Real World Knife Fighting
©2010 Erle Montaigue
Introduction to Knife Fighting
Weapons were always taught last in any of the great fighting systems of China. There was a very good reason for this. An old Chinese saying: "Learn Weapons, do not do anything different". Meaning that we spend a lot of time and effort learning about the "empty Hand" fighting methods in order to gain "hand/brain" automatic co-ordination, so why would we want to learn something different when moving on to weapons and knife fighting? The biggest mistake that most martial artists make, is to treat all weapons, of which the knife is one, as a separate area of one's training. "Ok, we have learnt the empty handed stuff, now let's learn how to use a knife"! Another 5 years on top! When we learn a real fighting system such as Tai Chi or Bagua, we have all of the necessary elements already in place to then pick up an edged weapon and use it successfully. That is of course providing that you have been taught a martial art that is "body friendly"; one that makes use of what the body has already rather than placing onto it, difficult un-natural movement. Such movement will never work in the real world as it can never become reflexive. Such movement might work in a tournament where you have two people doing much the same stuff. However, in real world knife fighting, you do not know your attacker, you do not know if he knows anything, or if he can actually fight with a weapon. He will not attack in a set pattern as in the ring, he will attack with ferocity that you have never experienced before; he will be in your face before you even blink. And when edged weapons are being used, it means death!
Knife Fighting and The Teacher.
A teacher should never, hand a beginner a knife and show him some "moves". This will lead to defeat and the student will never understand knife fighting in a real situation. A lot of teachers teach in this manner. They will show the student how to attack using the knife, or how to avoid a knife attack etc. Worse still, they will actually teach self defence methods against a knife that will get you killed. Like for instance the Old X-Block"! I can't believe that teachers are still teaching this type of stupid defence. I have demonstrated many times that no matter how big and strong a pe3rson is, the X-Block does not work against someone who is intent upon killing you! Handing a student a knife and showing he or she some moves acts like water off a duck's back to the student as he hasn't yet even entered the first door of real self defence. "Real Self Defence", well there's a can of worms! Just to take a side-line for a minute, you can never take a martial art, learn some moves or katas and expect to defend yourself! You can never enter into tournaments, win a few and then expect to win in the street. I know of many top tournament fighters and boxers who have been decked in the street because it is nothing like being in the ring. One such famous boxer I knew said that he broke his hand because he was used to the gloves! Another very good tournament fighter of the sport, Taekwondo wondered why, when he got into his first street fight that his high kicks actually caused him to be defeated, simply because the attacker had no respect for him as a fighter, he just barrelled in and decked the TKD lad as he kicked because he was standing on one leg and literally only had one leg to stand on! A martial art is NOT a self defence art. It is a good place to start learning about self defence but all martial arts were only meant as exactly that; a starting point. The forms or katas only teach you how to move correctly and some even teach you NOT how to move correctly such as the swathe of Sports Martial Arts! Using a sport for self defence will get you killed in a real situation where edged weapons are used. Sports martial arts are fine if you know the limitations and only treat it as a sport. But you will get into trouble if you think that leaning a few kicks will save you in a street fight or when it comes to knife fighting!
Knife Fighting in Manilla.
To push this point, I will tell a true story of when I went to Manilla for the first time in 1981. I was watching a group of young men training in their Filipino fighting arts of stick and knife. They were dressed in normal clothing and going for it. An older gentleman was sitting on the same brick fence that I was sitting on. At one point, he got up and approached these young men who began to attack him! Just about to jump up and help when this old man kicked the shyte out of the young men! I discovered that the old man was none other than the Keeper of the Escrima system of fighting in the Philippines, Antonio Illustrisimo. I soon became friends with the whole group and remained friends with Illustrisimo until his death in 1997. And remain friends with some of those students.
Antonio Alulud Ilustrisimo was one of the most well respected eskrimadors of the Philippines; He is famed for winning countless duels and street encounters, as well as serving as a guerrilla against the invading Japanese forces during World War II. GM Ilustrisimo was never defeated in combat, and earnt great respect as a result of his brave exploits against the Japanese. In 1976 Antonio 'Tatang' Ilustrisimo accepted his first students Antonio Diego and Epifanio 'Yuli' Romo. After Tatang's passing in 1997, Tony Diego was elected head of KI. Other notable students include - Rey Galang, Romy Macapagal, Roberto Morales, Christopher Ricketts, Pedring Romo, Norman Suanico and Edgar Sulite.
As I was a young man in Manilla, some of the senior students were asked to look after me and take me around Manilla. I was taken to some tournaments where one of these chaps was the 6 times all Philippines stick and knife fighting champion. Tony Diego and I became good friends as also with Yuli Romo and Edgar Sulite (who is now deceased). Tony gave me a word of warning that I was to be off the street by 6 PM! I asked him why and he said "so that you do not get killed"! So I asked him when THEY had to be off the streets, and he said "8 PM"! Here was this champion stick and knife fighter in the tournament not wanting to be on the street after 8 PM! So that story tells how different it is in a tournament to the real streets. I asked Antonio how they trained in knife fighting and his answer was that they trained in Stick Fighting first in order to get the necessary natural body movement. They would train for hours and hours until that stick became a natural part their own body. Only then were they able to train in knife fighting. And it wasn't that difficult as they too already had the necessary elements for knife fighting.
It was a wonderful experience in Manilla even though only a short time, it shaped my thinking about knife fighting and stick fighting and indeed all weapons for the years to come. I had already been practicing the internal martial art of Tai Chi ch'uan since 1967 and had noticed that when I picked up a knife or sword or any weapon, it seemed to come naturally blending in with my own body, moving in accordance with the natural flow of energy. And when I came across a movement that didn't move naturally, I would examine it to discover that the movement was flawed and a little change here or there would make all the difference.
I noticed that the Wudang Stick fighting methods were also of a natural body type rather than the weapon being something different in my hands. Each movement naturally followed the previous movement in harmony with nature. And by training in these natural "form" movements, it enables us to move in any direction at any time and without thinking, use the most lethal strike to the most lethal points on the attacker's body. So when it came to doing it for real, all of the elements were there in the training that I had done for many years prior.
Knife Fighting and Today.
Nowadays, I always begin a knife fighting session with my senior students by doing the equivalent empty hand moves to show that there is nothing different once the knife is in the hand. This applies to attack and defence, which are one and the same in the end. The only difference of course is that it is more dangerous and the timing has to be adjusted automatically to make up for the longer arm length, however, this is not a problem as the training does it all for you. My students have noticed that I never teach footwork in the real fighting area. Sure, I HAVE to teach where to put the feet in the form-work, but in the real world, I always tell them to not look at my feet and that I will not tell them where to place their feet. This teaches the student to move in accordance with their OWN body and in accordance with what is happening to them and what kind of attack is being felt. You learn to sub-consciously step to exactly the correct position to gain the upper hand. And it is our way of real push hands from the Tai Chi area that teaches us this. I am not talking about the silly "I push you, you push me" type of push hands now being taught in the West for the sake of tournament. I am talking about the push hands that we teach in order to learn how to defend ourselves in the real world. No low wide stance, no pushing at all, just strikes! We stand in a normal stance, one that we would be in at any time of the day; standing at a bus stop or just walking down the street etc. We do have strong attacks coming in but these are just so that the body can get used to taking a force and re-attacking instantly. If anyone pushes us in our system, they get hit! That's what push hands is all about. It teaches perfect body placement for a devastating attack. It makes use of the utility posture of "P'eng/Hinge" which we also use in knife fighting.
Push Hands and Knife Fighting.
And all of this comes from the best training method for real self defence ever, Push Hands. For instance if I am teaching a P'eng/Hinge method against an attack as in Photo No. 1 where the attacker has attacked with a curved type of street attack (a common type of attack in the street), I might use the hinge part to slam his arm and the P'eng part to attack his eyes as in Photo No. 2. We do not then have to learn a different method when we have the knife. If for instance, the same type of attack was being felt only with a knife, we would use the same method but also sticking to the knife fighting saying of Evade, Bump and Attack. Firstly bumping his arm out of the way while avoiding the attack as we NEVER grab the arm that has the knife! However, it would be my knife that did the bumping in order to cut deeply into his wrist! Photo No. 3. His arm is still thrust away but his hand is on the ground. I would then attack with my knife with natural and flowing movement such as in Photo No. 4 and Photo No. 5. And both of the above methods come from our push hands training, going deep into the subconscious. In Push Hands, we call it walking down the street. So the normal method of "P'eng, Lu, Chee and Arn" (NB: NOT THE METHOD THAT MOST INSTRUCTORS TEACH WITH BIG OPEN STANCES ETC) becomes just like walking down the street and anything different from these movements back and forth between the two partners, we will automatically react with a violent attack coming from that "P'eng/hinge" posture. See Photo No. 6 for the basic push hands posture. Notice the normal stances and close in fighting. So the normal movements become "normal" and anything different is an attack. Eventually, when we ARE just walking down the street, which is when we are most likely to BE attacked or in a bar etc. just minding our own business and we are attacked, we react sub-consciously reflexively and attack the attacker with huge power from a very short distance. We haven't even registered that we have done this! And this is the way of the Warrior. Our BODY does it and our MIND stays calm. We learn to move from reflexes rather than thinking about it . If you THINK about it, like when you are taught un-natural body movement which can never be taken to a reflex level, as in tournament, you will lose!
Knife Fighting In This Book.
In this book, I will be teaching you how to take your knife fighting skills to a higher level, the knife will become part of your own body to be moved automatically by your sub-conscious brain. Or as we call it, the Reptile Brain. This is your survival brain and is the only method that will give you the best chance of survival against weapon attack. I will be showing you some excellent training methods both empty hand and with the weapon in order to teach perfect body movement, being able to move away from an attack from a knife and re-attack with devastating power. While I will be teaching many knife fighting techniques and Wudang Knife Forms, that's not what my method is about. It is about being able to defend yourself against knife attack as well as use the knife at a "reflex" level. The techniques are only there as a guide as to how to move naturally. However, all of my knife fighting techniques are utility methods whereby they will teach you something much more than just one method. Within each technique there will be a reflex action that will teach you how to move in any situation and not only using that particular method.
In this book, I will be talking about Eagle Vision which is a kind of peripheral vision used by all birds especially the birds of prey. They do not have to focus upon their target as they are using Eagle Vision". You could also call this Energy Vision whereby we "see" the energy being emitted by the "prey" or opponent so we do not have to focus upon any part of the attacker. To focus brings defeat as in the time it takes to focus, he has struck you. We take the whole body into peripheral vision, then we are able to receive that energy that the body is putting out. And it is energy that you will see first at a sub-conscious level. And once you are able to react to the energy you will react with lightening fast reflexes the instant that the attacker even moves! You will no longer wait for a strike to be upon you as you will ... if someone attacks you hit him before he hits you. I will be covering a number of excellent training methods in order to gain Eagle Vision. So it will help to have someone with whom to train as most involve working with another person. You will learn not to look at the attacking weapon or portion of the attacker's body. But rather take in the whole body and react as soon as there is any movement from that body in just the same way that an Eagle swoops upon its prey.
This book has been based upon my many years of experience in not only knife fighting but also the Internal Self Defence Systems in general, those that rely upon things like Fa-Jing or explosive energy, and Dim-Mak or Death Point Striking. And although it really doesn't matter about where you strike with the knife as long as it is to an important area of the attacker's body, the Dim-Mak training does come in handy as you will automatically strike to the most dangerous points such as those in the neck. I have also learnt that using a knife, you can easily take a person down by striking to one of his peripherals which are easier to get to, such as his wrist. Cut his wrist ... off and he cannot hold a knife! So you will notice that I place some importance in the training upon striking to these areas before going in for the kill to the neck or heart.
In the following pages, you will enter a different world of self defence, it may seem a little strange from what you expect or what you have learnt in the past. However, this method is like when you heat a small soldering iron; it takes only a short time to heat up that small point but when the power is shut off, the point loses its heat very quickly. But when you heat up a much larger point, it takes much longer but the heat stays in for much longer. And it's the same with this method of learning, you will retain the knowledge for much longer once you have stopped the learning phase. And what you learn in this manner will remain with you for life and give you much more than just leaning about knife fighting.