Modern and Historical Knife Defence.

Huzza for the world of knife defence and all its wonders!

When I was 16 I used to be a student of a martial art that taught knife defence like what is being satirised in the above video. Training complex wrist locking techniques against a compliant partner who used a single attack, within a dojo environment. Shortly after joining the army, I met a large former British grunt at my unit who was also interested in martial arts. He invited me down to the gym for some training, of which I eagerly attended. We got talking about knife defence and he stated he didn’t really like the way a lot of places taught it. To illustrate his point he got a training knife and said he was going to attack me sometime soon. He continued talking to me about martial arts, keeping close to me (usual conversational distance) and had he arms crossed concealing the knife. I of course adopted a nice ready stance preparing to unleash my hands of fury. When seeing this he stated it kind of made the scenario unrealistic but he didn’t mind.

His attack came suddenly and full intent, it was hammer grip style thrust from below to my abdomen. I deflected it down, job well done I thought! But he kept going, stabbing me as he growled in a frenzy pushing me into the wall and continued to stab. It was at this point I began to re-think knife defence.

Perry Gamsby’s StreetSteel RIP certainly addressed this type of knife attack. He made sure people used attacks and distance that are most common in knife attacks. It is also addressed by numerous other groups/people such as Safeguard or Karl Tanswell.

Now I am not dismissing locking techniques and the like, they have their place, it’s just how some people train them. Ones training must be relevant to ones goal. If your goal is self defence in your everyday life, your training has to be realistic and based around real life situations. What I am interested in is ‘where does training Historical dagger defences fit in’? Would one be right in doing historical dagger scenario training? Of course this depends one what your goals are.

Assuming one of your goals was to treat your study of historical martial arts as a serious martial art, training the techniques used by people in ye olde times, would it not be also relevant to train against the attacks they might face? Here are a few accounts of assaults from the medieval period.

So why am I focussing on unarmed vs. dagger here? Surely this idea applies to any weapon?

Well yes it does, but they also have their ‘duel’ scenarios, what most people I’ve seen do for historical fencing. For instance, most longsword training I do involves two people facing each other, swords at the ready. Now this is fine in my mind as bouting in this format is not only fun, it is common place (in current tournaments/competitions and I suppose it can reflect historical tournaments/duels). Therefore I have a valid place to apply this type of training.

Thing is I don’t know of any period duel/tourney scenarios where one person has a dagger and the other does not, both at the ready and out of distance, at the start of the fight. Nor do I think it would be fun creating a modern tournament with this situation. Yet this is how I’ve trained my HEMA unarmed vs. dagger techniques- Single attacks from distance, compliant partner, salle (aka dojo) environment etc. Sure this is good to initially learn the technique, but I want to take it into something more practical.

So this is where throwing in more realistic attack styles and scenario type stuff for unarmed vs. dagger comes in. In my opinion it could also make it more fun. I’ve seen less interest in dagger work than sword work. This can be a problem as dagger work is one of the foundations upon which sword work is built on. By making it funner, perhaps people will be more eager to practise it regularly.

Now I have no idea if knights or others trained in this modern ‘reality based’ style (need to find out!), but I’m a modern day person (what else could I be, unless I was frozen in ice in 1450 AD and thawed out by our hollow earth reptilian overlords and brainwashed into thinking I’m modern). I use all sorts of modern day equipment to try and triangulate– fencing masks, shinai, etc. So why not modern day science and training methods to try and understand these ye olde fighting dudes for my personal journey with these fencing texts? Besides, scenarios can be great fun! And this is what HEMA is all about for me.

Here is another amusing knife defence parody.

~ by Magnus on 24 December, 2006.

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