When he wrote ‘On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society’ , Lt Col Dave Grossman provided us with a fascinating exploration of how ordinary people face killing other ordinary people. In a world where the media provides us with billions of deaths by every conceivable means, deaths that scare us, excite us and sometimes entice us, it becomes increasingly hard to separate fact from fiction. The advance nature of internet shoot ’em up gaming allows us to virtually kill whenever we feel like it. War is becoming like a computer game where an operative using a joystick can fly a drone thousands of miles away and kill with impunity unleashing their Hellfire missiles on the hated enemy. The more remote the enemy the easier it is for us to kill them.
Grossman discusses distance at some length if you pardon the pun. he uses lots of real life experiences of people facing an enemy in combat and their thoughts and feelings on killing them. As the range shortens the harder it gets to kill them. Real close, the kind of close necessary to kill them with a knife is the hardest of all. The distance needs to be touching distance, close in touching distance, the same distance we occupy to have sex. If you are close enough to work on somebody with a knife you will not only see them, you will inevitably feel them, smell them, even taste them. You will feel their humanity through all your senses and will need to override all of your social programming in order to take their life. All of those warriors who see themselves as lifetakers and widowmakers just think on this for a little while. Using a knife will produce mess, blood, probably lots of it, it will most likely produce screams, begging, pleading, it is not a clean and clinical process, you cannot operate a knife with a joystick it is a manual weapon. We are not talking about the clinically insane or deranged here, but you and me, ordinary people. Yes I have a Fairbairn Sykes fighting knife, my wife bought it me for christmas a couple of years ago and I keep it in …… (not telling). For me it is a thing of beauty, a symbol, it represents the end point, the point you reach when all else fails and you need to lose your humanity to protect it if that makes sense.
In ‘Twisting The Knife Twice’ I posted a clip in which Paul Vunak uses his knife to slice a piece of meat, it is quite a graphic way to show how nasty knife work is, try this:
OK, how many of you turned it off early, we know it is a film, made up, fantasy but it is all so graphic and ‘real’, it takes a certain kind of crazy to be able to do this to somebody bound and gagged in a chair, but what about that burglar creeping through your house, or the ‘new’ phenomena of home invaders. Can we pop them off with some neat knife work like the were space invader on a computer? Most likely not so leave the fantasy stuff alone. There is an unlimited amount of knife fighting videos available on Youtube, most are bullshit, the kind swallowed by the gullible and the fantasist. Today I have started with some thoughts on using a knife, no rational ordinary person will have these thoughts, but to understand what you are facing if that is somebody with a knife, one they intend to use on you, you need to get inside their head before you even think of a defence. Think of what you would do if you had to kill somebody with a knife, its life and death, yours or theirs, forget the blood, snot tears and screaming and imagine using the knife until you are finished and they are dead. Fast, furious and brutal is what you should be imagining. That is what you will face, not a duel at arm’s length, not a choreographed performance but a shanking a slashing frenzy with blood, urine and feces.
If we are to train for knife attacks we need first to recognise reality and distinguish it from media representations of violence, we need to understand the psychological cost of facing a knife will have, fear is a cold hard thing to imagine and function through. My experience is limited, but take from somebody who really knows.
“The only place where the knife fighting fantasy exists is in the martial arts. There is no such thing in the modern civilized world. In legal terms it is attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon or homicide. To the streetfighter it is assassination, not a “fight” at all. To the criminal it is a tool for robbery. Everyone else considers it abhorrent macho stupidity.” Marc ‘Animal’ MacYoung.
Marc is holding a seminar in Sheffield this September that I have organised and we will be spending a full day on Surviving a knife attack. The tactics of a street knife attack are radically different from what is taught in martial arts schools. Those differences will get you killed or hospitalized when facing a blade outside the safety of the school. This seminar teaches you the priorities, tactics and complications you MUST address to stay alive and minimize your hospital time from facing a blade in the streets. This is not a martial arts class it’s an introduction to survival strategies when facing a blade in the hands of someone intent on harming you.
So whilst I have, at some length over three days presented arguments pulling apart most martial arts fantasy knife disarms the reality is criminals and psychopaths love knives, home invaders and burglars need not carry one as we leave them plenty in our kitchen. My aim in these blogs is not to argue that we should not conduct knife defence training but to add my voice to those others who point out the danger of training for fantasy. The threat that wants to get in close, into that sexual distance Grossman writes about, is not the guy slowly feeding you a rubber knife. What works on the latter will get you killed by the former, it will be your blood, urine and faeces draining away. In the video above Marc is in that sexual space, he has to be to use the knife effectively so train for that, make it real, make it happen without warning in the middle of your training, take out your training partner with out warning, jump somebody elses training partner, use your imagination but imagine what a real attacker is trying to achieve and not some posturing slow motion single thrust feed. Put them in body armour and hammer them if you have no escape, try it, it can be fun.
All through these blogs I have used the word defence when talking about knife attacks and it is the wrong word, you need to attack a knife threat not defend against them that is passive, once again, do not take my word for it, listen to the guy who owns the t-shirt.
Thanks for reading, back to the lighter stuff tomorrow we will be looking at the groin. 😉