If you are looking to add a knife to your everyday carry, then you will want to read this. I have studied edged weapons now for four decades. I am not a household name, and never set out on a path to become famous in this realm. If anything, my career and trade had dictated that I fly under the radar and not above it like so many others.
When I was young, I simply wanted to become an expert with a knife and so I spent a great deal of time training in the Filipino martial arts with several high profile Filipino instructors, even lived with one of the most respected edged weapons experts for years, just so I could live and breathe edged weapons and knife fighting every day and night.
And live and breathe knife is truly what we did. We trained all hours of the day and night and sometimes for 24 hours straight while literally leaning against each other to hold one another up while we trained our skills and drills.
He trained me standing, seated, in vehicles both stationary and while moving, and in and out of door ways and other confined spaces. We trained with all types of knives and machete and were constantly performing exercises that incorporated knives in both hands simultaneously to train both the left and right side of our brain.
This enabled me to develop mastery with the the knife in either hand or both hands.
We also practiced hanging from steel I-beams 20 or more feet above the ground, where he would break dozens and dozens of bottles and leave the shards all over below us.
And as if the height and the fact that we had to perform up there while hanging on for dear life was not enough, the broken glass shards everywhere below certainly provided great incentive against falling.
The training was quite unconventional in the realm of any martial arts training I had ever done, and that was part of the allure that attracted me like a magnet to it.
During that time of my life, I studied what many in the edged weapons and knife world have come to believe is the most advanced and realistic form of Filipino blade work and fighting, Pekiti-tersia.
My objective was high speed effectiveness for real world close quarter conflict, and at the time it seemed like my training would be congruent with my end objectives.
I also had studied “family” systems from a several of the grand masters, but I always noticed there were significant elements of P-T within their family systems as well.
Years later, I had numerous opportunities to test my knowledge and skills in the real world in a very unforgiving trade. What I found was a profound difference between the training I had and real life situations.
In my trade as a kidnap & ransom response specialist, mercenary operator and in protecting high value targets in high risk environments, I had to deal with three crucial facets of edged weapons conflict. The first was employing a knife in self defense.
Here I found some congruency in the hard core FMA I learned as a young man. And that was the fact that employing a reverse or ice pick grip in close quarter is at most times a tactical advantage. With the blade in reverse grip (edge towards your forearm) you are able to pull the attacker or hostile in. And being that the knife is a point of contact weapon, this allowed me to rapidly close that proximity gap.
Conceptually this works because in a self defense situation people have a tendency to put their hands and arms up in defensive posturing. And in reverse grip, you have tremendous leverage and power to assist you in striking, pulling, and hooking their limbs to draw them closer as you manipulate the cutting edge to stop the threat.
Next, was the situation where two people are facing off against each other, each with a blade and this perhaps would be more considered the proverbial “knife fight”.
There were many times, I tested my own men in this fashion in the back streets of third world countries by putting down American dollars in the street and asking for volunteers to literally attack my men with any weapon of their choosing and to the victor go the spoils. Some came with pig sticking knives, some with balisong and some with bolo’s or machete.
Though long ago, I can still remember my words for which many of you undoubtedly will think me either insane or unfit to teach, “$200 American dollars to anyone who can kill one of these men.” I would never specify a particular weapon.
The thing that you would have to understand is the context under which, I had been training them. You see, they were not training for martial arts, a tournament or even for self-defense. They were training specifically for violence. In our trade, which was to be their mission, I knew they would constantly be exposed to violence and violent people.
I knew that I had physically prepared each of them for the mission, but what I was testing was their ability to dominate and control their own actions. They got to decide if that person lived or died in that moment. And in the end, their repeated actions only served to reinforce that my training selection process was correct.
What I taught them and what they quickly came to realize was in a “knife fight” such as these situations, you definitely want to have your knife in a forward grip with the tip orienting towards the enemy or threat.
First off, in this grip you have a greater reach anatomically because of the articulations in your wrist. Here you will want your blade tip out and oriented at the enemy’s throat. And when I say “out” I do not mean extend your arm out, no. I mean weapon out in a close retention position with blade tip oriented toward the threat’s throat.
Much in the same way a fencer would use their foil against an opponent. In a knife fight, no sane person is going to rush in at you, so you are starting at what is considered “long range”. We saw this over and over again in these forced pre-deployment engagements.
Then there is a “testing” period where you keep that point directed at their throat, circle, move and employ all the tradecraft secrets such as distraction, angle, deception, ranging, third hand and invisible hand to cause them to falter and to stop the threat and in some cases, change their level of commitment.
The third, and perhaps the most important aspect of the art of the blade in my trade was when I employed the knife during a mission and part of that mission’s directive was to eliminate an enemy target or to carry out counter surveillance removal as an objective.
When I did my job correctly, stealth was usually on my side and thus, blade in forward grip was the preferred method. Approach certainly played a role as did terrain, and there were times in which a reverse grip was preferred in certain circumstances and approach.
The blade work I learned during my early years certainly gave me a basis and a familiarization, which enabled me to grow and adapt to more tactically based tactics and techniques, which I was able to execute against enemy combatant’s, and which I teach today to my students.
Now many folks I know will disagree with some or all of this, but without trying to sound egotistical or a know it all, which I am not, I guarantee, very few of these knife experts or self defense experts have employed a knife in a personal defense situation let alone a situation where they were tasked with eliminating multiple threats in close quarters during a recovery operation, a CT situation, hostile surveillance or low intensity conflict.
That said, what I have done is taken from my earlier days of blade work, and my lessons hard learned in the real world and developed tactics, techniques and procedures for edged weapons that offers the high speed effectiveness that is so critical in this manner of conflict and combined that with both cognitive ability and tactical knowledge and skills.
The end result is an edged weapons curriculum that is fairly simple, but adaptable and profound in its application and effects whether for military, law enforcement, executive or close protection application or for personal defense for private citizens.
What Length Blade Do I Need?
One of the most asked questions I get when I deliver an edged weapons seminar is, “what blade length should I get for self-defense?” And if we are talking about human threats, there are a couple of considerations. And they are effectiveness and legal ramifications.
First in the world of self defense, where we must justify our actions to our peers namely a jury, you will want to be able to articulate not only why you took said actions, but be able to state why you chose that knife.
If you want to be able to “terminate” a human threat, then a blade length of 5” is realistic. For larger men, you would need a 7” blade length. And the reason for this is to be able to reach their organs.
Now for personal defense in being not only practical, but for everyday carry where you wanted to deter or stop an attacker, change their level of commitment or stop them from doing you bodily harm, a 3.0” to 3.5” blade length is fine for this purpose.
This is an effective length for the intended purpose. It allows you to fend off an attacker and articulate in a more believable sense that you were carrying the “tool” to stop the threat from causing you serious bodily harm without the “pre-planned” notion that you carry a big knife because you have the intent to kill anyone who tries to mess with you.
Now if you live in a place where you are subject to animals potentially attacking you such as mountain lions, bears and what not, then you will want to carry a longer blade such as 7” to 8” so you can penetrate their vital organs. You do not however want to carry a blade that is so long that you run the risk of having the animal such as a bear break off the blade or an issue of you retaining the weapon.
say that you could not carry a 3” folding knife and be able to fend off or even kill a larger predator because this certainly has been done in the past.
However, a larger blade in this case, offers a bit more ranging ability as well as penetration to shut down the animal as fast as possible to minimize your time in the struggle and the potential damage and harm it can do to you.
If you are looking to add a knife to your everyday carry self defense or personal protection tools, my suggestion is that you first get some training on knife defense and how to employ a knife as a defensive tool before you go out and purchase one.
To that affect, you will also want to discuss with your edged weapons instructor, what type of knife fits with your lifestyle and needs. There are many options from tactical folders to fixed blades and karambits. Knife pricing varies greatly, but you will most certainly find a knife that fits your budget and requirements.
Through Defense Coach, we offer a variety of tactical and personal defense edged weapons seminars, workshops, courses and classes purposefully designed for private citizens, law enforcement, security professionals and military.