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Thursday, April 05, 2007

"MY LESSONS WITH THE MASTERS..." Ari Kandel's personal training blog. #22

This past Saturday was an excellent seminar about Guided Chaos Combat Knife methods. Far from being a "knife fighting" seminar where everyone would learn techniques for dueling, the seminar was focused on the real-world use of and defense against knives and similar weapons.

The seminar began with an introduction by John. He discussed different types of commonly carried knives (small straight blades, folders, push daggers, etc.), their advantages and disadvantages, carry and concealment methods and accessibility issues. Emphasis was placed on the carrier's ability to bring the knife into play amidst the chaos of physical violence. John also demonstrated various ways of using a closed folding knife in those cases where you may be able to unclip the knife from your pocket but don't have the time/space/stability to open it. This is very important information, as real-world fights involving knives rarely begin along the lines of the "West Side Story" dueling paradigm (he pulls a knife and shows it to you, you pull yours, then you circle and fight with graceful movements as people snap and dance around you).

John and Lt. Col. Al then covered the use of the Dog-Dig motion (described in the book "Attackproof") to gain distance and run when someone is attempting to stab you up at close range, or even if you've already been stabbed. This presentation began with a demonstration of why most martial arts methods advocated for use against dynamic knife attacks (e.g. X-blocks, wrist locks and throws, grabbing the knife-wielding limb and other grappling methods) fail miserably when attempted against real attacks with knives. When an attacker is moving unpredictably to cut and stab you up at maximum adrenaline speed, using all weapons at his disposal, it becomes almost impossible to man up and control his movement to the point of avoiding getting stabbed and cut in vital areas. The Dog-Dig method is intended to keep the knife away from your most vital organs long enough to allow you to build distance and momentum to escape. My right (knife-holding) arm got severely abused while helping Al and John demonstrate this, as their "dog-digs" pack a hefty wallop thanks to internal dropping and hand conditioning with the slam bag! It was demonstrated that attempting to simply run from a close-range knife attack is a recipe for failure. Everyone got to practice Dog-Digging and running from close-range attacks with foam rubber knives. John also touched on the importance of kicking if you have more distance but can't immediately escape. Despite the advocacy of kicking as an unarmed method of defending against a knife attack by such close combat experts as Fairbairn, Applegate and others, many martial artists seem to doubt its effectiveness (often while supporting clearly ineffective methods). John pointed out that in order to have any chance of success, you have to be able to thrust kick HARD and FAST while maintaining good balance, and footwear can make the difference.

The next drill involved using a knife to survive an attack by multiple people. The drill began with the participant, foam rubber knife already in hand, standing on a crash mat surrounded by three hanging man dummies controlled by big guys standing behind them. On John's cue, the guys controlling the dummies would make them "attack," closing in and swinging to crush and hit the student in the middle. The student had to keep moving, spinning and striking with the knife and anatomical weapons to maintain space and balance and destroy the attackers as quickly as possible, minimizing damage to himself. The crash mat forced the student to lift his knees and stomp to protect his groin and maintain balance. Rapid, full-body movement and dropping power were necessary to avoid being crushed and immobilized between the dummies. John emphasized effective, powerful, gross-motor use of all parts of the knife (point, edge, butt) in the melee, and the need to BUTCHER the attackers (rather than merely stabbing or cutting) in order to achieve adequate stopping power with the knife. This was an extremely chaotic, exhausting, screaming wild drill. The lesson was not lost on the students that the skills needed to survive such an attack are NOT necessarily those developed for dueling, and are in fact similar to those needed to survive such a situation unarmed (e.g. balance, dropping power, efficient mobility, looseness, and the ability to adapt to chaotic motion) plus the coordination and knowledge to effectively employ the knife (and not stab yourself in the process!).

After a short break, we moved onto demonstrations and drills in the Hellevator. Technically, this is the "Hellevator II," the portable second-generation version of the structure featured in a couple of the video clips on the website. The Hellevator II is slightly bigger and has three instead of four walls so that students can easily observe demonstrations performed inside it. (Big thanks to Wayne for designing, building, transporting and assembling the Hellevator II!) John, Al and Big Mike demonstrated how using the walls in a confined space to enhance your balance can increase the effectiveness of your kicks for keeping away and damaging a knifer. They also showed how confined space can hinder many grappling attacks, as there may not be sufficient space to allow the victim to fall or be overextended or driven off-balance. Each student had a go at keeping a knife-wielding Big Mike out of knife range in the Hellevator by kicking away at the kicking shield he was holding while balancing against the wall. An important point was to STAY against the wall, rather than allowing yourself to bounce off of it in between kicks.

Next, Lt. Col. Al demonstrated the usefulness of "knife sparring" with foam rubber knives simply as a reflex and movement exercise. He and John showed how Guided Chaos concepts such as drop-hitting, body unity and isolation can be applied to the blade. Everyone squared off and sparred for a little while, with John and Al going around to give advice and point out interesting situations. Al gave me an idea about how to integrate kicking with knife use. John pointed out the ultimate futility of standard "knife dueling" by making "clean" hits impossible simply by wiggling the knife around in a "silly" (albeit unpredictable) fashion and advancing. Several times, I ended up on the receiving end of Native American-style killing entries by Lt. Col. Al. Even with the foam rubber knives, these were VERY scary, as they involved Al's whole body diving in. They felt impossible to resist or escape.

We then drilled countering static knife threats from all different angles, using the method of simultaneously drop-hitting the knife arm, moving the body offline and attacking the attacker, all in one motion, while controlling the knife arm with sensitivity. John and Al were quick to point out, however, that the methods typically used by criminals to threaten with a knife made countering and escaping extremely difficult, if not impossible. For example, it's typically not a "static" threat at all, as the attacker will usually violently jerk the victim off-balance with a semi-choke from behind, and/or continuously move the knife unpredictably between different targets while shoving and/or pinning the victim from the front. Frequently, a second attacker severely complicates the situation.

This led into a discussion of the behavioral aspects of hold-up scenarios. Matt Kovsky wanted me to present this part because he'd seen me cover it fairly thoroughly before in class. I went through the possibilities of a real attacker's goals. An attacker who threatens you with a knife may want your property, in which case, give it to him and immediately run away. However, he may want to take you to a second location, in which case you're probably best off attacking him to get free and escape as soon as any possibility of success presents itself. With John's help, I went over how saying the right things and acting in certain ways can facilitate escape. This presentation went fine . . . except for the fact that my voice was still rather hoarse from all the screaming I'd done in the multiple attacker drill earlier. One attendee compared the sound of my voice to that of Peter Brady of the Brady Bunch when his voice started changing! Don't worry: for the DVD, we'll either re-shoot the scene or Matt will digitally modify my voice to be less distracting. This could be funny--Darth Vader teaching self-defense. . . .

Oh yeah, did I mention? Matt Kovsky filmed the whole seminar for a future DVD release.

The last tactic covered in the seminar was going to the ground in a last-ditch effort to gain distance between your vital organs and the blade, as seen on the Guided Chaos Groundfighting DVD. Everyone got the chance to try this against a fast, close-range attack. The idea was to fend away the knife with your hands as you fell back, simultaneously kicking out the knifer's legs. As the "attacker" for this drill, I can say that a few people got this down very well, as my legs were saved only by virtue of the fact that I knew what was happening and yielded to all the kicks.

John showed how extremely high-level Guided Chaos skill--being able to stick and flow around anything with complete freedom of motion while maintaining perfect balance, moving in and taking the attacker's balance while striking with killing power--can help in dealing with a knife attack. However, he reiterated that there are certainly no guarantees, and the slightest mistake can get you killed. Further, stating explicitly what had been increasingly evident throughout the seminar, John pointed out that real knife attacks by committed criminals are rarely as predictable and easy to defend against as those demonstrated and trained against by even realistic-minded martial artists. The frequent cooperation of multiple armed attackers and the fact that recidivists practice specifically to allow victims no warning and no wherewithal nor opportunity to escape expand the already great advantage armed attackers always hold. As ever, awareness and acting to escape as early as possible are the keys to surviving such attacks. Also, as an aid to defending one's self, a knife can certainly be a useful weapon, but it is far from being a magic self-defense wand. Knife selection, carry method and training for deployment and use under any circumstances are key, and unarmed combat skill and the attributes involved are still paramount.

Al capped off the conclusion of the seminar by demonstrating some ideas regarding the integration of knife combat into contact flow. While he demonstrated, a group of students gradually bunched up on one side of the room, blocking John's view of the door. As John observed Al's demonstration, a big birthday cake, sodas and snacks were brought into the room and set up on a table behind the human screen that blocked John's view. Yes, it was John's birthday! As soon as everything was set up, Al ended his demonstration, the human screen parted, and the room broke out into just about the sorriest rendition of "Happy Birthday" I've ever heard. A great time was had by all! A few people took the opportunity to work with Big Mike. I would have beaten him up had I not just eaten, of course.

Incidentally, the party was NOT filmed for the DVD.

Overall, great seminar and party! Again, Happy Birthday John!!!

Kicking yourself for missing this seminar??? Get thyself to the next one! See the "Seminars, Events and Announcements" section of the website for details.

Next time, some excellent lessons from Al, taught during a private lesson the Monday following the seminar. . . . Stay tuned!

P.S. Very relevant info:

1 comment:

  1. Hey, hello, I like Attackproof and I am intrigued. I hope to find some KCD happening sometime in the SF Bay area. That being said, I am interested in how KCD approaches healing. Let's say an old geezer [49, like me] is training and rarely [like now] comes up with a common injury [bad ankle sprain, it's been years since the last]. How does KCD deal with age and healing vs bigger, faster, stronger enemy in training and in the world.

    Was it M Ali who said that boxing is 90% conditioning and conditioning is 90% running?...
    I hope this is the right place to post and thank you for your kind attention. Best wishes in this Easter season