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Knife Fighting
Part 2: Different Schools of Knife Fighting Thought
Sure, you train to defend against a knife in the martial art you study. Aikidoists might try to grasp the knife hand and execute a wrist lock and throw. Tae kwon do students might attempt to knock the knife out of the assailant's hand using a crescent kick. But what arts train you to use a knife? Click for more information on carrying a knife
Click for more on concealing knives...
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Knife Fighting is Hot!
• Part 2: Knife Fighting Styles
• Part 3: Resources

There's just a few traditional martial arts that focus on knife use: most notably, the Filipino martial arts (including arnis, escrima, and kali), and silat. Some arts also focus on the use of edged and pointed weapons, including fencing, kendo, and iaido, but these are largely built around long edged weapons like swords, and not easily-concealed knives. Nevertheless, "old-school" knife fighting instructors, like the USMC's John Styers, or the great W. E. Fairbairn, developed their knife fighting styles using European fencing techniques.

Many arts do include knife or edged-weapon training, but usually as an adjunct to the core open-hand techniques. For example, kung fu and tai chi schools often include sword curricula, but the school doesn't recommend that you carry a sword around with you for self-defense.

In recent years, instructors of "reality fighting" styles, like American Combatives or Modern Defendo, have derived techniques from military hand-to-hand combat. The result is alternately a wealth of opportunities for training and a chaotic bazaar of conflicting viewpoints.

Popular Knife Fighting Instructors
Filipino Martial Arts-based
Bill Bagwell Bram Frank W. Hock Hockheim
W. E. Fairbairn Lynn Thompson Michael Janich
David E. Steele Paul Vunak John Kary
John Styers   James Keating
    Richard Ryan

Each instructor's doctrine exhibits many artifacts from the root style. For example, fencing-based doctrines emphasize keeping the non-knife-holding hand back, much as fencers hold the off-arm to the rear to protect it from getting cut and for balance. Filipino martial arts-based doctrines call the non-knife-holding hand the "live hand" and use it to check, parry, and trap the opponent's weapon hand or off-hand.

Combatives-based doctrines often mix techniques from different styles, with sometimes conflicting results. For example, Richard Ryan, who has taught at the renowned Gunsite training facility, advocates using the off-arm as a shield, holding the forearm vertically in front of the body's centerline. Giving up your live hand to be cut is really different than actively using it to check and trap your opponent's limbs.

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