T Nation

Edged Weapons


I know this forum is mostly geared toward combat sports, but this came up briefly on a recent thread and I thought it might be worth discussing. Edged weapon attacks are a very real threat facing both LEO's and civilians alike. I feel that most responses being taught out there today are sadly inadequate in the face of a real attack and based on some terribly inaccurate ideas about what really happens in a knife attack.

Unfortunately it seems that many of those who acknowledge this fact appear to take the stance that an effective unarmed response to a knife attack is not really possible and that escape is the only hope. While escape is generally the best option it is not always immediately practical in a given situation, particularly where one has a duty to engage the threat. I train in a system which addresses this question to my personal satisfaction but I am curious as to what the general thinking is out there in the MA/Combatives community. Thanks.


One of my instructors, Richard Ryan, has some great stuff on edged weapons (unarmed against, impact vs edged weapon, projectile/firearm vs edged weapon, edged weapon vs edged weapon). His book "Master of the Blade" has some great insights into different types of grips, different styles of blade attackers (and strategies against each), concealed carry positions, and much more.

Being unarmed against an edged weapon is a worst case scenario (especially if the blade wielder knows what they're doing). In all likelihood you will be hurt and very likely injured in such an attack (and will quite possibly need medical attention), but if you train right, then hopefully you'll at least come out with your life.

The truth is that people are right to suggest fleeing the situation (especially for civilians). If that is an option, then it's probably the smartest thing to do. It's not the only option though.


even while being taught the 'knife fighting/disarming' aspect of MACP (modern army combatives program) the instructors adknowledged that they would never intentionally go against an opponent armed with a blade if they had nothing.


i agree with this.

curious as to what system that is?


I agree 100% that if you are unable to avoid or deter an attack in advance, escape is your best option whenever practical. This is especially true when a blade is present. Even an unskilled person will do severe harm with a knife in a frighteningly short time. I have no illusions on this point. That said, a few thoughts: a) "Street" stuff often happens at extremely close quarters, very suddenly and often after the attacker(s) has cut off any easy exit. b) People often don't realize that they're being attacked with a knife until they see the blood, they often think they're being punched. c) Even if you have a weapon available to you, it can be surprisingly difficult to access/deploy that weapon at such close quarters and under stress. d) Even if you can access a gun and put rounds on the guy, unless you hit him in the CNS, he may not immediately stop attacking, especially if he is goal-oriented, high or just plain crazy.

Taking these things into consideration I think it is reasonable to think that you may need to mount an effective unarmed response to a knife attack before you either trade up to a weapon of your own or GTFO. That being the case I think we need to begin by believing that the situation is winnable (if far from ideal) or we will defeat ourselves psychologically before we start. Yes, a knife attack is serious shit and you will almost certainly get cut/stabbed, likely quite badly, but that doesn't mean you can't survive and come out on top. There are never any guarantees in a fight, to think so is naive and, given the choice, escape is best but I don't think we should ever begin from the assumption that we have no chance. Just my 2c.


wtf idiot. did you not read my post?

what style do you train in?


HolyMacaroni- Yeah man, I read it I was going to respond in 2 parts, I just got interrupted. In my last post I just wanted to clarify that I don't think it was a good idea to up against a knife unarmed, just that it is possible and might be necessary. I'm wicked tired so I got to rambling. Sorry.

I train in a modern, reality-based combatives system taught by long time LEO who has been through some things, including several edged weapon encounters. I don't believe that anything is the end-all but I think this provides a overall package much more complete than anything else I've had the opportunity to train in.

BTW when you said "i agree with this", did you mean that you agree that it's unfortunate that people believe this or that you agree that an effective unarmed response is not really possible? Don't mean to be an idiot, just not sure which you meant.


[face palm]


Batman, what system do you train in? Your reasoning/line of thinking is very much in line with what I've learned.

Here are some other options against an edged weapon (in case you might not be familiar with them):

-encumbrance- put some sort of obstruction between you and the opponent to buy yourself time to react, or try to...

-evade- if at all possible try to talk them out of wanting to attack you

-equalizer- deploying your own blade or obtaining a weapon of similar value

-exceed the threat- deploying a weapon of superior value (he pulls a knife, you pull a handgun, he pulls a handgun, you pull an assault rifle, etc...)

-engage- if none of the above is possible (and neither is escape), then don't waste your time trying to disarm the attacker, instead try to protect your vital targets as best you can and immediately attempt to take out the attacker's CNS, sight, and/or oxygen supply, then get the hell out of Dodge.


Sentoguy, thanks for the suggestions, both in terms of reading and tactics. I train with Darren Laur at Personal Protection Systems. Understand however that I am a raw beginner with only about 100 hours training time in this system, most of which has been spent on HTH skills and combat mindset. My ideas on edged weapons are primarily based on Darren's writing on the subject as well as about 25 hours of police edge weapon counter tactics training that I participated in (mostly as the attacker), which was based on Darren's principles. My thinking is also influenced by Tony Blauer's S.P.E.A.R. and Richard Dimitri's Senshido, although I have not trained directly in either system. My understanding of Darren's work is far from complete, so any faults in my reasoning are likely mine and not his. Everything you have suggested above and in some of your other posts is similar to our teaching and, I believe simply logical regardless of training theory. Some things we focus on upon engagement are: get off the line, attack the attack, lead with speed (closest weapon-closest target) and follow up with relentless forward pressure driving vicious compound attack until the threat is neutralized or stunned enough to allow escape. For edged weapons and HTH we key responses off of attackers elbow/arm/shoulder movement and jugular notch as opposed to hand/wrist movement, as the former are much slower moving and less deceptive than the latter.


Tony's stuff is great stuff. He's been friends and training partners with my instructors Walt Lysak Jr. and Charlie Lysak for years. Many of his concepts come from training with my instructors (and their father Walt Lysak Sr.) and vice versa. His stuff on the mental/cerebral side of self defense is really top notch. If you ever get the chance to check it out I'd definitely recommend it.

I haven't got a chance to train with Tony yet, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time before he comes to one of the iCAT conferences.

Those seem like sound engagement elements. I like the focus on simplicity and directness.

Sounds like a good system. Maybe I'll have to do some research on it.


I did a S.P.E.A.R. seminar, and it seems to work pretty well. Never applied it with a live blade, but I have done some shock knife work with it. It's similar enough to MCMAP and my LEO training that it integrates well into my overall training.

On that note, shock knives are a great training tool. They really make students respect the blade and take notice when they get tagged.


god i hate the shock knives.

the guys at the fighthouse on benning have a sick fetish for them.

eff electricity. mace me anytime plz


When it comes to edged weapons, the various Filipino systems of eskrima/arnis appear to be among the most practical. I'm not personally a fan of most modern military combatives; too many folks assume that if a system is employed by some army, it must be effective, but modern militaries devote very little time to HTH combat.


Don't blame the system for the failures of the inexperienced, I doubt an arnis novice would fare well in H2H either. Those who spend time on MCMAP (I can't speak to other combatives) are as deadly with a knife as any TMA practitioner.

If you'd like a demonstration, I do still have a box of shock knives...


I can't speak on MACP/MCMAP or what have you from experience, but my understanding of most modern military combatives is that they are based on simplicity, directness and violence of action. They seem to focus on a relatively small number versatile, high percentage techniques that don't require perfect execution to do the job. If I am wrong please set me straight, military guys.

Above all seems to be emphasis on offensive mindset and the ability to improvise adapt and overcome. IMO those are solid concepts in a real fight, particularly if you have a limited number of training hours in which to get good enough to significantly increase your chances in a worst case scenario. Most TMA's are just too complex to try to apply under stress in a surprise attack, which is of course the most likely scenario, either on the battlefield or the street.

Kali/Escrima etc. looks as impressive as hell and the guys who have done a lot of it are likely badass. I'm imagine it's effective, if you could execute it well, but it seems very time consuming to learn, especially to get good enough to apply it under survival stress. At least that was my feeling when I tried it out years ago.


You're pretty dead-on with that. Some higher belt students learn some more versatile techniques, but even then there aren't that many. Most of what is there is focused on getting the pointy end into the other guy as fast and as many times as possible. Not a lot of slashing, protect the blade instead of waving it in front of you, and learning a good prison rush to get the knife into the side/armpit of anyone who is wearing armor.

After that, it's being willing to take a minor hit to score a kill, which is where the shock knives come in. You'd be amazed how much your technique changes when you're actually afraid of the other guy's blade hurting you.


I'm not talking about practitioners, I'm talking about the systems themselves. Modern military combatives tend to be very basic, because modern soldiers don't have the time to devote to a comprehensive HTH/CQC method. Their training time is typically measured only in hours. Eskrima was developed in an environment where edged weapons use is common.

It began sometime in the late 16th/early 17th centuries, as a synthesis of native blade arts from the Central and Northern Philippines, blended with Spanish fencing. It was constantly tested and refined over a period of some 300 years, where eskrimadors had to use their skills to fight rival tribes (like the Moros--the Muslims of Mindanao and Sulu), Sino-Japanese pirates (the wokou or wako), the Dutch and English, and ultimately the Japanese, during WWII.

Now, please forgive my ignorance--what exactly is "MCMAP"?


MCMAP is the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. It is a synthesis of martial arts adapted into a combatives system for use in combat gear, while fatigued and under stress, allowing for a full range of situationally appropriate use-of-force responses. It includes unarmed, knife, bayonet, rifle, baton, and improvised weapon training, in addition to study of warrior cultures, character and values training, body hardening, and PT and mental toughness training.

There is a basic belt system (tan, grey, green, brown, several degrees of black), with tan belt being achieved in boot camp by all Marines, grey belt being expected of all Marines before becoming an NCO, and green belt being expected of all infantry Marines.

The system is often knocked because someone sees a tan belt class in boot camp learning a (poor) breakfall, or some kid gets in a bar fight and gets his ass kicked, but those who continue their education in MCMAP are for the most part extremely aggressive and well trained fighters.


Was watching a class tonight (too advanced for me to participate) working knife defenses. The instructor & the most advanced student worked the 2nd half of the class with a live knife & things got reeeal careful & slow right away.

I have been dying to try a shock knife!