Knife Fighting Fallacy.

When a dog goes to lay down it first turns in a circle. Supposedly this behaviour was originally to flatten stiff grass that might have dug into the dog. The dog still makes its circle, even though it is now intending to lie on blanket a soft blanket or your best chair. We mustn’t mock the dog, however, since humans are just as prone  to continue with ideas when they are no longer in context, despite our reasoning minds and other advantages
Knife fights are fortunately fairly rare in our culture. Perhaps what is not so fortunate is that when I knife is used it is often in a situation when there is an armament disparity. Either on party is unarmed or faced with a much more potent weapon. This is why no education in self-defence is complete without some knowledge of how to use a knife or how one may be used against you, which is why my book includes quite a long section on knives. As I remark in the book, there is a considerable variety of opinion on how knives should be used, so schools of technique building on unarmed skills, others drawing inspiration from sword fighting. John Styers’ book “Cold Steel” very much draws from the knife as a sword tradition. While the book has some very good ideas there is one sequence that stands out as a discrepancy.

Even if we allow for the common practice of distance being exaggerated to make the photo clearer, the idea behind this is not. Why would lowering you knife cause the enemy to lower his guard? Isn’t it more likely that dropping your guard would cause an enemy to attack? If Styers is trying to stab the knee or shin for some reason the more likely response is for the enemy to withdraw the leg and counter attack the head or arm, either with his knife or using the leg to riposte with a kick.
This same technique appears in William Cassidy’s “The Complete Book of Knife Fighting” where we are told  that lowering your guard will cause your opponent to do the same? Why? With no trace of irony the following picture (fig 66) tells us a low feint will put your opponent’s head and arm within reach. In Fig 65 it seems more likely that Randall would naturally flinch back and slash at Loveless’ arm.

Styers drew on the techniques of another marine, Col Biddle, author of “Do Or Die”. Biddle based his knife fighting techniques on swordplay but the weapons shown used were GI-issue Sword Bayonets with blades of about 17″, so techniques such as parrying were more practical. Interestingly, Biddle’s book does not show the technique above.
The sequence both Styers and Cassidy show might have actually worked with swords. A sword would be long enough to threaten the leg and parrying it by lowering your own sword would have been a practical response. It might have worked with a machete or sword bayonet. With shorter bowie knives it no longer seems practical and even becomes foolish. Like the dog circling on the smooth floor we see the same actions being used even though the context no longer applies.
What is interesting is that no one involved in the modelling for either Styers’ or Cassidy’s books actually stopped and said “Hold on, this doesn’t make sense!” That perhaps tells us a lot about human nature.


Savate by Bruce Tegner

The idea for this blog came to me yesterday while I was laying in the bath. Unusually for me I was reading in the bath. I had located a copy of a book I was curious about for a price I could afford (money is tight, please click the links :P) and it had finally arrived.

The book was “Savate” by Bruce Tegner. While there is plenty of material on the web on Savate, there do not seem to be that many printed books in English. Tegner’s book had been one of the first published in the modern era and I had been curious as to his treatment of the subject.
For those who are not familiar with the name, Bruce Tegner wrote a large number of martial arts and self-defence related titles in the 60s and 70s. This was a time of widespread interest in the martial arts but very little decent information and Tegner saw a niche in the market and attempted to fill it. Some may consider his works to be “potboilers” but it has to be said that his book “Self Defence Nerve Centers and Pressure Points” is quite well written and is a sensible and rational treatment of a subject that often strays into the fantastical. His comment that: “There is a danger in regarding legend as literal truth. If you believe everything – without verification – it will dull your ability to distinguish fantasy from fact, lies from truth. A credulous person – one who does not ask questions and demand verifiable proof – is in a perilous position. As a consumer, as a voter, as a participant in a highly complex society, it is your duty and in your survival interest to be able to tell the difference between fantasy and reality, between promotional hucksterism and plain fact.” is a very sage piece of advice.
Tegner’s book on Savate does have some interesting information. He often points out that the techniques shown are for sport rather than practical self-defence. There is a statement that sports and many martial arts require high levels of skill, constant training and practice and high levels of fitness and that self-defence is often needed by those who do not have these attributes.
Tegner states that in Savate competitions kicks to the upper body score more points, and that this is why high kicks are so prevalent when they are not so practical for actual self-defence.
One of the things I was looking for from this book was some information on how to perform the “Revers Lateral” kick from Savate, a reverse roundhouse that hits with the sole of the foot. Unfortunately this book has no information on how to perform any of the techniques shown. Even more surprisingly the French name for a technique is only used once in the entire book. Kicks are simply called “hook kicks”, “stamping kicks”, “roundhouse”, “toe kick” etc. Kicks to the shin region are shown, but the characteristic ankle area kick of Savate the “Coup de Pied Bas” is absent. An inward crescent kick is shown on one page, which I believe isn’t a legal kick for sporting Savate. Backfist strikes are also shown which I believe also may not be ring-legal.
While Tegner seems sincere, this is not a very good offering, especially since this is the third revised edition published 23 years after the first.


What Will this Blog Be About?

According to the advice I have seen a good blog should keep to a particular interest. How likely that will be for me in practice remains to be seem. We will probably investigate a few side trails every now and them, but hopefully will never lose sight of the main path totally.
A little over a year ago I published my book, “Attack, Avoid, Survive : Essential Principles of Self Defence” You can find out more about this book at the webpage here. You can order it from and but I suggest you buy it direct from Lulu since you will save yourself a few quid.
This blog has been created to support this publication. During my research for this book I had to read several hundred books on self-defence, martial arts and the use of weapons and on this blog I will be discussing some of the issues and interesting points that have arisen. I will also be expanding on topics and subjects covered by the book, adding additional artwork and even some thoughts on additional techniques. I will also be diverting into related issues so do not be surprised if I verr off into discussions on weapons in science fiction, video games and movies. There will be book reviews too
To close, an illustration that did not make it into the first edition of the book.


CV1 Attack Point

An odd sort of pride. A comment by my girlfriend that she would “Kick any muggers in the point between their balls and bum!” and thinking “That is exactly right for the CV1 point! She learnt that from the book!”


The Beginning of the Blogverse

And so it begins…
The blog about the book  “Attack, Avoid, Survive”, the subsequent books, related issues, and if I am not careful, all sorts of other stuff!