Story and Photos by Michael Janich
Time is a precious commodity, so when it comes to training in self-defense-oriented skills, we need to be both selective and smart. With that goal in mind, one of the guiding principles of Martial Blade Concepts (MBC) and its related systems is “If you prepare for what is most likely to happen, when something happens you will most likely be prepared.”
The first step in this approach to tactics is understanding and quantifying “the problem”—the detailed nature of the most common types of violent attacks. When it comes to the contact-distance threats for which a knife would be an appropriate defensive weapon, one of the defining characteristics of that problem is that roughly 90 percent of the world’s population is right-handed.
Based on that fact, most knife-based self-defense systems—including MBC—are logically right-hand biased. Their tactics focus primarily on using the knife with your right hand and employing it against attacks from a right-handed assailant.
From a statistical probability standpoint, this makes perfect sense and represents “the greater good,” as far as an investment of training time and focus. However, it doesn’t mean we can totally ignore the 10-percent chance that you could be attacked by a left-handed assailant. From a “good-guy” standpoint, we also need to provide left handers with a sound knife-based defensive skill set.
They key, however, is to address these needs in a logical way that is achievable with a reasonable investment of training time. Rather than buying new tools for your personal-defense tool box, the best way to do that is to adapt the tools you already have to the task at hand.
One of the most important elements of MBC is our “Master Technique”—a defensive tactic that forms the foundational body mechanics for most of the techniques of the system. In the most common right-versus-right context, it consists of a forehand cut to the attacker’s wrist or forearm, a backhand cut to the triceps muscle, a checking action with your non-weapon-bearing “live” hand, and a finishing forehand “Comma Cut” to the quadriceps muscle to destroy the attacker’s mobility, so you can create distance and safety.
Since these basic mechanics are common to most of our techniques, MBC practitioners become comfortable with them very quickly. To maintain and capitalize upon this “common ground,” it therefore makes sense to adapt the same mechanics to defenses against left-handed attacks, instead of developing different, stand-alone tactics.
Rather than reinventing the wheel, we spin it faster.
One of the most common contact-distance weapon attacks is a high, forehand strike aimed at the potential victim’s head or neck. When delivered by a left-handed assailant, this would target the upper-right portion of your body—your Zone 2—and therefore be considered an angle 2. To create a simple, easily learned defense against this attack, let’s adapt the right-handed forehand-backhand-forehand sequence, described earlier, to solving the problem.
As the assailant swings his weapon toward you, lean back and/or shuffle backwards far enough to evade the strike, while remaining close enough to reach the forearm of his weapon-wielding hand with your knife. Just as the attacker’s arm passes in front of you, cut the back of his forearm with a forehand angle 1 stroke of your right hand.
This tactic is known as a “Follow” in the traditional Filipino martial arts, because your knife “follows” the motion of his arm. In its classic form, your forehand cut would travel from right to left and try to make contact perpendicular to the attacker’s forearm. However, since his arm is already in motion, this is very difficult to do at speed.
To make it easier to cut his arm—and ensure your cut is as telling as possible—make its path more of a downward vertical stroke and direct it along a 30-degree vector toward your left front (kind of north northwest, if you consider north straight ahead). By cutting in this direction, you intercept the back of his arm at an angle, instead of chasing it along its same path. The result is a much deeper cut that drives his arm powerfully away from you as it passes.
As you follow through on your forehand cut, the attacker’s arm should end up positioned at a downward diagonal angle to your left. Let your knife hand naturally flow to the left side of your body and re-chamber for a backhand cut. Using the power of your hips and shoulders, cut with a diagonal (angle 2) backhand cut to the triceps muscle at the back of his upper arm. Severing this muscle instantly destroys the arm’s ability to extend the elbow joint and damages one of the nerves that controls his ability to grip his weapon.
Riding the natural turn of your hips and shoulders, extend your left arm and grasp the back of his arm just above the elbow. Just as your arm straightens, step forward with your left foot—again on a 30-degree angle to your left front. Done properly, the power of this step is transferred through the skeletal structure of your arm to turn the attacker away from you and expose the back of his left leg.
With your knife hand once again positioned on the right side of your body, execute a Comma Cut thrust, striking the back of his knee with the thumb side of your wrist. Drop your right elbow to your ribs as you turn your hand from a palm-down position to a palm-up one and use your body weight to cut deeply through the top of his calf muscle. This should force him to drop to that knee. To complete the “mobility kill” and ensure he stays there, cut his Achilles tendon at the back of his ankle.
The Follow is a powerful tactic that allows right-handed defenders to use a well-established pattern of MBC body mechanics to defend against the most common left-handed attack. When executed in its “mirror-image” format, it also provides a useful template for left-handed good guys (and gals) to build defensive knife skills against the right-handed attackers they’re most likely to face. K&G
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Nine-year veteran of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command, Michael Janich also served a 3-year tour at the National Security Agency. Highly decorated, Michael is a two-time graduate of the Defense Language Institute and served around the world in intelligence and investigative capacities for many years. Utilizing his extensive training in various martial arts and military/LE combatives, he established Paladin Press’ Video Production Department in 1994, running all aspects of video production for 10 years – personally recruiting some of Paladin’s most popular authors and being selected to work with the late Col. Rex Applegate as the producer of his landmark instructional videos on handgun point shooting. Published book and magazine author, Michael has been featured on various television programs and designed knives for many different knife companies throughout the industry. Michael is the founder and lead instructor of his signature knife defense program, Martial Blade Concepts.
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