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.