Archive for knife self-defense

Does the X Block Work?

Posted in Commentary, Princples and Theory, Real Life Combat with tags , , , , on January 9, 2011 by bigstickcombat

The Oft Maligned X Block

Reader James posted the following,

In Dagger Disarms part 1 they show only two blocks that “should never” be done in the real world. Note that they show only one photo for each and do not show or are aware of the follow through of these techniques they say not to do. The X-block in Jujutsu is a soft block, it does not hold the arm there but merely receives the arm and then moves it to the side as the force is coming down.

You see, in the Filipino martial arts, the X block has got a bad rap, probably even worse than that of the maligned judo chop. I think the Dan Inosanto Filipino Martial Arts book helped to bury the X block. The average Filipino martial artist can show you a dozen counters to the X block, especially when used against a knife.

Years ago in the Philippines I met Perry Gamsby, an Australian who had moved to the PI. He was telling me how on his first day on the job as a security guard, he ended up chasing a thief through the market. The thief suddenly whirled, drew a large knife, and thrust it up toward Perry’s stomach.

“I blocked the knife with an X block,” Perry told me with a laugh. “The one they tell you never works.”

Now one possibility is that the story isn’t true, but I believe it. But how do we explain the fact that an X block, which isn’t supposed to work, did in fact stop a knife attack?

I think the reason may be that when we train we are fencing. When I have the training knife, I am light on my feet. I may feint, withdraw, then leap back in to “cut” your extended arm. As trained fighters we are both doing this sort of strategy. We are cagey, tactical, mobile, elusive.

X Block: Fact or Fiction?

But what happens when I see someone brutally attacking my mother and there is a knife in my hand? Tactics, feinting, double thrusts, evasion, etc., all go out the window. I am not thinking of counter moves. I now have what Amo Guro Blackgrave refers to as “intent.” The person in this frame of mind (enraged kill) is stronger, but also, his moves are more committed, and although they are more likely to be fatal, they may also be easier to counter.

How many people say the knife can’t be countered bare-handed? I certainly advise against it, because we’ve all seen how poorly real counter-knife scenarios go down in training. Yet we also know that there are people who have survived knife attacks bare-handed, so it can be done. Maybe the reason for the seeming contradiction is the difference between dueling in training and intent-to-kill on the streets.


Dennis Martin on the Tactical Folding Knife

Posted in American Arts, Real Life Combat, Weapons with tags , , , , , , on December 1, 2010 by bigstickcombat

I’d like to direct you to a fascinating web page on the tactical folding knife, written by Dennis Martin. He comes across as a very knowledgeable guy, with a ton of first-hand experience, as well as an encyclopedic knowledge of third person accounts of real life self-defense.

While in South Africa I’d heard a story about a guy using a Spyderco to cut through a car roof. I mentioned this in Springbok Arms gun shop during a chat about knives, and one of the customers, whose name was Ron as I recall, told me that he was the guy. An engineer for South African Airways he used his Clipit for numerous work-related cutting tasks. On his was home from the airport once Ron came upon an accident, and stabbed the Spyderco through the car roof, then ripped it open like a tin can, freeing the trapped driver. The knife was ruined afterwards, but did the job.
In another case, a chap we’ll call Chris, stops his car at the “robots” [what the South African call traffic lights]. A mugger opens the rear door, gets in and takes Chris in a chokehold, levering him backwards severely. Fighting desperately, Chris manages to access his Spyderco, open it and flails blindly backwards. By sheer luck he rams the blade right into the mugger’s skull, penetrating with instant, lethal, effect. I don’t know the exact model, just that it was a compact Spyderco.

The Spyderco Civilian and Trainers

Mr. Martin Discusses the Merits of the Spyderco Civilian Hooked Blade Knife

Although I found the Civilian interesting, it wasn’t until a senior SAPS Officer, Colonel Mike, alerted me to just how effective that radical knife could be. The blade is visually intimidating. This can be a deterrent, and enable you to win without fighting.


Mike, one of our course graduates, was on a Bodyguard assignment, and entered the elevator of a hotel at the car-park level. The two characters who followed him in fitted the profile of local street scum, and he went to Condition Orange. One stood facing him, and as the doors closed his partner produced a craft knife and started to open it. Mike had already palmed his Civilian, and commenced proceedings with an elbow-smash to the jaw of the closer threat, then flicked open the Spyderco. At the sight of the curved blade the knifeman dropped his blade, and almost beat it to the floor, cowering in a foetal position on top of his compadre. Mike transferred the Civilian to his left hand, drew his Glock 26, and covered the pair until the elevator reached his floor.

As mentioned above the stated function of the Civilian was to allow a minimally trained officer to get out of a hostile situation fast. So the fundamental technique envisages the Civilian being used passively, just covering up, or, shielding, the aggressive limb will meet the blade, and will be on a curve whichever the direction of force. “Curves equal cutting”. The limb will “cut itself” as it attacks

Regarding fragility, well this case demonstrates that the Civilian tip does the job….

A guy we’ll call Dan, has picked up company payroll from bank. He is carrying his Civilian in his hand, but not as a tactical precaution, more like you carry your keys and twirl them. He is attacked by two gunmen. The first grabs his arm. He opens the Civilian and goes in with a lowline ripping strike. The point enters the inguinal area, rips right through and cuts his belt off from the inside! Man down, instant fatality. Dan slashes at the second robber as he legs it… just missing his back.

Should You Carry a Second Knife?

There are a couple of reasons to carry a second self-protection knife. If you are pinned down in a grappling situation, you may be laying on top of your knife, with the full weight of two bodies preventing you from accessing it. A second blade carried on the other side, can be the solution. Another idea is to carry a deep-cover knife as a last ditch weapon, in case you are taken prisoner and disarmed.

Defensive Knife Technique

Thrusts Are Essential to Stopping an Attacker

Another factor was that in my ongoing research I was fast reaching the conclusion that slashes were not the best fight-finisher with a compact knife. To stop an amped-up, committed attacker you need thrusts penetrating the body cavity, inducing involuntary collapse.
To illustrate how slashes are not always the answer, another case from RSA: Anthony, a graduate of our VIP Protection Course, and a professional self-protection instructor is leaving the gym one night. As he walks across the car park he has his Glock in a moon-bag, looped over his shoulder. Out of the shadows he is pack-attacked by three muggers. He quickly draws his Spyderco Harpy and goes to work slashing the thugs as they try to grab him. After a bit Anthony pauses and tells them “I’m cutting you, look you’re bleeding” The would-be muggers check themselves, realise they are indeed in a knife fight, and hastily run off.

The Saber Grip Is Not as Effective as the Hammer Grip

By the way, Bob [Kasper] designed the serrated thumb-rest specifically to accommodate the Sabre-grip, as, at the time, he was heavily favouring this Styers-influenced technique. However, after engaging in a lengthy program of intensive, reality-based knife training, Bob found certain weaknesses with the Sabre grip. He went into print and published his new conclusions, reversing his previous view. This is the mark of a top instructor, who puts tactical truth before personal ego. Although, the KFF was suited to the Sabre grip this in no way limits the use of other grips. The standard, or, “hammer” grip works fine, as does the Reverse grip.

Folding Knives Are Not the Best Choice

Having done quite a bit of this type of training I came to the conclusion that the Tactical Folder is not the best bet to defend your life. Under intense psychogenic stress the first place affected as the neural surge and adrenal dump prepare the organism for the life and death battle, is the fingers. With a folder you’ll be trying to dig the weapon out….with the fingers. You’ll be trying to flick open the blade….with the fingers. Finally you’ll be trying to then shift to a more secure grip….with the fingers.
These days my chosen self-protection knives are all fixed blades. The Kasper Companion, a Push Dagger, or, a Hideaway. The tactical folders discussed above are all great knives. There are many other superb TFKs, and I own a substantial collection, but the ones above are those I selected to look after me in various interesting places, and, more than once, they provided peace of mind in a tense situation. I still own them, and loan them to guys on courses. I had a great time training with them, but in my opinion, the folder has evolved into a modern pocket knife. There is still a place for an easily carried, handily accessed knife for those workplace, garden, household and general tasks.


In the cases cited above, the good-guys managed to use their TFKs with sucess under intense stress. However, we don’t have a library of cases where guys failed to get their folders into action, but there is no doubt this has happened. In training and planning for our self protection we must play the percentages, and folders are not the primary choice for a weapon to be deployed under conditions of intense pressure, at extreme close range. In my opinion, as far as self-protection is concerned, the arc of the TFK is over.