How many of you out there in reader-land have a knife on you right now? Carrying a knife every day as a normal part of life has been pretty common behavior for a significant chunk of human history. Think about it: Your grandfather’s grandfather probably had a small knife on him most of the time…and so did his grandfather. They are incredibly useful tools that always seem to be in demand. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a situation and heard someone say “Anyone have a knife?”
Most of you probably aren’t carrying a Case pocketknife like my grandfather, though. You’re likely carrying some sort of “tactical” folder. It’s probably a tool for mundane chores most of the time but I’m willing to bet you figure it could be employed as a defensive implement in a pinch…but have you ever actually tried to draw that knife and deploy it in a hurry with somebody pressuring you?
I’ve done a number of classes in firearms but, like most of you, I’ve had next to zero training on the defensive deployment of an edged weapon. That being said, I do have enough sense to know that there’s a ton of goofy stuff out there labeled as knife training. For starters, I have yet to see or hear of a knife deployment on the street that looked anything like, well, this:
So where does one go to get instruction that isn’t goofy Hollywood-dojo crap?
Chris Fry would be a good start. You may remember Chris’s name as one of the forces behind the RCS Pocket Shield I reviewed last year. At the Tactical Conference this year Chris taught an exceptionally useful block of instruction on small knives. As with the other blocks of instruction I’ve covered, this was a distillation of Chris’ program into a bite-sized chunk of learning where people could walk away with some very useful information about small knives and how to use them. It wasn’t going to make any of us experts with a small edged weapon, but you’d be amazed how much folks learned just by having access to some trainers and Chris’ common sense approach.
The first great big plus of training with Chris is that he rolls in with a number of trainers for popular knife styles that students get to play with. One of the first lessons you learn is that any folding knife that carries tip-down is a pain in the neck to actually deploy one handed. (And given that one hand will be busy trying to keep some violent brute off of you, plan on needing to get the knife in play using only one hand) Chris had some tip-down trainers as well as tip-up trainers and experience using both while I was wrestling around with John Murphy (my partner in Chris’ class) convinced me that I would never carry a tip-down knife again. I also discovered that I greatly preferred having a knife that opens with an ambidextrous stud as opposed to the hole that Spyderco tends to use on their knives. The stud is just easier to reliably index and open when I’m using one hand to hold off an angry-looking Marine.
Chris talked a good bit about how the knife is carried for access, pointing out that the traditional practice of carrying it in the back pocket is far from ideal as it makes drawing with either hand difficult (if not impossible) and tends to make the strong arm vulnerable during the draw attempt. Odds are when you reach back to get a knife carried on the strong side you do so with your elbow pointing out, making a nice hole that someone with even a little bit of skill can use to get a better position on you at best and perhaps completely disable your strong arm at worst. Carrying more toward the centerline, however, makes access by either hand much easier and allows a draw that doesn’t leave your strong arm a ripe target for somebody with a couple of month’s worth of BJJ under their belt.
Chris spent a good bit of time working through the draw and deployment of the knife step-by-step and then having the students work with their partners to work through the process with some opposing pressure. (Always a sign of quality instruction) In working through the drills he put us through you begin to see the value of Chris’ approach. The people we were working against were similarly normal folks doing what came naturally…not carefully selected acolytes providing best-case resistance to make some goofy technique look plausible. Chris’ stuff just flat worked time and time again.
When it comes to the topic of knives, I know a lot of us are stuck thinking something like this:
Unfortunately that’s not how it works in the real world. It’s not like the game of rock, paper, huge-knife that ol’ Mick Dundee played there. (And in real life you don’t win the attractive blonde either…bummer.) A small blade can maim or kill you very easily, and perhaps do so without you even realizing it at the time. More on that another time…
On the plus side, though, with intelligent gear selection and a little bit of knowledge you can defend yourself very effectively against a number of serious assaults with a small knife. A small female being assaulted by a guy my size doesn’t have much hope of winning through sheer physical strength and would need considerable skill as a fighter to overcome the size and strength deficit I have on her…but arm that same small female with even a small knife and Chris’ instruction in the use of it and a bad man my size or bigger would be in serious trouble. As would any accomplices.
Do not underestimate the power of a small knife. If I took nothing else away from this course I learned how dangerous a small knife could be in close quarters. Look at Chris’ schedule and find a date and location that works for you and learn how to effectively employ that practical tool you carry every day as a last-ditch defensive implement. Don’t just get the tool, get the knowledge to go with it.