Xavier Knox; Real Defensive Knives from South Africa – Terry Trahan

There are a lot of knife makers out there, and a lot of them say they are making fighting or defensive knives. And while some of them are, most are not. It takes a special blend of things to make a real, hard use, defensive knife package. If you look, you will see that most knives fall short in at least one of three areas. Sheath, ergonomics, or understanding of how the blade style should be used.

Xavier Knox hits on all of these. I became aware of him through Kelly McCann. Kelly is one of the top instructors in real world combatives, and when he chose Xavier to make a few of his designs, I had to take a look at what this guy was offering. The blades that Xavier makes for Kelly are the Canis, the Nasty Bastid, and the Gouge, and having had a chance to handle these models, I am really impressed, from the great design by Mr. McCann, but especially by Xaviers execution of them.

It has not been a secret that I favor Reverse Grip Edge In or Forward Grip Edge Up for my method of knife work, and as I was checking out Xaviers work, I saw that he made a few models in this manner. So, after some messages and talking, he was kind enough to send me one of his Slim Pik models. What impressed me, and made me see that Xavier understands knife combatives was the fact that he makes a trainer to match the knife, and, as important, a sheath for the trainer. This is so important for practicing every facet of knife combatives, but is more often than not, ignored by most in the community.

So, when the package arrived, which was a funny story in itself, I was immediately impressed, and that just grew over these months of carrying and testing this knife, and even more so with the trainer. The fit and finish is incredible. You can tell that the handle of the knife was given serious consideration, and tested.

Retention, draw, and security in the hand are excellent, among the best I have experienced. And this is the most important aspect. The handle is the interface for the knife user, it is the part you are in contact with. It needs to inspire confidence in the fact that you won’t ride up on the blade during use, yet remain comfortable while using it.

The handle is a skeletonized tang that is cord wrapped, very grippy and rock solid in a good grip. A plus for me, is that it was a full sized handle. Since, as the name implies, this is a thin knife, the lack of bulk in the handle is made up for by the length, which gives added security and control while it is in use. The blade is a reverse edge design very much like the Disciple, but with a back grind that aids in penetration. The edge is great and precise, even though the knife is not designed as a slasher.

It goes to point for use in RGEI instinctually, and lines up with the natural angle of the wrist and hand for a very strong ‘pikal jab’. But to me, where this knife shines is in FGEU use, like the Clinch Pick or the Sakit that I reviewed previously.

This is a very up close style of knife use, point oriented, and this is the best use of the Slim Pik.  One of the reasons for it excelling at this style of use is the thought and design Xavier put into the sheath. Multi-positional with the included “Pull the Dot” loop, I find it basically disappears when worn at the 11:00 position just to the left of your center line angled slightly downward. From here, it is a smooth draw due to the nice work on the kydex, and ample length of the handle to aid in a full grip on the draw. The great news is that the trainer also has all of this excellent work, so it operates in exactly the same way, so training is seamless. I cannot recommend this package enough.

Xavier makes so many other models and kinds of knives and accessories, that you’re sure to find a lot to meet your fancy or needs. I am also fortunate enough to own One steel and one G-10 version of his Dragonscale grind Thumb Daggers, which are great hideaway last ditch defensive tools. Xavier also brought to reality the design of the Vixen, from my Brother, so his work is broad based, he listens to what the customer wants, and then makes it happen. So, I would recommend checking him out on Facebook at Echo.Delta.Charlie Knives & Tools, take a look, and if you want to enjoy some great edged tools, contact him. I am more than confident you will be happy with your choice.

Training ‘Tools’: Does What You’re Using Make Sense? – Tim Boehlert

In a recent post of an Active Shooting seminar, I’d seen an image where one attendee was role-playing and holding a ‘typical’ yellow rubber Beretta 92F style Martial Arts-style training pistol.

One person had asked what it was and I pointed out what I thought I knew about that specific model. I mentioned a few other more realistic options that I’ve used in different training seminars and explained that it depended on the goal of the class as to how effective this prop would be.

What really struck me though was another comment that some of the attendees “might be concerned if there was a more realistic prop.”

After pondering this response, it got me to thinking – is this really a useful seminar or are we actually watering down the seriousness of the subject matter by introducing standard Martial Arts training tools – rubber guns or knives. Are we trying too hard to whitewash violence here? Is it responsible to train others in this serious subject matter without being as realistic as possible?

It came to me that maybe this prop wasn’t the ‘proper’ tool for the job, at least not nowadays and maybe specifically for this class. I am assuming that this was an Active Shooter Scenario in a class of the same meant for a group that would likely encounter an active killer. In the ‘industry’, the term Active Shooter is going away – slowly – but it’s going away and being replaced with Active Killer, at lest by Law Enforcement or in LE circles. A good start to get away from the whitewash, feel-good, limit-our-liability practices that I’m seeing around active killer events and the requisite follow-up training that is hastily thrown together for a buck.

What piqued my interest was the thought that maybe we ought NOT coddle our audiences. It’s akin to teaching Martial Arts as self-defense — one is about sport, the other is about survival. If we’re teaching others how to survive during an active killer event, wouldn’t we be doing our audiences more harm by being ‘polite’ than by showing them the realities of such an event in a realistic manner, or as realistically as we can in a classroom? Sometimes you just need to take off the kid gloves and put on your big boy pants.

Should we consider using at least more realistic training tools – like Airsoft handguns and long guns, and maybe aluminum knife trainers vs. their counterparts, the rubber feel-good ‘polite’ solution tools?

I’m suggesting that both tools do not hold equal value in this educational arena. In fact, I feel that using the more realistic replicas has MORE value than playing to the ‘polite’ notion of ‘not offending’ participants. Violence is ugly, and no one really likes to talk about it. An active killer event is likely the worst anyone will ever experience, and yet we’re afraid to offend someone that is attending a class to learn how to survive this type of event, really?

We are training these attendees how to survive a deadly encounter – gun or knife, and yet we’re refusing to look at the realities of what that encompasses. Why not at least expose them to something that is at least a bit more realistic. Remove the fear and misunderstanding, and try to use it as a teaching moment. Imagine being able to show attendees HOW to disarm a pistol by demonstrating how to remove the magazine from the pistol! Many of these alternate modern training weapons are designed to demonstrate many functionalities of their real-life counterparts. Semi-automatic pisol slides that move, safeties that actually work, removable magazines, moving triggers and even working takedown mechanisms.

In classes and seminars that I have attended, we’ve used both. It wasn’t an issue, and for those not intimidated by a gun specifically, they proved to be more valuable teaching and learning tools – they’re so realistic that they LOOK like real guns (if you ignore the BRIGHT RED muzzle) and often function nearly identical to the real thing. They are also made of metal and plastic, and some can even fire 6mm pellets. In fact, in some Police Academies they use Simmunition – about as realistic as it can get and still be mostly safe for the participants. Yes, they use an extra layer of safety measures, including special body covering, goggles, gloves, etc…

I think it’s time to address the watered-down A.S. classes and step-up up our game. If we’re going to teach about violence in this manner, it should be as realistic as we can safely make it. If we don’t, we fail our students. It should be responsible – we’re not selling fear, and should not be. It’s not and should not be about purchasing the advanced class(es).

I can share that I was on an Active Shooter committee for a large regional facility. I asked the hard questions. My goal was that whatever we wanted to put out there to my fellow employees had to be as complete and realistic as possible, but it also had to be responsible. As an example the facility chose to run with the new FEMA offering – Run, Hide , Fight. Bullshit. Still is. That’s not just my opinion, it’s what we were told at some other government-funded training that I had attended on my own dime. Think about that feel-good slogan being provided to our citizens. Sure, it might work, but if you don’t show people HOW/WHERE/WHEN and give them the TOOLS, you’re blowing smoke up their asses. And that is being irresponsible.

If you want to flesh it out, you need to provide the proper tools – posted maps: trained and drilled – where to run. It’s different for everyone, so be responsible and demonstrate, discuss, drill those routes and avenues of escape if  escape is possible as your first or only option.

Hide – where? What is an effective hiding spot, and how effective is it? Show them how to barricade-in-place. Show them how to improvise and barricade.

Fight – really? Okay, HOW? What will be effective? So many options once again. And remember, there are all kinds of people without my skills or your skills perhaps, so how do we train them and what do we train them that will work for them?

There is no single solution, and thus a slogan is nothing more than empty, feel-good bullshit marketing. See it for what it is. The only reason they put shit like this on your training sign-off is for their liability. “Look, he signed it right here and attended our seminar…” Don’t be stupid. That is ALL it is – a sign-off for liability reasons. CYA at the insitutiona level.

So next we were told by the chairman of our commitee that “it will likely never happen here. The chances are better of you getting hit by lighting more than once today.” O.K. More bullshit. In my opinion, he’s dead wrong and should have known better, and been more responsible for thise he was responsible to protect and I’m just not that stupid to think otherwise.

Next they wanted to sell us plastic covering for the windows. Oh, that’s awesome! You have found a bullet proof glass solution for those of us at the front doors? Well, no, it won’t stop bullets, in fact they will pass right through, but the glass wont go everywhere, so when the HEROES come rushing in, they won’t slip and fall on it or get cut by it. Basically, I’ll still be dead, but I guess that’s considered acceptable. Not by me it’s not, and boy is my family going to be pissed when they find this out!

You get the point? There are still professionals out there selling products and services based on fear and income-boost based on that fear. It’s NOT responsible by any measure. And it’s not alright by me.

Look deeper. Educate yourself.

Youtube Video of the Week – Improvised Weapons with Nick Hughes


FRENCH FOREIGN LEGION COMBATIVES  Phase IX: Improvised Weapons with Nick Hughes a former member of the 2nd parachute regiment in the French Foreign Legion, Nick Hughes has built his combatives curriculum on his extensive martial arts background, including ju-jitsu, tae kwon do, and zen do kai.

During his five years with the Legion, Hughes sharpened his skills and learned combatives from some of the toughest instructors on earth. Later on, working in an executive protection detail, Hughes refined his curriculum into one of the world’s most unique combatives systems. The first six phases of the French Foreign Legion Combatives series laid the foundation for Hughes’ curriculum, reflecting how a fight progresses. With the next four phases, Hughes presents a more in-depth perspective of how a fight can be resolved quickly and effectively with the use of dirty fighting techniques, impact weapons, improvised weapons, or advanced gun combatives.

In Phase IX: Improvised Weapons, Hughes shows you how to train for and use improvised weapons in situations where you cannot carry a real weapon. But improvised weapons often have limitations that you must recognize and train for. The keys are to quickly recognize items that could be used as weapons if the need arises and to learn how to adapt them to your main set of self-defense skills and training. From projectile, flexible, and impact weapons to edged tools and long-range weapons, Hughes seamlessly covers the spectrum from less-lethal options to killing techniques. He concludes with the most sought-after part of his French Foreign Legion Combatives curriculum: the unique topic of “killing with coats,” which is derived from his French Foreign Legion training and his own experience as a bouncer. Have you always been intrigued by the French Foreign Legion? This is your chance to learn its fighting secrets without signing up for five years!

“We tried this technique in our Self Defence and training class yesterday after thinking through a scenario or two where we might use it, it works very quickly and the students loved it. As Mr Hughes says this takes people out quickly with an amount of ease, Go play people.” Garry Smith

Importance of Proper Training Gear – Terry Trahan

When you engage in any physical activity, be it boxing, wrestling, or, in the extreme, military training, it is of utmost importance, and common to employ training gear in order to replicate the environment and actions in a safe manner, while maintaining and enforcing the skills being learned. Training gear can be anything that decreases risk, increases safety, or allows more realism in the training environment. Boxing gloves, headgear, mats, hanging bags, all are examples of training gear we as martial artists are used too.

In self defense, we need to practice more than the skills employed when using the above mentioned gear. We learn weapons use, disarms, weapons access, deployment, and engagement. It should be obvious that we cannot use real knives, guns, or any other live weapon for these. Imagine doing gun retention with a real gun, loaded… kind of makes you nervous, doesn’t it. Well fortunately, it made enough other people nervous that they did something about it, and now most people are used to the idea of ‘blue’ guns, and other inert replicas that can be used to safely train and practice these skills.

With the advent of more realistic training in other fields, it has become obvious that other safe training ‘drone’ versions of other tools are required for safe yet realistic training. We now see foam bats, screwdrivers, simmunition guns, shock knives, and a wide array of other realistic tools. One area I am particularly happy about is the growth of this in the knife and knife training industry.

It is still rare in the production knife arena, but companies like Spyderco, Boker, Emerson, and Cold Steel all make drone versions of at least some of their models. This is particularly important with folding knives. In order to get proficient at folding knife use, it is important to practice accessing and getting the folding knife into use. It is too dangerous to do this with a live blade, and Spyderco and Emerson recognized this early on, making fully functioning versions of their most popular folding models, with no edge or point, to enable realistic practice of these skills.

Custom knife makers that specialize in defensive knives are doing  abang up job recognizing and providing these training knives. In my recent review of the Sakit form JB Knife & Tool, I mentioned one of the reasons I liked it so much was because of the trainer and sheath included in the package.

I hope that as realistic, lifesaving training becomes more important, other makers and production companies will take this area seriously and start providing other options.

If you cannot find a training version of your carry knife, you can buy a cheaper generic training folder, or you can do what us “oldtimers” had to do back when. We would buy two of the same knife, and then spend hours taking the edge of, rounding the point, making sure there were no burrs or sharp edges left, so we could practice as realistically as we could.

Now, you have to keep in mind that these trainers are still steel, and can cause serious injury when used in full force scenarios. Much caution must be used in these circumstances.

Another option is to purchase a purpose made safe training, hard contact set of trainers. At this time, the only reliable company that provides high quality trainers of this type is NOK Contact Trainers, out of Thailand. I highly recommend looking them up, it will enable you to use fuller contact in your training, to develop more realistic survival skills.

Remember, in all aspects of realistic training, there is always a risk of danger and injury. Care and attention must be applied to lessen this, and looking into these kind of tools is an important part of that care and attention.


How to Deal with a Found Gun – Kathy Jackson

One morning, I opened my computer to find an all-too-common type of news article. The story reported that a law enforcement officer had left her firearm in a public restroom, where it had been found by a 5-year-old child.

Cue the gnashing of teeth and wailing – but first, hear the rest. The child who found the gun was not harmed, nor did she put anyone else in danger. That’s because the little girl’s parents had taught her what to do in case she ever ran across a gun. “We make [our children] understand, bad things can happen when you play with it like a toy, because it’s not a toy,” the mother said.

The little girl stopped when she saw the gun. She did not touch it. She left the area immediately, and she told an adult what she had seen. Textbook success!

Here’s the kicker: the person to whom the gun belonged had already left the restaurant. And the little girl quite rightly trusted the other adults around her – gun owners or not – to know what to do about the gun she found in a public place.

Do you?

Before we dismiss this question as irrelevant (“That never happens!”), let’s explore the possible ways that a firearm may end up in the hands of a non gun owner. By looking at some of the causes and possible settings, it will be somewhat easier to explore ways to solve the problem with a minimum of fuss or danger to others.

In addition to the possibility of finding a gun in a public restroom – which happens far, far more often than it should – people have found guns in city parks, in used and rental cars, in newly-purchased homes, and in hotel rooms.

Embarrassingly, many of these forgotten guns come from law enforcement officers, but not all do. That’s not surprising, given that nearly 50% of American households legally own at least one firearm. There’s some reason to believe there may be many more gun-owning households than that, given the number of otherwise honest people who would happily lie to an anonymous pollster. And of course this statistic does not include illegal and hidden guns.

So a few rules to remember.

First, don’t panic. Guns do not “go off” by themselves. As long as no one is touching the gun, it is really nothing to worry about. It is just an object. It may be a scary object, but it is only an object. It cannot do anything dangerous on its own. You don’t have to hurry to find a solution, because the gun will simply sit there while you carefully consider what to do. It won’t suddenly jump up and run off to commit mayhem if you take too long. You have time to think.

Think about your options. If no one else can enter the area, you may want to simply leave the gun right where it is. Leaving the gun alone is probably the best choice you can make in nearly all circumstances.

However, simply leaving the gun alone is not a good choice if you must leave in order to report what you found and there is no way to lock the room behind you when you leave. It’s not a safe choice if there are people around who know even less about firearms than you do, and who can’t be trusted to leave the gun alone. And it is especially not safe if there are children around who may be fascinated by the sight of an unsecured firearm.

So if you are unable to call help from where you are, and also unable to safely leave the gun where it is when you leave to get more-knowledgeable help, you may need to take the gun with you or move it to a more secure location. Carefully think through your choices before you act.

If the gun doesn’t need to be moved, don’t touch it. A gun found in a hotel room can simply be left in the hotel room, safely behind a locked door, as you march to the front desk to report your find. In a private home, you might lock the room where you found the gun while you decide what to do.

Public restrooms are more problematic, since you may not be able to lock others out of the room when you leave. Of course, there’s always the cell phone option: stay right where you are and leave the gun untouched as you pick up the cell phone to report what you found. If you have no cell service but do have a friend with you, you can ask your friend to alert others while you stay with the gun to be sure nobody touches it or picks it up.

If you absolutely must move the gun, follow these rules.

  • Assume the gun is loaded and ready to fire. Never assume that a found gun isn’t loaded. It probably is. Treat it respectfully and with appropriate caution.
  • Move slowly. You’re not in a hurry. You have time to think and to move carefully. The gun won’t do anything on its own and there’s no big rush. Take all the time you need. Pay attention to what you are doing with your hands at all times.
  • Never touch the trigger. The trigger makes the gun fire. You don’t want the gun to fire. So keep your fingers – all of them! – away from the trigger. Avoid touching the trigger guard area, too. The trigger guard (the loop of metal that goes underneath the trigger) is there to help you avoid touching the trigger, like a wire fence to keep you from falling into the lion’s cage. It’s best if you avoid leaning against that fence! So when you pick the gun up, put your index finger above the trigger guard, far away from the trigger and instead touching the upper part of the gun (the frame) if you can.
  • Pick it up by the handle. It might be tempting to pick it up with just two reluctant fingers to hold at arm’s length, as if it were a stinky, soiled diaper that you did not want to touch. But that’s not a safe way to move a gun. If you absolutely must pick it up, pick it up by the handle so you can control it securely. Then keep it pointed away from yourself at all times.
  • Point the gun at the ground, not at the sky and not just straight ahead. In most cases, the ground will be your safest bet, at least as long as your toes aren’t in the way. Avoid doing the “Charlie’s Angels” pose with it pointing at the sky. Don’t let it dangle loosely from your hand where it might inadvertently point at your knees or feet. Instead, deliberately keep it pointed about the ground about two feet in front of you. That way, if you do accidentally touch the trigger, the bullet will not hit your feet, and it will not bounce back up at you.
  • Put it down gently. Avoid dropping it or throwing it down. Just set it down carefully with the barrel pointed away from you.
  • Never handle the gun more than you need to in order to put it in a safe location. Avoid dithering with the gun in your hand. Simply move it from the unsafe place to the safer one, then put it down and leave it alone.
  • One more rule, and this one’s very important: If someone else is already handling the gun in ways you consider unsafe, leave the area. Do not argue with the person or try to tell them what to do. Do not stick around to see whether they improve. Do not walk past them to retrieve your belongings. Just get your precious and irreplaceable body out of the area as quietly and as quickly as you are able.
  • Although it’s unlikely you’ll ever come across a gun that doesn’t belong to you, it’s not impossible. With just a little forethought and some basic knowledge of firearms safety, you can stay safe and help keep others safe. Think about it now so you’ll know what to do then.
  • References:

News article: http://meredith.worldnow.com/story/30253058/parents-speak-out-after-young-girl-finds-sbi-agents-firearm-in-public-restroom

NRA “Eddie Eagle” Safety Materials: http://eddieeagle.nra.org/program-resources/program-materials


Safety and Respect, Swords and Guns – Kasey Kleckeisen

The etiquette for handling, and passing off a firearm is very similar to that of handling and passing off a sword. The customs are put in place to ensure no one ever becomes complacent with the weapons of their trade. To show that you can be trusted in the field, and to show loyalty and respect. The more violent the culture, the more important it is to be polite. If a violation of conduct either actual or only perceived can have severe repercussions up to and including death, then strict rules of etiquette are needed.

Regardless of time, culture, or region the etiquette of warrior cultures shared a common core. They may have had differing rules, but the rules themselves served a common purpose. Safety, Trust, and Respect. Safe handling / presentation of a weapon shows you can be trusted and shows respect for your peers and your superiors. Being disrespectful / untrustworthy is hazardous to your safety.

Rules and customs are put in place to ensure safety and to demonstrate respect, both for the weapon and the peers you would fight with.

Those that use weapons, who are surrounded by them on a regular basis, are more likely to become complacent around weapons.

If you have a weapon on you all the time it becomes common place. This has pros and cons. You become used to it, it isn’t weird any more. You actually feel weird without a weapon. Your spouse doesn’t bug you about it anymore. You don’t have to argue about why you need a weapon every time you leave the house. It becomes no big deal. However because it is no big deal you run the risk of forgetting the weapon always presents potential lethality. When you are complacent with weapons bad things happen.

Complacency can have fatal consequences. As a reminder of this many fire arms training days for the SWAT team started with a power point presentation of Law Enforcement Officers that were killed with a firearm in training the previous few years. Either at their own hands, or by another Officer. The list grew every year. Rules are put in place to prevent, and mitigate complacency. These rules become customs.

You can find these ideas with any weapons, but let’s look at the rules for handling modern firearms and how that compares to etiquette handling a Japanese sword. Different cultures, but the same job, using the same ideas. All weapons are treated as if they are live. In the case of the sword, bokken (wooden training sword) and shinken (live sword) are treated the same. (I’m just going to use common language if you want to know specific Japanese terms there are plenty of sources available). The tip and the edge are always kept away from your peers. When kneeling the sword is placed on your left side slightly behind your knee, point back, edge towards you. (All the dangerous parts pointed in a safe direction). When you bow in, your left hand (non dominant – there were no left handed Samurai*) is used to place the sword in front of you. Edge pointed towards you. (Showing you are not a threat)

Left hand is also used to place sword through belt (Obi) to secure in place. Once secured the left hand remains on the hilt with the thumb over the guard, acting as a safety. Even if not secured through a belt, or with a wooden sword that has no guard, the left hand remains on the hilt with the thumb over the guard (real or imagined), acting as a safety. When you pass a sword, or hand your sword to someone your left hand with thumb over guard is used to remove the sword from your belt. Once the end clears your belt it is placed in your right hand making sure the edge is pointed at you. You bow and extend the sword. This is an act of trust because they will receive the hilt with their right hand. (If they want to use this sword against you, you are pretty boned). The person receiving the sword shows respect by turning the sword over placing the hilt in his right hand putting the edge towards him.

*in a homogeneous society like Japan natural left hand students were conditioned to be right handed. This doesn’t mean that they didn’t also use their left or become ambidextrous.

*reference Gaku Homma’s “The Structure of Aikido – Kenjutsu Taijutsu relations”
In the case of firearms all weapons, training, unloaded, or loaded are treated as live, loaded weapons. All loading and unloading is done at the firing line, weapons pointed down range. (All the dangerous parts pointed in a safe direction). If you run dry you will conduct a tactical reload. Keeping the weapon pointed down range at all times. (All the dangerous parts pointed in a safe direction). If you have a malfunction you will conduct an immediate action drill (fix the malfunction and get back in the fight). Keeping the weapon pointed down range at all times. (All the dangerous parts pointed in a safe direction). If the malfunction cannot be fixed with an immediate action drill, keep your weapon pointed down range. Alert a range Officer. The line will be made cold and training will cease until the weapon is made safe.

To make the line cold, all shooters remove their magazine and lock the slide or bolt back. Holding the weapon in their non dominant hand they show that there is no magazine and that there is no bullet in the chamber to the person to their right, the person to their left, and to the Range Officer. The weapon is then holstered or slung. Then the line is cold and it is safe to go down range. Similar process when handing off a gun, a shooter will remove the magazine and lock the slide or bolt back. Holding the weapon in their non dominant hand they show that there is no magazine and that there is no bullet in the chamber to the person that is taking the weapon from them. Usually a more senior Officer, or someone more qualified to fix a malfunction. After the recipient has seen the weapon is safe the passer hands the weapon to them grip first, muzzle down. (Showing you are not a threat)

Different rules for different weapons but the ideas are the same. Point the dangerous parts somewhere safe. Show you are not a threat.

Clearly there is a reason for all of this. If a shot is fired intentionally or otherwise you want the bullet to go down range. Where it is built to take bullets, not into a wall, floor, or ceiling, and sure as hell not into yourself or a fellow Officer. If you stumble with a sword you want the worst thing to happen to be embarrassment. You don’t want to be maimed or worse hurt your peers.

Lasering is a term that refers to where your muzzle is pointing. As if a laser is attached to it. Lasering your buddy is when you cross him / her with your muzzle. It is a good way to kill your partner.

So, rules are put in place to prevent, and mitigate complacency. When you must cross your partner’s path, you Sul your weapon. Sul generally means you place the muzzle down, the weapon is pressed tight into your chest. Sul is Portuguese for south, the phrase is a remnant of U.S. Special Forces training South Americans. Other agencies / teams practice pointing the muzzle up, like an 80’s detective drama on TV because it fits better with their tactics. They may have differing rules, but the rules themselves serve a common purpose. Don’t point your gun at your buddy. Don’t present as a threat to your peers.

With a sword, at times training will be interrupted for your partner to receive instruction. Like the Sul with a fire arm there are acceptable positions to show safety, and that you are not a threat. They include turning your hands over so that your right hand is crossed over your left, and near your left hip. Tip back edge down. Or in your right hand edge up (backwards) tip to the front, but pointed away from your partner and the Instructor.

Rules become customs
Your primitive lizard brain understands rhythm and ritual. Doing this has not gotten me killed. It is a proven survival tactic. I must continue doing this. Rules become customs. Customs become ingrained neurological patterns. Safety and respect become hard wired. Sound like bull shit? Don’t believe me? Any one reading this that has trained in a Japanese martial art where you bow off and on the mat, and bow to your partner to begin training with them knows better. They have undoubtedly bowed into or out of a room outside of the Dojo for no reason, say when entering their bedroom. Or have bowed to someone outside the Dojo, seemingly for no reason.

Customs become ingrained neurological patterns. So it makes sense to have customs that ingrain safe handling of weapons. Violation of custom has severe repercussions. Up to and including death. In all warrior cultures, especially after the rules have been taught, mishandling a weapon is going to get your ass kicked. Anyone reading this ever hand a loaded weapon to a superior? Or lean on a training sword like it was a cane? If so, I’m sure at the very least you got an ass chewing in front of everyone else. Educational beat down for you, and using you to educate everyone else that this behavior is unacceptable. Maybe it was physical punishment, drop and give me 50 pushups. Or social pressure, everyone else drop and give me 50 pushups while dip shit here counts them off for you. Be sure to thank him for this when you are done. Maybe you got smacked in the head? If the infraction was severe enough you may have even been removed from the organization.

Why is a violation of custom treated harshly? Trust.
Trust is twofold. The first if I can’t trust you to be safe under controlled training environment, how can I trust you to be safe in the field? How can I trust you to have my back? How can we maintain the public’s faith in us to come and handle dangerous situations if we can’t handle our own weapons safely?

So you have to earn that trust back. You have to pay a price. Kiss kiss bang bang. You get knocked down a peg, but you make up, you are allowed to continue to be part of that “tribe”.

The second, this one is older and I feel more deeply seated. If you violate the custom and you are not learning from the repercussions, that only leaves a few options. You are too god damned dumb to be part of this organization, you have no respect for the organization, or you are betraying this organization. Look at the customs. I am close to you with a lethal weapon. I show not only safety, but loyalty by handling that weapon in such a way that I couldn’t possibly hurt you with it.

I feel this is older because spies and assassins infiltrating the organization is not something I have ever had to deal with. Seems like a remnant of the past. But there are plenty of incidents recently in the middle east of enemy combatants disguised as local police or coalition forces. I also feel this is older because the reaction to betrayal has always been a higher level of violence. Every culture still has a death penalty for treason.

Some of the best knife defense training I have ever received is following a simple set of rules. (If you have ever trained with Marc MacYoung these should be familiar).

  1. Don’t join a violent criminal organization. I would add any organization that routinely uses violence criminal or otherwise
  2. Most of you reading this have already failed 1. So if you have failed 1, then do not betray said previously mentioned violent organization
  3. Don’t cheat on your significant other
  4. Don’t fornicate with someone else’s
  • You follow these simple rules and you are very unlikely to ever have to face someone trying to kill you with a knife.
  • You are unlikely to face the type and level of violence betrayal inspires in humans.
  • If someone is violating the customs of a warrior culture they will be removed. One way or the other.

The more violent the culture, the more important it is to be polite.
Being polite isn’t weak, in warrior cultures it serves a common purpose.
Regardless of time, culture, or region it shows you understand the weapons of the trade. That you can be trusted in the field, and demonstrates loyalty and respect to your crew.


Kasey Keckeisen is an experienced Police Officer, SWAT team leader, and SWAT training coordinator. Kasey Keckeisen is the United States Midwest Regional Director for the Edo Machi-Kata Taiho Jutsu organization, and the Minnesota State Director for One-On-One Control Tactics.

Keckeisen holds 6th degree black belts in Judo, Jujitsu, and Aikido and a black belt in Taiho Jutsu Keckeisen is also recognized as a Shihan by the International Shin Budo Association. He is also a catch wrestling and bareknuckle boxing enthusiast, and a terrific dancer.

Keckeisen, along with Marc MacYoung and Rory Miller is a founding member of Violence Dynamics

Keckeisen runs Judo Minnesota, an organization that provides free training to Law Enforcement and Military, and provides opportunities for youth to have positive experiences with Law Enforcement through martial arts training.


Active Shooter – Dave Ashworth

Those of you who don’t know me I’ll give you a quick introduction. 

My name is David Ashworth and I served in the British Army for 9 years. I spent the last half of my military service with a Covert Counter Terrorist Unit, in both an operational and training role. After leaving the Army. I then worked as a Private Security Contractor and did this constantly for 8 years, spending 5 years in Iraq and 3 in Afghanistan. I’ve provided security to Various UK/US and Foreign Government Departments, as well as high-ranking military officers and Other Government Agencies (OGAs). I have also trained teams and individuals to operate in Hostile Environments. After leaving the contracting world I went into Law Enforcement, which I continue to do now.

With the latest events in the San Bernardino, California and also in Paris, France it’s worth us revisiting the Active Shooter(s) Scenario. Which as a civilian is one of the most dangerous situations you will find yourself in. A worrying trend in the Terrorist Modus Operandi is the multiple shooter and location tactic.

Now how does that affect you as a civilian? You will either be armed or unarmed in these situations and you will have to decide what your priority is. Is it escape? Is it locating your family? Is it neutralizing the threat i.e. the active shooter(s), or is it to protect your loved ones and get them to safety. It may be to leave the scene and brief law enforcement agencies. There are so many options and it will depend on you, your mindset, your training, your will to fight or your will to survive. 

So let’s look at what we need to try to survive an active shooter(s) situation. I say ‘try’ and survive because you could do everything right and still get killed by a lone gunmen because you went left instead of right. It happens! Better men than me have been killed by an act of fate, rather than by skill. It is worth noting a guy out of it on drugs can kill a Special Operations warrior just as easily as anyone else. Think about that for a minute.

I hope that’s taken a moment to sink in. Because I want to make something clear; too many people are looking for quick fix self defence techniques; “What do I do if I’m attacked like this?” People want an answer that is like, If A happens, do B, If C happens do D. Violence whether in a war zone or in the street outside the grocery store is dynamic, it changes, its a problem. The best way to deal with it is to have a problem solving attitude and train for those problems. You can drill everyday on the range and do a thousand scenarios, but when the time comes to draw down, odds are it will be none of the 1000 scenarios you went through on the range, but you can bet money, it’s close to 1 or 2 of them. So adapt to the situation and own it. 

So you’ve trained in some self defence techniques and you’ve been to the range, do you think you are ready to deal with an active shooter? 

Let me put it in another context: you’ve gone to the gym and done a few boxercise classes and then you’ve hit the punching bag a few times, for the last 6 months. Are you ready to step into a professional boxing match with Mike Tyson? I didn’t think so. If you do think you’re ready, we need to have a chat.  

As someone who has been down range, and on the receiving end of some “almost” well-placed shots, I don’t think you can ever train enough. After those rounds have come at you, you will be wishing you’d gone to the gym more, you’d fired more rounds on the range and carried out more drills so you were quicker.  

So what skills do you need to survive? Those of you who have attended any of my courses know that I push Situation Awareness; it’s my religion. You need to be aware of what’s going on around you. Anytime you step out of the house, bad things have the potential to happen. If I go anywhere outside of my home I’m aware a long shooter might decide today is his day, or some terrorist group decided its Zero hour. Sadly; it’s the World in which we live in. If I’m aware of people and how they act, their body language will give me an indicator to what they are doing and what their intentions maybe. So your head has to be on a swivel, and you will be looking for any combat indicators that something maybe about to go down.  

The modern terror threat we face is multiple shooters hitting multiple target locations. So lets look at it, odds are you won’t see the shooter, you’ll have an audio cue, the shots or the screams. A visual cue, people running from the shooting, Police or security directing people. Now the next question you have to ask yourself is “How ready for this are you?”

This is really going to boil down to the training you’ve conducted prior to it going loud made you ready. Picture it, sat in the food court with your family at the mall. Bang! Screams, Bang! Bang! Bang! Are you still sat there? Are you grabbing your kids? There isn’t any point in spending thousands of dollars on range time, only for your spouse to get hit in the gun fight and you not know what to do medically. You need to train in all aspects of tactical life. The guys and gals, I’ve trained know my mantra: shoot, move, communicate, medical. They are the four factors that make a good operator, whether that be a Tier one dude, or a well-trained civilian. 

Let’s say you aren’t carrying a weapon. What’s your priority? Escape right? So you noted the exits when you came into the mall, where the nearest cover was in the park. Where the elevated positions are that a shooter might use and the best place to move to if it happened. These are things that have become part of my lifestyle. I do them without really thinking about it. My students have learned that it’s not a mindset, it’s a lifestyle. 

If you are armed, what are you going to do? Are you going to move to the sound of the gunfire? Are you going to draw your weapon? What will your posture be if the police see you? Are you ready to deal with this situation? What if someone mistakes you for the shooter? What if the police are given your description? What if you find injured people, do you stop and help, or move on? Do you have any medical equipment on you? Do you know how to use it? Do you have a flashlight? Do you know how to enter a room? How do you clear an open/closed door? Can you move tactically down a hallway? Can you move outside the building? Are you ready to take someone’s life to save others; this isn’t a Hollywood movie where you are going to be the hero. This is real life; if you fire a shot and it misses and hits someone it’s not aimed at, then you’ve just blown it. There are no second chances; miss the target and they might not miss you. I could spend hour’s war-gaming with you, but I just want people to start thinking about this issue. As sadly; it’s becoming a part of our every day lives. The threats are out there.

As you can see here, there are a lot of factors. I’ve only glossed over them here.  I just want you to think about the situation you may find yourself in and how you plan to problem solve it. 

Train hard and Stay safe, 


Talking Knives: Part II – Marc MacYoung

Robbery, although wounds or killing are not common (unless the victim attempts to resist) this can be best understood as a ‘stalled attack.’ Violence routinely comes with instructions how to avoid it. These instructions tend to occur before a physical attack is initiated. With muggings this order is reversed. Basically using deception to cover the significance of his actions, the criminal sets up the range and positioning for an attack, starts the attack, and then stops before it lands. What was an attack stops and is followed by instructions how to keep the attack from finishing (e.g., give me your wallet). If the person resists, the completion of the attack often follows. While a single slash as punishment is common to the face, neck, upper chest and arms. Depending on the degree of resistance by the victim depends on the amount of injury.

Message blade use is common among criminals and certain ethnic groups. It is sometimes fatal (e.g., decapitation) sometimes not (i.e., nostril slitting, cutting off ears and nipples). The use of a blade is very deliberate in order to send a message to others, often through sheer savagery. For example the individual is not just killed with a blade, but hacked apart for intimidation. Especially in situations where more effective weapons are available, the use of a knife sends a clear message about crossing or betraying certain groups. Whereas deliberate but non-fatal maiming (i.e. nostril slitting, cutting off ears or fingers) combine sending a message to others about crossing a group, a lesson for the maimed person, and also demonstrates contempt for the individual left alive (i.e., you/your group are not strong enough to stand up to me/my group).

Brandishing/Menacing is fundamentally a threat display, negotiation tactic— that also happens to be illegal. A distinguishing difference between this and robbery (or kidnapping) is brandishing usually occurs in the middle of an altercation. There is usually conflict, build up and instructions to avoid before the weapon is drawn and displayed. This is repeated when the blade is drawn.

Like other kinds of threat display, brandishing can be based in either ‘do what I want or I will hurt you’ or  ‘I’m too dangerous to attack.’ While either type can result in the blade being used, both require closing distance. If the draw and deployment occurred outside of knife range, somebody has to move into range for there to be wounding.

The question is: Did the aggressor (using it in the first method) close the distance to enforce his demands when he perceived the desired reaction didn’t occur fast enough? Or perceiving this, did the aggressor attack in rage? Or did an aggressor unexpectedly encountering a knife, close the distance to show the defender his (the defender’s) knife didn’t scare him (the aggressor)? Or did it turn into a fear attack by the defender?  All four will result in knife wounds.  

A fifth option is the knife is drawn and deployed with intent to brandish, but is done inside attack range. Due to ‘compression’ and proximity, this attempt to ‘scare someone away’ often backfires in various ways. In these sorts of situations, the question inevitably comes up: Why didn’t he flee when under threat? Simply stated fleeing is only a realistic option when

1) the range is great enough

2) when the person fleeing is in better physical condition than the potential attacker. Failing either or both criteria, turning one’s back at close range is a high stakes gamble for being attacked from behind.

Defensive uses of blades tend to have four common elements. First, even though only one side typically has a knife, there must be immediate threat of death or grievous bodily injury by the other person’s actions to warrant the blade’s use. More often than not that danger comes from other means than a knife (e.g., clubs, guns, improvised weapons or conditional disparity of force). As stated earlier, knife to knife is exceptionally rare, but that doesn’t mean other dangers don’t exist.

Second, typically, once the threat stops the defender stops his actions. This tends to cause a limited number of wounds as when the initial attacker stops and breaks off, the defensive action stops as well.

Third, except in specific circumstances, wounds are to the front of the attacker (that the knifer was defending against).

Fourth, defensive wounds on the attacker tend to be non-existent or minimal. In essence while attacking, very little attention is paid to defense and arms are not used as shields. Often what could be described as ‘defensive wounds’ line up with other wounds (e.g., a cut to the arm that aligns with a cut to the chest from the same slash).

As a subpoint of #2, defense stops when threat stops, the amount of damage an attacker takes is often dependant on his or her commitment to attack. A committed — usually intoxicated —attacker can often take multiple fatal wounds and continue attacking before being overcome by those wounds. Again, usually on the front.

Fear can be considered a catch all category. It can be viewed as a third subset of brandishing gone wrong, sheer panic, or a defensive action that turns into a frenzy.

Under the combination of fear and adrenaline,  the individual—to use layman’s terms— ‘freaks out’ and starts attacking or leaves defensive action moving into excessive force. This flavor of knife use tends to create yet another pattern of wild, untargeted, multiple wounds. These wound pattern are indistinguishable from a rage or FMA attacks.

Fear knife use is also the basis of someone chasing a person down the street and slashing at the other’s, back, then later claiming ‘self-defense.’  Due to adrenal stress, fear and continued proximity the person honestly — although not reasonably — believes the other person is still a threat.


Talking Knives: Part I – Marc MacYoung

I am a court recognized expert witness regarding knife use and violence. Yes, lawyers pay me. Don’t be a hater. The down side is I have to deal with lawyers.

One thing lawyers always tell me is “Your job is to educate the jury.” I politely smile and respond, “My first job is to educate you about knife use so you can ask me the right questions …so I can educate the jury.”

Ever tried to teach a lawyer anything?  

This especially when it comes to your field? It’ll drive you to drink. Or if you’re an author, it will drive you to write something. I wrote this ‘appendix’ so I can hand it to lawyers. (I’m also planning a series on “Violence for Attorneys.”) After they read it, we are talking the same language when it comes to knife use. Prior to that? The Tower of Babel. Now they can ask me intelligent questions to educate the jury.

This break down also explains how I can look at autopsy photos and ER photos and — while I can’t with 100% tell you what it was —I can rule out a lot of things. Basically, I can  tell you what it wasn’t. This just from looking at the wound patterns. How do I do this? Simple, different attack methodologies result in different wound patterns.

Knife Use Stratagems

This summation was co-created with Terry Trahan to articulate different types of knife usage among humans. The purpose of this list is not to demonstrate what a specific incident was, but to help rule out what it wasn’t.

Knives are first and foremost tools. Their primary purpose of tools is paramount in both design and use. Having said that when these items are used as weapons, there tends to be broad categories usage strategies. These strategies tend produce recognizable wound patterns and targeting.

Overwhelmingly ‘knife fighting’ is a myth. While certain cultures have systemized arts, (escrima, silat, piper) these tend to be poorer countries, where knives are easily accessible because of a high reliance on manual labor. The marketing of these ‘martial arts’ and Hollywood are why the idea of ‘knife fighting’ exists. In reality knives are used in a much different method.  However, let’s start by referring to one specific branch of martial arts that claims to teach knife fighting.

FMA/knife combatives. Filipino Martial Arts (FMA  such as escrima/eskrima/kali) and combative knife systems tend to be largely ‘dueling systems.’ The strategies largely are predicated on mutually armed opponents fighting over issues of honor (mutual aggressors).  As such, the danger posed by the equally armed opponent must be neutralized for the safety of the duelist. This often results in multiple, wounding slashes — especially to the arm (“defanging the snake”) and torso. Allowing for honor to be satisfied, engagements using such training can result in no wounds at all (the two participants ‘dance around’ showing their bravery but never connect). Another result can be multiple and extensive wounding patterns without a fatal blow. Still a third option is extensive wounding with a ‘closing’ and finishing/fatal wound (delivered when the opponent is incapable of resisting.)

Commercialized FMA systems — as taught in the U.S. — often leave out closing and finishing moves. They typically hang back and repeatedly slash.  If they do close they often continue to slash and stab ineffectively. Much Americanized FMA training encourages what the author refers to as ‘the weedwhacker of death’ approach to inflicting multiple slash wounds; this strategy is ingrained by the training drills. This makes it impossible to distinguish between commercialized FMA trained attacks, rage or fear attacks by the wound patterns alone.

Knife combative systems are often marketed as having military roots. In reality, most of what is taught is commercialized FMA techniques performed with militaristic looking equipment. Use of these systems also tends to result in excessive slashing wounds and an overkill approach.

Having addressed the knife-to-knife approach, ordinarily, only one person has the knife. But even there predictable patterns arise from strategic goals:

Prison methods are more of an assassination strategy where specific vital targets are aimed at and repeatedly attacked.  For example, seven or eight stab wounds under the left armpit. The gang and prison connection extends this knowledge outside prison walls. Due to the improvised nature of the blades in prison, cutting is restricted inside, but can be incorporated outside. (Often resulting in multiple, targeted fatal wounds followed by a larger ‘finishing one.’) The safety of the attacker is usually ensured by a second person holding the targeted individual while the attacker with the shank delivers multiple fatal wounds to a specific spot. This can also occur with multiple attackers targeting different vital areas while other hold the victim. Although an individual attacker doing the same cannot be ruled out, coordinated multiple attackers are most common.

Military methods tend to focus more on immediate neutralization and fatality —starting with sentry removal. U.S. military knife tactics were primarily influenced by Colonel Rex Applegate (who learned under Captains Fairbairn and Sykes of the British Army in WWII) as part of commando operations. Although method has changed over the decades, doctrine remains the same, immediate neutralization of an enemy soldier via massive damage with one strike. Specific actions, once the knife is inserted, combined with selective targeting can create faster neutralization at this range than a bullet.
The targeting, size and the degree of the injury usually renders one’s opponent incapable of prolonged threat or resistance. Additional safety of the knifer is ensured by concurrent techniques that render the enemy incapable of resisting, counter-attacking or crying out.

Rage attacks tend to result in multiple large wounds as the attacker attempts to ‘beat the person’ while holding a knife. Slashes and other wounds tend to range from 10 up to 24 inches and appear all over the body (including on the back as the victim attempts to flee). They also tend to be not specifically targeted at vital areas, but instead are aimed at head, torso and arms. Also common in these kinds of attacks are defensive wounds, when the victim puts up his or her arms to shield the body from the attacks. Also slashes occur on front, side and back as the victim. This often occurs because realizing he or she is being injured, the victim often attempts to flee during a barrage of attacks.

If and when the attacker changes to stabbing attacks it is not uncommon for the attacker to self-wound.  Most vital targets are soft. A rage attack often hits bone. Often, as the attacker is trying to strike with as much force as possible, he loses grip on a utility knife and his hand slides off the handle and onto the blade creating a specific type of self-injury. Also common in these kinds of attacks are massive amounts of blood spatter on the attacker. This is mostly due to the extended nature of these attacks, closing and continued wounding.