8/03/2007 2:55pm, #1
Working knife defense on the ground
Last weekend, I went home to Kalamazoo for my twenty-first birthday. While I was there, I stopped by my old karate class to train a bit. A good chunk of the class was devoted to working against a knife, and we did some sparring with safety knives (both knife against knife, and knife against empty hand). In both cases, I got 'cut' a lot.
During this, I recall my instructor giving the "going to the ground with a knife is suicide" speech, which I have heard many times before.
On wednesday, me and a friend of mine went to spar at the gym. While we were there, I decided to try working some knife defense from the ground. We started from the guard; I was on bottom, he was on top with a rubber knife. We did a couple rounds like this with him starting out with the knife in his waistband (simulating someone trying to pull a pocket knife in a fight), and then a couple rounds where he started with the knife drawn.
It was quite an interesting experience. I found that whenever he reached for the knife with the same side arm, he basically put himself into a kimura. If he reach across his body with the opposite hand, he opened himself up for the armbar. If he tried to switch which hand the knife was in during the armbar, I switched to the omoplata. Even if he was able to lay hold of the knife, the lock prevent him from doing anything with it. In general, I got cut a whole lot less than doing standing knife work the previous weekend.
When he started with the knife drawn, obviously, I had a harder time gaining control of his arm without getting cut, but the same weapons were employed - kimura, armbar, and the occasional omoplata. I still got 'cut' less than the standing knife working.
The main danger, I found, was when my sparring partner was able to trade the knife from one hand to the other. I found this usually happened when I took my eyes off of the knife, and allowed his hands to get close to one another.
We didn't do any training from top dominant positions, but I imagine one would be equally exposed for a kimura while reaching for the waist to draw a weapon from under side control. I suppose that will have to be the subject of another training session.
I figured I would share this, given the prevalence of the "being on the ground with a knife is suicide" line. I don't want to give the impression that I think my l33t jits skillz can neutralize any knife or any other such pompous foolery, or that pulling guard will save you from a knife attack. Knives, as we all know, are very scary and dangerous from any position. However, I feel that the "being on the ground with a knife" line gets tossed around a lot without ever training the situation.
Does anyone else work against knives from ground positions? Have you found similar results?
8/03/2007 3:03pm, #2
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- Jan 2007
If he was on top in guard, why didn't he just go for your femoral?
8/03/2007 3:22pm, #3
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- San Diego
- street paddleboarding
One drill I picked up at an Eyal Yanilov semiar is to start from a kneeling position a few feet apart with a trainer between you and your parner. At the sound of some signal, both try to get the knife and attack. In krav it was more oriented towards defending from the kneel, strike and get up and run. Lately I've been playing with the same drill but using more groundfighting elements. I've been noticing a lot of the same problems- I'll control the knife hand, but he'll switch it and rather than continue with a submission, I need to switch to controlling the other hand.
The idea that grappling on the ground against a knife is suicide has more merit if you don't know they have a knife.
I used to train with a guy that had a bunch of irregular scars on his arms. He was a security guard at a college bookstore, and someone walked out with a bunch of stuff without paying. The guard chases him and takes him down into a scarf hold. The guy pulled out a knife and started slashing. The guard lets go and the guy runs off.
8/03/2007 3:41pm, #4
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- Jun 2004
- Sanctum Sanctorum, SoCal
- FMA, DBMA, MMA
I've trained the situation fairly extensively, though usually from the other side. I've been the guest knifer at 2 of Marc Denny's "Die Less Often" seminars, one which was a joint seminar with Gabe Suarez. I would hold that going to the ground before you have secured control of the knife/arm puts you at a TREMENDOUS disadvantage that is tantamount to suicide.
A sharp knife does not need a lot of pressure to inflict greivous wounds. At that range, the knife is a far more dangerous weapon than a firearm, IMO. While a bullet can cause significant damage, a well executed knife cut can literally eviscerate a victim. In the seminars, while my victims were struggling to pull guard/establish position/complete a submission, I was happily slicing and dicing away across spines, through kidneys, across necks, into armpits, into 'taints' and into/through/across vital targets.
Please do not think I'm am poo-pooing your attempts at figuring things out for yourself. I am, in fact, applauding you for conducting your own research into the arena. But grappling against an opponent who truly understands the tactics behind a knife assault is quite different than rolling with a buddy who has a knife tucked. I may also be misunderstanding your descriptions of what was happening.
If you would be so kind, please elaborate on the situations you briefly described, I still don't fully understand your positions and transitions in relation to his. Video, of course, would help, but maybe a more detailed explanation would clear things up for me. Thanks in advance.
Aloha, PoiKuha'o - Kela - Koa
8/03/2007 4:17pm, #5
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- Apr 2005
- Seattle (Ballard), WA
- FMA, Jujutsu/Judo/SAMBO
I would wonder how he might do, if while he is in your guard, he postures up, presses one palm to your hips, and makes a little space before grabbing the knife. Think proper guard pass position, where you are not leaned over and stretched out. I'd bet that it would be very tough to catch him in a kimura from this position, and he could draw his knife fairly easily.
This image kind of gives you an idea what I'm talking about. He's postured up, and has made some space via hand to hip and knee to butt. Notice how the guy has pulled his left side away. This looks ideal for a knife draw with little risk to being countered. Then as Poi commented, the femoral artery on the inside of the leg is just a gimme.
8/03/2007 4:29pm, #6
I'm afraid I can't give video at the moment, as I don't have access to a digital camera or other recording device. It's true that my oponent had no knife training, and that probably made a big difference.
Teddy Bear - He did go for the legs, some times. I didn't make for a radical departure in strategy than when he tried to go for the neck or midsection.
Codos - I would agree that positions such as the scarfhold are less-than-ideal for self-defense situations, for the very reason your mentioned. A good portion of your opponents body - including one of his arms - is cought in your blindside. I would speculate that positions like the four quarters and revese scarfhold (on your hip, facing towards your opponent's legs) would make it harder for someone to surprise you with a knife. Just speculation, until the next time we go to the gym.
PoiDog - I agree with the idea that going to the ground without controlling the arm (such as shooting in for a single, or a bodylock leg trip, like you might in an unarmed confrontation) is going to get you stabbed, a lot. I found that once we were on the ground, controlling the knife hand, and keeping him from switching, was much easier than sparring on the feet with a knife-wielding attacker.
Since we don't have video, I'll do my best to try and give a play by play of the scenarios we worked:
-Starting with the knife tucked:
My opponent (Paul) would have the knife tucked into the side of his fight shorts, approximately where the pockets on a pair of jeans would be. We would start from guard, me on bottom, with him in an upright posture. His goal was to pull the knife and stab me, my goal was to get a submission or a disarmament without being stabbed in the process. He typically preferred an icepick grip.
In order to draw the knife, he would either have to reach his hip with the arm on the same side, or reach across his body with the arm on the opposite side.
When he reached with the same side arm, he had to bend his arm back, into the approximate position of a kimura. From here, it was fairly easy to secure the lock and finish before he could retract the weapon. Even when he grabbed the knife, there wasn't much he could do once the arm was controlled.
When he reached across his body to retrieve the knife, he had to put his arm into the approximate position of armbar. Again, I was often able to finish the lock before he could draw the knife. When he did have the knife, I was able to use the armbar to keep it away from body. I believe it was a bit of an off-angle armbar, to keep me from getting stabbed in the chest. I typically controlled more at the wrist than at the tricep (which I normally do), to keep the knife more isolated.
Starting with him having the knife drawn, it was quite a bit more difficult. typically, I would try to get his arm secured and away from me as quickly as possible, and then work some type of lock on the knife arm. I recall once or twice getting into a keylock type of position, and then sweeping him to finish.
The omoplatas typically came as I was going for an armbar on the knife hand, and he managed to get his other hand close enough to trade off. It's a bit hard for me to describe.... but it was essentially the same armbar to omoplata transition you might use when someone pulls free from an armbar from the guard.
Also, this is kind of obvious, but going for chokes didn't work. I found it exceedingly difficult to get enough leverage to do a proper choke with arm while controlling the knife hand with the other. I managed to get kind of a crude forearm choke while pinning down the knife hand with my other arm, but he was able to switch hands before he tapped.
I hope that helps a little bit. Hopefully, I'll be able to get someone to video tape this type of training at somepoint.
I think part of the key is just staying aware that your opponent might be able to pull a weapon on you when engaged on the ground, watching for someone reaching into their pants or coat pocket, and staying in positions where you can be aware of what both of your opponents hands are doing.
Edit (just saw Ryno's post after I finished typing this): I'm not sure... that seems like it would be fairly effective. It would also seem to demonstrate the principle of getting a better position (in this case, opening the guard and sitting back) before attacking.
Last edited by TheMightyMcClaw; 8/03/2007 4:31pm at .
8/03/2007 4:33pm, #7
Pulling guard on someone with a knife seems like a GREAT way to get neutered."You know what I like about you, William? You like guns AND meditation."
8/03/2007 4:47pm, #8
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- Apr 2005
- Seattle (Ballard), WA
- FMA, Jujutsu/Judo/SAMBO
You know, as a grappler/FMA guy this is actually somewhat educational. For good knife offense on the ground, sticking to good basic positioning and posture does seem like a good idea. The process for a proper attack doesn't seem all that different from a proper pass. I'm sure you could do something painful from closer up, but you'd definitely be at more risk to a counter.
Maybe I'll get some of my better FMA knifers and try some stuff out. It could be interesting playing with them who know how to handle a knife well, but aren't experienced on the ground. And conversely, maybe I'll talk my Sombo instructor into letting me play knife attacker on the ground.
8/03/2007 5:46pm, #9Originally Posted by Zendetta
8/03/2007 7:28pm, #10
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I've trained in knife on the ground situations,and if your opponent knows how to fight with a knife, your in serious trouble. It only gets worse if they already have the knife drawn on the ground. But I'm sure that if you drilled the situations you could get really proficient at knife defense on the ground.