The history of knife fighting dates back to the stone age. In the beginning people most likely used used their stone weapons intuitively. However across the centuries, various attack methods evolved so that, with the element of surprise, an enemy could be defeated quickly. Many different fighting styles with knives developed on all continents.
Nowadays, most martial arts schools teach a defence against a knife attack. Some of them teach how to combat a knife attack with your own knife, while in others, the emphasis is on defending with any available items found at hand.
The popularity of all these elements in martial training stems from the fact that the knife is rightly considered the most dangerous weapon commonly used in street fighting. Successful attacks on the heart and arteries most often end in death and many cuts can cause serious bleeding or render the victim defenceless. Even if someone survives a knife attack they are often left with deep physical and psychological wounds.
It is very important that basic defence exercises run in tandem with learning knife attacks. This allows a better understanding of the trajectory of movement and the best course of defensive action to take in response to any particular attack.
Training with knives of different shapes and lengths is a good way to minimise injuries during combat. Knives with a small blade are easy to hide in the hand and this often makes a strike with this kind of weapon more difficult to block.
Knife combat training consists of many elements including attack, defence and evasive movement. These techniques are brought together into combinations that, after many hours of training, become automatic responses.
Beginners training is based on exercises with a basic knife that we might encounter in normal daily life Typically these weapons are made of wood or plastic but sometimes metal knives are used but with blunted blades for safety.
Only after proficiency in basic training is attained are knives with different shapes introduced as they require different techniques. This allows the knowledge and skills of the practitioner to grow rapidly. Such knives also demand different combat tactics.
No matter what style of fighting we practice or what kind of knife we use, it is always worth studying Japanese techniques with the wakizashi (short sword) and tanto (knife). Both offer excellent lessons on different kinds of cuts and their nuances.
More advanced practitioners often train with real tanto and wakizashi. However, like the better known Japanese katana (long sword), these weapons are extremely sharp and great caution and concentration is required for safe practice.
Training with a short two-sided knife similar in length to the traditional yawara offers excellent skills development. This knife is very effective for fighting in confined spaces. Fighting with two such knives, one in each hand, greatly increases the chance of victory against an armed opponent.
The Rodokan knife evolved from the above fighting styles. The techniques are similar but the cuts made are longer and the wounds inflicted by this weapon are deeper.
Kerambit or Karambit - this knife is characterized by an inverted handle with a finger hole that provides a secure grip. The curved blade is often referred to as a "tiger claw". Knives of this type are used in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Basic training with the kerambit covers single knife combat technique. Advanced practitioners, however, often train with two knives which requires perfect coordination.
Protectors are worn to enable full contact training. With such potentially deadly weapons safety is paramount and in particular the eyes must be shielded by helmets with visors or protective goggles.
Knife combat training is not a sport or a hobby. Knives are deadly weapons and their use should not even be considered except in life threatening situations. A knife is not a toy and one inadvertent mistake or clumsy action can result in someone’s death.