George Silver's Dagger and Knife Fighting.

In my recent book review of “Slash and Thrust” the knife fighting instructions of George Silver were mentioned. It is only logical that today’s blog is about these. Silver’s chapter on knife/ dagger fighting is very brief, but very informative.
To make things easier for readers who do not have English as a first language, or those that just have trouble with archaic English I have used a version of the text rendered in a more modern form taken from this site. My own comments and clarifications in green.
Chapter 15
Of the single dagger fight against the like weapon
1. First know that to this weapon there belongs no wards or grips but against such a one as is foolhardy & will suffer himself to have a full stab in the face or body or hazard the giving of another, then against him you may use your left hand in throwing him aside or strike up his heels after you have stabbed him.
Here Silver tells us that the single dagger cannot be used to parry/block (“ward”), nor is it advisable to try and grapple or hold (“grip”) a knife armed foe. To attempt this is to invite an injury. “your left hand in throwing him aside” seems to suggest striking with the free hand. “strike up his heels” is interpreted by some analysts as a low kick to unbalance the foe.
2. In this dagger fight, you must use continual motion so shall he not be able to put you to the close or grip, because your continual motion disappoints him of his true place, & the more fierce he is in running in, the sooner he gains you the place, whereby he is wounded, & you not anything the rather endangered.
“place” is used by Silver to mean a position or location from which you can strike an enemy without needing to step forward.
3. The manner of handling your continual motion is this, keep out of distance & strike or thrust at his hand, arm, face or body, that shall press upon you, & if he defends blow or thrust with his dagger make your blow or thrust at his hand.
4. If he comes in with his left leg forwards or with the right, do you strike at that part as soon as it shall be within reach, remembering that you use continual motion in your progression & regression according to your twofold governors.
A Twofold Mind (“Twyfold mynd”) is Silver’s term for the mental state that allows you to be prepared to fly back (retreat) as you advance and vice versa.
5. Although the dagger fight is thought a very dangerous fight by reason of the shortness & singleness thereof, yet the fight thereof being handled as is aforesaid, is as safe & as defensive as the fight of any other weapon, this ends my brief instructions.
For more information on self-defence, see my books.


Slash and Thrust by John Sanchez

When I first started this blog, I expected that I would be writing more book reviews than I have done. The problem is, many martial arts books are somewhat lacking in content.
The reason I wrote my first book was to address many of the points that I did not feel were adequately covered. Hence it is very hard to review a book such as “Slash and Thrust” without making the point that my own work does a better job at covering the techniques of defensive knife use or throwing objects in self-defence.

Back in the days when I was a regular on a knife throwing forum, John Sanchez’s book “Slash and Thrust” would sometimes be mentioned.
These mentions were usually due to the short section on throwing weapons in the book, and in particular a weapon Sanchez called the “Irish Dart”.
Years ago, I flipped through a friend’s copy of the book, but I admit we were mainly interested in the throwing section at the end.
Recently another friend commented that he intended to brush up on his knife techniques by rereading his copy of Slash and Thrust.
I decided to finally treat myself to a cheap second hand copy.
According to the blurb: “Until Slash and Thrust, no book ever presented a complete, practical knife fighter’s training program. This classic covers choosing the martial knife, quick-kill strikes, footwork, deceptive movements and using such exotic weapons as the shuriken, shaken, Irish dart, chakram and Chinese cloth dart.”
Quite a big claim for a small book of only 68-72 pages!
Having now read the book properly, my impression is of an inflatable structure that tries to look substantial but has very little content.
For example, Sanchez notes that there are a number of different footwork techniques used in various martial arts and then states he favours “natural footwork”. That sounds very logical, wise and sensible, but once you examine the statement, you realize it has very little actual meaning or content.
The footwork he goes on to describe involves moving with the knees bent. While this is a good technique, it is not what I would describe as natural.
The book has a number of statements or references that seem to be placed there mainly for the effect of making it seem more learned or insightful than it actually is.
In its handful of pages Sanchez uses the phrase “common sense” at least four times. Readers will be aware that this is a fiction, and any time someone uses this phrase instead of providing detail or justification, any information should be treated with skepticism and suspicion.
Sanchez also describes thrusting with a kukri as “at best, awkward”, which makes me seriously doubt that he has ever handled one.
There is a section on carrying techniques where Sanchez advocates carrying a belt knife inclined with the edge up.
He makes an argument that because the hand is inverted and turned palm out to draw from, this position it is better defended.
In fact, this would expose the more vulnerable area of the inner forearm with its nerves, blood vessels and tendons.
It also ignores that if the enemy is within attacking range you should be defending rather than attempting to draw a weapon.
The book does have some points of interest, but it was easy to overlook these among the padding.
You may pick up a tip or two, and one or two good points are made, but there is no way that this should be used as your main source of instruction. It gives little glimpses rather than a comprehensive view.
Occasionally he refers back to some ideas “already described” but these were in fact detailed very briefly.
Areas such as the guard posture could have been described better and would have benefited from an illustration.
There is an illustration of useful target areas, but important information such as that there is a high probability that attacking through the ribs can cause a blade to jam or be lost is not mentioned.
Sanchez suggests a number of books to consult for further study.
Paradoxes of Defence” by George Silver is mentioned a number of times. I have mentioned Silver’s works on these pages, and in my books too.
Silver is worth a read but his comments on knife fighting techniques are only a few paragraphs long.
Also, Sanchez fails to mention that Silver’s discussion of actual techniques are in his related work “Brief Instructions upon my Paradoxes of Defence”.
Musashi’sBook of Five Rings” is also suggested for reading. Referencing this book was quite common in the 80s. The Book of Five Rings contains some techniques for sword use. I don’t recall any knife relevant stuff in the book, but it has been a while since I read it, so will give Sanchez the benefit of the doubt there.
“Cold Steel” by John Styers is another suggestion. This is an interesting book providing you understand it was built on the ideas of Drexel-Biddle, whose knife fighting ideas were heavily influenced by sword-fighting techniques.
The last suggestion was Cassidy’s “Complete Book of Knife Fighting” See here for my review on that book. It is an interesting read, but I would be very cautious on trying its techniques in a real encounter!
As I have mentioned, there is a brief section on a variety of throwing weapons.
Sanchez admits that there may be situations when there is no other option but to throw a weapon, and briefly describes a number of historical examples of hand thrown weapons.
His explanation of how to throw knives and shuriken is reasonable if a little inaccurate on a few points.
Contrary to the claims of some reviews, the section on throwing weapons does not take up a third of the book. It is just a handful of pages.
For alternate information on self-defence, see my books.

Watching the Fire Alarms

Many years back there was a trend at the local Students' Union for setting off the Fire Alarms. This very childish and irresponsible behaviour was only curbed when the Fire Brigade threatened to have the bar’s alcohol license revoked.
A friend of mine at another university has seen a similar trend. His suggested solution is quite brilliant but also very simple. He suggested to the campus police that Fire Alarms should incorporate a camera. Where this is not possible cameras should be positioned so they can view anyone operating an alarm. If someone is operating an alarm legitimately the camera footage will allow them to be identified and commended. If someone is operating the alarm as a hoax then the footage will also allow them to be identified, hopefully so it can be arranged that they spend some time with others who have no regard for others’ welfare.

The intelligent reader may be objecting that hoaxers may attempt to cover the cameras. This likelihood can be reduced by use of small concealed cameras positioned in a variety of locations. A camera does not actually need to be mounted in the alarm, just have a view of the alarm's operator.
I am sure a lot of rot will be raised against this idea under the banner of “civil liberties” but it is just that, rot. University campuses are already under surveillance and this idea is just to ensure that alarm points are included in the field of view. It would be a big contribution to improving public safety and preventing some genuine criminal behavior.

Long Range Pistol Shots and Zero

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that the purpose of a military pistol round is close combat, and therefore a supersonic round more suited to longer range shooting is not a logical choice. It is worth bearing in mind that the longer range performance of even subsonic rounds like the .45ACP is much better than most people assume. I have seen estimates that the De Lisle Carbine was effective to 200 yards and possibly as much as 400 yards.
The following table, taken from FrFrog’s Ballistics pages, is interesting.
With weapons zeroed to 50 yds, the rounds tested hit just 5 to 12" low at 100 yds. Rounds such as the .40 S&W, 10mm and .357 SIG can be expected to perform rather like the .357 Mag. Evidently the higher velocity rounds fly flatter, but in practical combat terms there is little to choose between them. A shot aimed at head or shoulder height at beyond 75 yards is going to strike in the thorax, whether you have a 9mm, .357, .44 Mag or .45 ACP.
Zeroing a pistol at 50 yards may not be practical, so a good approach is to zero your pistol to hit 2" high at 25 yards. Using this zero, the round will have dropped less than 12" below point of aim at 100 yards and the maximal ordinate will not exceed +3". This holds true for nearly all common combat pistol calibres. Higher velocity rounds will have a flatter trajectory and have dropped less than slower ones, but all these rounds will hit less than 12" low at 100 yards and not exceed 3"+.
For more details, see my books.


Army Wants More Powerful Pistol: Only One Real Answer!

I have just glanced at an article claiming the US military is looking to replace the 9mm pistol with something more powerful. The obvious move is to simply go back to the .45 ACP, but the article also talks about looking at the .357 SIG and .40 S&W.
Military trials in the past have often not been that scientific. A decision gets made in advance and the main purpose of the trial is to find evidence to support this decision. Some of you might reasonably be asking hasn’t the US military ever investigated handgun ammunition before? Yes they have! A very extensive study back in 1998 It found the .45 ACP to be superior to all lighter, higher velocity rounds. These findings have been mainly ignored.
Millions of dollars will doubtless be wasted selecting a new calibre.
Let us just consider for a second what the military actually needs from a pistol.

    • It needs a round that works well at close range.
    • It needs a round that can be used effectively with a suppressor.
Logically it needs a heavy, subsonic round, not a high velocity supersonic round optimised for ranges of more than 75 metres. Only one military pistol round meets those criteria and in addition has a proven combat track record. The .45 ACP.