Saturday, April 05, 2014

Michael Blackgrave - The Knife (Practical & Tactical)

In a vast majority of cultures the knife has remained a prized and necessary tool. As it was in the beginning the knife is still used in various ways, from cooking to utility work, and everything in between. Within these cultures there remains an element of using the knife for more unsavory tasks, i.e. killing! These combat manifested knife methods are imbedded deeply in the folklore and every day life of the people from whence it came. There are western methods that were forged in the halls of Europe and put to use in the many battles waged there and abroad. The most known methodologies of knife usage for combat comes from the South East Asian Archipelagos, namely the Philippines.

In the Philippines the indigenous arts for the most part are weapon oriented. The mindset is simple, what one can do with his weaponry he can do with his empty hand. With this mindset in tact the teaching process is a simple progression from long weaponry to knife and empty hand. When one learns the weaponry aspects first it transfers comfortably. Empty hand to weaponry does not transfer as fluidly.

The Filipino fighting arts come in many forms. There is Escrima, also spelled Eskrima depending on region and who you ask. There is also Arnis. It is common to hear the word Arnis in reference to the fighting arts in the northern areas of Luzon. In the Cebu regions one usually hears it referred to as Eskrima. There is also another exponent called Kali. The word Kali in regards to indigenous fighting arts is highly debated. Under these umbrella titles there lies systems, Modern Arnis, Balintawak, Doce Pares, Lightning Scientific and so on. These systems all contain various elements of stick work, both double and single, sword play as well as empty hands. Where these and most of the Filipino arts differ from other cultural combat systems is in the implementation and usage of the knife as it relates to the art of combat.

Every instructor who teaches the way of the knife will have their preferences. Some will tout very basic movements as truth while others believe that more is more and that flash sells. I have a firm belief that those who advocate flash have never met the business end of a knife. My personal way of teaching the knife is rooted in simplicity. If it doesn’t have a natural feel to it I will not put it into my personal hard drive, nor will I teach it to my people. Having survived two altercations where I had to deploy my knife I speak from a bit of experience. In each altercation I went right to my basics that I was taught years ago, hit what is available and make it methodical and straight to the point.

Many teachers in the bladed arts covet the duel. The duel as most know is a fickle component in the over all makeup of a bladed art. To advocate dueling is to me pure nonsense. This however does not mean that it shouldn’t be trained. The reality of the knife is in it’s proper usage. The knife is an ambush weapon not a dueling weapon and this aspect should be instilled more so than a one on one duel. The problem seems to be the definition of what an ambush is and the legal ramifications of said action. Most people see the ambush as a skulking act behind ones back, when they least expect it, and it is. It is however something much more. The ambush is also a state of mind that one can manifest when it all goes south. It is the ability to be facing an enemy and in a seconds blink being able to retrieve the blade and put it into optimal use. Within this component lies many features that must be addressed;

  1. mindset
  2. body positioning
  3. the draw
  4. the application

The first aspect is mindset. In a situation where one is truly up against it the proper mindset must be quickly set into place. We call this in SEAMOK the conjuring of the beast. You know it is coming, you can feel it and smell it, now it is time to get the mind right and prepare for business. This conjuring takes mili seconds to achieve and pays dividends in a vast amount of ways. When one is ready to rock n roll it is quiet obvious to any thug that his chosen victim has now become a threat, and thugs prefer victims not threats to their own safety. The mindset of a fighter can truly discourage the most vigorous of tough guys.

The second aspect in the preparedness game is body positioning. Body positioning is crucial, no one wants to be caught off guard when it all goes south. If you feel it and know it’s coming you must shift your body into an advantageous position which in turn will keep your targets off his line and put his on your line. This also leads into a more simplistic drawing of the blade. This act of positioning will vary slightly depending on where your knife is located and whether or not it is a fixed blade or a pocket clipped blade. The same body positioning will also pay dividends no matter the weapon system. It can also be utilized with the empty hand methodologies.

The draw is our third entity that is perhaps the most crucial. When drawing the knife complete and utter confidence must coincide hand in hand with the first two components. If your mind and body is not properly aligned the draw will turn out to be cumbersome at best, and being cumbersome in crunch time can leave one in a very bad predicament. Drawing your knife should become second nature to each and every practitioner of the knife. It is perhaps one of the least trained areas within the bladed arts, sadly enough. When we look at the various carry options you will find several positions depending on the knife itself and the design. You will have straight blades that are sheathed and carried in numerous places, the lower back, down the leg, on a shoulder rig, stuffed in the waste band etc. With a lock blade the carry positions are regulated mainly to pockets. The key lies in the user. How do you carry? Is it edge forward on draw or is it coming out in the ice pick or saber grip? These are the questions we have to answer for ourself. It is up to each of us to perfect not only our EDC [Every Day Carry] but to also perfect our drawing of the blade as well as the application of the weapon. What I have found in the knife community is far to much application with very little attention paid to the carry and draw, which in my opinion leaves the application a moot point. If one cannot get the weapon out in crunch time the rest is for naught!

The fourth component is application. Application of the knife has as many flavors as we discussed earlier. The usage of the knife should follow suit with your drawing technique. If the knife is positioned to come out in the ice pick grip your first attack should be in line with the draw or repositioned to a comfortable point for future use if the situation you find yourself in worsens. The same applies with the saber or hammer grip. When the knife is put into high gear in a simplistic fashion you will see the quickest results. The knife once drawn and engaged should flow in a resolute manner with results far over shadowing flash and hype. It will also prove the safest for the wielder.

Within the application stage comes targeting. Targeting is a key element to any knife application. I am in the camp of hit what is given, that less is more. In this fashion one will stay safer and definitely have less to explain if it ever comes to justifying your actions. The safety factor is crucial. It is a simple mindset that one employs and trains for. In SEAMOK I teach my people the terracing application. It is the act of hitting what is given, staying to the outside of the enemy and working towards the flank. In this way we stay safer by not throwing ourselves into the wheel house of our opponent where anything can and probably will go wrong. If disaster is your game then the inside lie definitely brings doom.

The flip side to the less is more coin is the overkill continuum. There are those who believe that more is more and that the key in knife combat is to inflict as much damage as humanly possible no matter the consequence. While I understand that this action may have validity in a combat zone one must remember that we all are not members of a military unit or working head long in some dirt hamlet far off in Afghanistan. In America, and I am sure many other countries the carrying and use of a knife in self protection can be a pitted field. The overkill mindset and subsequent action can leave one in a physical, financial and legal mess that can tie you up in the courts and subsequently lead to a lengthy incarceration.

People need to understand that the investigation of knife usage when used in a combat situation will be a significant piece of evidence either for or against the user no matter if it appears to be an open and closed case of self defense. In the less is more method one can easily explain having to use the blade once or even three or four times to finish the situation, whether that be in maiming or killing. To try and explain your reasoning behind the thirty four cuts of death to a prosecuting attorney and subsequently to a jury and judge of your piers will be a hard task. The experts are all working for the man, i.e. the forensic specialists, the blood splatter experts, the coroners etc. These professionals will be able to determine the exact blow that expired the individual, the time and the method used. With this being said I challenge anyone to validate their use of overkill. It will not be easy explaining why you perforated the enemy 36 times when he had long since expired on puncture three. If your skilled with your blade overkill is simply a waste of energy and time.

Legalities in any fashion truly suck. We all know this and we all do our best to stay far away from that sector of life. With that being said we as instructors and practitioners of these arts must take a personal responsibility to learn our craft well with practical and tactical methods. We also take on the burden of safety not only for our selves but for others as well. Having these skills is akin to a loaded gun at your finger tip. We know that our skills can and will destroy life if we let them, or if we need them to. It is our responsibility to pass on the knowledge but to also pass on the wisdom of truth as it pertains to these arts and the consequences that may occur in such a time that your blade has to sing.

My father told me a long time ago, “Son when that blade comes out someone’s life changes forever. Right, wrong or indifferent, someones life will change.” I truly understand my fathers words. Whether it is put into use or simply brandished..someone’s world is about to turn. Be smart, train hard, think practical, react tactical!

Mike Blackgrave
SEAMOK Tactical Solutions (TM)
Simplicity with Intent!

For further info, please contact Amo Guro Mike Blackgrave via:

NOTE:  My deepest gratitude to Amo Guro Blackgrave for his kind permission in allowing me to repost this.

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