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Many of the knife defence techniques I have seen are disarming methods. Some are simple and practical and others are fancy. Though theoretically they may work in some situation, but what is important is to teach the students to judge carefully which comes first: Disarm, Strike or Take-Down? But honestly, if I have all the chance to run away I'd do it :-)

Disarming a knife is a tricky matter. In fact, if done incorrectly, it could cause injury or death to the defending individual rather than a life-saving technique. Surely we don't want to be locked in a physical bloody struggle where both could get killed. The emotions and tensions are high and timing and senses to defend could be badly affected. Chances are the attacked could get killed. In fact, I have heard known martial artists in the Philippines who got killed in knife fights because of failed techniques against a non-martial artist attacker. 

I did put some disarming techniques to the test and sparred with some experienced knife-based martial artists. Some of knife fighting disarming skills went fine during preemptive  strikes done in a slower pace but as the attacks went faster and faster at varying angles, none of the techniques worked anymore. I had to shift from one technique to the next but it was difficult. As the adrenalin level went up, my timing was affected. I had to rely on my evasion, parrying and striking skills. Obviously, I did get some  supposedly bad "arm cuts and stabs"  from the aluminum training knives, but what saved me were the empty hand strikes that went in so neatly to the faces, jaws, groin, legs, neck, eyes and arms of my sparring partners (I have posted a clip of the striking patterns in my videos).

As an instructor, I always tell my students to focus on striking rather than disarming. Fatal strikes to the eyes (face or neck)  with the help of evasion, parrying and footwork must come first before executing a  take down or disarming. The Filipino phrase "Palambutin muna ang karne" or thaw the meat first before eating it must apply first. That is why we destroy the limbs and senses by applying all dirty tactics in order to control and win a fight because in there is no such thing as a fair fight out there in the streets. But often when martial artists practice knife defence, the disarming techniques are the most preferred and safest methods because nobody doesn't want to hurt his or her  partner with a painful strike to the face or groin or an eye jab.  This makes knife sparring even more difficult  because it is hard to apply all the dirty tactics such knuckle or bone breaking techniques. In fact the sparring continues even after one or both have been theoretically "stabbed" to death.

Don't forget the strikes as they will be your best techniques in case of a knife attack. Remember, strikes can easily and fatally be delivered delivered to the most painful parts of the body in a rapid manner with the use of evasion, footwork and parrying skills. I always tell my students to "turn the switch off" by rapidly striking the face, eyes, head and surely  the fight pattern will dramatically change to the defender's favor. In fact, this mindset saved one of my student's life in London from a stabbing incident that almost instantly killed him. If you train your hands fast, your hands would even be deadlier with knives. I'd rather see my student survive a knife attack because he picked a stone and hit the attacker's head with it than see him in his own funeral because of a failed disarming technique.


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Comment by Guro Lawrence Motta on April 8, 2013 at 1:56pm


Thanks for the post.  We often hear the phrase "disarms are incidental not intentional".  I believe that is true.  We train them because there may just happen to be an opportunity to implement them and our students should know what to do if that opportunity presents itself.  Every situation is unique and having options trained into your muscle memory means you are better prepared.  Having said that, however, it's vital to keep the training/techniques simple and direct.  Gaining positional advantage and initiative is vital.  I like what you say about turning off the switch.  Once the attacker has switched from attack mode to defense, you can gain the initiative and from there a disarm may present itself.  But, to try to wrestle a knife away from someone without this tactical advantage is pretty dumb.  Some of the more elaborate disarms I have seen that are predicated on a complex series of counters are simply impossible in reality.  The bottom line is , if you can get the hell out of there, do so.  If you can't get away, dominate; turning the initiative in your favor and gaining positional dominance.  Once there, incapacitate the attacker as fast as possible.  If a disarm presents itself, get the weapon out of harms way - remember, ejecting it may put it in the hands of the attacker's friends; bad news for you.  Most of all, if you head into a knife confrontation intending to disarm the attacker, expect to fail; plain and simple.  Thanks again for the post.

Comment by Dan Medina on April 8, 2013 at 3:30pm

Guro Lawrence Motta I agree with you we train disarms just in-case the opportunity presents its self. Best defense don't be there. if you don't have a choice look for improvised weapons. Use your belt, the change in you pockets. I even know someone who carries salt & pepper wrapped in tissue paper in his pockets just in case. Be prepared and practice, you cannot do what you don't work into your training.   

Comment by Black Swan Tactical on April 8, 2013 at 4:12pm


There are so many things that can be done to an opponent with a knife, that given the likelihood of your being cut, it is at times better to attack the weapon hand and the attacker, and let them maintain possession of the knife until you have control of the weapon hand / arm.  It completely depends on who is attacking you as to what you can do.

In some instances, there will be little that you can do to a person attacking you with a knife.  By the time that you know that you are under attack and respond you could be fatally injured.

If you have time then fighting with the weapon hand may be possible.  I've learned moves in Hapkido and Kali to deal with a weapon hand, but the likelihood that you are going to get cut is very high if the attacker knows what they are doing.  I've seen everything from keeping distance with knife tapping in Ilustrisimo, to kicking the weapon hand... to the following which is based on Dog Brothers.

The Dog Brothers video that I refer to on YouTube about knife attacks and disarms for previously well trained personnel, the likelihood of death was very high until you know what you are doing and are able to get contyrol of the weapon hand / arm.  You can get a few tips from it.  Here it is, "Dog Brothers and Gabe Suarez"



Comment by Noel Royeca on April 9, 2013 at 6:18am

Hello Guro Lawrence, Dan and Thomas:

Thank you for the encouraging replies. This is my first blog and I will come out for more based on my experiences.

I am teaching mainly empty hand techniques but over the last few months I feel the need to teach knives and weapons fighting to my students because of the rising knife crimes in the city. But majority of the techniques I show are purely defensive and I focus more in using ordinary items as alternative fighting weapons rather than using knives. I need to still evaluate the students who are coming to the gym to learn FMA especially knife fighting.

I sometimes do few bits of fast sparring with some of the more experienced people in and much to their surprise, the unexpected techniques normally wins the battle. I totally agree with you Dan, that throwing loose change followed by series of rapid strikes work well and actually had overcome a fast and "deadly" knife attack. I even used my belt as a defense going back in high school where I used electrical wire with iron sinkers used by fishermen.

Thomas, yes there are times I had to control the weapon hand often with both hands to the point that I had to go down to the ground where I would dominate the fight but for bigger opponents with my medium-sized body, I would struggle and I would have to think quickly on my toes and the best way is to strike and move out of the attacking hand by keeping my distance as much as I can. I am more of a boxer not a grappler because of my medium-sized body that's why I prefer striking. But I also very like dumog. The video you showed is wonderful and teaches a lot of techniques. Thank you so much.

Kind Regards


Comment by Black Swan Tactical on April 9, 2013 at 4:41pm


By controlling the weapon hand, you essentially OWN IT, and you can use it against the assailant.  You need to go from controlling the weapon hand / arm, to cutting, slashing, and thrusting with the weapon still in the assailants hand toward the assailant.  If you take the time to go for the disarm, you may lose control of the weapon hand.  Disarms are more difficult than the "catch" on the weapons hand, and while possible, they offer another way for you to get cut, which we are trying like mad to avoid.  If you can go from "catch," to turning the weapon on the assailant such that it is now under your control and cutting them... that is the idea.  We do not want to struggle for control of the weapon...just get the tip into their body.  Just remember that the wrist is one of the weakest parts of the assailants body and we are going to use the flexibility and inflexibility of the wrist against the assailant.

I am really bad at describing the Hapkido and Kali materials that I've learned for dealing with a knife attacker, and they are "last ditch" tools for dealing with a situation, but they can work.  It has been a long time since I've trained in these tactics and I bet that under duress I could pull them off.  I would use them if I could not find a suitable weapon to defend myself with or was unable to run.  I suggest that you get to a really good Hapkido instructor and see what they can teach you.  When you see the police using wrist locks... THAT is Jiujitsu or Hapkido.




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