Straight Line Knife Defense 5/6/08
Requested by Editor Dave Carter
for an article for Inside Kung fu Magazine.
In today’s modern times, it can be said that the practice of the martial arts can fall into three basic categories; self defense, health - physical fitness, and theatrical performance - sport. However, Chinese martial arts trace their history back well over 5,000 years ago and during this time martial arts were practiced mainly for military self defense purposes.
We, as practitioners of the Chinese martial art of kung fu, should start with the present and work our way back in time to understand how our martial art was used and the purpose of its creation. If we understand the vastness of China and the need of this country to protect itself and its people, then we understand that kung fu is foremost an art of self defense.
So, as a self defense art it can be said that all Chinese kung fu shares some common similarities in the 5 areas of basics; stances, strikes, blocks, kicks and stepping patterns. Therefore, no movement can exist within the art of kung fu without it falling into one of these five areas. The use of weapons would fall mainly in the strikes and blocks categories as weapons are an extension of the arms.
Warriors trained in the art of kung fu would learn the 5 areas of basics along with military strategies and the use of weapons. Two of the weapons that common foot soldiers would have trained with are the broad sword and the straight sword. It is from these two weapons that we get our “modern” day knife defense skills from.
All weapons used in kung fu are performed along 13 points or lines, and as such, no weapon can be used without it falling into one of these 13 lines. I have had potential students tell me, during their interview process, that learning weapons are outdated as you won’t be carrying a broad sword or spear with you on the street.
To a very small extent this is true; we would not be carrying traditional weapons with us on the street. But all kung fu weapons can be looked at as an extension of the arms and all movements within kung fu trace straight line movements or Zhong Men, and circular movements or Kong Men within their techniques. Anything placed in the hands can therefore become a weapon because of the circular and straight line techniques already being used.
THE 13 POINTS
The 13 points are a concept that I use to teach our students defense and attack lines when using traditional weapons. This concept has been used in our system since it’s founding, however, it can also be applied to any weapon that an opponent can use against you including a gun. Any weapon that an opponent uses has to trace one of these points, in understanding this concept you can limit your techniques to just that point.
To understand the 13 points a little easier visualize a standard clock about 6 feet tall drawn on a large glass surface, standing behind this glass is an attacker holding a knife in his right hand (your left side). If the attacker stabs overhead in a downward direction, then it is coming at you from the 12 o’clock point. If he stabs upward from the bottom, then it is coming at you from the 6 o’clock point and so on. The 13 point would be straight at you in a forward stabbing motion.
STRAIGHT LINE KNIFE DEFENSE
This article will be covering techniques involving knife attacks used on straight line thrusting jabs, a future article will cover techniques used in circular knife attacks. Also, for the sake of this article assume we are beyond the point of talking our way out or being able to get away; you have tried that and were unsuccessful; now you are in what I call “Red Line”.
A while back I talked about soldiers being trained in the use of the broad sword and straight sword, using this example; you can train in two man drills using broad swords. Now if you replace the broad sword with a knife, you can do the same drills. It’s the same as a broad sword only shorter! Now do the same drill with your partner only this time one of you has the knife and the other defends bare arm. Where you would block with the broad sword, block similar with your hand or arm but block on his arm not where you would with the broad sword blade on blade.
Weapon defense is serious business there is no room for theatrics, or sport, or flash-like moves. In knife defense you must focus intently on the specific technique. Concentrate on executing every movement exactly and practice those steps over and over until it dissolves into your muscle memory and your mind.
Since this is dealing with straight line knife defenses we can dispense with all the what ifs” and center right in on defending the 13 point. Take a look at the pictures; you will see several things that are common in each one. First, in our system we perform all our blocks on the outside area of the arm, not on the inside. Second, whatever hand is holding the knife; put the same-side leg forward. So, if he is holding the knife in his right hand (your left side) put your left leg forward.
We call this stance a San Ti stance, it looks just like a “boxing” stance and your attacker would think you are trained in boxing and not martial arts. This will give you more of an advantage as you are not telegraphing your trained ability in the martial arts. In this position, place your forward foot on the ball of the foot and most of your weight on your back leg. This makes your stance and forward foot light, your back leg holds your weight as this is the leg that you spring forward from.
RED LINE Red Line is a term, that I use, which means that the opponent is close enough to you to make contact with a strike, kick, or in this case, a knife. Think about it, you need to practice for real, it makes no sence to practice a knife defense skill with enough space between you to drive a car through! Practice for real, move close enough to your training partner to be touched by the knife if he extends his arm and practice from here.
From the above position, the closest target to your opponent’s knife would be your left arm or left leg. For your opponent to reach your body with the knife he would have to move the blade forward about two feet, however, keep in mind that he can reach your arm in about one foot. However, taking a wound to the arm is not as severe as a stab wound to the chest which could be deadly.
Using a rubber knife, practice with a partner in the above position and get used to this range. Practice some simple jabs forward and see how fast it takes to reach you, understand this speed. For now only have the attacker jab forward, do not have the attacker move off line and circle around, just keep it simple to the straight line. Latter when you are more confident with your skills switch off to a real knife and do the same drills. You need to understand and work through the realism, fear, and uncertainty that a real knife attack presents.
CSD stands for Clear, Stabilize and control, and Disarm and is the basic rule of knife defense. We don’t block the weapon arm, we guide it, stick to it. You must understand your system and how it relates to real weapons!
“C” Clear your body of the knife’s line or angle of attack. Step off line from the attack slightly to the outside and forward to dissolve the range, we do this to shorten the distance and move beyond the knife’s zone. Moving backward gives the attacker a target which he can track. Break up his thinking process and interfere with his plan by moving yourself out of his range and him into yours.
“S” Stabilize and Control the knife by breaking the base of the attackers balance by using joint locking and breaking skills to twist and jerk the attacker off balance. Stepping patterns which place your bodies balance to an advantage used against his weak points.
“D” Disarm the knife by using joint locking or breaking skills such as Chin Na. Take the
knife away or move it out of the way with your foot. Never lose control of the knife. Once the attacker is disarmed, move away from him; remember that your right to self defense ends when there is not longer a threat to your life.