dissatisfied with the take from some knife fighting experts.

When I was a young Kenpo trainee, I was told to keep the barrage going until you are certain there is no fight left in the attacker.  No ifs ands or buts.  Weapon or no weapon, period.  And real world has verified this mindset for me.

But, somehow, in seminars taught by other (no Hock people) well renowned knife experts, I've heard the expert say:

-"you are going overboard a bit, he's dead"  as I continued to smash his head in with my heel.  Can you guarantee it?

-"this is supposed to be a stealth knife kill, let the knife do the work" as I elbowed and hammerfisted his head and neck after cutting.  What's he gonna do, just fall over and die?  He is still standing!  I want him down and out.

-"focus on the knife technique more" as I was throwing a low kick to the groin to bend the big ox over to my height.  Ox's reach was almost twice mine, this 'technique' is no good for someone my height, so I make it work by punting his nuts into orbit.

-"striking with the pommel will just make him angry, cut him" as I slammed the forehead with the pommel to take him over.  Angry?  Wow, I thought you said to ignore emotions.  Well then I'm angry too and I'm going to KO this bastard.

-and my favorite, "shhh shhh shhh, just die quietly now, shhhhhhhhh", WTF?? die quietly?  I will NOT die quietly MOFO. It's just a flesh wound....and until I'm dead, I'm fightin'.

Anyway, I've heard it all and most of it is just plain negligence and lack of follow-through logic. 
Thanks for the perspective,
JC
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Hock

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Re: 3 Myths of the Knife
« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2010, 02:21:18 PM »

Oldie but goodie

sarguy

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Re: 3 Myths of the Knife
« Reply #14 on: August 31, 2010, 08:36:07 PM »

Thanks for bringing threads like this back up top, Hock. I've dug down and found some conceptual gold in the archives, but they're often so old I'm reticent to practice forum necromancy and resurrect them by commenting.
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Dawg

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Re: 3 Myths of the Knife
« Reply #15 on: August 31, 2010, 08:40:03 PM »

"forum necromancy"

I like that!

I also like it when Hock brings back these blasts from the past; always worth re-reading.
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arnold

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Re: 3 Myths of the Knife
« Reply #16 on: September 01, 2010, 06:18:53 AM »

Oh, please comment. You've made sense so far. And besides, with still have Bryan to srew stuff up. So even after a six pack of Saint Arnold, you would still make more sense than he ever did. 8)
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whitewolf

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Re: 3 Myths of the Knife
« Reply #17 on: September 01, 2010, 06:38:41 AM »

Sarguy- you sure are right- the old threads have a hell of a lot of info in them- this one specially-
I am attempting to study more and more about knife defense-going over the old knife threads really is great-
In my neck of the woods there are no schools that instruct knife fighting/defense at all-
I am going to Hocks seminar end of sep to gain more knowledge-been to 2 of them all ready over the years-need a lot more
Oh if u can get Hocks CD on Indoian knife fighting 2nd one-By Mr Belding-great and the unarmed defense section is very good-

WW (ELB) Speed of light
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