Category Archive: Combatives

Strike, Cut, Escape

“I carry a gun so I don’t have to get in knife fights.” Anyone who’s been around the self-defense industry for any length of time has probably heard someone say that.  In fact, I’ve been guilty of saying it once or twice myself.  The problem with that statement is that even as concealed carry expands across the nation, there are plenty of places where an armed citizen still cannot carry their firearm.  Post offices, schools, bars (in certain states), and of course many people are barred from carrying firearms in their place of employment.

Spyderco Native

Spyderco Native - pink

Enter the humble pocket knife.  The Spyderco Native pictured wouldn’t raise many eyebrows, whether it was pink or black, it’s just something that you can carry around in your pocket to open boxes with, cut an apple, or take a thread off a shirt with.  Most small knives are so innocuous that the majority of the population doesn’t think it’s odd when a person carries one, because it’s just a useful tool for everyday life.

What many people don’t realize though, is that with the right practice it’s also a serious self-defense tool when your gun is unavailable.  This past weekend, I took InSight’s Defensive Folding Knife 1 class, which focuses on using the common folding knife as a life-saving tool.  This isn’t a knife fighting class, but in the words of the instructor David Roberts it is an “anti-grappling class”.  The focus of the class wasn’t about trading cuts in a knife fight – instead it took a look at realistic self-defense situations that the average person could find themselves in. Click here to read more »

The Color Codes

I think that everyone in the self defense world has heard a lot about Jeff Coopers Color Codes. However like most ”common knowledge” there is a lot of detail that gets forgotten or just glossed over, and like many good ideas the color codes have evolved over time with different schools of thought developing their own variations. Cooper originally envisioned the color codes as a representation of a “state of mind” rather than a particular defensive posture or threat condition. Cooper took the USMC system of indicating the combat-readiness of a unit and applied it to an individual.

I think that models like the color codes are much more effective when they are tied to specific states and actions rather than just expressing a state of readiness. It is important to remember that the color codes are not about the nature of the threat, but about your actions, readiness, and responses based upon the situation. The color codes give us a way of organizing these states and making decisions.

Condition White
Generally condition white gets dismissed quickly as being “unaware” or “unprepared” and students are admonished to “not be in condition white.” Unfortunately it is neither possible nor even desirable for this to be true. This belief that condition white is undesirable stems from people thinking it comes from not paying attention, when in fact it is just as likely to driven by paying too much attention to something.

When you are watching a movie, reading a book (or writing a blog post), you are focusing your attention on something other than your immediate surroundings. This might include the active exclusion of wider sensory inputs, like listening to music to mask the sound of traffic. If you are reading this page you are not looking out the window. We willfully exclude and ignore our surroundings on many occasions because the task we are doing requires our complete focus and attention. If you are focusing on your sight picture then you are not paying attention to your surroundings (at least for the duration of the shot and it’s follow through.) If you are literally asleep then you are most certainly not paying attention to your environment.

The point I am getting at is that we need to recognize the moments when we are going to be in condition white and control the circumstances when this happens. We can go into condition white when have other security measures in place (locked doors, dogs that will bark, alarm systems, people that will serve as our early warning.)
The idea is that we don’t want to be surprised by the threat before we get a chance to prepare, at least a little bit, to deal with it.

Aggressors claiming self defense.

There is some discussion over at Sharp as a Marble regarding the link I posted here regarding aggressors claiming self defense.

I think Rob is correct in pointing this out:

… ‘proportionate response’ doesn’t translate into the real world easily …

Using the least amount of force is generally the most legally defensible option. If an aggressor is trying to flee and you are preventing them from doing so it is pretty hard to argue that you couldn’t escape. Self defense isn’t designed to be ‘punishment’, we have courts for that. We must fight until we are sure that we can escape, and then we should do so.

Tactically speaking, if you are spending time on a neutralized threat you are creating an opportunity for another assailant. You have already confirmed that you are in the location where fights happen and we don’t know if the first assailant brought along a (tougher) friend. His friend might have been staying out of it because he didn’t want to get hurt, didn’t want to get in trouble, or thought the first guy could handle it. If the defender starts winning, that equation can change.

Devastating unarmed techniques.

P0001789I occasionally get some exposure to other combatives and martial arts systems, and get to work with some very skilled practitioners of these different arts. One thing I frequently run into are “techniques that are too dangerous to do – even in training.” I have a very hard time with this.

It is my core belief that practicing things as close as you can get to full-speed, full-power, against resisting opponents is a key element of self defense training. While the InSights combatives system has a few techniques that fall into the “too dangerous to practice” category, one key difference I see is that none of them are the primary part of an escape or defense. Eye gouges and the like are not first thing we are going do, and the rest of the technique doesn’t hinge on the successful execution of it.

Clearly we can’t begin training at ‘combat speed’ because we still need to learn the mechanics of the particular technique, but eventually we need to progress to training under stress, against resisting opponents that change their pattern of attack, and with real speed and power. This is why we spend so much time fighting against opponents that are wearing Fist Suits in our unarmed classes.

Plain vs. serrated edge knives.

Knife Blades We get a lot of questions about the differences between plain and serrated blades in Defensive Folding Knife. The short answer is that I prefer plain edge blades simply because they are easier to sharpen, but both have their assets and liabilities.

A serrated blade is a trick to get a longer blade in a shorter package. The cutting edge is pinched into ridges and valleys so we can more cutting edge in same overall length. Because all of the cutting edge doesn’t usually contact the medium that you are cutting serrated blades will stay ‘usefully sharp’ for longer, and as they get dull they tend to tear the medium.

Once the knives are dull enough to begin tearing the medium is providing more resistance and the blade will more prone to getting hung up in the middle of a cut. Things like zippers and seams will frequently cause a serrated blade to hang up.

I’ll take a sharp knife over a dull one before I worry about serration or any other blade pattern.

Plain edge blades on the other hand simply skip over things like seams and zippers. They get dull more quickly because more the cutting edge is contact with the medium. You probably have more than one kind of knife in your kitchen and in a pinch you can carve meat with a bread knife, or bread with a carving knife, but the results aren’t really optimized. We don’t normally need a lot of optimization in our pocket knives (especially as defensive tools). I’ll take a sharp knife over a dull one before I worry about serration or any other blade pattern.