31 December 2015

MCS Correspondence Course Lesson #002, Training, "Edged Weapons-Fact vs Fiction"

Even though I have written about it before, let me give you the background on why I hold the opinions on edged weapons that I do.

In the late 90's, unlike now, my department and many others had money for training.  The department required that every officer pick a career goal and seek training to fulfill it.  When I heard this, I made the "jacking off" motion with both my hand and in my mind.  This was and is my usual reaction to anything that comes from management.  I, like many of you, have always been fascinated with all types of weapons, especially knives.  More than anything in the world I was also terrified of getting stabbed with a needle or a knife.  Thinking that they would never OK it in a million years I chose the goal of becoming a subject matter expert in edged weapon survival for law enforcement.  I was shocked with them actually signed off on it.  Over the next few years, they sent me to train with some very well known knife fighters, edged weapons instructors, or whatever you would want to call them.  My needs were very different than most folks I encountered at these courses and seminars.  This was very much a hobby or pastime to them, not unlike golf is for others.  Most of the material that I encountered had a cultural basis, and I often felt like I needed a translator to know what the hell was going on.  I was looking for principle based information, strategies, and techniques that I could use to train other officers at my department to better deal with the edged weapon threat.  What I found was that nobody had an application for that.  Nobody even spoke about deadly force, which is something we cover in all classes that involve violence at all.

In each and every class I felt like I walked into the fourth year of college and could not keep up because I did not know all the background information.  Besides the lack of discussing deadly force, here are my issues with knife fighting/edged weapon training that I attended which I imagine others who have attended more than me will recognize.

Lots of knife on knife stuff-  over the years I have scoured the interwebs looking for cases of two people in the US fighting with knives.  In most cases the best I have been able find is stories in which "somebody" heard about a guy who.....  In spite of this, much time was spent on knife on knife work doing things like "defanging the snake" which is using your own knife to strategically cut your opponent so that they cannot continue to use their knife.  I saw this as safe "filler" material because you could spend lots of time on it with little risk of injury.  This leads us to the next issue.

Knife only-  there was little physical violence, even in simulations.  For the most part the knife was a hammer and was the only tool you could use.  In none of these classes, even though most were in states where you could CCW and most attendees did, was it ever OK to draw a Blue Gun, much less slam anyone into a wall.  The object was to engage knife to knife.

No deployment drills-  Somehow it was taken for granted that the knife would just magically appear in your hand when you needed it.  Few if any seemed to have an issue with this, so no explanation was offered.  Just as I have found with the pistol, when it comes to selection, carry, deployment, and use, people go out of their way to discuss the when and how of deploying mechanical options under stress.

No open hand defenses against knives-  when this was brought up, most people, even though they were not even wearing a training gun would mumble something about the 21 foot rule.

The size of training knives- Training knives were usually 2-3 times the size of what you will find on the street or in prison.  Smaller means easier to conceal and faster to use.

No continuity-  there was nothing here for me.  These people were teaching "knife fighting" and I realized that whether on duty or off duty the chances of me having the time and opportunity to use a knife to defend myself at all, much less against another knife was small.  It was time to move on and away from the knife fighters.

In 2000, I was involved in a fatal shooting that shook me to the core.  When it came to ongoing training in the police department, more time was spent on firearms training than anything else.  At the time of the shooting, I was already on the SWAT team and had been through two firearms instructors schools.  I had been trained as a quarterback to throw the ball to a wide receiver in a quiet stadium with nobody rushing.  The only thing that was the same between range and the street was the the actual physical action of pulling the trigger to the rear causing the gun to discharge...that is it.  They were training me to drive NASCAR by allowing me to drive through the neighborhood.  This incident spurred my now life long pursuit of understanding what the mental and physical realities of violence and create training that works with our mind and body and not against it.

Having not found what I was looking for with the knife fighters I was looking for, I moved onto martial artists.  I can narrow down the failure of traditional martial arts failure to one sentence.  The defenses were all predicated on seeing  the edged weapon you were being attacked with.  This one thing makes it all worthless to me.  In my research, I have found that very seldom does the person getting cut or stabbed see the weapon before they feel it.  If you want your training to be reality based, then you need to avoid this like the plague.  What they had in common to the knife fighters was that again their knives were 2-3 times bigger than what you will most likely face.

My experience with the knife fighters and martial artists led me to create the Spontaneous Attack Survival portion of the Modern Combative System.  We don't have any edged weapon defenses at all because we assume that when we are in physical contact with an attacker that they are attacking us with an edged weapon that we cannot see.  At contact distance, out of firearms, impact weapons, and edged weapons, edged weapons are the ones that you are least likely to see.  As far as contact weapons, they are the only ones that can kill you by simply being pushed into your body.  It is for this reason that contact means control.  You must control the movement of the offending arm as you attack the Central Nervous and Structural Systems until the threat is neutralized.

Here is what you must do in the order it needs to be done-

1)  Move to the outside if possible.
2)  Control the offending hand below the elbow, the lower you go the less they can move their hand = less potential for injury.
3)  Simultaneously attack and damage the elbow and head until the threat is neutralized.

This is it, the bare bones of SAS.  We only have three Principle Based Responses (PBRs).  They are designed to deal with the most probable and most violent attacks.   This also includes the Shank Defense, which as far as I know is the only one being taught.  This is a response to someone putting a hand on your shoulder as they cyclically stab you in the kidneys from the rear.

I have been validated by several things, most recently when training the Maryland Department of Corrections Special Operations Group in SAS.  These guys are the best of the best and have been to every big name training program you can find on the net.  The difference between those programs and MCS is that the basics SAS program is 4 hours long at the end of which we pressure test the scenarios with stun guns.  There is only one level of SAS, the more we train, the more we turn up the violence, keeping the same Principle Based Responses.  SAS can stand on its own as a Combatives or DT program or be used integrated with the entire MCS program consisting of SAS, Inverted Edge Tactics, Street Stick, and Combative Pistol.  After 8 hours of SAS, many are capable of teaching it to others. If the mechanics are not that simple, there is no way that the "average" person will be able to recall and use them under the stress we talked about in Lesson #001.


  1. This is my focus. Not knife fighting. Nothing fancy. Just realistic defense skills against knife and similar weapon attacks. You made some great points. I always imagined I'd see it coming and have time to pull my knife and then comence defending myself, but, most likely the attack would be a surprise and I'd have to start with open hand defense until I gain an opportunity to pull my own knife. This has me rethinking. Good shit.
    Much thanks!

  2. Josiah, glad you found the information. Unless we see another weapon we treat all attacks as if there is an edged weapon we just don;t see. Make contact, block/evade, move the outside, attack the head and elbow. Stay Safe

  3. Josiah, glad you found the information. Unless we see another weapon we treat all attacks as if there is an edged weapon we just don;t see. Make contact, block/evade, move the outside, attack the head and elbow. Stay Safe