Practical Small Knife Skills with Chris Fry

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.

Chris Fry demonstrates achieving maximum range with a small knife to keep bad guys at bay.
Chris Fry demonstrates achieving maximum range with a small knife to keep bad guys at bay.

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.




  1. Last year I attended a one-day Defensive Folding Knife class by Michael de Bethencourt (Bobo), best known for his snubby training. Outstanding, and yeah, changed how I thought about what, how, and why of carry and use. Good bit of force-on-force training with drogos.

    Mostly Spiderco but used some other styles as well. Like any good defense-for-layperson class (yes, both boys and girls in the class) he taught a small number of very effective (but quite NSFW) moves and drilled-drilled-drilled. I recommend it highly.

    Todd G
    (not that one, the other one)

  2. After a couple of George Mathis classes trying to get a folder out like you, I’ve switched to carrying a small fixed blade at left AIWB on a static cord. Much quicker and more reliable to get out. Also doesn’t have the failure mode of it not getting locked and the close back on my fingers.

    1. A small fixed blade is certainly light years better than any folder you can find for the close-range tangle that is most likely to happen in real fights. If it is legal in your area to carry one I would certainly make finding a good one a priority. Personally I carry a Clinch Pick made by BanTang. A more economical version of the Clinch Pick is available as well, although it’s not quite as sharp as the BanTang version.

      Craig “Southnarc” Douglas had the major input on the design of the Clinch Pick and it seems to be widely regarded as one of the best designs for its purpose. Another good option would be the Ka-Bar TDI Knife designed by Greg Ellifritz. In class Chris mentioned that his wife carries a very small CRKT fixed blade every day…and when you use even that small of a knife in conjunction with the techniques Chris teaches it would be extremely effective.

      A bonus to the very small knives like the CP or the TDI knife is that they are often small enough to avoid being defined as weapons by the laws of many states.

      1. For small fixed blades, I’ve got a Timberline Lightfoot Mini Pitbull. Solid, 3″, small, and can be mounted handle up or down for easy access. I’d certainly trust it for hard duty more than any folder I own.

  3. After a course with Paul Sharp, I really, really want a fixed blade. I never did get the wave trainer to deploy properly. Stupid Ohio knife laws.

  4. If you get the chance, the Filipino Martial Arts have some really good techniques with regards to the use of a small blade.

    For an everyday folder, I find the cold steel rajah works well. it has a thumbplate that pulls double duty as a normal thumbstud and a poor man’s Emerson, it’s built like a brick shithouse, and its 3.5 inch blade strikes a good balance between utility and intimidation.
    For fixed blades, I use a boker/coye Ridgeback that disappears when worn horizontally in the appendix region.

  5. *** something about knives in this article…
    FOLLOWING IS NOT A FIX: ….”The panel also offered some new recommendations,
    such as requiring serial numbers to be etched on shell casings for ammunition; requiring any person seeking a license to sell, purchase or carry a firearm to pass a suitability screening test; and to allow — at a judge’s discretion — the opportunity to temporarily remove firearms, ammunition and right-to-carry permits from a subject of a restraining order or civil protection order”….

    1. Murder Suicide ( *Public / Private)
    2. Victim Indiscriminate Public Attack
    Some standard Compound screening protection procedures…
    1.With a school such as Newtown Sandy Hook, there was no fence(smallest pupils can climb in or out with mild difficulty at worst) around the school allowing implied representation and signifying adherence to “approach” and “leave” “correct protocol”, and thus some screening fence, official entrances, and paths.
    Neither was there a buffer distance for parking cars from these official entrance exits and paths !
    2.Location was not good in Newtown, particularly it appears for the size
    of the school area, most of it bordered waste-land or farms without
    proper line of site clearance.
    (3. After hours lighting is another)
    Metaphorically the same method type of tactic as fire-exits!

    It appears too that security for large numbers of people present in the one location (the principles of troubles breaking out) does not have in a country with firearms the correct fast response of “unarmed handler hand to hand security”(school or movie theater) in FULL armor against “high powered rile”(quite a heavy lump) , aside whether there are
    trust-able personnel whom can carry concealed weapon as caution.

    Obama should stop citing Australian statistics, they are not a point!!!
    Crudely it can be expressed for 100 years as:
    Australia: 75 percent total homicides by “beating and non-firearm weapon” – max.
    population density (Sydney) 1/4 of USA environment (never more than 50
    gun homicide ever p/year in 100 years (one exception of 80))
    USA: 75 percent total homicides by “firearm” – in past 10-15 years has decreased
    from 8 p/100,000 to 4 p/100,000 of population with same mapping trend as Australia because of GPS,Internet,High dpi camera,mobile phone (Australia had CAD introduced in police vehicles apart DVP scrambling , CAD is Computer Aided Dispatch to incidents or other instant information alike an internet).

    (Off side parity to contrast) Too , mass killing in Australia without a firearm has occurred since 1996 and 2000 many times!
    As far as Homicide and massacres “fire as homicide” is usually around 2 to
    4 per year but of late in the past decade it’s 20.4 !!!
    Just some of them….
    (this one may only be concealment) 1991 “one article entry” The Pearce family
    – 1991
    We all know how it got to 20.4 p/year for the decade….

    Australians don’t have ANY “right” to defend them-self or their family, there are
    no actual rights and also because they would be mute, because a set of
    rights requires having the right and forceful ability to uphold them(such as” right to bear arms against the government”), it is a process determined “after the fact in court after mandatory charge” for any incident involving use of force by an ordinary citizen in Britain
    and it’s commonwealths, and thus as mentioned in other comments, Britain and its Commonwealths are a “Monarchic Fascism” and “not a democracy(you vote for economic handlers)”!

    Australia , South Africa , and Uganda have all been under the same compulsory
    “Commonwealth law standards” and particularly, of “POLICE” you like to
    say , one of Britain’s Commonwealth policeman of Uganda “shot over a
    million people with his own hand!!!!!”
    Secondly Bullet proof vests(that passive thing you don’t mention alike housing front doors) have always been illegal too (semi automatic military style weapons have
    not always been illegal … hmmmm think about it!!!).
    It must be such a pity to John Howard he hasn’t lunched with Mugabe and Amin.
    (During the 1977–1979 period, Uganda was a member of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.)
    Idi Amin did “half of” in less than a decade as head of Britain’s
    Commonwealth state what Stalin took 30 years to do on his own people!
    Never mind Queen Hoddle of Strathfield in Cairns 2014!

    Queen Elizabeth lunches with Idi Amin(Idi Amin Dada Oumee) of Uganda “July 1971”
    President Mugabe Banished JUNE 25, 2008 (Zimbabwe – Rwanda)

    Of British politics showing the way so to say, “John Howard and the heads of state of security Attorney Genral and Governor Genral banned the firearms and changed the law , NOT THE PEOPLE by any lobbying or referendum” It has more non democratic method to it than Gough Whitlams dismissal in 1975 when the Australian senate blocked
    supply of funds for the ALP that was voted into government.
    After blocking supply, the government was dissolved by the head of state of
    Australia the Governor Genral Sir John Kerr, causing the famous speech
    by Gough Whitlam on the steps of parliament house.

    “Well May we say God save the queen , because nothing will save the Governor Genral, the proclamation you have just heard read by the Governor Genrals official secretary, was counter signed Malcom Fraser, who will undoubtedly go down in Australian history from remembrance day 1975 as Kerr’s cur”
    There was no democracy about it, it used the public outcry and shock-wave more
    alike propaganda to grab the moment and use it to remove personal
    empowerment *rights(Human rights).

    …”That, in its essence, is fascism–ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.”… — Franklin D. Roosevelt —

    In this following video at 6:21 John Howard makes the statement Australians do not have any rights!!!!

    How can you entertain, listen to or compare to a tyranny you fought in your war of independence to be the USA ?!

    More than this, how can you entertain the UN (United Nations) about
    firearms(why bother listening to that panel of fascists), only two other
    countries beside the USA are a democracy in the UN panel, those are
    France and Russia !!! There is the odd bod, Iran, an Islamic Religious
    roughly the same as either)!
    The UN only operates like the “RFC” specification for internet, just paper tigers, or ISO international standards body. it is not a force that rushes in for anyone the moment there is a political injustice or other such problem, neither is it
    independent of national influences !
    This being the biggest mistake the Australian people make about either “firearms” or “democracy” !
    Gough Whitlam’s Australian Labor Party government was dissolved in 1975 “by
    decree” because the senate “blocked supply” of funds by vote(more
    opposition senators than in government side) causing nothing being able
    to be done by the then voted into “Economic power” Labor Government.
    Consequence is, Senators now swear an oath to not never block supply before taking office!
    What Sir John Kerr the Governor Genral did was not democratic , and is the power level against the Australian government at present as any of the other Governor Genrals are. In 1996 that, the then Prime Minister of Australia John Howard did in 1998, “was not democratic of any form”, it was seize the moment and use the propaganda !

    The USA firearms problem is about democracy and it’s safety as much the implement and its use and availability itself.
    The Australian people have no idea of the illusion the Canadian system is,
    and how much it is regulated behind its back by the “Commonwealths of
    Britain constitution” in that being any of those countries can be
    brought down to Idi Amin’s or Mugabe’s political ways.
    More than this, some government security systems’ actions in Australia and other
    Commonwealth countries resemble Rohm’s third reich “bashers” , bashers
    are a pass time illicitly usually of people using them alike a hit man ,
    but these rare incidence of government security having a word are like
    Rohm’s SA because the general threat with it is labeling entered into
    the government records against them.

    note: Australian Statistics, firearms down 12 percent , knives up 11 percent!
    One country has immensely restricted gun laws since 1996 the other somewhat has always unrestricted so to say…

    When power is removed from people over to the government, the needle of safe
    across to genocide of the people shifts from one side to the other alike a bush-fire(wild-fire) danger rating.
    Bushfire warning rating goes…

    Australia actually sits at the start of the “HIGH” level. It would not take much
    e.g. alike a Adolf Hitler or Idi Amin(Commonwealth head of state) to
    cause real problems(truthfully less)!
    It does have a “government bashing squad” specialist technique similar to Rohm’s SA of NAZI Germany for varied intricate purposes !
    What’s more , the world has never stepped in to intervene in any such situations through history for anyone country until they are bothered by the same people, that’s why the Australians are fools !!!
    More than this, the “one punch” law is because around 6 homicides per year are a “one punch” incident whether a direct kill with the fists or the persons head striking the ground. Since 2000 there have been around 100 deaths, but they never count how much there is permanent brain damage to the level of uselessness in the
    statistics too because there are many other tools in use that are not a firearm.
    In short Australia presents a “dishonest” statistical data view to the world (misrepresentation) of homicide,manslaughter,attempted murder or brain damage.

    …”let me paint the picture in order to create the illusion…just let me paint”….

    So we have anti gun lobbyists saying if we take away ordinary peoples
    fire-arms we stop massacres, but we do know when governments have total
    control at that level of gun control we start to find injustices that
    lead to conflict, massacre or Genocide!

    But somehow the “anti gun lobbyists ambiguate massacre and genocide” and in doing so are justifying its “usual” root cause, that of the government(administration
    and management system apparently for the peoples purpose and good) being too powerful for the people to control.

    Now if we look at the Rwanda genocide in the 1990’s of up to a million people, we can give them they did not practice any gun control , but “up to and at least
    three quarters or more of it was committed using machetes or pieces of wood” not fire-arms to kill them!?

    “What the” !!! How does this work to ban guns in Rwanda in that situation (Hypothetically) because that is the anti gun lobby claim !!!
    The anti gun lobby does have one minor point, they had not banned fire-arms in Rwanda !

    …”That, in its essence, is fascism–ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.”… — Franklin D. Roosevelt —

    A few years(1993) before martin bryant committed “the Port Arthur Massacre in Tasmania Australia in 1996” , Because of three semi-automatic fire-arm massacres in previous in Australia ( Hoddle street 80’s , Queen street 80’s , Strathfield Mall 91 ), fire-arm licenses involved sitting a test of around 50 questions and going to license training lectures a couple of times a week before doing the test for a fire-arms license!!!
    Australia had also removed armalite and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns from ordinary licensing as good as banning to the general public.
    Up to 1993 a firearms license involved a background check before grant and payment for a year’s permit, without test, and allowed, any semi automatic fire-arm (centerfire, rimfire, shotgun) with detached magazine including short rifles such as M1 carbine and Ruger mini 14 and 30 round capacity magazines rifle or shotgun, However, pistols and automatic weapons and heavy armor peircing calibers were not allowed, pistols and machine guns have never been allowed since around year 1900, these are an extremely rare grant with national security clearance for special purpose with immense restrictions on handling presence keeping and use from around 1900 !!!
    What Howard did was no more “democratic” or a proven point than when Gough Whitlam had his Australian ALP government dissolved by the Governor Genral of Australia in 1975.

    If someone does not agree with the 2nd Amendment in the USA constitution i
    suppose they are neither a “democracy supporter or (and thus) human
    rights supporter” , they need to understand fire-arms in a context of
    human rights, and there is no case to say people are any safer if only a
    “government force” e.g. Police and Soldiers” have semi auto weapons
    and not ordinary citizens, the result is often the following…
    Kampuchea, NAZI Germany, Japan , Uganda e.t.c. and as much because of
    non democracy process of government..

    This the best it gets in the US Constitution for most Americans aside to
    “concealed carry license”.
    .50 Is actually considered the start of Cannon caliber!
    Country Girl Shooting Gun (Barrett .50 Cal Sniper Rifle)

    This is what the USA army has and national guard e.t.c.
    (a UH-1 armed with these either side are a WOMD Weapon of Mass Destruction)

    This is what the USA Government has thousands of in the air.
    A-10 Warthog Gatling Gun Test (a WOMD Weapon of Mass Destruction)

    This is the RUSSIANS at it!
    Prototype Quadrotor with Machine Gun! (FPSRussia channel is a lot of fun with guns)

    politically updated version
    a stone age version
    Principley the Khmer genocide was neither machete or gun, both for cost of bullets
    and the possible need to fight neighboring countries !

  6. I EDC a Cold Steel Lawman in my front left pocket. I’m not LEO, but the blade is just right for defensive and utility work at 3.5″ and tip up. I’m a righty and practice drawing it with my left hand. That skill won me a IDPA match a while back. They had this 550 cord they looped to your strong side wrist. On the start signal you had to retain your pistol with your strong hand until you cut the rope with your weak hand… one of the stranger stages I’ve done but I came out 10 seconds ahead of the pack. The MD tried to game it with a fixed blade but it was a POS that wasn’t sharp at all. I touch up my EDC every other week or so because it’s my EDC.

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