Picture
An interesting article in the Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine (Volume 10, Issue 1, pp. 1-3, March 2003), although dated, gives some interesting insights into knife attacks

This UK study indicates that 1/3 of assault victims attending the hospital were injured with a knife.  Most have superficial slash-type wounds.  Majority of injuries are to the face, with fewer affecting the upper limb and trunk.    This part is curious, since you would think that there would be slashes on the hands/arms from defensive shielding.  Maybe these were surprise attacks and/or the victims were diminished (or at least unaware or clueless).  11% have multiple wounds, the average number being three – so if you can’t run away or escape, then your best bet is to try and capture or immobilize the weapon bearing limb.  The longer it’s free and swinging at you, the more you’ll get cut.

To better understand the patterns of injury, the researchers then gave untrained soldiers a knife and asked them to attack a human-sized target.   Their attacks followed 3 basic lines -  The Angle 1- a 45o downward diagonal slash from high R to low L (from the attacker’s perspective); Angle 12 – straight down vertical from top of head to belt buckle; and Angle 3 – a horizontal slash from R to L.   These are not too surprising (especially if they attackers were Right-handed).  Most attacks, whether from a club, bottle, knife, or empty hand, are going to come from this quadrant, so understand defenses in that direction (if not all directions). 

Train hard, train safe, and train often.


 
Picture
Was cruising thru James Keating’s MAAJAK World
and happened to see this great video, a historical review of the training and use of the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting knife.  

Some thoughts:

a) There are those that discount the merits of this style of knife due to the handle design. 
The handle is round which makes indexing of the blade difficult for edge awareness and orientation.  This is very true IF you feel the primary purpose of this blade is for
slashing/cutting purposes.  Then edge awareness is critical.  But as outlined in the video, one of the primary strategies for this blade design was the use of the point/tip.  It has a
needle tip which means it’s designed for piercing/stabbing. Therefore it’s perhaps less critical to quickly index the handle so that the edge is properly oriented.  The change to a
flatter, more elliptical handle was an important evolution into the Applegate-Fairbairn fighting knife.

b) Sheonage or “4-corners throw” – Trooper Scott describes a defensive training scenario which results in a broken arm for the “doubter”.  This sounds like a variation of the “Sheonage”or 4-corners throw.  No doubt effective (as described), but generally frowned upon as a standard knife defense vs. a downward stab/slash, since your average FMA player would retract and cut the blocking arm or redirect and attack another target.  
But in historical context, you have to realize that they weren’t training to defend against the average FMA player or really anyone with much knife savvy at all. They were training against the average draftee with little or no blade awareness that was relying on this
weapon as a backup or last resort.  And we have to remember that on the street (vs. competition or dojo) we’re not always facing a “trained” attacker.  But in many ways that’s even more dangerous.

c) Interesting description of the sentry removal technique as “a bit of a messy job”.  That may be a classic Brit understatement.


 
Picture
Are you a resident of La-La Land?  As in living in some fantasy world where everything is good, nothing can go wrong, or "that can never happen to me"?

Unfortunately many people live in this world.  And therefore grossly unprepared to cope when things go horribly wrong.  Case in point - Acapulco.  Let's say you happen to decide on a well-deserved vacation to this tourist hot spot with your spouse, SO, and/or family.  Then this storm comes, the SHTF and things go from bad to worse.  Looking past the obvious needs for food, water and shelter, can you protect yourself and loved ones?  
 
Chances are you haven't been able to travel with a firearm.  Do you have basic empty hand skills?  How about if you need to kick it up a notch?  Can you
wield a stick?  What about a knife?  Or machete? There are some that question the need to spend time on these  "traditional" martial arts in the time of modern firearms.  But I'd sure like to have some basic understanding on how to keep a crowd at bay or protect my family with anything I could get my hands on.

But where would I even get those weapons?  Where's the housekeeping closet in your hotel?  Do they have brooms or mops?  Many have handles that are metal, but even wooden ones are better than nothing. Have you eaten in the resorts fancy restaurant?   I'll bet they have wooden handled steak knives.  Wouldn't be a bad idea to "acquire" one of those in advance, just in case.  If not, do you know how to get to the kitchen?  Chef knives, cleavers, carving knives - anything sharp and pointy.  Is there a local hardware or supply store?  Maybe not at a resort/tourist town, but if you're out in town, keep your eyes open.  In many other countries a machete or brush knife is a common household tool.  Also might be worth acquiring one in advance. Think that's unrealistic?  Think about Rwanda in 1994 (not that long ago).  500,000 - 1,000,000 killed, many with
machetes.
 
So, not to be paranoid, but use your head and be prepared.  As demonstrated in
Acapulco and elsewhere around the world, most places are only 72 hours from
chaos when the "normal" social systems break down from any reason. Get some training.  Firearms are good if you're so inclined and have legal access.  Stick skills like those offered by the Dog Brothers or machete/sword skills as proposed by James Keating.  Hopefully you'll never have to use the skills you develop, but it's better to be prepared.  Besides, it's fun and adds another dimension to your current skill set.
 
In closing, stay out of La-La Land, face some cold, hard facts and be prepared.  

Now get out there and train.


 
Picture
This past Sunday marked the beginning of the Year of the Snake, one of the 12-year cycle of animals appearing in the Chinese zodiac.  According to HanBan.com, “People born in the Year of the Snake are reputed to be thoughtful and wise and to approach problems rationally and logically, seldom instinctively.”  
 

These are also characteristics found during the effective use of the “Snake” series of disarms (although we’d also like them to become instinctive).  There are some that refer to the live/empty hand application as “snake” disarms and when using the weapon a “vine” disarm.  For our purposes, we will refer to them both as a form of “Snake” disarm, since they follow a common principle – the weaving or intertwining/wrapping of your limb around your opponents limb/weapon in order to effect a disarm or immobilization.   These can be applied empty hand to empty hand (for example versus a wrist grab), empty hand
vs. weapon, or weapon vs. weapon. 

Scenario 1 - Hand vs. Hand
If the attacker grabs my R. wrist with his L. hand, I have 2 primary options.  I can start to circle my hand either Clockwise or Counterclockwise.   If I circle CW, usually I get a release or I end up in an outer wrist lock/throw position (kotegaeashi).  If I circle CCW, I either release or position myself for an inner wrist lock position.  Students ask –  Which way should I circle?  It really doesn’t matter.  If you get flustered or confused, just start circling.  At some point they won’t be able to maintain their grip and you should achieve a release.  What if they are significantly stronger, bigger, taller, etc.?  First, don’t let them grab your wrist and clamp down (Duh).  But, assuming they have grabbed you, then you might have to take their mind off of the grip by applying some form of“diminishment”.   Any strike to the face/nose/eyes, a kick to the knee or groin, either of which may accomplish the release without any further snaking. Lacking that release, it may give enough time or distraction to allow you to work on a snake release.  As a wise trainer once
said: “All jiu-jitsu/locks/holds/throws work after you break someone’s nose.”

Scenario 2 - Empty hand vs. Weapon
If an attacker strikes with his R. hand using a stick/club towards the L. side of my head (Angle 1 strike) and I am unarmed (and assuming I have to stay to defend and can’t pull a Sir Robin and “Run away!”), then I should jam or block his swinging arm with both of my palms.  I can then use my L. hand to perform a CCW snake around his wrist, then making a “hitchhiking” motion with my arm.  This should leave the stick either trapped under my arm or ejected.  
 
Scenario 3 - “Weapon” vs. Empty hand
Using the setup from #1, if someone is grabbing my R. wrist with their L. hand (or R. hand, it doesn’t matter) and I happen to be holding a Tactical pen in that hand (in this case a Timberline Lightfoot Tactical LCP, although I also really like the Schrade Tactical), I can use the same CW or CCW snaking motions and use the pen for added leverage or pain compliance.  If it’s especially pointy you get the added benefit of sticking it in their arm (Hey, they grabbed you, remember?).   This same approach can be used if you are holding a knife (as a weapon, although I suppose someone could attack you while you’re chopping onions for dinner) and they grab your wrist.  The length and the edge of the knife now give you added leverage and pain compliance tools at your disposal.  Circle the tip of the knife either direction while sawing and levering down on their wrist. Chances are they’ll let go.  
 
Scenario 4 – Weapon vs. Weapon
If we’re both armed with sticks and they attack with an Angle 2 (high backhand) towards the right side of my head, I can block it with my stick, tip pointing up.  As I start to snake the tip of the stick CW around their stick hand, I feed the end of their stick into my Left hand, trapping it.  As I continue the stick snake, I will reach a point where I can push on
the back of their hand with the stick, while pulling on their stick with my hand, accomplishing the disarm.  (It’s easier to do than describe).

Those are just 4 basic scenarios that demonstrate the versatility of the “Snake” disarms.   With a “rational and logical” approach to your practice of these techniques, you too will appear “wise” in the ways of the Snake.  
  
{Note – the Rattlesnake picture was taken during a hike last October near Bear Meadows Natural Area, Rothrock State Forest, CentralPennsylvania}


 
Picture
I’ve been playing with some Karambit techniques for the past year or two.  I finally picked up an inexpensive model from United Cutlery to practice with after talking to guy at one of Pete Kautz’s “Seeking the Path” events a few years ago.  Since I just wanted to dabble and I wasn’t planning on carrying it, it’s hard to beat for $12. 
 
Then I made a wooden trainer so I could practice with a partner without fear of laceration.  The wood’s not as forgiving as a high-density foam trainer, but I’ve used wooden trainers for years with great success. A little sanding and shaping, maybe a little duct tape to prevent splinters and you’re good to go.  
 
My most recent purchase was the Boker Plus “Batman”. For years I have been keeping my eyes open for a reasonably priced Spyderco Civilian, but gave up hope and dropped $30 instead on something that I could easily pocket carry, but still use for Karambit-type techniques.  The only two drawbacks I see with the Batman are that it’s fairly bulky and the clip attaches low on the handle.  This means that it’s fairly obvious and sticks out of the pocket more than I prefer.  
 
Now I use each of the devices to practice a 35-step kata that covers a range of blocks, strikes, slashes, punches, and hooks.  Both left and right hand, as well as holding the knife in a forward or reverse grip. It’s interesting to see how the application of the technique changes slightly depending on the blade orientation, but using the kata as a conceptual starting point, the movements can be used with not only these hooked-blade
devices, but with straight blades or even empty handed.  As with most katas, there are a lot of things to discover under the hood, if you only take the time and broaden your
perspective.

If you haven’t considered any of these kinds of curved implements before, pick one
up and give it a try.  Not only is it fun, it can also broaden your martial horizons.

 
Picture
No, this doesn’t refer to the latest sex-o-drama on HBO that combines the intrigue of the DaVinci Code with Hill Street Blues (if you’re under 40 you may have to Google it). I’m referring to the Dequerdes training “Cross”and Elbow “Shields”.  I constructed my first Dequerdes back in 2008.  It started out with the basic “T” pattern, which gives 2 high lines.  But eventually I smacked it too hard with a stick and broke off one of the arms.  So when I reconstructed it, I made an additional arm that’s seen in the picture.  This one gives the option to play against a mid-level attack.  It is interchangeable with another straight arm that can be mounted high.  With this setup the 2 vertical pieces and one arm are cemented in
place.  The only downside is that the removable arm tends to work loose after several minutes of activity and has to be repositioned. Nothing insurmountable, but I’ll probably just construct a 2nd one that has 2 fixed arms in the high positions and then make this one with 1 permanent mid-level arm and 1 high arm.  
 
The Dequerdes is an excellent training device for solo practice.  You can use sticks,
knives, empty hand, flexible weapons, practice lock flow, target specificity, and let your imagination run free.  Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time practicing various Elbow Shields and Destructions on the moving & spinning target.  It’s great for building reaction speed and precision with your elbow strikes.  You can find additional  information on both the training cross and elbow shields at either James Keating or Pete Kautz’s site.  Look for the “Dequerdes: Filipino Training Cross”and “Hellbows” materials.


 
Picture
I originally picked up the Boker Plus G4 for a couple of reasons - 1) I didn’t own any knives with the Wharncliffe-style blade and 2) I’m a fan of Chad Los Banos designs.  The 3 7/8” Wharncliffe blade is really good at one main function – sticking into things.  If you’re a fan of Drawpoint-type tactics or “pecking/picking” actions in a reverse grip, then
this knife would be attractive.  I’m not so keen on the perfectly straight edge.  It was fairly sharp out of the box (not great), but since there’s no
belly on the knife, you don’t get a good bite with the blade during a slicing action or draw stroke.  I see it serving in a defensive role only or as a backup, I’ll rely on something else for daily cutting chores.  The large, flat handle makes it easy to manipulate and it carries light for such a large knife.  The 4-way clip is a nice feature (although it’s so stiff it’s hard to attach to anything!) for ambidextrous carry.  Overall it’s a solid, lightweight knife that will only set you back ~ $26, so if you don’t like
it for EDC, it will easily find a place in your glove box, backpack, or briefcase.