Saturday, May 30, 2015

Knives Suck

This video has been making the rounds lately, and I wanted to talk about it just a little bit.

Before you watch it, know that it's pretty awful and brutal.

Click here if you can't see the video.

This takes place in a convenience store in the Philippines.  At first, it's just a normal day at work.

At about 2:10 minutes into the video, the violence begins.

A few things leaped out at me when I watch this video.

1) The Defensive Game is a Losing Game

The defender never counter attacks - his attention is 100% on defense and controlling the weapon (or attempting to do so).  Funnily enough, this very topic was discussed by +Jari Peuhkurinen on his blog +Improvement in Action recently (go take a peek at it - good read).

We have been working what we call "turtle" drills in which one person is on the ground on their back with a weapon ( we do variants but this is the first one we've been doing lately) and an attacker stands above them with a weapon.  The drill is that the person on the ground has to get up as quickly as they can while protecting the head while the attacker attacks with any and all strikes he or she can muster.

The Turtle Drill

We discovered very quickly that playing a purely defensive game - in which your attention is purely to protecting the head and getting up - takes way longer and ultimately was defeated.

To "win" the Turtle Drill, you have to counter-attack.  What this does is that is creates the space and evens the playing field a bit against the attacker so you can get back to your feet.  When we did the counter-attack method of "surviving" this drill, our students get up within a second or three.  When we played pure defense, it took much, much longer - ten to twenty seconds.  That's a lot of time to spend on the ground when a person is hitting you with a stick.

So, in this video, the victim, as you'll see, plays a purely defensive game.  He tries to control the weapon hand and the attacker physically (there is a short bit of grappling here and there) but he never really counter-attacks.  I have to wonder if he'd counter-attacked with the same level of willingness to injure or kill as the bad guy... would he have "won" this fight?

We'll never know - here, the attacker is able to stand over the victim on the ground and is able to do the classic reverse grip stabbing to key areas - including the neck - and by then, it's far too late for the victim.

2) Defense Against a Knife is Incredibly Difficult

The victim here does try very hard to not allow the bad guy to stab him, but as you can see, it is incredibly difficult to protect yourself against someone determined to stab you with a knife.

Like most instances of self defense, an attacker can fail to get you dozens of times, and all you have to do is fail once or twice, and the attacker wins.  I think that is why if you train knife defense you really need to train realistic attacks like what we see in this video (and there's ample video of knife attacks on the web).

Controlling the weapon or weapon arm - something we train - is not as easy as it sounds against someone who is going to stab or kill you.  You will get cut - the trick is to get cut in non-critical places.

3) Knowing How to Grapple Is Useful - but Practice Against Weapons

Notice how this fight does indeed in some points turn out to be a grappling match, especially in the early part of the fight.  


I can't help but think that if the victim were trained, he may have been able to gain advantage over this attacker earlier in the conflict, before it got really bad.

BUT - I think it's important for grapplers to train against resisting people with weapons like knives, to figure out what works, and what does not work.  Not being a grappler I have no advice in that regard (it's a huge weakness of my own game, admittedly) but I bet if you roll you'd have a few thoughts on this, and I'd love to get your feedback.

4) Give Them The Money and Run

We do not see what started this conflict, but ultimately, the robber was bound and determined to get the money and did not care what it took to get it.  The victim is shown resisting the robbery the entire time.

When I worked in convenience stores, policy was to give the money and whatever else the robber wanted in merchandise and get to a safe place as quickly as possible.  I think this is wise.  Getting  more time to think and prepare for potential violence while the robber is getting his money - and the violence may not come at all - strikes me as a very good idea.

Your own money and possessions are not worth your life.  Your employer's certainly aren't! There are reasons they carry insurance for that sort of thing!

Convenience store workers are regularly considered one of the most dangerous professions - and here you see why that is.  I can't help but wonder if the victim had complied and given up the cash to start with that the stabbing may have been avoided altogether.

It's incredibly important for martial artists interested in self defense to watch real-life video like this.  Many of us - maybe most of us these days - have not been in life-or-death situations like the video above.  We develop some cherished notions that just don't hold up against the reality of what violence is.

The general public has this weird idea that knives are not as bad as guns - the truth is that they are every bit as bad. Killing a person with a knife is up close and personal business.

Knives suck.