AAR – Defensive Knife Workshop with Chuck Rives

On May 19, 2013 I attended a 7-hour Defensive Knife Workshop with Chuck Rives hosted by KR Training.

About Chuck:

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.

GM Remy Presas Sr. – 6 count drill

GM Remy Presas, of Modern Arnis. 6-count drill.

This is one reason Filipino Martial Arts appeal to me: weapon, empty hand, it’s all the same, principles apply regardless. You train your body to move, and it moves regardless.

I also dig the footwork visible in this drill. Gotta keep moving!

Kombatan Arnis

A “demo/overview” sort of video on Kombatan Arnis, from GM Ernesto G. Presas, Jr.

I really like the empty-hand work at the end. But you know, it goes to show… the style doesn’t really matter. In the end, the body only moves so many ways (and doesn’t move in many other ways). Lock is a lock, throw is a throw.

Edged Weapon Defense I

While I may have put regularly scheduled empty-hand training on the backburner for a little while, that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped practicing martial arts. Yesterday I took part in a seminar on Edged Weapon Defense.

Continue reading

More Knife Blarg

I was able to stop into GT Distributors‘ Austin showroom today.

I looked at knives.

I saw nothing that interested me. Well, there were some interesting things, but in the end the more I looked at things and compared things gosh… I just don’t think I’m going to find something that fits the need I want. If I really want something that blends better I’m likely going to have to go fixed blade. If I have to stick with a folder, I might as well stick with my Delicas (tho something a bit bigger and heftier would be nice, like an Endura). I’m still curious about some particular knives, like the Kershaw ZT 0200. I also am pretty sure that any time I go into a store that sells knives I’ll look at them and fondle a few and continue searching. I may find something some day, but for now, I think I’m just going to have to make due with what I have. And to be honest, that’d probably better for my wallet.

I also got to do some side-by-side comparisons of Aimpoints. Yeah, the Comp M4s is what I’d want. I’m pretty sure of that now.

Also looked at some OC spray. I’m wanting to carry some OC on my person. Discussion for another time.

Knife blarg

So since I’m looking for new knives, while I was running some errands this morning I stopped into a Sports Authority to see what they had.

They had a couple CRKT knives. That “Carson Flipper” feature is pretty nifty, mostly because it becomes some degree of a hand guard against slipping. That interests me.

There are many flavors of CRKT knives, but I recall the two I looked at were one flavor of a M21 and another of an M16.

The M21 was much bigger than I expected. It seemed almost too big. The length, the width (of the handle), big! I’m not sure how much it would lend to discrete carry, but it all depends on where you’re wearing it and what clothing you wear it with. That said, I did like having that larger handle in my hands. I’ve got larger hands so having the larger frame in my hand was more substantial. Using the pin to deploy the blade was a little awkward due to the pin being almost flush and touching the frame, but I think with practice that could be overcome.

The flipper feature is kinda nifty, and I can see how, with practice, it can become a fast and quick deployment motion. That said, I’m a little torn on it. It’s a special motion that no other knife has, so if muscle memory kicked in on a different knife that means failed deployment; given the size of this knife I might have to switch to a different knife (e.g. Delica) if I needed to carry something smaller thus keeping the same deployment motion is desired. As well, a few attempts at flipping didn’t extend the blade 100% and engage the lock. Speaking of the lock, I found the mechanism interesting. It’s not just a liner lock but there’s a little pin/bar involved as well to keep the liner lock from collapsing. Interesting thing, but it also feels like more little widgets to break or go wrong. If the liner lock notion has this weakness, might it be better to pick another lock mechanism instead of jury-rigging a problematic one? I’m not sure. I’ve always been partial to lock-backs since I grew up on Buck knives, so old curmudgeon me is just having to expand horizons. Back to the flipper, I can also see how the flipper can bump and snag on external things while the knife is in your pocket and partially deploy the blade… not sure I like that.

That all said, the M21 didn’t seem all that bad. Yes I’d have to learn the knife, from dealing with tip-down carry, to the deployment mechanism (I can see Wife quickly growing tired of me flicking the knife open and closed all day long), to how to disengage the lock and close the knife. It also didn’t have a tanto blade, but that’s not a total deal-breaker. I did like the size, the heft, and the deployed blade with the flipper acting as a guard did seem like it could help with hand slippage (I could only experiment with that so much with the sales guy standing over me and him not wondering what the heck I was doing). I’m not sure I’d get the M21, but it certainly has helped me refine my search.

I wasn’t able to fondle the M16 as it was in a blister pack, but the size seemed comparable to the Spyderco Delica. That was really all I needed to consider there. What I’m getting from my reactions to things is I in fact do want a larger knife. So while that M21 might have come across as “too big” it may actually be just the right amount of big.

The CRKT knives seem to be well-regarded and aren’t too expensive, but I’m thinking they’re not going to fit my bill. Still, checking a couple out in person did help me refine my search criteria a bit. Need to find some folks in town that sell Benchmade knives to do some comparison.

New knife?

Busy day at work, but it contained a lot of waiting. Waiting for uploads, waiting for downloads, waiting for builds to complete. Consequently I had a lot of time to slack off:

No sword-fighting for me, but I did spend a lot of time looking at new knives.

As I’ve said, I carry a Spyderco Delica as a self-defense knife. This grew out of taking the Insights Training Center’s Defensive Folding Knife class. In the context they teach, the Delica is the most appropriate knife.

In my new martial arts study of Kali and Silat, there is a fair amount of blade work. While the Delica can work, I don’t feel it’s best suited to the task. The main reason? The knife really isn’t suited to stabbing motions, primarily due to the lack of any way for your grip hand to not move forward onto the blade (e.g. blade stops because it hit something, grip is slippery) and secondarily the tip/shape of the blade. Sure it could work, but it’s not ideal. What I do like about the Delica is it is inexpensive (relatively speaking) so if I did lose it or it broke I won’t be crying. As well, it’s innocuous looking — after all, it is just a pocket knife. I also like that it’s a smaller blade, and that lends to slightly better cutting (the same amount of force spread over less area).

I have a Spyderco Endura with the Wave feature. I think the Wave feature is neat, but more often than not it gets in the way. I can see advantages to it, say in a P’kal application like SouthNarc does, but apart from that I’d rather stay away from such things.

So what am I looking for?

  • Folder
    • It has to be a folder. While a fixed blade is certainly advantageous, it’s not reasonable for my carry needs.
    • Consequently, it needs to be able to open easily with one hand, and have a stury and solid locking mechanism (and be able to close with one hand)
  • Mid-sized
    • I don’t want something that’s tiny, nor do I want some monster. Legality of sizes and lengths are something to consider, but not a deal-breaker as there’s always different laws and regulations depending where you go.
    • It should feel good in the hand, and if when it’s closed the ends extend past my hand that’s welcome for being able to use the knife as a blunt striker.
  • Blade
    • Certainly strong steel, that can sharpen and hold a razor edge.
    • Something geared towards both slicing and stabbing. A tanto tip may be where I need to go.
    • Probably in the 3-5″ realm.
    • Plain, serrated, or combo edge.. I don’t really care. I’d probably stick with a plain edge, but this is a minor consideration.
  • Grip
    • Something that allows grip, even if slippery.
    • Something that helps prevent the grip hand from sliding up onto the blade.
    • A big enough grip to fill my hand, but not so big as to be unwieldy or bulky in the pocket.
  • Other
    • Must have a clip, and it’s welcome if the clip can be relocated. While I will likely only carry in a tip-up fashion, that I can relocate the clip means I can remove the clip and bend it back into shape if it gets caught on something and bends out of shape (had this happen on numerous occasions).
    • Price… quality matters more, but on the same token I don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on something that I’ll cry over or have difficulty replacing if something should happen to the knife.
    • Every day utility. I don’t want something specialized or esoteric. I’d like something that I can use for every day cutting needs (e.g. opening a box). To be able to carry it every day.

I’m shopping around. If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears.

Use it every day

I carry a few knives on me.

I carry a Spyderco Delica as a self-defense knife. I carry a Leatherman Wave as my portable toolset. Whenever I need to cut something, like opening a box the UPS man dropped at the doorstep, I always pull out the Wave. The reasoning, due to my training, is to keep the Delica reserved for those “special needs” one may unfortunately be involved in. You want to keep that knife sharp and ready for such a circumstance.

I just came to the conclusion that’s the wrong way to go about it.

I should be using that Delica for every cutting need I have.

Reason? Doing so would put it in my hand a lot. It gets me using the knife in its intended context frequently. It makes it comfortable in my hand. To draw it, to unfold it, to cut with it, to fold it back up and put it away. We tell gun folks to dry fire practice all the time and go to the range and live fire practice too. Why aren’t we doing that with our knives? And if we are, why must we only do it in a special “practice time” context? Why can’t it just be a normal part of the day? In a self-defense situation the hardest part will be deploying the knife, so why shouldn’t we have hundreds upon thousands of repetitions of that to ensure we’ve got it down and it’s a natural thing? If you need to open a box, use the Delica. If you need to cut some rope, use the Delica. Open a letter, use the Delica. That’s what I should be doing.

So using the knife will dull it. Of course it will. This is why you must periodically clean it and sharpen it. Get yourself something like Spyderco’s Triangle Sharpmaker; it does such a great job and is really easy to use. If you don’t or can’t use that, just get something that keeps your knives honestly sharp. There’s no excuse for your knives to be anything less than razor sharp; even Cub Scouts earning their “Whittlin’ Chip” card are taught that the safest knife is a sharp knife (if you don’t know why, ask me). If the knife is regularly maintained, that negates the need to reserve it to avoid the wear and tear. Besides, a good self-defense knife shouldn’t be some expensive beauty queen you don’t want to risk breaking or losing; it should be solid and perform but nothing to cry over should it be damaged or lost (thus the choice of a Delica).