Knife Principles & Drills

£27.50 (digital – not instant)

When you are dealing with someone armed with a knife, no two situations are ever going to be the same.     The possible variations are so numerous that it would be impossible to devise a universal approach to dealing with a knife attack. But one thing is certain: whatever strategy and tactics you might employ, there’s a strong possibility that you will end up seriously injured or even dead.     Choice-wise, you are between a rock and a hard place.

No matter how many options you have, none of them can guarantee a good outcome, but a sure way to have a bad outcome is to have few options (or only one) available to you. To prevail against a knife, you need to be able to adapt to whatever action possibilities the situation affords with regards to gaining control of the knife and incapacitating your attacker in some way.

The knife is dangerous, but how dangerous it is depends on the person who is using it.     The greater their intent to injure or kill, the more dangerous they—and the knife—become. Their skill level with the knife is not as important as their mindset, which means that effectively anyone who is highly aroused can use a knife to deadly effect.     As dangerous as the knife is, you also have to address the attacker who is wielding it, and you must do this at the same time as you address the knife itself. If you go for one and not the other, you are taking an enormous risk, possibly a fatal one. Being able to change goals and multitask is a valuable ability to have in any fight, but in the reduced space and time of a knife attack it isn’t an option—it’s a necessity. And the better you get at it, the better your chances of survival.

Multitasking has more than one meaning.   You may be simultaneously performing two or more tasks, or you may be switching back and forth between tasks rapidly.   You may be performing a series of different tasks one after the other, either to accommodate your original goal or because your goal is changing on the fly. So in addition to being able to do two things at once, you have to be able to ‘switch off’ the rules for performing one task and rapidly ‘switch on’ the rules for a different task.   For example, you may be controlling the limb while hitting to the head one moment, and switching off the rules you use to control the limb while switching on the rules needed to instead attack the limb in the next moment as your tactics shift.  It’s a very fast game, and a diverse one in terms of skill.

A knife can inflict serious or fatal injury in a reduced space, time and motion.  And it is within the constraints of this limited space, time and motion that you have to be able to work.  You must be able to read the situation, the opponent, the environment, and those visual, tactile and even auditory cues that your opponent provides. In this reduced space, time and motion you must set goals, switch goals, and carry them out through multitasking appropriate to the goal you’ve set.

This is why, as a martial artist, knife in many ways presents you with a supreme challenge.     It challenges abilities and faculties at all levels because it requires you to do everything in a narrow time frame and under tremendous pressure, demanding among other things economy of movement, generation of short-range rapid/repetitive power, and extreme mental focus. It teaches you to instantly read and act upon your attacker’s visual/tactile cues despite the danger at every moment. At times, the left hand is simultaneously doing something completely different to the right—an ability that few people possess.     Even if you were to ignore the street value of knife training, you would find that it yields tremendous dividends to your overall performance as an athlete and a fighter.

When knife defence is taught, it is typically with a one-option-at-a-time approach, or even just with a single paradigm intended to govern everything you do.     I liken this approach to being a bus driver who is required to drive a given route and sticks to it at all times.     It works well enough when there’s not too much traffic on the road, but when the congestion builds up or a given route is blocked, the bus is immobilised. A knife fight has a lot of traffic and unexpected diversions—openings appear and disappear unpredictably and in a flash.     In a knife fight, you need to be more like a London taxi driver who has multiple choices of route stored in his head, so that if one way is blocked, he can switch to another route and still reach his destination in good time.     He can even change destinations on the fly.     With the bus, once you’re on it you’re stuck to a prearranged route.

The knowledge and experience required to be like a taxi driver and not a bus driver doesn’t come easy.     It’s an ability that is acquired through doing.     And once you have the ability to deal with multiple options and the fast, changing game, the knowledge provided by your prior experience doesn’t weigh you down. On the contrary—it speeds you up.     Some people are afraid of cluttering up their head with too much information, because they fear they’ll freeze with indecision in the crunch. But this is only likely to happen if your training is all based on theory, demonstration, and drills that are one-dimensional; i.e., ‘if he does this, I’ll do that’. The way I teach knife is completely different, and it’s designed to impart skills and faculties straight into your neuromusculoskeletal system without you having to do a whole lot of thinking about it.

I have been working with knife on and off over the course of many years, but much of the material on this DVD comes from the past few years, through a process of teaching and experimentation with complete beginners outside of the martial arts. I have been developing, testing and refining these methods with a private group in London, and in early February 2011 I introduced the approach to the Gloucester martial art group you see on the movie (recorded 2 February 2011 at Murray Bruton’s training facility).     Some of the participants on the DVD have had a lesson or two involving knife prior to filming; others have had no preparation or experience at all. There is no difference in my approach for beginners.

In 2011 we recorded a training session at Murray Bruton’s place, followed by an extended PS recorded at my home where I go over some details and finer points of what was covered in the class.     Finally, there is another chunk of footage with some improved drills to round everything off.     This is a substantial recording, a significant evolution from the old 1998 Stick and Knife DVD, and it contains a large amount of information. You can use this material to supplement your fight training whether or not weapons are normally a part of what you do.     For those who have been following my ideas over the years, you will find that this DVD really pulls together the critical concepts and encapsulates the essence of what fight training needs to be.

Disc Contents

Most of the session is about learning through doing, and allowing the subconscious to take care of this.     I’ve designed the drills with great care and through much trial and error to ensure the fastest, most effective route to learning by experience. A common principle with all drills is the ‘zooming in’ on different aspects of the exchange and then ‘zooming out’ to incorporate this understanding in live context.

Topics include

Psychological and tactical advantages of an aggressive approach

Aggressive free-flow ‘hubud’-style drills with knife

Spontaneous switching from flow to fight and back

Strips and disarms

Syncopation drill to insert destructive beat

Wrapping the knife arm

Pad drills in conjunction with aggressive free-flow knife

Use of Tabata protocol in knife training

‘Smart cerebellum’ drills which engage action possibilities directly from eye to hand

Maintaining of destructive mindset within free flow

Red zone and knife

Repetitive blows in knife context

Pre-emptive, reactive and anticipatory timing

Substitution of improvised equipment

Learning how to use left and right hand independently

Affordances and action possibilities

Links to Fujian and karate forms in which knife application explains the form

Stick drills that can be easily adapted for any weapon

Stick for insertion timing

Rate coding

Letting your hands have a mind of their own

Finding a perceptual edge and working in that zone

Three-in-one insertions in a single beat

Use of vocalisation to serve various purposes

Synchronization and syncopation

Rationale and demonstration of multitasking and its tactical role

Retaining connection while changing tactics

Making and breaking contact while maintaining control of the situation

The time continuum and awareness


Consideration of the free hand

Best use of dominant hand and non-dominant hand

Avoidance of soft-flow/sparring with knife and why

Dangers of being at long range and pitfalls of some standard approaches to knife

Entry/breakdown/takedown/finish in knife context

Reactive power

Use of a contact point in reading your opponent

Use of the eye and targeting

Need to finish opponent rather than relying on disarm

Alignment and reducing target availability

Removing psychological empowerment of the knife attacker

Importance of high rate, high intensity work

Learning to perform physically while talking and why this is important

*NOTE: If you choose digital download, we will send you download instructions by email. Please note that this is not an instant download–it has to be done manually at our end and can take 1-2 days depending on time zone