Knife Defense - Questions and Answers

28 Jan 2009

Dear Moshe,

You've probably already realized that I enjoy learning ABOUT things as much a learning things. I suppose that's characteristic of an old academic. Hence I often have questions that may appear odd. This is one of those questions.

I note that on many videos by various Krav Maga experts (and others who may claim to be Krav or Krav influenced), knife defense and disarm techniques are taught that involve the catching of the assailant's arm or wrist in the defender's hand. Now, clearly these people are fast enough and have good enough hand/eye coordination to accomplish this. But I wonder how realistic such techniques are for most of people. I note that on your knife disarm clips you show a block which leads to a grasping or gripping or the knife arm/wrist. This, is, I believe what Imi Lichtenfeld developed when developing Krav. Are these still the accepted techniques for civilian Krav in your association?

I get confused as which Israeli Krav association is which, but am I correct in thinking that the techniques you teach would be those taught by either the IKMA or IKMF? Which (if either) do you follow/ belong to/ whatever.

Thanks, and, Best regards as ever, John .

Dear John,

Indeed this question is so on the mark that I think I will borrow it and post it on the website. It is a great question, in fact a matter of life and death.

1. In our style of training we NEVER ever try to catch the knife hand. We used to joke and say "the last man who could catch an arm in motion was Bruce Lee, you are not Bruce Lee so don't even try." We try a much simpler idea; use your powerful forearm to block his forearm. Once you have successfully blocked his arm, and caused him some pain, you might be able to continue with some strikes and perhaps a trap if the situation presents itself. The technique does not rely upon the trap but rather on the initial block, if you can do the trap - great, but it is not the technique.

2. You say that some people are fast enough to grab the hand or wrist. In our style of training we assume the worst - we assume you may be caught off guard, we assume you may be a little out of shape, we assume you may be having an off day. We do not assume you are prepared for a fight and are at your peek. Thus we do not have techniques that are designed with Olympic athletes in mind and we never assume anyone can have that kind of speed. We train for the worst case scenario, not the best. Therefore the techniques you describe are not seen by us as realistic for 'most people.' When I was in Illinois I saw such techniques as you described, they were in a top martial arts magazine in an article about a well know Krav style instructor. Two of our members and myself were looking at these techniques and were simply shocked that anyone can actually believe in these techniques.

3. Again, as you point out, we work on a block, which might lead to "grasping or gripping of the knife arm/wrist". You have a good eye my friend. I am certainly not fast enough to try and grab the wrist during a full speed surprise attack and would never want to try that with a real knife.

4. You mention certain Krav Maga organizations and the confusion involved. I am confused as well. I do not have any real knowledge of these organizations and I have never trained with them. My training comes from Itay Gil as well as several other top experts who work with law enforcement such as Professor Arthur Cohen.

Our training is the product of the brutal reality of life in Israel, Jerusalem in particular.  It would be criminal of us to teach fancy grabbing techniques which would most likely get one killed on the street or in the narrow alleys of the Old City of Jerusalem. I cannot understand how other groups teach these techniques. I know for a fact that many of our guards have used these techniques in real life situations and have lived to tell us about it. This is where we learn from, not from some martial arts school with lots of trophies. Our techniques are changed, modified, and improved based on what we hear and see 'in the field'. Our goal is the preservation of life, not the preservation of this or that style. For this reason I founded IKI to share these techniques with good people, wherever they may live.