Current Army Knife Defences

Hi All,

Today I have been reading a very interesting Mixed Martial Arts Manual that supposedly prepares soldiers for real combat. I hesitate to call this a combatives manual because I see very little of the necessary "E.T.T." (Eyes.Throat.Testicles) one would expect to find in a combatives manual along with what is IMHO a very worrying emphasis both on wrestling and closed fist blows to the face. Ouch!

A few minutes ago I turned to the knife defence section and quite literally laughed out loud.

Check out the defence to cut number one. It looks sort of ok until you realise that this isn't two axehands to the incoming arm, it's a forearm block! Whatever happened to attack the attacker?

Worse, from here, the student is then told to grapple against the knifer without a softening strike. Surely another axehand along the line of the knife arm to the throat is in order here?
Against this defence I would initiate an attack and then cut to the belly right under it. An undercut of this type is a pretty basic technique found in lots of different blade arts, especially Historical Western Martial Arts. The mind boggles as to how this works in training.

The second defence is better but only because it is being done against a reverse blow where undercuts are more difficult and the attacker cannot bring his off hand into play. (pretty silly attack really). Still, the armlock from here is a classic and in my experience works well.

The third defence is ok in my book although Applegate's master arm parry is a much better idea as Applegate's block gets you off the line of attack earlier in the movement as well as getting your vitals further from the action than the block shown here as you can extend the right arm fully to take advantage of maximum reach. The finish shown from here is poor IMHO too as attacking back should be the priority. Once again, an axehand along the line of the knife arm to the face would be my reflexive response. Do these attackers not have other limbs to attack you with?

The parry in no.4 is what should have been also done in no.3 and is solid IMHO. The finish once again is a little strange. A right hand chinjab takedown would IMHO be a good option here although if you can make this block work then you have IMHO bought enough time to perhaps run and pick up an improptu weapon.

no.5 This one is ok but in low light/wet battlefield conditions I would use an arm parry either with the left as shown here or with the right arm parrying to the right according to the Applegate system. I think actually expecting to be able to grab the hand of someone making this type of attack under pressure is a little bit "fantasy land".

The takedown will work if someone really throws their whole weight into the attack. The question of course is why anyone would do this with a knife?? I think it far more likely that the knifer will rip his hand away and just strike again. Once again I believe the best option here to be attack. Axehand, Chinjab, Boot Methods. Trying to control a knife like this is hard enough in practice imagine trying it in gloves or in the wet.....
no.6 This one is ok although I think I would rather step left and give the knife arm a good whack with an axehand or perhaps in this case go for an Applegate style master arm grab.
The followup in this case is great with the axehand along the line of the knife arm to the bridge of the nose. One wonders why they haven't been doing this all along? Surely the less responses that need to be internalised the better right? Right?
No 7. This one is AOK although in practice this most often results in a groin stab. This is a matter of guiding the strike and not robbing it of it's power rather than controlling it as is suggested.

Perhaps worst of all this manual gives no instructions on how to deal with an attacker who keeps the knife arm back and the left foot forward. This is a much deadlier system of knife use.

in closing, "Good Grief"! No wonder so many units still use Kill or Get Killed.

opens new browser

Looks like a completely different set of techniques than the top 'recycled gracie basics' set.

Most of the unarmed combat sequences seem to be straight Gracie Jiu-Jitsu self-defense techniques.

The empty hand vs. knife techniques look like variations of fairly "standard" techniques taught in various hand-to-hand circles with a big emphasis on the ikkyo type lock/take-down from Aikido.

ergh... basic Gracie stuff is moving ever so close to McDojo crap its disturbing.

I'll have to agree with Bludhall in that the first time I took a lesson with a combatives guy in knife; he told me to change the hand I hold that knife in.....

Now I'm left to go up against a right handed guy, I had to change my grip to my right hand.

I ain't going up against a knife on knife with my weak hand.............

My theory is.......I hold it with the hand I'm best with......and it doesn't matter if your left handed, right handed or ampidexterous.....I'll treat you the same way!!!!


"ergh... basic Gracie stuff is moving ever so close to McDojo crap its disturbing."

Basic Gracie self-defense has BEEN those techniques for a LONG time. They haven't really changed with time. If you look at the first Gracie stand-up self-defense tape (not the series - the short tape) and look at those techniques and then look at the techniques covered in the new Royce Gracie self-defense book, you'll see that they haven't changed at all.

When I did BJJ, we did a LOT of those self-defense techniques - a big chunk of the beginner's classes were devoted to practicing them.

I have to point out, ALL of the drawings in the U.S. Army combatives manual, including the knife fighting, are from older manuals and has nothing to do with the
combatives being currently developed. The knife
fighting comes from FMA. If you look you will find the
side kick (something you won't find in muay thai) is
a drawing. All other kicks are photos.

It's easy to separate, if it's a photo- it's new. If
a drawing it's from the older manuals.

Come on Ray,

It is as unfair to lump all conbatives together as it is to lump all FMA together.

That is interesting about the photos Bob. Also interesting is that the knife fighting comes from FMA. Most of the FMA I have seen is designed primarily of knife on knife "challenge match" type encounters and I wouldn't have though that these methods would be best for the military application.

So true I said.......I only had that one lesson.

I guess it's like judging a pizza when all you had was an anchovy

It's always food with you isn't Ray LOL!!!

So what you are telling us Bob is that the manual does not represent the system? I read somewhere that Mr Larsen is rewriting the manual and look forward very much to the new version.


Great battles have been won by starving the enemy.

Larsen is rewriting the manual yet again? Damn, he just write the latest copy that was approved about 2 years ago.

I can't speak for Matt Larson. He listed the
Combatives web site over on the ARMA forum, but here's
it again.
Anyway, I have the 92 and the 02 manuals in front of
me. It appears that the area that has been changed the
most is the unarmed hand to hand. If you're training
at an SBG, then what you're doing is going to be look
a lot like what you find in the Combatives manual.
BJJ with boxing, muay thai and wrestling, all blended
together into a effective fighting system.

Yay! Lets all break our knuckles on steel helmets and get stabbed in the guts together by learning boxing and Muay Thai for self protection on the battlefield.

Never mind that the enemy is likely to be armed with an empty pistol or a fighting knife at the very least if not an empty rifle when we come to close quarters.

Hell after we break our knuckles and fall over trying Muay Thai kicks under an adrenal dump, we can get back up so that we can "achieve a clinch" to "pull guard" and go for submissions whilst someone repeatedly jacks us with a knife we didn't see. Never mind. Our job is only to hold the enemy still so out buddy can kill him. This is of course going to be easy for him with the two of us rolling about on the floor.

Sports training is historically a very important part of combatives training. This doesn't mean that the tactics aren't slightly altered when the methods are used for real.......

When you cower.......make sure you keep your knees together!!!

I like to punch...but punching a guy who's wearing a Kevlar helmet or a steel pot on his head would sort of suck if the guy just ducked a little bit.

They should issue all US troops with a Louisville slugger for hand-to-hand combat.

Think about it - what sport is quintessentially American?


EVERY American boy (and a lot of girls) know how to swing a baseball bat! If one were to harness this power into a hand-to-hand system, the US would be unbeatable in hand-to-hand combat. Any enemy soldier who tried to use Karate, Judo, Sambo, BJJ, Muay Thai - whatever, would have to deal with a baseball bat being swung at his melon with murderous intent!

This would require little or no training time since every one in America has learned this essential skill (honed from many grueling days, weeks and months practicing in Little League).

Plus, it'd be easier on the hands.

So here we have it. On one side, the U.S. Rangers,
given a free hand to develop and train in techniques
that they believe are effective and useful for the
Ranger on the battlefield. On the other side, we have
the armchair warrior, or should I say hobbyist.
No question on who I'm going to side with, I'm going
with the guys that training on the edge is a way of

So its not possible for a military unit such as Ranger Bn to fall victim to hype and/or marketing? Dont be so quick or your judgement or you might miss some extremely valid points.