On May 19, 2013 I attended a 7-hour Defensive Knife Workshop with Chuck Rives hosted by KR Training.
Chuck Rives is an Affiliate Instructor, for Mike Janich’s Martial Blade Concepts. Chuck has been a martial artist for about 30 years. Chuck lives in Amarillo, Texas and is an Emergency Manager for a Federal Government Agency. Chuck teaches knife, and defensive tactics regularly to peace officers and corrections officers.
So, Chuck knows his stuff. Chuck’s been coming to KR Training for a while to host shorter classes, and I’ve wanted to check out his classes for some time but just haven’t been able to for one reason or another. But this class I didn’t want to miss because 1. it was a full day, 2. it was also going to have Allen Elishewitz. Alas, Allen was unable to make the class, but that really didn’t detract much because Chuck ran a great class with much to teach. You may know who Michael Janich is, as he’s been a part of the TV show The Best Defense for some time now. While I’m not a huge fan of a lot of the “training” TV shows out there, I am a fan of Michael’s and what he teaches is solid. What Chuck teaches isn’t pure MBC curriculum, Chuck is an Affiliate Instructor of MBC and is highly recommended by Janich.
The knife work is founded in Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) style and concepts. Consequently, it’s logical, simple, and effective. What Chuck has put together for this 1-day workshop provides a basic foundation of simple concepts and techniques that almost anyone can use to defend themselves with a knife.
The workshop started out with a discussion of self-defense, what defensive knife work is (this isn’t dueling, it’s not Westside Story). Some talk about knives themselves in terms of construction and blades. Then a live demonstration of various knives via “Pork Man”. Watch this video:
That’s Michael Janich, and the first 3 minutes or so give his background, followed by some useful footage of actual knife attacks (close, swift, aggressive, brutal), and finally the “Pork Man” demo. What you can see is that knife attacks can be ugly, even with small/short blades. One thing that Chuck’s demo showed that the YouTube video doesn’t, is how blade shape/construction matters. Chuck had a knife that looks evil and threatening — it’s big, black, looks “tactical” and “scary”. But actual cutting ability? It was pretty poor due to blade and edge shape. Then some smaller, less threatening looking knives did far worse damage, but again it was due to superior shape and edge. There’s a lot one can glean from such a demonstration.
After Pork Man, we had discussions of targeting, stance, deployment, grip, and then angles of attack. Again, if you’re familiar with FMA, these angles of attack are familiar. I won’t give away all that Chuck teaches — you’ll do better to learn from the teacher. But if you’re a student of Kali or Arnis or Escrima, you probably already know what’s going on here. Basic blocks and attacks, all based upon the same/similar concepts. At first, it seems like you’re learning a lot, then you realize as the day goes on that you’re learning the same thing and it doesn’t seem like much, and that’s the great thing about it — it’s simple, it’s less to learn, but yet it’s effective regardless. This means when the flag flies you have less of inventory to hunt through for a response, which means a faster response. Good thing.
What Chuck taught was simple and effective, but there’s no question you cannot just take the class then forget about it. You are going to need to practice these things to get them smooth and reflexive. When practicing these, I found myself a few times with brain fade and reverting to techniques I already knew from past martial arts experience. What was soberingly evident? Chuck’s techniques strive to get you on the outside of your attacker, which is generally a safer place to be, especially when a knife is involved. So much of what I learned in the past? Works to get you inside your attacker and keep you there. Really, there’s no one right place because inside and outside can have advantages and disadvantages, reasons to want to be there and reasons to not want to be there. It was just an interesting contrast to have Chuck’s material presented, which focused on getting outside, and finding myself at times reverting to old habits which want to keep me inside.
Was there anything bad about the day? Well, it was hot, sunny, windy, which really took a lot out of you. In the later afternoon we probably should have taken it back inside, cleared the room, and continued working in there. But Chuck was good about taking breaks, cooling off, getting water. It’s good when instructors aren’t just attentive to material, but also these other realities and necessities of teaching. I do wish there was more way to apply the techniques, like some FoF scenarios. But I’m not sure logically how that could be worked out. I know in past martial arts study we’ve done things like get a red magic marker and white t-shirts, so it doesn’t hurt too much but it also shows the damage done. But that’s also probably too much material for one day (2 day course? Maybe a “Level 2” workshop that starts with a review of this material, adds a few more things, then spends the afternoon in FoF?).
One thing I kept thinking about was my past defensive folding knife training with Insights Training. I thought Insights’ work and Chuck’s work went well together. It’s cool when you have different people with different backgrounds and different courses that wind up in essentially the same place. I don’t think one replaces the other, but they do complement. For example, both came down on about the same side of knife selection (Chuck with a Spyderco Endura, Insights with Spyderco Delica). I still like Insights’ approach of two knives, one in each pocket. I thought Insights did more to cover drawing and getting the knife into play, and discussion of that importance. But it’s interesting how Insights tended to focus more on being in the fight then getting your knife; Chuck spoke a lot about how you can get the knife ready before the fight is on. Insights seemed to have a bit of “gun as your primary” tendency, whereas Chuck acknowledged the knife may have to be your primary and how to treat it in the face of that or NPE’s. Insights focused on a few simple but different techniques. Chuck focused on a few simple but similar techniques. However, application was different. For example, Chuck addressed distance, getting outside, and getting away. Insights had a solution for the clinch and being caught in close. Both focused on targeting to disable your attacker so you can get the fight to stop and/or escape. Insights had a stance where your knife-side was back (thus your “empty hand” was forward). Chuck put your knife forward, so your empty hand wasn’t just a target. On this last point, I think Chuck’s position is more sound, either when attacking with or defending against a knife (so long as you have one too); but that’s going to be very hard for gun folk to learn since so much gun technique is about keeping your gun side away from the attacker. Anyways, I don’t think either group has a monopoly on knowledge and technique. Both present sound solutions, and I think they do far more to complement and augment each other.
Not only did I pick up on direct course material, but I took home some other things. First, I still feel good about choice of Spyderco Delica. They are fast to deploy, solid, and you just don’t have the fumble factor that other folders suffer from (e.g. due to pins; the big hole really helps with thumb deployment). They have good design, and aren’t too expensive such that if you have to lose or ditch the knife, life goes on. Still, a folder isn’t as good as a fixed-blade, and Chuck had a technique that was so simple towards carrying and deploying a folder that I’m going to experiment with it for my own carry. I also picked up on some things for my own teaching (“Tony Chin”). I liked Chuck’s style: very personable and friendly, very passionate about this material, and you can tell he really wants to take the time and care to ensure people learn and grow.
If you care about personal defense, you should care about the knife. If you choose to carry one, you ought to know how to use it. To know how to cut veggies in the kitchen is one thing, but to know how to defend yourself with it is another. But even if you don’t carry one, you’d do well to get some training in how to defend yourself against a knife. Yes, a gun can be an effective defensive tool, but you first need to get your gun out. Being able to perform a few simple movements (again, the FMA-based techniques can work for you if you have a knife in your hand, a club in your hand, or empty hands) to stave the initial attack, get to the outside, and buy you the time to get your gun out… well, there’s much to be said for such knowledge and ability.
I look forward to training with Chuck again.
On one final note, I’d like to give some love to my friend, Shawn Hatcher of Hatcher Knives. Shawn came out and was my training partner for the day. He was kind enough to fashion a trainer version of the REH out of some G10. We spent the afternoon beating each other up, overthinking together, and having a grand time. I must say, Chuck’s techniques are more directly suited for a forward-type grip, so I did use my Delica Trainers for much of the class. But I did use the REH trainer when I could to see how it would convey. Because the REH is designed with a reverse edge and also to typically be held in a reverse-grip, I found myself thinking WAY too much about technique application. But on the same token, most of Chuck’s techniques became even more ugly due to the hooking motion. Yes, some techniques wound up just striking the blunt back-edge of the REH, but as you followed through with the technique… yeah, fun stuff. Shawn took the REH home with him — going to add some “version 1.2” refinements. The joys of custom knives! Shawn’s really evolving as a knife-maker, and if you’re in the market, you should give him a try.