Reality Based Training

During my time in the South African police service I observed that the most common weapon of assault has become the knife. Many law enforcement officers and security personnel often encounter suspects with knives and don’t really know how to deal with it. Many are stabbed or cut as result because of a tug of war to control the blade and not the hand or arm controlling the blade.

Law enforcement officers and security personnel may develop a false sense of security because they carry a side-arm. However, research has shown that a knife attacker can cover 2 or 3 metres before the officer has time to draw his weapon. In testing these scenarios the officer would have been killed. For law enforcement and security officers, learning how to use their side-arm in close range combat is imperative for survival.

The most critical issue to address when teaching anyone (from civilians to law enforcement officers to military personnel) is scenario based instruction – basically trainees must be taught to use their combatives training under some form of reality based stress. Psychological studies on learning have shown that the recall of memories is contextual. Basically, if all your training is in a sanitised and structured enviroment then your chances of remembering your training are smaller than if you had been trained in a realistic scenario.

For defending against a knife attack the trainee needs to be able to either draw his (or her) weapon whilst evading or deflecting the knife attack, or be able to deflect, control and restrain the knife attacker without drawing his/her weapon. The same applies when an officer is being attacked by an unarmed attacker; in close range combat law enforcement and security personnel have themselves been disarmed (this happened to an ADT officer just last week – News).

Reality stress doesn’t just apply to confronting an unarmed or knife attacker, it applies equally to using your firearm under fire. Almost all prior firearm training can be almost worthless unless you are practicing while someone is fighting with or shooting back at you! After learning firearm mechanics and marksmanship skills, all gun training should be conducted under stress with the trainee being the target of incoming “rounds”. I don’t care if it is just a tennis ball machine pumping sporadic balls,  paintball or even a rubber band gun! But something needs to be firing back at you to learn more, realistic gun fighting techniques.

In summary, all training (especially for law enforcement and security officers who are exposed to dangerous situations on a daily basis) must include some reality or scenario based training.

Fight Hard, Fight Smart But Fight Dirty.

The Glistening Blade


How many times have you not seen or heard of someone being attacked and the choice of weapon was a knife? A glistening blade that shimmers in the light.

It is true that many are afraid of any confrontation when faced with a knife. The first thing that hits is a state of panic and next the mind takes over and throws the senses into complete confusion. It is true that it is a menacing implement that can cause death and severe injury. However, when you look at it as a mere extension of the attackers hand it is nothing more than that. The important thing in a knife fight is to always keep an eye on the blade or always be aware of where it is and where it is going. Once you have mastered this the follow up is easy.

By knowing the path of the blade or anticipating its path or more importantly moving it into the path you choose, makes disarming your assailant easier. There are no rules in knife fighting and no strict form either. Many fighting styles have distinct patterns but in reality these are never followed.

A skilled knife fighter would never follow the same line twice and always adapts his/her fight to the situation. Hence the blade never follows the same orbit.

Street knife fighters would often use a t-shirt, jersey, jacket or any material to cover the leading arm. This has two important features.

Firstly it is used as a form of shield to protect the leading arm. This arm is used to deflect the blade, absorb a slash or stab and even latch on to the blade. Secondly it can be used as a decoy to distract the opponent.

When faced with a blade I always say that you should have the unfair advantage over the blade. Rap the leading arm in a shield as above or grab any item close by and use as a weapon. If your attacker comes at you with a blade, you go at him with a spade.

My point is that it does not mean that because you are a skilled fighter, whether in close quarter combat or unarmed combat, that you should stick to those skills. You may be skilled but that should not stop you from using a weapon to defend yourself.

Remember, an unfair advantage in any fight is always better


Knife Defence Workshop

It was great to have Sensei Clinton visit our dojo in Somerset West and share some of his thoughts on knife defences. As an ex-police officer he has had first hand opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t. One of the most important lessons was how an attacker from region or culture attacks very differently than an attacker from another culture, and how knife attacks (shanking) in the prisons cannot be translated as a template for what happens in the street.