Should a self-defense course include the use of weapons? I don’t think I have ever seen knife offense advertised. The focus is always on defense. If weapon training is part of a self-defense course, what types of weapons should you train with? How proficient do you need to become in order to avoid injuring yourself on the weapon?

It has been said that a weapon is only as good as the person wielding it. A weapon can’t work miracles by itself, and a risk weapon users face is becoming obsessed with it. When you are wielding a weapon, you don’t have to end the fight by using it; you can still use 52 Blocks strikes, kicks and grabs. Although a weapon can help you succeed, it can also hinder performance. When you understand offense, you will gain deeper insights into 52 Blocks defense. For example, if you have worked sufficiently with a handgun and have learned how to fire it, you will also understand the mechanics of the gun: when it can fire and when it can’t. This bit of knowledge can be a lifesaver if confronted by a gun-wielding assailant.

When training in 52 Blocks knife defense, how realistic is the training? How do you know whether techniques that look good and practical are really so? In a knife attack, you seldom get second chances. You will likely get cut, so embrace the thought from the start.

1. A knife is most dangerous when it is in motion. It is then capable of producing multiple cuts within seconds.

2. The movement of your opponent’s knife and knife hand are difficult to time when preparing a counterattack.

3. When training to defend against a knife attack, a natural tendency is to fixate on the knife and forget there are many targets that can be attacked.

When blocking or grabbing your opponent’s knife hand, remember that your free hand and feet are still available for use. The fight should not become a physical struggle over who gets the knife. The same concept applies to the person wielding the knife. If you are wielding the knife and your opponent grabs your knife hand, rather than struggling to free that hand, use your other hand or legs to attack the assailant.

Keep track of the weapon. Consider the possibility of the attacker switching hands. Many schools teach how to gain control of the hand that is holding the weapon. But what if the attacker switches the weapon to his other hand? Should you stay with the control you have already established, or should you let go and try to control the weapon hand again? Understanding the concepts is now more important than learning the techniques. For example, keeping track of the weapon is a concept. Preventing the weapon from reaching you is a concept. Exactly how you get there is irrelevant. It is more important that the end result is safety.

1. When practicing 52 Blocks, inform your partner of your objective before you attack him. For example, tell him, All I want you to do for the next minute is to not give up. No matter what happens, don’t give up! This exercise teaches the mindset one needs to survive.

2. Or tell your partner, When I threaten you, I want you to try to talk your way out of the situation. No matter what happens, don’t allow me to close the distance. After completing the exercise, discuss what could have been done if the distance had closed.

At the beginning of class, identify the 52 Blocks techniques you will be working on and the reasons you are learning those particular techniques. What are their purposes? How are the techniques to be performed? This simple pattern helps you gear your mind toward the material that is to be learned. If your instructor doesn’t go into depth, paraphrase the concepts to yourself. For example:

The purpose of this technique is to unbalance an opponent who is attacking me with a knife. Instead of learning a complicated disarming technique, I will use a simpler way to eliminate the threat. First I will understand how a person’s balance works. If my opponent’s up- per body is not directly above his foundation, he will be unable to maintain balance.

Experiment with a partner in order to understand how people lose balance and how the center of gravity can be manipulated. Before you get into the details of a takedown, your instructor might want to demonstrate the technique in its entirety so you can visualize the steps that lead toward your objective. She can then divide the technique into smaller segments and let you practice each segment separately.

1. Identify how balance works and experiment with balanced and unbalanced stances.

2. Study the mechanics of the takedown. The knife or another weapon can be added to the attack once you understand balance manipulation.

3. Talk briefly about different types of knives (or other weapons), different grips, the difference between stabbing and slashing attacks, and the most vulnerable targets.

When you have had a chance to practice the techniques, you might want to discuss what can go wrong, what to do when the unexpected happens, and how to leave yourself an out—an option to escape when all else fails. The next step might be to expand on the lesson and talk about what to do when you have taken your opponent down, how to gain control of the weapon, whether or not you should use it against him, and how to use it effectively. Your focus will now shift from defense to offense. Next you might want to discuss how to react if you get injured while gaining control of the weapon.


You are attending a class on defense against knives and handguns. You question the validity of what your instructor is telling you. How should your instructor respond?

1. Ask you to come to the front of the room, so that she can demonstrate the techniques on you.

2. Read off some numbers from a study she has done.

3. Tell you that this is what she learned from her instructor.

4. Roll up her sleeve and show you a scar from a knife fight.

Many martial arts instructors teach defenses against knives or handguns. But how do they know that the techniques they teach are valid? Have they actually had to defend themselves against a knife or a gun? Unless they are police or military or former street thugs, it is unlikely they have actually experienced the effectiveness of their techniques in a real-life scenario. This lack of experience should not prompt the instructor to go out and look for trouble, however, just so he can say he has survived X number of street fights. With a lot of research and a bit of ingenuity, he can still plan an effective self-defense course. As a student, consider these issues:

1. Study with people who are qualified in the use of knives and firearms, so that you can find the strengths and weaknesses of the techniques you are learning. Who is qualified? Try those who carry or use weapons on a daily basis: police and military, for example.

2. Ask the instructor to invite guest speakers: law enforcement, the military, bouncers, bodyguards, rape prevention and domestic violence counselors, etc.

LEARNING UNUSUAL POSITION CONCEPTS You are sitting down when a person approaches you in a threatening manner. Is it a good idea to stand up? What are the drawbacks of standing up? Can standing up escalate the situation? Are there other people who can be enlisted for support? Answering these questions may help you determine whether you should stand or remain sitting. Try these exercises:

1. Sit at a table and have your partner attack you. How fast can you get to your feet and escape?

2. How can a chair or an item on the table be used as a weapon?

3. How can the table be used as a barrier? Can you jump over it or run around it?

4. How can you use the table for support when throwing a kick?

5. If you are in bed when the attack happens, can you maneuver to the other side of the bed? Use the bed as a barrier? Can you use the bed sheets or pillows? When learning defenses against attacks, learn also the underlying reasons for the attack. For example, did it escalate from a verbal confrontation to a push or a punch, to a full-out brawl, and finally to the ground? Why would you get into a verbal confrontation in the first place? Is there a way to end the confrontation before it escalates to physical contact? All attacks don’t start verbally. If the assailant wants to rob you, he might attack you without any prior warning.

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