People have been using edged weapons since the beginning of time. In recent years, there has been an increased interest in edged weapons, and how they can be used for personal protection. A large number of martial arts incorporate some type of edged weapon training into their curriculum. The training ranges from blade work incorporated into katas, to demonstrations and combat applications. Spears, swords, knives and more are all used.
Of course you’re not going to be using a live blade, especially not as a beginner (“whew,” say most of you, and “aw, man,” say a few in the back for whom I am slightly concerned). There are dozens of different types of training weapons made from plastic, foam, wood, or other material. Your instructor will probably already have some for you to use in training, or will provide guidance if you want to purchase your own.
Keen Edge knives are a favorite among those who train with edged weapons. These aluminum training blades provide a realistic look and feel, which translates into a stronger sense of realism during your training.
Training blades are obviously much less dangerous than a sharpened knife. But bear in mind that any training weapon, even one with a foam exterior, can still hurt someone if used carelessly, or with full contact. Be safe. Follow your instructor’s directions. Work slowly at first, both when practicing alone and with a partner.
Holding a Knife:
There is one main rule for holding your knife, and that is, don’t hold it by the bladed end. If this was not already obvious, edged weapon training may not be for you.
Other than that, there are no set “right” or “wrong” ways to hold a knife. Here are a few predominantly used grips that you should know.
1) Hammer Grip:
If you asked anyone off the street to pick up a knife and fight with it, the hammer grip is probably what they would automatically choose. Hold the knife as you would a hammer. The point of the knife should be up, the sharpened edge away from you. Your thumb should be placed over your fingers.
Make sure your middle knuckles are aligned with the blade. This will give you a better sense of aim and a more secure grip.
2) Fencing Grip:
This is the same as the hammer grip, except instead of going over your fingers, your thumb is straightened and pressed along the back of the knife grip. This allows for maneuverability and extra reach.
3) Reverse Grip
Change your grip from hammer to reverse by rotating the training knife in your hand 180 degrees clockwise. Your knuckles should still be lined up with the blade, and the sharpened edge should still be pointing outwards.
4) Ice Pick Grip
Have you ever watched the Hitchcock classic Psycho? If you remember the infamous stabbing scene, you already know what the ice pick grip looks like.
This is simply the basic reverse grip, with the sharp edge of the blade rotated inwards so it is facing you. The ice pick grip is used primarily for thrusting movements. It is one of the trickier ones to use in a fight, as it is somewhat more limited in application than the other grips.
Most people prefer the fencing grip when they begin training. It allows for reach, and is easily used for both thrusting and slashing movements. After you get comfortable, you can experiment and practice with different grips. While it doesn’t hurt to have a go-to grip that you’re most confident with, be aware that in a fight, you might not be able to choose your grip. You might have to suddenly grab a knife off a table, or out of a purse or pocket, and fight with whatever grip you happen to come up with.
Hold the knife in your desired grip in your dominant hand. For most people, this is the right. Stand with your right foot forward as well. This position keeps your knife in front of you, in between your body and your opponent’s weapon. Your arm should be pulled in toward your body, so as not present a target. The tip of the knife should be pointed towards your opponent.
Your empty hand should be up and held at the level of your neck. This is referred to as your “live hand.” It can be used for parrying, jamming, grabbing or striking. Most importantly, it is a barrier seperating your opponent’s weapon from an easy path to your throat.
The 5 Basic Angles:
There are many angles in edged weapon training. Each of those angles can be used for thrusting, slashing, hooking, parrying, jamming, etc. But to get started, we’re going to look at five basic angle strikes. The first four use a slashing movement (cutting with the sharpened edge of the blade) and the fifth uses a thrusting motion (piercing with the point of the blade). Each edged weapon system has its own way of numbering the angles. The numbering used below is just an example.
Angle 1: Holding the knife in your right hand, slash in a downward diagonal motion, going from high right to lower left, in this example slashing through your attacker’s throat from right to left.
Angle 2: The inverse of an Angle 1 strike, Angle 2 slash in a downward diagonal motion, going from high left to lower right. In this example, you would be slashing through your attacker’s throat from left to right.
(Note: performing and Angle 1 followed by an Angle 2, makes an “X” pattern.)
Angle 3: This is a horizontal right-to-left slash that could go across the attacker’s stomach, chest or face.
Angle 4: The reverse of Angle 3, Angle 4 is a left-to-right horizontal slash.
Angle 5: Angle 5 is the only basic strike listed here that is a thrust rather than a slash. Holding the point of the knife towards your opponent, thrust the blade in a straight, forward motion. In this example, practice aiming at an opponent’s stomach.
Practice making the five angles strikes one after the other, 1-2-3-4-5, for a smooth, flowing striking pattern. Pause and reset at the end of completing all five angles, then repeat the series.
After each strike, it is important that your knife hand either return to the starting position or you follow through immediately with another slash. If you leave your arm out, you are exposing it as a target.
If you are training with a partner, carefully touch their body during each angle. This helps with target acquisition. When practicing the five angles, keep your slashes within the width of your training partner. That way you’re reducing wasted motion. Making your swings too big slows you down and makes you more vulnerable to counter attacks.
5 Angles Drill with Footwork
Once you feel comfortable with the five angles, you can start incorporating footwork. This drill uses the basic strikes you just learned, but forces you to move, too!
Start by having your training partner attack you with an Angle 1 slash. Using your footwork, evade the slash by moving back and to your left. At the same time you step, count their strike with Angle 1 slash to your partner’s weapon hand (you can also practice slashing their wrist – your partner will probably like you much better if you’re not hitting their knuckles).
Next, your partner flows into an Angle 2 slash. You evade the slash by moving back and to your right, while countering with an Angle 2 slash to his weapon hand. He flows into an Angle 3 slash; you evade back while countering with an Angle 3 slash to his weapon hand. He flows into an Angle 4 slash; you evade back and counter with an Angle 4 slash to his weapon hand. When he ends with an Angle 5 straight thrust, you evade back and to your left while countering with an Angle 4 slash to his weapon hand. Then, he starts again with an Angle 1.
These are examples of “meeting” your opponent’s weapon hand, as opposed to “following” your opponent’s weapon hand. Your footwork should be catlike, with quick movements. Stay light on your feet. Moving around while you are learning and experimenting using the five angles with a training partner will make your training more functional and lifelike.
Outlining the basics of any martial art makes it seem deceptively simple. This article is meant to provide some insight into a few basic concepts of edged weapon training, and is not to be considered a comprehensive guide. These are good fundamentals to know, but nothing can substitute studying with a trained instructor.
Edged weapon training will aid in quickly developing attributes such as stamina, timing, quickness, balance and agility. This makes weapons practice a good supplement to your other martial arts training, or you can work it as a standalone art. If this sounds like something that would interest you, go find a class today and start training!