The Piper Knife System

I stumbled across an interesting knife system yesterday, the Piper System 

Okapi Knife

The system originated in South Africa, and was designed as a counter to the gang violence there, typically involving knives.

The first thing that caught my attention was that the proponents of the Piper System don’t like knives. Yes, you read that right. The system was designed from the ground up to counter knife violence. Also, as people with firsthand experience of the grisly reality of knife assaults, all the swashbuckling romanticism of blades is forever gone.

“Knife fighting is a dangerous and unforgiving endeavor that no one in his or her right mind would ever engage in willingly. Even those who are adept in the use of the blade may emerge victorious and still sustain life-ending injuries in an actual knife fight. That being said, cultivating skill with the blade can greatly increase your odds for survival should you ever have to engage in knife combat.”

The Okapi Knife

The system is also designed around a specific weapon, the okapi, which is a cheap folding knife common to African gangs. As I said before, the weapon dictates your technique. This style is a classic example of adapting one’s technique to suit the unique characteristics of the weapon in use.

1) The Okapi has a dull edge. To adjust to this fact, the style features thrusting motions, with the knife held in icepick grip.

2) The Okapi has a cheap locking mechanism. To adjust to this trait of the weapon, it is held edge inward, so that if the blades collapses out of the locked position, the wielder’s fingers are not trapped.

3) The Okapi is small and dull. Because it cannot cause the damage of a machete or larger sharper edge with just a single blow to say, the forearm, the style targets only vital areas.

4) The Okapi is wielded by gang members, attacking as a pack. Training against multiple opponents is a must.

From the Libre Fighting site:

Scott Babb of Libre Fighting

Libre Principles

1)    Libre is about attacking. It’s not about countering or trying to move around an opponent’s defense — It is about tearing through the opponents defense.

2)    Strategy in Libre involves reading an opponent’s stance, guard, and position and exploiting it.  The practitioner also utilizes footwork, feints, and line-of-sight to break through the opponents defense.

3)    Defense in Libre comes through utilizing footwork to control distance, evade, bait, and offset the opponent. Blocks and/or parries are rarely used.

4)    Libre isn’t about “dueling”; it is about “fighting”. Libre doesn’t try to pick an opponent apart; it is intended to rip them apart in the fastest and most violent ways at the practitioner’s disposal. That is where the term “Libre Fighting” comes from. It isn’t a traditional martial art, it isn’t a “system” or “style”. It is, at its root, simply “fighting.”

5)    Libre doesn’t limit itself to “techniques.” We study ways to use anything around to our advantage. This includes using ones clothing, or the opponent’s clothing, to blind, choke, or distract the opponent. Using whatever is within reach as a projectile. Spitting, biting, pinching, hair pulling, and head butting. Smashing the opponent’s skull into a wall, curb, or table. Libre practitioners learn to improvise to prevail.

6)    Libre is not geared towards the use of heavier agricultural blades. It is geared towards the use of a common folding knife that one might carry on the street. That is why heavy emphasis is placed on reinforced slashes and attacking ONLY vital or crippling areas. The smaller “street blade” simply is not capable of causing tremendous amounts of damage as easily as a heavy agricultural blade. That is why no superfluous cuts or stabs are used. Every strike with the “street blade” must do as much damage as possible.

7)     Libre is meant to grow. It is meant to complement whatever style of fighting the user carries. Libre should ultimately mold to the individual, the individual should not mold to Libre. Practitioners are encouraged to make Libre their own, to use what they have in conjunction with Libre.

An e-book is available here.


10 Responses to “The Piper Knife System”

  1. Oh yeah, Piper. “Blink in the dark and you die”. Another group of guys that espouse the reverese grip, edge in method. Pikal has a lot of value and it must always be remembered that you are not training for a knife duel (rapiers work better for that) but rather as a quick strike option in times of extreme life-threatening danger. I have seen these guys at work before and their stuff is solid. I think Ray Floro’s system is a better option for most of us, but this is good food for thought.

  2. I am good friends with both sects..PIPER and Libre and the SEAMOK knife (The Mahugaw Baraw) is built and based on he same mindset. I will be in South Africa this May doing a few SEAMOK seminars for my good friend Nigel February (founder of PIPER) and also working my ass off in the PIPER ways under Nigel and his Master Guardians. I look forward to sharing this knowledge and my SEAMOK knowledge with those of experience, understanding and an open mind. PIPER is the bad guy . . but given to us by good guys who built their monster from the actions of evil so that actions of good have a fighting chance against mayhem. it isn’t about what gangster is tougher, or what system is better. PIPER is about the study of the enemy near you. They are the are the designer. That’s PIPER. Check my blog for a little South African Rant…


  3. Hey Mike,

    Nice, solid stuff all the way around. I am interested in seeing more of both Piper and Libre, as well as your stuff too. We tend to be a little “provincial” where I’m at (we don’t get out much) but thankfully we can see some guys better than us in action via Youtube, etc. Best wishes with your training, travels, and all.

  4. Tommy it truly is. I am all about simplicity and intent. SEAMOK stands for that, literally


    My entire design is to get people functional now, not later when it can be to damn late. I use my 30 years worth of study in various disciplines stemming from USA Goju to Ilustrisimo Eskrima…all the way to street fu. The one constant is the fact that motion is motion. Nothing more. In SEAMOK I work with my folks on finding their own flow within the blue print given. They will build their own house…hence SEAMOK always evolves on the individual basis. It, like PIPER and LIBRE are hybrids designed by people with life experience in violence. The violence that plagues the cities and streets…criminal violence. That’s what makes this paradigm shit in the arts so crucial and needed.

  5. I wonder how many lives you have saved simply because you operate this blog?

    Good info. I’ll be linking to it.

  6. […] would also try to choose a weapon that is suited to your environment. For Piper knife style, that’s the common Okapi folding knife. For someone living in Florida, it might be a machete. […]

  7. how much are these knives

    • Michael,

      All I know is that the knife in question is a cheap, mass-produced knife, not very high on the quality list.

      • manslaughter Says:

        this is a cheap over the counter knife. mostly used by township youths not only in south africa but in neighboring countries too. well for its effective use, the rule of parctice is that u remove the flip ring so that the blade will be a bit lose from the wooden handle. this helps in suprise attacks which is often the case. the clicking sound when flipped is its unique quality and any experienced gangster knows how to flip it. i have been attacked by gangs carrying this okapi knife and i have protected my self with it as well.its street name is: 3 STARS, this comes from the 3 star looking like things on the handle

  8. Knife fight are scary.

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