Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Terrible, Terrible, Mistaken Knife Grips

     About 20 years ago, I wrote some magazine articles about what I dubbed as The Cancer Grip of the knife. Its a saber grip, as in "the sharp end of the knife sticks out of the top of the hand" (you would think people would know this, but some really don't).

     Anyway, I still kept seeing some of the biggest names in Filipino Martial Arts thumb way up, slashing, stabbing in the air like mad, followed by their students, with this Cancer Grip. This is when the ball of the thumb and the thumb is up off the knife (see the photo just below). You can't really stab, you can't really slash, you can't cut a steak this way, and while dueling its an easy knocked-out disarm. Yet many "FMA leaders, even some of the FMA "Gods" were slipping in and out of this grip way too much in photos, films and teaching. There is even an entire Filipino knife system (not a popular one, I might add) that only uses the thumbs-up grip. Not good, and practitioners are still doing this unsecured, simulated stabs and slashes with this grip in their solo and non-contact, light-contact drills. 

     This is an "international" problem. A now somewhat famous American knife guy, (a friend) on the cover of his first knife book years ago was - and unfortunately still is even with newer editions - is shown stabbing someone with this worthless grip - he and others just mindlessly replicating the big boys. The knife will pop right of the top of his hand. He knows better now. Folks, you need the ball of the thumb and the thumb down to hold the knife to stab and slash, well...to even cut a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Later, warnings about this went into my knife book too. I was ridiculed by bringing this up at first. Back then, this was taken as a personal criticism against their leaders and Gods, with no regard for the sensibility I was preaching. I was being disrespectful, they said. I am talking about being internationally chastised. I was not trying to besmirch anyone, just correct a particular silly, mindless thing. A peculiar thing. Next though, some people thought a bit about it and then some stubbornly started making excuses and reasons for such a move.

"We change grips..."
"What Hock doesn't understand is..."

     I really don't want to rehash it all here again today, but there are only one or two very small, very situation-specific moves with a raised thumb such as a wrist hook/catch, and there is no reason to be over-doing and over-showing a ton of moves with a raised thumb. Replicators easily self-disarm and can die when doing these damn things.

     What I do want to do here instead is expose quickly another set of a few silly, saber grip versions I still see all around the world. Look at this these gems. One is almost two full fingers on the side of the blade, and the other almost one full finger on the side of the blade.

Fingers Up On the Blade    

     Can anyone see a problem with this? Raise hands? First off, it is long, commonly known by professionals that stabbing produces the most success in knife attacks. So you stab the opponent with this grip and your knife goes in just a bit and his body hits your one fingertip or your two fingertips. Your deadly depth is now done. And, or - you have maybe jammed your finger or fingers? These one-finger and two-finger, little ditties are not good, yet I still see them in training around the world here and there. 
     I know, I know, I know, you looked so ultimately cool, almost as cool as the thoughtless person who showed you this, the one you so want to emulate and replicate, but it makes little to no sense.

The Surgical Slashing Finger Up On a Blade
I think these one and two fingers-up-and-out deals may originate from the idea of old "surgical slashing thing." You know surgeons need to cut teeny, teeny body parts, so much so they are using lasers now. But before lasers, to get the most precise little cuts, a surgeon needed to work right up near the tip of his scalpel. Now, how's about that kind of teeny slashing in a crazy alleyway fight? No. And if you stab, your fingertip still stops the stab penetration and stops the really needed depth of the stab. I still see a few "name" knife players with their pointy finger up and out, like a surgeon, way up on the knife back, slashy-slashy away. They look cool. They look awesome with their slinky slashes to the novice and the thoughtless, but it is just not a sound idea in the big picture of options.

The Horizontal Serve
At times I have to walk about and actually close the hand of some knife practitioners, graduates of other systems, around their knife handle, as they stab high, center-line and horizontal. Almost like they are serving you a candy bar or something. These are not just rookies. In fact, a rookie would probably never serve up a knife like this. You have to be trained to do this. It is as though they are not even making a remote mental connection to what they are actually doing. This knife will come right out of their hand on body contact, or any contact really, like a reflexive block. As I walk by, I reach up and push their fingers together. They do get the idea when I do this, but their "muscle memory" quickly takes right over again, a moment after I walk away.

Losing the Knife in the Duel
We know from common sense that these finger tricks do not stand the test of contact. Stubborn excusers are quick to say,

     "Well, Hock at the very instant we stab or slash, we fully grip the handle."  

     Well...no. No you don't. And you are claiming that you "Duel" (posture, move and position) while holding your knife like a handicapped person, then when you actually stab or slash you are savvy and fast enough to fully grab the handle? Watch yourselves. You don't. And yet, practitioners in training are still dueling and simulating stabs and slashes with these handicapped grips. Just building repetition brainwashing with this mess. Another big reason to worry about these open, extended fingers and not even at the split second of stabbing or slashing - these knife encounters often pass through, in and out, of a short dueling phase. Your exposed, elongated fingers are subject to be hit when you are not stabbing or slashing. Impact disarms ensue, etc.

     Given the chaos of a real knife encounter, you could get your knife whacked out with surprise contact with the enemy. Let's not even talk about having this grip "muscle memory" in a ground fight.

     Folks, keep your dang fingers off the blade like this and keep your thumb and the ball of your thumb down on the knife! Get out on a war-post / tree / pell / whatever and slash and stab it for impact and see what happens with your knife and your grip. Folks, when you bang away on a war-post, or get inside a rugby-force knife fight, odds are you will lose your knife if you have the "muscle" memory to grip it in these ..."artsily" ways.

And So, I Leave You With These Gems
I still rarely see these gems here and there, so I will leave you with these knife grips.

The "Jazz Grip" with a customized, mandatory jazzy knife, photo courtesy of Italian Giovanni Di Gregorio

And Jethro from England sends us, the Facebook Knife

But here below, not only do we still see the the Cancer Grip thumb up and the odd "Invaders" pinky straight out, but I have also seen this gem too, where only two fingers are on the handle. If you sneeze on this knife it will come out of the hand. And by the way, this does not just appear from a version of a  "Hawaiian Salute" position from some photo op. People see this grip in photos and training films and use it.


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The Complete Death Grip of the Knife Module 
(Level 9 of the Knife Course)

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