Knife Fighting Grip and Technique

My question regards the well known controversy regarding fighting styles. Many, especially younger Martial Artists, have come to believe that fighting fire with fire is the wrong approach; they will counter boxing with Judo or Muay Thai with Jui-Jitsu.

A more traditional view is to match style to style, within reason, sort of a “rapier vs rapier, saber vs saber” philosophy. Most of the Western stylists I know, though they may have learned some exotic techniques, tend to match styles with an opponent and are more comfortable resorting to a “foreign” style only if they are confronted with that style. Most of my wrestler friends will wrestle traditionally for a Westerner, until somebody starts with the Judo, then it’s Judo all the way.

So, I would have predicted that expert hand-to-hand stylists like Fairbairn and Sykes would have immersed themselves in the fighting culture of China and nearby South Asian traditions, and come up with their own version of Wushu, Wudang, Kali, etc. specifically for the convenience of matching style to style in a confrontation with Asian knife wielders.

I remember I first noticed the reverse grip in the Steve Segal movie Under Siege - where oddly, the fight also took place in a kitchen, IIRC between him and Tommy Lee Jones. It looked cool and wildly different at the time.

Just to confirm that was the 2/14/13 episode of Person of Interest (season 2, episode 15 “Booked Solid”). It does not end well for the non-Jim Caviezel character (who is a rare equal challenge for the Caviezel’s Reese), though not fatally badly.

Missed the edit window: For those who haven’t seen the show, Reese is a god-level ex-special forces type, who generally makes easy work of most non-trained opponents. The person he was fighting in the kitchen was another apparent ex-special forces operator who was out to kill him. So the fight was supposed to depict two highly trained opponents using what’s available to them.

Would throwing the knife at the center of mass of the opponent also work, especially if the knife were a heavy butcher’s knife?

God-level fuck yeah. Shot a baker’s dozen times in the chest at close range with an automatic weapon and back 20 minutes later in the episode to kick more villain ass.

Rules for using martial arts to defend against a knife:

  1. Run away.
  2. When in doubt, see rule #1.
  3. If you get here, you’re in deep kimchi. You’re gonna get cut and all you can do is try to minimize the damage you take and maximize the damage you do to him.

By strange coincidence, these are also the rules for how to win a knife fight (other than “bring a gun to it”).

The above rules are a bit too universal. For those with slightly more training than the average Jose:

  1. Don’t duel with him. THROW your knife at him. And then pull out a second knife.
  2. Throw your second knife. And then pull out a gun.

Those are all good. I would add these that I’ve heard over the years:

  1. You don’t “win” a knife fight any more than you “win” an earthquake. You survive an earthquake and survive somebody assaulting you with a knife. If you have to use a knife yourself, you didn’t have a “knife fight,” you stopped somebody from murdering you.
  2. That said, you’re going to get cut.
    3a. That said, winners drip, losers gush.
    3b. (restated) Winners go to ICU, losers go to the morgue.
    3c. (restated) Winners go to the hospital, losers go to the cemetery.
  3. If you have to cut, be first. The first cut always counts.

If you have a gun, pull it first!, But seriously, don’t ever throw your knife, then you’ll be unarmed.

Not necessarily. I’ve pinned a guy’s arm (holding a knife) to the wall with a barstool and managed to clobber him without getting cut.

That said, I’ve been cut about a dozen times or so, so your 90% right.

The old westerns had guys like the Rifleman rolling a jacket up around his left hand to catch the opponents blade for long enough to fight back. That works surprisingly well.

Some styles (like Sayoc Cali) advocate carrying 3, as many as 5 knives concealed. But as a disclaimer, Sayoc guys are not trained to spin their knives all the time. Thrown-and-lost is not a good strategy in knife fighting.

And then there are bowies with a brass strip wrapped around the spine of the blade to catch the other guy’s edge. Not sure if it works.

It’s not a statement of statistical probability or certainty, it’s a rule of safety along the lines of always assuming a gun is loaded. If you’re facing down a knife, you cannot safely assume that you will pull off the kickass bloodless knife disarm you’ve successfully executed a thousand times in training. Your default mindset has to be that if you engage a knife that you are going to get cut.

It’s a great rule of thumb, and a sober warning. I want to clarify one thing, though … in the above scenario, I was NOT in a knife fight! I had no knife, I just tended to hang out in rough places where every so often, someone would try to attack an employee or patron with any number of weapons. I’ve been hit with pool queues, broken bottles, full bottles, and shot at (missed). Also, kicked by steel toed boots, that’s fun.

Kids, try real hard to stay out of knife fights. Or any fights. Eventually, usually sooner, you get hurt badly.